Jan 24, 2015

Free to Play: The Old Republic Pt 1

So this will be the first of my free to play entries about Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic.

First some backstory about my involvement with the franchise to date.

I came across Knights of the Old Republic 2 back in 2005, picked it up for a good deal and it immediately sucked me in. I did two complete playthroughs right off the bat - first one hardly completing anything (only unlocked one character's Jedi path, side quests largely ignored etc) and the second I completed as much as I possibly could.

It was a blast! Fantastic, engaging story mixed with dialogue that (compared to anything else at the time) made if feel like you actually impacted the game by the choices made. In depth item system complete with upgrades and crafting to be able to outfit your team as you saw fit.

I came across the original KOTOR after that and didn't finish it. I missed the crafting system too much and eventually another game took over. Pretty sure it was Halo 3. I still enjoyed what story that I saw, but just didn't have enough of the crafting element to keep me as heavily invested in the crew.

I played Mass Effect and enjoyed it so when I heard that SWTOR was coming out, I was ecstatic. I coveted the collectors edition, was disappointed in the US only release, bought an overseas copy and jumped on in.

And I didn't make it to level 20.

I probably chose the least interesting class (Republic Jedi of some description), but coming from KOTOR2, I was expecting to have much the same story and mechanics plus item system that I had come to love. It didn't and the main reason was that I was no longer the special little snowflake. Elder Scrolls Online has had the same issue.

I wasn't the lone hero, collecting my crew to save the galaxy. I was just another face in the army and needed their help. I wasn't the leader, I was just a follower under the command of NPC's giving me quests. Like I said, I didn't make it past 20. I know it suffered greatly from content issues and the ever present comparison to World of Warcraft, which tends to kill most new MMO's before they have a chance.

So now I am starting again under their free to play system. I already am feeling the chafe that comes with most free to play mobile games - buy this special currency to speed things up, buy upgrades, get things quicker. Even more chafing was that they restrict Purple items to a pay-for-equipping system. You get a sweet piece of loot - but to use it you have to buy an AUTHORISATION FROM THE CARTEL MARKET.

They have restricted your choice of race down to Human, Cyborg and Zabrak (at least on the Sith side), restricted the character customisation options, number of characters per server (2 per only) and even rested XP. Only subscribers get the full offering, "preferred status" (paid for something at least once) players get what they paid for plus a few extras like an extra dungeon run or battleground queue.

There are the standard things like guild and chat restrictions, but they aren't so much of a big deal. I do think that their free to play model is a bit too nickel and dime for my tastes though. I have only just collected my first quests  with my Sith Agent, so we will have to see how these restrictions feel as I play.

EDIT: After trying to reactivate my old account (which WAS a subscribed account at one point), I found out that I have no choice but to call an overseas number to take off the security key for my account, which is no longer on my phone! Annoying as shit! Particularly due to free to play players getting absolutely no access to customer support!

SECOND EDIT: Tried to Hide Head Slot - NOPE! Locked behind paywall. Subscribe or cough up microtransactions. I don't think I will last long playing this. At least WoW's "trial" allows you to just play the game up to level 20 with disabled chat etc. I enjoyed raising my level 20 Panda Hunter and finding the BiS weapon and armour for him. The level cap was never an issue! I would prefer that SWTOR went that way because the constant micro transactions are ever present, jammed in your face at every turn and lock away so much.

Jan 9, 2015

Two and a Half years later...

So you know how in TV shows when there is something grandiose or incredibly naive said by a main character, then it hard cuts to when it comes back to haunt them? This is sort of like that, without the haunting.

Here's a quick recap of the gap:

16th October - Move home to prepare for Baby
22nd October - Start work for Virgin Australia as Pit Crew
2nd November - found out that our "daughter" was really our "son" (mistook his man parts for Umbilical cord! Atta boy!)
10th February - Got engaged!
4th March - Harrison! Surprise! (More on this later) Also, Bye Virgin!
18th March - New Job (Yay at the time - boo right now haha)
2014 - Harrison Walks, Harrison Talks, HARRISON LEARNS HOW TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES
October 5 - I meet Destiny
November 13- I Explore Draenor
November  24 - First flight in two years - aerobatics. And it wasn't all it was meant to be.
December 26 - I explore Revolutionary France with a guy called Arno

Seriously have just been nose to the grindstone building a little life for my little family. Aside from highlights, I have not been up to much. I add in the games at the end because I do want to talk about them, though much has already been said.

First of all the biggest change in my life - Harrison.

My last day at Virgin Australia was also to be my last day of being a "Kidult" (adult who really isn't haha), although at the time, I didn't know it. As I kissed Blondie (As my Fiance will be known from now on here) goodbye, worried about her expanding belly and Braxton Hicks (fake contraction pains) and headed off for an 8 hour bag room shift. Bag Room is how your bags get from the conveyor belt at check in to the plane. It is thoroughly boring. After an uneventful morning, I trudge in to the lunch room for my break and check my phone. Blondie is in hospital, but I shouldn't worry it is just a precaution.


The rest of the shift was a mixture of saying my goodbyes to some of the crew that I got to know and worrying about how Blondie was going. 4pm rocks around and I am escorted out of the security controlled area (having turned in my clearance badge). I check my phone. Blondie is in labour, I need to hurry or I might miss it.


Harrison was born at 0115hrs weighing a tiny 2.83kgs (6lb3oz) and I had the absolute privilege of being able to deliver my son. For all men who are squeamish about the thought of not only watching the business end of a baby being born, but catching them and cutting the cord - don't be. It is the single most amazing thing I have done and probably will ever do. No words can ever describe the pure joy that holding your firstborn for the first time.

Harrison was supposed to be born in April, he was 5 weeks early and so had to stay in hospital for a week so he could be monitored and fed through a tube. Once we got him home, learning to wake up to the sound of a crying baby is much easier than I previously thought. You become so attuned to the noises they make that the minute they hiccup, you burst awake and dash to their side to make sure they are ok. Super scary for a first time parent. As I had two weeks off in between jobs, Blondie and I managed to work around 4 hour sleep cycles. Feed Harrison, 2 hours later, feed again. In those two weeks, I managed to watch Dragon Ball Z from Raditz to Frieza. All the while nursing this little human back to sleep with a bottle (expressed milk, not formula). For the next 9 months, we watched him become aware of his surroundings, interact with them and finally move around. By December, he was walking assisted against walls/couches. By February, he was just walking.

It is amazing how quickly it all happens. It is more amazing how fast they learn after that. Since he began walking, we had to make sure we latched more drawers closed, bought a baby gate to keep him out of other areas. He learned to manipulate objects - pressing buttons, sliding doors, throwing items, riding his scooter - at an insane pace. He turned 1 in March and kept learning and learning, faster than anything. At 1 year and 10 months, he can operate a touch screen smart device ("Hi, who is this? Emergency? Oh god, our toddler got a mobile and called you, I am SO, SO SORRY PLEASE DON'T ARREST ME"), understand that the baby latches on kitchen drawers keep them closed so he can use the handles to climb up to reach the counter ("HARRISON WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?!"), hold a pen correctly, play basic games on phones/Nintendo DS, knows that spacebar makes daddy's guy jump in WoW (Here Harrison, have your own (not connected) keyboard), knows the mouse makes everything work (NO YOU CAN'T WATCH "TOOT TOOT" FOR THE FIFTIETH TIME ON DADDY'S COMPUTER), you drive the car by steering the wheel, the chorus to Lego Movie "everything is awesome" (mostly) and a million other things that you see and think - wait you couldn't do that yesterday.

In short - he has turned my life upside-down, taught me why my own mother was so worried about me growing up (its scary how much you love a child and would do anything for them), made me wonder at the intelligence of babies, made me tired, made laugh, made me cry ("NOT DADDY'S BALLS (OW)") - and I love it. Even after a crappy day at work, having a little one man fan club run at you shouting "DADDY!" when you get home, never fails to put a smile on your face.

Sep 4, 2012

Back in the Air

In the past 35 weeks and 6 days a fuckload has happened.

I am going to be a dad.

I met the most gorgeous, amazing woman and fell in love. She is the best thing that happened to me and her and her son are perfect. At this date she is 11 weeks in and battling the joys of pregnancy the entire way. I feel sorry for the poor girl really. Stuck with me and pregnant (all day sickness and mood swings and all the other fun stuff).

The other big thing is that I am currently engaged in full time study to finish my Diploma of Aviation (Multi Engine Instrument Operations)!

As such, this has brought forth its own trials. My partner is pregnant and dealing with it on her own as I am stuck here in regional Victoria. I am certainly not in the financial situation for it and I have missed most of the first Trimester. Not an easy situation.

However, I am excited. Exceptionally so. I cannot believe that I am going to be a dad and a qualified pilot all within a couple months of each other!!

My first Nav was last friday. I was rusty. No doubts about it. Work cycle was off, paperwork wasn't quite filled out properly in flight and I was no longer at home in the aircraft. I was out of sorts and checklists weren't done correctly. I wasn't even fit for a PPL, let alone a commercial candidate.

I was better today. I would call it a PPL standard. I was ahead of the aircraft, I was completing my checks as required and following my work flow patterns. I wasn't lost and I was handling my trip into Moorabbin and out again well. as well as transiting Avalon. Little rusty with some radio calls still and there is obviously some work to do but it was a lot better. I am making progress and that is the main thing.

The videos and cockpit audio recordings are still taking time to get organised. The school doesnt seem to like the fact that I want to record everything said and done in the air. Been told that the CVR requires an engineering check and certificate, even though it is just a splitter jack which I have tested. Some bullshit about a reverse signal that interferes with the headsets. He just doesn't want what he says caught on tape. It will happen and it will be awesome for my training though. Being able to review and evaluate my mistakes out of the moment will ensure I will progress in my training.

This is only a short entry but it will be the first of many as I document my journey to my commercial and MECIR.

May the air be smooth beneath your wings.

Dec 28, 2011

About that flying thing....

I realise that the premise of this blog was to be an account of my flying adventures and WoW shenanigans. I gave up the WoW (two whole months clean!) and have hit a bit of a snag with the flying.

The last entry I made after flying was my last proper commercial navigation flight. I have done one since and plan to do another soon but they are just going to be recency flights so I can keep my skill up.

Reason being is actually a little nugget of wisdom from a flight instructor. I cannot for the life of me remember what the exact wording is but it went along the lines of "Unless you can do it regularly, you are wasting your money at this point in your training."

Yes, it was crushing to hear. Unfortunately, I can understand why this is true. I spent so much time off from flying last year that my skills in commercial level navigation dropped significantly. When I started back flying this year, I did not account for the drop in skill so it came as a little bit of a rude shock when I jumped in the plane with an instructor and found that I just was not up to scratch. It knocked a rather large hole in my boat and it was filling up with water fast, so to speak.

It seems to be a common problem with those of us who do not come with a large trust account or rich parents. I met a guy at a friends party on Boxing Day and had a long (abliet drunk) discussion about the joys, trials and tribulations of flying. He has met a similar problem that I have. Commercial Nav exercises are bloody expensive to be able to do at the pace which is required. He did not get as far as I did, only being able to just get past his private ticket. Matt has been out of currency for the last 4 years which is really sad to see. He met the point of moving on with his life, to come back to his education at a later date when he is better set up to be able to meet the burden of paying for flying tuition.

Even TVSA (who do pilot training through FEE-HELP) want me to finish my commercial training before I move down there to study with them. It is giving me the shits at the moment!

So I have been concentrating on getting the rest of my life sorted out at the moment. The last three years have been more or less a suicide run at trying to force it through. Done through borrowed money and whatever is left after my bills have been paid. It has no doubt been an amazing and life changing journey and I would never change a damn thing for the world, neither is this the end of that journey. This is just a detour.

The flying will resume and with the GoPro camera, I will do more and more flying videos. One will be made every time I go for a flight, even if they are a little boring. I have a couple of 4wding videos to finish cutting together as well but trying to handle 10 hours of video and cut it down into a 5 min video is a little harder  than I thought. Not to mention this old computer is woefully inadequate for the task at hand!

My research to build a new one has finally come to a close. I know exactly what I want and I even have the slightly cheaper alternative also. In short I want to build a system around a GTX590 graphics card and an Intel i7 3930k CPU. That system is going to cost me around the 2.8k mark. If I change out the Motherboard, RAM and CPU to ones which suit an i7 2600k it brings it back to about the 2.2k mark. Both rather expensive options but needed for Diablo 3, video editing and triple screen Flight Simulator. I already have the screens for it too!
So that is most of the important stuff happening at the moment. I will leave you with the last flying video I made back in October.

Dec 24, 2011

Skyrim keeps on suprising me *SPOILERS*

SO I have finished the main questline and am faced with a choice. Kill a certain someone who has been nothing but helpful during the main quest line and have the blades back on side, or leave him alive and keep the Greybeards on side.

Usually when it comes to killing things in game, my moral compass is set to swing axe first, ask questions later. I like killing things, they give you loot rewards and makes you feel like the invicible badass you really are.

When I got the quest, I thought I could talk my way out of it and come out friends with everyone. Alas, this was overly optimistic and I found that I had to one or the other. I decided to do nothing and the Blades barely talk to me, the giant pricks. Once Alduin had met his end, I thought I would just suck it up and see how she went. So a Dragonrend, some wards and a couple axe swings later (and the awesome kill sequence), this (former) helper laid at my feet, dead.

I felt terrible.

Not only had this NPC helped me through my journey to kill the World Eater, he was wise enough to  understand the Blades point of view. Even agree with them on a level. It sounded like a well rationalised argument and even the Greybeards more or less said that the Blades were just overzealous dicks. Made them sound like the Thalmor (who I really detest and kill on sight).

I googled this and it seems that the moral dilemma is not unique to my own experience. Many people like this guy and have even gone as far as to say the Blades should die for being ignorant dicks. This is a community who are usually bent towards the "swing axe now, ask questions later" mantra I live by in game. Some even go so far as to mod the children so they can be killed too. Yet this noble NPC has made us pause and consider the kill and think about the morality of it. IF every NPC was as helpful, would it be as fun to clean out an entire town of its occupants??

It really suprised me the depth and the scope of this moral dilemma in a virtual world where killing is the norm and sentiment is rarely seen (except maybe for your favourite axe). On one hand, it makes me want to have more depth in the game so that I can talk out situations like these and form an alliance between the two factions. On the other hand, it is very true to life- some groups are unwavering in their wrong beliefs and those who are the victims of those wrong beliefs want no harm to come to the aggressors. It is just another aspect of this beautiful world that Bethesda have created for us. I can honestly say that I cannot get enough of exploring it. I would have put in 70 or 80 hours over the past month and I have only just finished the two main quest lines. There is a lot to go!

I think I am going to let him live for now. I need to have a really bad day to swing my moral compass towards "serial killer" before I can bring myself to bring my axe down on his head.

Dec 6, 2011

Videos, Skyrim, Xmas, Work -.-

Ok it has been a couple of months since my last entry. I left it on a little bit of am emo note too. Uncool of me I know! But a lot has been happening in the last couple of months. Namely work and Skyrim.

Skyrim is taking over my life in a way I can only equate to WoW. I never got this into Oblivion. I did with Morrowind however. I love how I can just strike out and make an adventure. I have walked across most of the map now and haven't finished either of the main questlines. The only ones I have completed to date are the Companions (just last night) and the Winterhold College.

I must say that I am rather disappointed in how short those two quest lines were. I was expecting more. At least with Oblivion's faction quests you had to travel to each city to earn rep with that chapter before becoming the Chief (Ie the mages guild - they are the laziest bastards....). I guess there are probably more quests I am yet to discover by talking to all of the people Jorrvaskr or the College but for the most part they seem to be little side quests without a lot of story impact.

Also a little disappointed with turning into a Werewolf. It is certainly awesome but it is way too easy to be overwhelmed and killed. If you have not tried it out yet- do not even bother turning into one unless you are hunting people (not Draugr, beasts or anything). People are the only ones you can consume to increase both your health and your time in Beast Form. So if you think for one moment you will be able to ROFLSTOMP your way through a dungeon full of Draugr and spiders- think again! You will soon be utilising the sprint ability to preserve the last sliver of health until such time as you change back into your regular form!

Aside from those two little gripes, I love the game and have not had (noticable) issues with any of the bugs people are claiming ruin the play experience. Just epic dragon killing, axe wielding, fireshooting awesomeness. There is one "bug" I hope stays in the game because it is hilarious though. When I first found a giant's camp, I immediately wanted to take them on. I thought they would have some epic loot (turns out their loot is pretty crappy) and so I thought a couple of bowshots, a few swings of the axe and they would fall over dead.


I took a tree/club to the face as soon as I closed to melee range with the first one. Then I was flying across the map. I laughed my ass off and it didn't get old! Well no-one LIKES being killed but if I was to be killed, I would hope that it would look as awesome as taking a treeclub to the face and flying off into the atmosphere! Things like this add to the fun aspect of the game, even if they are unintended. Those who say it destroys the immersion and the experience can just go and start adventuring IRL for all I care! It isn't a simulator- it's a game!

I did manage to get my beloved Super Mega Edition of the game. There will be documenting photos coming in a seperate post. Courtesy of the online ordering from EbGames, I managed to get one of the few bundles left and now have Anduin staring menacingly at me from my bookshelf as I butcher his brethren throughout Skyrim's landscape. Sometimes multiple at a time.

I do love how they have redone the combat in the game now. I use more spells and archery than I ever have before! In my epic battle against two dragons, I would have become dinner were it not for dual casting healing spells through flame breath! I find myself constantly using spells so that I can level up their respective schools and make them more efficient but it just takes so long! Extra armour, Wards, Shields, Damage spells - that is where the fun is! I rarely use magelights or crap but anything to make me last longer in combat is fine by me! It is where I put all of my talent points. Oh and smithing. I am determined to finally make myself a set of dragonscale armour and a set of dragonplate for my offsider.

Lydia didn't last too long unfortunately. She had this awkward habit of getting the the way of my attacks and well... she got cooked with a bunch of Vampires I was flaming... at the time I just shrugged it off and figured I would get a new one from the Jarl next time I was in town. Then I forgot about her until I was crawling through Mzulft during the College questline. By the time I found out that I couldnt get Lydia back (or replace her) it was too late to revert to an earlier save. So I made three or four trips out of the bloody place laden down with Dwarven metal which I melted down into bars. I picked up some dude I beat in a fistfight instead. He seems to be better at not dying and not getting in my way. Plus if he dies, I have to lug out an entire set of Orcish Armour and his weaponry which I crafted and improved for him! I will be pissed....

On other fronts, my collection of tech for flying is almost completed! I just got my 32gb SD card and a few more accessories to get for my GoPro and I will be ready for anything! I want to get my Aero rating done soon so I can (legally) make a video of it and post it up here. Its going to be sweet!! The unfortunate thing is that I have realised that even with two jobs, I cannot earn enough, fast enough to do proper Navs to finish off my CPL. I haven't had another Nav in nearly two months because the stress of watching the money tick away with the VDO is killing my performance! Its terrible and I know I should be doing better. Hopefully a few job opportunities come to fruition and I will hit the ground running again!

Oct 4, 2011

Busy and Stressful - The dark before the dawn?

So life is a little busier than usual at the moment.

Two jobs, four days of flying over the weekend, birthday party this weekend (which isn't even my own) and then either Oktoberfest in Brisbane or #OccupyBrisbane protest the following weekend. I seriously do not have the money for everything and am struggling time wise. Yet I am still making blog posts. There is something very therapeutic about it all really.

This weekend of flying has been by far the most stressful experience of my flying career to date. I do not know why but my standards have dropped sharply over the past month since my last couple of flights. I was not at a commercial standard at the beginning of September, but it just seems that I have taken a major step backwards somewhere along the lines. It could be that the stress is getting to me but it just seems that things are not sticking as they should be, that things that I once knew rather well just are not coming back to me as quickly as expected.

Friday was an abomination. It was turbulent but I should not have had the problems with handling that I had. Things went south as soon as I started the engine. Mental flow checklists were out of order and disjoineted, as was my pax brief and after take off checks. I stuffed up radio calls. Worse than usual. I got to the first point and couldnt see the damn objective- mind you it was a 15-20 meter tower on a side of a hill sandwiched right up against Amberly CTR so it was not the easiest objective to find. Once I saw it, I tried and failed at holding over the top of it. Could not hold my altitude to save myself, didnt configure the plane correctly for slow speed orbiting and was too preoccupied with what was coming next that I did not keep my mind on what I needed to do at that point in time. It was like I was trying to get a private license all over again. It was terribly demoralizing and I bailed on the flight. Still took a couple of hours to get back to Redcliffe though and still was expensive. I cancelled the night flight I was supposed to take also.

Saturday and Sunday had some briefs and remedial training to try and fix up what was wrong with my technique, yet with work and sleep I did not have the time to do the study required. It was almost a complete waste of my time, the instructors time and of my money. And I got chewed out a bit over it also.

Monday (yesterday) was terrible also -but there was some improvement to be had. The plane was due for a 50 hourly oil change and check so that made me late right from the start. I had the plan and everything done with plenty of time and sat down reading the club's ops manual for a bit. Once the prescribed time for pickup came around, I went to grab the plane from the maintainence mob but still ended up sitting out the front for 10 mins. So much for prompt service. Got stuck behind a beginner student learning to refill a plane at the bowser for another 10 minutes after that so by the time I got into the plane and was ready for takeoff, I had missed my slot time for Brisbane Airport. No big deal, these things happen. The problem was when I was doing my runups and the instructor asked me about the oil in the engine - which I never checked on account of personally picking it up from the maintainers. This is of course a major no no. So I got chewed out by the instructor. Then I was made to check the oil myself, on the taxiway and consequently made myself late for the next slot time that I was given. This caused me to be chewed out by the controller at Brisbane for missing two slot times - and then a further chewing out from the instructor.

Needless to say I was feeling pretty shit about the whole flight by then and questioning my skills as a pilot, my knowledge and my career choice. The past month has been the first time in three years that I have questioned if I have made the right decision to follow my dreams and become a commercial pilot. It is a definite low point in my journey. But there have been other aviators throughout history to struggle with money and performance issues. One of which was Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. So the show must go on and I need to apply myself further to reach my goals.

The rest of the flight was a struggle - after already becoming overly stressed in the beginning of the flight, I became distracted and it ended up with me becoming lost just west of Mundubbera. A 1 in 60 check put me slightly too far to the east of my desired target and without realising this at a very distinctive land feature I ended up about 10 miles to the east, unsure of where I was and so stressed that I could not pull myself out of it without prompting from the instructor. Had I have been alone I would have been reduced to flying east until I hit a landmark I recognised or until I hit coast. I landed in Mundubbera and had a chat with the instructor. It did help clear my mind a little and the leg from Mundubbera to Kingaroy and on to home was a lot better - until I ended up being cut off by a line of thunderstorms.

I managed this part of the flight OK as it was fairly close to the area I live in and I could pick out landmarks such as Somerset Dam, Wivenhoe Dam and the Glasshouse Mountains pretty easily. The diversion around the storms added about another half hour to the flight which I certainly was not happy about. Better than dying though. Got back on the ground to another chewing out by my instructor for not studying enough for his liking over the weekend and not improving enough. It is good that I have expectations put on me and that he is pushing me to get better at managing the flight but by that stage I just wanted to go home and sleep. I was stuffed, stressed and kind of depressed.

I have a lot of notes on what I need to study and I need to get that squared away before turning up there again for another flight. But I still plan to get it done in a couple weeks and get back to flying. Any longer and any progress I may have made this weekend will be lost.

Tomorrow is my 24th birthday. 24, living at home and still not where I need to be. This has been a rather depressive post but it is reflecting my thoughts at the moment. I never thought I would be where I am today (the good bits that is) but I always thought that I would be settled in my career and be ready to settle down with a girl, get a house and start on a couple of kids. It is a little sobering to realise that for that to happen, I have 12 months from tomorrow. I haven't even bothered trying to organise a party. Just a family gig at home.

The little I have played of Gears 3 has been awesome. I love how Epic have made you happy to see a swarm of Locust bearing down on you - because god damn are the Lambent that much more annoying! I cannot wait to finish campaign and get into some online matches. I severely doubt I will have the time this summer to play all the games I want to get into - let alone have the spare coin to be able to purchase them!