Category Archives: General

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Mini-Review

star-wars-the-last-jedi-poster-700x1037Is it good? Sure. 
Does it have moments of greatness? Yes.
Will I see it again? Probably not.
Why not? Becuz I’ve already seen “The Empire Strikes Back” more times than I can remember, and this is really just a remake of that one. The order of the scenes is a little scrambled, and there are a couple of little differences, but overall….. same overarching theme. Desperate evacuation, walkers assault base, Luke meets Yoda, I mean Rey meets Luke. Dark Side force cave. Force ghosts. Leaving before ready to confront the big bad due to a vision, except it’s a trap. Stop me if you’ve heard this before…..

So my overall verdict is: See it for the spectacle and becuz it’s Star Wars and it’s a fun 2.5 hours, but don’t expect to be blown away by anything original either.

[Stellaris] 4X Space Game Time!


Stellaris 00.JPG

Gotta love a pretty launcher

I mentioned briefly in my last post that I’d bought Stellaris.  I’ve played rather a lot of it this past month and finally feel like I’m getting a handle on it.  It’s VERY overwhelming at 1st, even with all the Master of Orion, MoO2, and Civ series 4X games I’ve played.

Some things I’ve found that are different than any other game I’ve played:

Stellaris 04.jpg

The planet rotates, there are night-time lights, and the cloud layer moves independently.  Nice details!

It is a pause-able real-time game, not turn-based.  You can pause any time, though, and things queue up when paused, so you can turn it kinda pseudo-turn-based.  1 second real time = 1 day in game.  All months are 30 days, so it’s a 360 day year, meaning that 10 years is 3600 seconds — 1 hour.  This is on normal speed.  Fastest speed feels like it’s 1 second = 2 days.  And quite frankly, so little happens at any given time that since you can pause (and there are auto-pause options for events that you can set too) I really don’t know why anyone ever turns it slower, with the possible exception of watching a space battle play out.  Even on fastest speed with getting 20 years to an hour, I can’t really imagine a win in less than about 150 years (and I think that would be REALLY fast — you can see in my screenshots that these are all 250-276 years along…..), so that’s a minimum 7.5 hours for a game on fastest speed, assuming you never paused it.  Which of course you paused it, so…. yeah.  Games are really long.  Be ready for that.

Stellaris 03.jpg

A late-game map.  I was “The Federation” — pacifistic egalitarians.  Worked pretty well.

The technology tree is indeed a tree, but what you can research next isn’t only dictated by its position on the tree, but also a random system that will only show you a default of 3 available options, so you can’t necessarily determine an optimum research path and then blow through that in each game — you can only pick from what you’re given.  You can take traits and get event rewards that let you see more than the default 3, but those are semi-rare and you can’t be sure you’ll get those in the course of a game either.  The options shown are weighted — prerequisites seem to show almost all the time, so you can generally be sure you’ll see one of them, at least.

The race appearances are completely cosmetic.  It’s the governing civics and traits that actually matter.  And boy do they matter….  Interestingly enough, since you’re the player you aren’t necessarily as governed by the traits as the NPC players are — you can take the Xenophobe trait for the increased border range but then play as a Xenophile, while the NPC player would stay true to the ethic.  But that said…. playing as a Fanatical Pacifist Xenophobe who expands quickly while closing his borders to all others and refusing all trade requests is an interesting RP experience.

Combat is generally “put it all in 1 fleet and whoever has the bigger number is gonna win.”  If you keep your “doomstack” as big or bigger than the NPC nations they tend to not attack since they know they can’t win (the diplomacy screen tells you relative strengths of navies), so try to keep your ship count at or near the cap at all times.  And here’s something a little surprising — your cap goes DOWN by 20% if you join a federation, since part of your fleet is considered to be contributed to the federal navy, so be careful when joining or creating one as it can mess with the upkeep costs and screw your economy.

The game saves the custom races you make and you can use them as NPC players in your games too, so it’s possible to make a bunch of pacifist races and then see who can build up the fastest.  Or a bunch of militaristic xenophobes dedicated to conquering the galaxy and purging all other races…..  or anything in between.

Megastructures — the Sentry Array’s ability to see all ships in the galaxy is a huge benefit.  The Ringworld is simply amazing.  The Dyson Sphere seems awesome, but ends up being a bit underwhelming, as does the Science Nexus.  Habitats seem underwhelming at 1st, but since you can build so many of them, they actually easily are better in the aggregate than the Dyson or the Science station.  And if you can find some of those rare systems with 9-10 planets in them, well … 9 habitats in a system is actually better than a Ringworld.  Or a decent sized planet and 7-8 habitats too.  Here’s the math on that:  Habitat = 12 slots, so 8 planets = 96, 9 = 108.  Ringworld is 4 sections x 25 slots per section = 100.  Size 16 planet + 7 habitats = 100, so that’s pretty much the cutoff there.

Stellaris 07.jpg

Ringworlds are amazing!

For energy, using base numbers (not the bonused ones you get as you research more tech and have higher happiness) — 12 slots.  Capital gives 5 energy and then the other 11 slots give 8 for a total of 93 energy per habitat.  4 habitats thus equals 372 energy.  Cost to build:  400 influence and 20,000 minerals, plus some niggling amount of minerals for the 11 power stations.  And of course the time cost of actually filling the 12 slots with pops.  You can build 4 habitats simultaneously in 5 years (2.5 years if you have the Master Builders ascension perk).  Serially, then it’s 20 years or 10 with the perk.  If you have more than 4 planets in a system you can build that much more energy too.  And when you add in happiness bonuses and whatnot…. well, in my current game I’m getting about 130 energy per focused habitat, so 3 = 390 energy, and 4 is 520.

Stellaris 01

Dyson Sphere under construction

Stellaris 05.jpg

Dyson Sphere complete!

Stellaris 06.jpg

And it looks awesome!

Compare this to a Dyson Sphere which  is the only structure you can build in a system and can’t be built in an inhabited system.  Cost is 300 influence and 210,000 minerals, with a 55 year build time (27.5 with Master Builder perk).  And you get 400 energy out of it.  Period.  This doesn’t change.  Flat 400.  Habitats are cheaper and build faster.  But you can build a Dyson Sphere without it counting toward your inhabited system total and/or in a sector also, so there are cases where you’d still want to build them.  But not before you can’t build any more habitats, IMO.

Stellaris 02.jpg

This is a… hmm.  Custom race.  Humanoid appearance, but I think I chose the Avian ship appearances, so this would be the Avian habitat, even though I was playing humanoid.

Science Nexus is similarly underpowered/overpriced.  Habitats can do 33 science unbonused, so 3 habitats is 99 science, vs 90 for the Nexus.  Same 300 influence cost.  And 15K minerals for the habitats with a 2.5-15 year build time depending on your builder perk and 3 simultaneous vs serial builds vs the Nexus’s 25 year (12.5) build time and 70K mineral cost.  And this represents an 80% buff to the nexus from initial implementation.  It originally gave 50 science when complete, but is now buffed to the 90.  And you can only build 1 Nexus per system, while habitats are 1 per planet, s you can get up to 10 (5-6 is much more normal, but even 6 is more than double a Nexus’s output.  Or 3 power plants and 3 science to effectively have both a Nexus *and* a Dyson Sphere in the same system…).  And to boot — I’m getting closer to 50 science per habitat in my current game, so 2 habs = better than a Nexus for me.

Sentry Array – Brings the entire galaxy into your sensor range.  Nothing else is like it, so this rocks and you should definitely build one.  300 influence, 70K minerals, 25 (12.5) years.

TL;DR on megastructures:

  • Ringworld – Usually the best thing you can build in a system.
  • Habitats – Your workhorse megastructure.  It does count as a planet against the penalty to your Research and Unity costs for next, so plan around that when dropping them.
  • Dyson Sphere – Focused Habitats are generally better to build.  Only build once you can’t build more habitats.  Or maybe in an extremely crappy system that can’t have at least 3 habitats.
  • Science Nexus – Focused Habitats are generally better to build.  Only build once you can’t build more habitats.  Or maybe in an extremely crappy system that can’t have at least 2 habitats.
  • Scanning Array – Awesome!  Nothing else like it!

So anyway… yeah, it’s a lot of fun.  I’m very glad I picked it up in the pre-Stormblood lull from FFXIV.

Happy gaming out there!


[Endless Legend] The Cultists

This past weekend, I realized that I was in a bit of a rut in Endless Legend and playing the Broken Lords faction repeatedly since they’ve become my favorite so I decided to try something a bit different and play with the Cultist faction instead.  I’ve read a little about them and I’ve played them once before, but it’s been quite a while so I didn’t really remember much about them at 1st.  This time I paid attention and… they’ll always have the glaring weakness that they only are able to have 1 city so they’re very vulnerable to being attacked, and they seem to start a little slower than the other factions, but by the end of the game, well…. let me show you the screenshot of my city:

Cultists Nuts

This is simply nuts!

Assuming you don’t already know, you can open it full-size by right-clicking it, selecting “Open in New Tab” and then editing the “?w=(somenumber)” off the end of the URL for it.  The really relevant stuff is in the top on the right — 53 population +103 workers from converted cities, 6353 food production, 1891 manufacturing, 5170 science, 2752 gold, and 7607 influence per turn, with all my workers being under the influence section.  That’s insane!  That’s a complete empire’s worth of output from my single-city.  You can also see down in the lower right that I’ve got 9 armies out in the field.  I should have a garrison in the city also, but I’d just emptied it and was about to build a new army again.  Yeah, maxed out Era 6 army in Palladium Gear + accessories and it would take 5 turns to build 8 units.  Any other Empire would need 4 to 7 turns per unit with all their population devoted to manufacturing.  Insane!

So how is this possible?  Well…. the way the Cultists work is this:

  • They can only have the 1 city, but they can upgrade its districts to level 3 which gives them a very large bonus to production.
  • After a minor faction village is pacified then they can spend influence to “convert” it to the cult.  Doing so gives you a worker in the capital and also allows you to extract the resources of the region in which the village it located.
  • You can convert villages in any unclaimed region, and at a greater cost you can also convert villages inside the borders of other factions, though it ticks them off if you do, and they tend to attack them and then use them for themselves again
  • You need to keep a lot of armies in the field to prevent other factions from attacking your converted villages — they can do so without declaring war on you, so you must be constantly vigilant.
  • The villages themselves spawn units, but they’re the “bog standard” unit of the village, not like an upgraded one that you can build if you assimilate a minor faction, so they’re weak in your armies, and not really that big a roadblock for opposing factions to attack.

Something that also really helps is that early on in their faction quest they get an item that gives them +35% to attack, defense, and initiative (at least I think those are the 3 stats) and it also gives you the skill Regeneration 2 which means your units self-heal each turn in combat and much faster out of combat.  Your 1st unit is “support” so it’s also a healer, so if you have that trinket equipped your armies are *very* hard to kill.  I find I like to get to the size 6 army asap and then use 1 Preacher (support/ranged/healer), 3 Fanatics (cavalry/tanks), and 2 Nameless Guards (ranged) along with a Cultist hero (tank) for a nice balance.

If the market doesn’t have any Cultist heroes available, the Broken Lords heroes work pretty well too, they just don’t get the awesome bonus from the faction trinket.

Also very helpful is to unlock the marketplace as soon as you can and buy one of the Necrophage heroes that has the Slavery skill.  What this does is give you a large bonus to Food and Manufacturing for every worker you have in your city due to conversion of the minor faction villages, and that’s why the numbers for my city in the screenshot up top there are so insane.

So anyway…… there you have it.  Convert lots of villages, field lots of armies, get a city hero with Slavery hero to take even more advantage of the converted villages, and then just kill everyone else becuz you know… they’ve got it coming 😉

Happy gaming out there!

[FFXIV] Starlight Celebrations

Last year + this year makes an ok outfit

Last year + this year makes an ok outfit

I started this post on the 23rd, but then left it in the drafts folder as nothing more than a title.  And since then I’ve been a combination of a) very busy at work so unable to post while there and b) very ill and so not really in the mood to do anything other than sleep… or read while in bed.  I did drag myself to the pc for the “daily chores” of FFXIV and what with the Vanu Vanu quests, the daily hunts, and the fact that the FATE Train is running again thanks to the Anima weapons I’ve gotten both Machinist and Bard to level 56 now, so… go me, I guess.

I ran the Starlight Celebration quest series on my character and on my daughter’s as well.  She loves the antlers with the red nose.  I don’t particularly care for it, nor the reindeer hooves for the gloves and feet, so while I dragged out last year’s Starlight outfit for a screenshot, it all went back into the Armoire after that.

And now that my gameplay update is done (ignoring all the Endless Legend I’ve also been playing 😉 ) I’m going to steal Chestnut’s Holiday Questionnaire becuz while I’m not normally big on personal things/retrospectives/navel-gazing… it struck me as a whimsical list, so why not?

Favorite holiday movie?

The easy answer is of course, Die Hard.  Except that’s a lie.  An action movie set at a Christmas party does not a Christmas film make.  TBH, I can’t say that I have a favorite.  My wife and I have been watching a lot of the movies that have been in this year’s Hallmark Christmas movie marathon, as suggested by Orson Scott Card in a couple of his recent columns.  We’ve more or less agreed with his rankings of the movies he talked about… the ones we’ve seen, anyway.  Haven’t seen all of them, nor do we plan to try.  But in the end, we ended up re-watching “While You Were Sleeping” the other nights and… if that one’s not my favorite Christmas movie, it’s in the top 3, so I guess we’ll go with that.

What are 3 things on your wish list this year?

Honestly, I feel like I’m good so far as material things go.  I could always use a few more shirts, I suppose, but my “wish list” is more along the lines of things like “finally feel like I’m ahead of the curve on paying bills rather than always trying to catch up” or perhaps “my wife’s psychiatrist finds a drug cocktail and dosage that finally works for her.”  And yeah, that’s only 2 things, but that’s pretty much all I want anymore.

Does it snow where you live? 

The state’s catchphrase is “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  Does that answer your question?  That said, I live in a well-sheltered semi-arid valley that generally doesn’t get much below 20 degrees at night, and typical daily highs throughout the winter are in the upper 30’s, so while we do get snow from time to time, it also usually will melt off within a couple of days too, so most snow sports and whatnot require a trip up to a higher elevation where it stays below freezing.

Which winter holiday do you celebrate?

I was raised in a Christian faith, so it was Christmas for us.  2 of my best friends while growing up were Lutherans, and the other 2 (yes, I had 4 best friends) were Jewish, so while I didn’t “celebrate” Hannukah, I still most certainly knew the stories and would usually get invited to be part of at least 1 of the 8 nights.

Worst gift you’ve ever gotten?

Assuming that there’s an unspoken “for Christmas” buried in that question…. probably a couple of pencil erasers shaped like squirrels back when I was in high school.  The odd shape made them actually unusable as erasers, and what teenage boy wants cute little rubber squirrels as a decoration in their room?  That said, I did keep them in a drawer for a long time so as to not offend my sister who gave them to me by not simply throwing them away.

Biggest pet peeve about the holiday season?

I’m going to go with “the way that it now starts on Nov 1 instead of on Black Friday.”  And the radio stations that start playing Christmas music on Nov 1 as well.  I take those stations off my pre-sets for the 2 months until they start playing normal stuff again — and I say this as the guy who owns all of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas discs, the Piano Guys Christmas, all of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums, and several of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas albums to boot — and will listen to any or all of them any time of the year simply becuz they’re good music.  But these radio stations pull out some of the crappiest arrangements known to man. . . . . *shudder*

Favorite seasonal song?

I’ve always been partial to The Little Drummer Boy since my high school days.  I just love how it sounds.  And then Pentatonix went and made this arrangement of it, and made me like it that much more.

Would you rather it be cold and cloudy, or be kind of warm out?

Growing up in Illinois, when it got cloudy it actually tended to be warmer — the clouds acted like a blanket, so I always liked the cloudy winter nights.  Clear nights tended to be *cold* (I’ve slept outside in -4, not counting windchill, and walked home from school in -12 and windchill in the -40 range — I know cold).  Now that I’m in Utah where it’s a lot drier, the clouds bring the wet and that makes it colder, so here I prefer clear nights, and since it usually stays in the 20’s at night and the upper 30’s in the day…. I like the warmer winters, but that they’re still winter, if that makes any kind of sense.

Hot chocolate or eggnog?

Definitely the choc hotlate.  Eggnog is fine from time to time, but too much too fast gets cloying, whereas I could easily drink hot chocolate as the only thing I ever drink at all.

Favorite thing to wear during the holiday season?

I don’t change my attire from “normal.”

Anybody you’re hoping to bump into under the mistletoe?

I’ve never kissed anyone under mistletoe, never had it as a decoration.  As it is, I can’t imagine kissing anyone other than my wife, so even if there were mistletoe around if it wasn’t her under it with me, I wouldn’t kiss them anyway.

Embarrassing holiday story?

Can’t think of anything.

Favorite holiday treat?

Why is it that fudge seems to be made more around the holidays and not year-round?  Fudge!

Latest you’ve stayed up on New Year’s Eve?

I dunno… maybe 2 am?  But if I was up that late it was becuz I was playing Civ2 or Civ3 or something.  As a teen I would babysit on New Year’s but would often fall asleep while reading on the couch since the kids I was sitting went to bed LONG before midnight, and then I’d wake up when I’d hear my employer’s key in the door.

Favorite holiday character?

I’ve always liked Rudolph.

What are you doing for the holidays this year?

Working my regular schedule.  I used up my vacation time earlier in the year for unexpected trips.  We had a lovely Christmas at home and my daughter’s still playing with the new toys a week later, so seems like it was a hit.

Favorite pie flavor?

I prefer pie to cake, but I prefer cheesecake to pie, so…. Raspberry Cheesecake.

Your favorite holiday tradition growing up?

The only tradition we really had was that on Christmas Eve we’d read Luke 2 and act it out.  Dad was always the donkey . . . .

White lights or colored lights?

Both are fine.

What tops your tree?

Always had a star growing up, but my wife brought an angel into the marriage, so we use that now.

Candy canes – Yum or Yuck?

They’re not my favorite, but I don’t mind them either.

Favorite gift ever received?

Back in … 8th grade, I think it was, I got the “Robotix” erector set thing.  I loved that.

Favorite seasonal activity?

Growing up there was a toboggan flume at a nearby forest preserve.  That was a lot of fun.  Nowadays… I’m something of a lump — I just like to relax at home.

Favorite seasonal story?

Can’t say that I have one.

Which of the “12 Days of Christmas” would you most like to receive?

5 gold rings!

And there you have it.

[The Park] Finally did The Park

The whole Park

The Park

I was really tired last night so went to bed early, hoping I’d actually get to sleep until my normal get-up time.  Nope.  Awake at 4:30, darnitall!  But that meant I had 3 hours to kill.  Could have done some FFXIV, of course, but I decided instead that it was time to do The Park.  I’m not really one to go for Horror genre of anything, so my liking of TSW was a surprise to me.  The reviews I’ve read of The Park made it sound interesting yet offputting at the same time.  But then again, on the few occasions I’ve seen horror movies I tend to find them funny and the “jump scares” to be telegraphed and pathetic, so…. what the heck?  Fired it on up and in I went.

Oh boy!  A roller coaster!

Oh boy! A roller coaster!

And it was very good.  I can see why people are calling it a “walking simulator” or maybe even gracing it with “interactive story” becuz, well… yeah, that about sums it up.  But what a story!  And experiencing it when locked into a 1st person view… well, I actually got caught up in it, so the jump scares actually worked.  And with the sound effects of unseen things walking near you, the music, the ambiance….. it worked.  And then toward the end when you go through a series of rooms, then descend a staircase only to find yourself again in those same rooms, except now they’re a little different…. and then do that again and they’re a little more different…… and again……. and again…… it was a literal descent into madness, and it worked so very well.  Joel Bylos, you Magnificent Bastard!

I took quite a few screenshots, and while I think they’re more-or-less spoiler-free…. they could still be spoilers, so I’m not posting them here, but if you care to click through to the imgur album I created with them, then it’s right here.  But again… just becuz I don’t think they’re spoilery doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not, so…. you have been warned!