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What I'm Actually Doing This Fall '13 Vacation

So much for my best laid plans, which certainly looked good on paper, but fate's plans take priority.

The first thing I did at the start of my vacation is waste a lot of money on a monitor and a video card which, to be honest, have done very little overall:
  • My GeForce GTS 450 ran every game I tried to play at an acceptable frame rate.  (Except for Planetside 2, but that's not changing, because it's more CPU bottlenecked.)  My GeForce 650 Ti Boost runs games at a very acceptable frame rate.  I guess if playing Skyrim as smooth as butter was my goal, my wish has been granted... but playing Skyrim is still just playing Skyrim.
  • My Viewsonic VX2268WM was capable of decent, if overly dark, 3D with flickering shutter glasses.  My new Ancor Communications Asus VG23AH is capable of pretty good 3D with polarized movie-style glasses.  Oddly enough, NVDIA has not green-lit the VG23AH for being 3D capable, even though it is.  The solution was to lie to Windows that the monitor was actually an Acer HR274H, at which point the Nvidia 3D Vision software was willing to support it, and it works just fine.  Unfortunately, I've discovered performance to be overly choppy with the 3D turned on in Skyrim, and not sure why that is... probably because I turned the details up and this added some effects that cause issues with 3D Vision that were not there before.
At least I have a little more resolution now... and my right monitor has stopped flickering, since I recycled it and replaced it with the VX2268WM.  I suppose that needed to be done.  Maybe for my next hardware upgrade, I'll replace all the fans in my computer with silent ones.  That would be about as effective of an improvement as this $400 turned out to be because I'd end up with the same overall capability, but a less annoying computer overall.

I would have got more done but, at about the time I installed my new hardware, I caught a nasty cold, and this had disrupted my routine enough to result in aimlessly meandering slightly more than usual.  No work is getting done in GameMaker and, consequently, my free time is passing more or less without a lasting purpose.
It's not much, but one day this will be a grand city... if I feel like it.

I installed the latest version of Minecraft, found a testificate village, and have been working on growing the village in all directions.  The goal is to have a vast village of testificates.

Progress has been extremely slow going.  I spent most of the time just walling the area in (and it's still not safe enough to spend nights awake) and evening out the ground.  I not even sure they're breeding - I've only added about 7 doors to the village and have not seen any new villagers.

I'm not sure why I'm bothering.  The villagers in Millenaire are superior in nearly every way.  About the only advantage testificates have over them is that they can work with your custom-built dwellings.  Indeed, testificate villagers don't build any building other than what they've spawned with, so they must utilize your custom-built dwellings to expand.  Millenaire villages actually zone and build their own buildings, with one family per home.  Testificates propose one trade per villager, while Millenaire traders take coin for a variety of goods.  In the end, assuming my plan plays out to fruition, I'll just have a testificate village with vastly reduced function compared to those in Millenaire... and even with Millenaire villages I can't really see the point to playing Minecraft anymore.  This is just listless activity and nothing more.

In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, I found I could make 400,000 bells in a couple hours if I focused on hunting rare bugs: just visit the island with a lot of palm trees planted in the beach after 5pm and hunt beetles and sharks.  I also catch everything else and give the low value bugs away to Leila just to clear up the bug spawn buffer.  Simultaneously, I swing my net at low-value fish to get rid of them.  Trying to leverage as many rare fish and bugs as possible works reasonably well on a tiny island, to the point where I think it's actually a more effective tactic than harvesting the fruit off of trees during tours.

Most of my time went to Carrier Command: Gaea Mission, and you know what?  I actually enjoy this game quite a lot.  That probably should not surprise anyone if you heard how much I enjoyed Hostile Waters, as Gaea Mission is basically an advanced version of it.

Granted, in many ways, Hostile Waters was a better game.  Perhaps the greatest such way is that I could actually trust the AI in Hostile Waters to do its job well enough that strategy was possible.  Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is a perpetual exercise in overcoming AI limitations.

The main problem is the pathing of the "walrus" amphibious tanks.  They get stuck on everything, including each other.  The AI is not without merit, as the walrus can usually path their way back to the carrier from anywhere on the island, and that's no small feet of programming.  However, walrus put an unnatural emphasis on avoiding each other, and can get snagged on the carrier itself, so the traffic jams are a frequent nightmare.  Assigning a walrus to assist another is almost guaranteed to have the following walrus trap the leading walrus in a corner somewhere unless you're driving the leading walrus.

That's fine because I just pretend that this is part of the game.  After all, there's something delightfully nerdy about seeing how robots will navigate an island, and the walrus are essentially virtual robots in a virtual environment.  If they get stuck, that's what manual control is for.  Figuring out what will stump the walrus AI, and what won't, is basically how you get good at this game.   Currently, it seems the secret is to order the walrus individually and not have them follow each other.  At most, they can be assigned to assist the walrus you're piloting, because they can't back you into a corner nearly as effectively as they intimidate each other.
At least the flying "manta" aircraft are relatively reliable... if death prone, because it takes very few hits at all to knock them out of the sky.    Regardless, I've found the quickest strategy to take out an island is to load my manta up with rockets, armor, and shields.  Thus equipped, I can sweep the island in a formation of 4 mantas - me piloting one, the rest assisting.  If any anti-aircraft gun snipes me, it soon finds itself pulverized by the other three mantas' rocket strikes.  The destructive cycle is completed by sending individual mantas back to the carrier to repair and rearm as necessary.

If I combine my manta sweep with some walrus on orders to push the line on the ground, then I've got myself a nice combined arms game going on.  Granted, given the issues walrus have with reliably navigating, I more or less find it a happy coincidence if they show up in time.  More likely what's going to happen is my mantas do all the work while the walrus mill around trying to figure out how to path without tripping over each other.  Any such combined arms plans must be set before I enter combat, because I sure can't be messing around with the map interface while my manta is under fire.

Gaea Mission's story campaign is hard to recommend, but I suppose it teaches you the rudimentary basics of control.   Though you start out on foot, if you can humor it for an hour, you'll finally be on your carrier where you belong.  The on foot segments are just a really rudimentary first person shooter with the occasional nice visual.  You spend more time on the carrier in the campaign, but every time the developers drag me out of it to do a mission on foot I can't help but roll my eyes.  Once you have the basics down, it's far better to avoid the campaign and play the game in "strategy mode," which is reminiscent of the original Carrier Command.

I would be playing Carrier Command: Gaea Mission right now, but frankly I'm a bit disappointed in how I'm investing my time.  I know I'm suffering from a cold, but I'm mostly over it now, and I should really be trying to get something done in GameMaker.   Also, I kinda went ahead and subscribed to Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn, so there's a monthly subscription that needs to get more use out of it.  And these Artemis Fowl books I checked out need to go back to the library eventually... aargh!  I waste my time so effectively that having entire days off is not enough.


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