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Procrastinating By The Numbers

Writing this at about 3/4th the way through my two day weekend, it seems relatively cut and dry what I'll be up to.

1. Playing Starbound.

Starbound is now on version 1.0, officially out of early release, which started back some time back when the glaciers retreated or possibly December 4th, 2013.

Reflecting back on my experiences in those early days and comparing it with what I have played now, Starbound has improved by neither leaps nor bounds.  It's the same general engine it was back then, and the main gist of the gameplay remains the same, too.

Instead, it has improved by breadth and details.
How Starbound begins.  Note the v1.0 hotbar.
For example:
  • There's a lot more to explore.  Biomes.  Dungeons.  Villages and encampments.  Pre-made adventure maps tied in with quests.  Nifty little segments of mystery doled out by the procedural generation engine.
  • Speaking of quests, there's a great big quest hub that you find early on into the game.  A great meeting point for players on multiplayer servers and a nice place to spend your hard earned pixel money.
  • They've been tweaking the user interface quite a bit.  Right now, looks like there's a hotbar of twelve sets of left/right mouse button equipment combinations you can set up, with the central functions of your matter manipulator always available.  It's pretty elegant once you get used to it.
  • The combat is still a bit simplistic, but a decent enough showing for a mouse and keyboard manipulated game looked at from the side-view.   I would not go in expecting something that plays as tight as Strider, but Starbound nevertheless demonstrates effort in making the combat interesting.
  • The procedural generated fauna has been completely reimplemented, they're quite different from the alpha.
  • You need to eat now.  Farming is in, it gets the job done with a nice variety of crops and food to craft from it, with buffs found on most higher-tier stuff.
  • The need to deal with atmospheric conditions has been significantly diminished from the original, but remains.  Some maps require you wear some piece of equipment that allows you to survive there, but you'll never need to bother reading a temperature readout.
  • All the ships can now be fully upgraded, allowing you to deck them out with all sorts of crap.  I know they announced space combat was being added awhile back, but no idea if that's happened yet.
  • You can even create your own colonies that attract tenants.  I like that a lot, it really adds to the virtual world potential when it starts being about supporting something outside of your own character.
Of course, this is an incomplete list, but those are the major improvements from alpha that are immediately apparent.

In one word, Starbound has been refined.  It's as smooth and varied as a rock tumbled agate.

If playing a 2D side-scrolling Minecraft in space is your goal, it leaves little to complain about.  As I get deeper into the release version, I'll let you know where it flows and where it sticks.

2. Playing Fallout 4 in survival mode.

I already spoke at length about what playing Fallout 4 in survival mode was like.

As of this moment, I would say that it's less "survival mode" and more "find a bed" mode.  The ironically-named "Sole Survivor" was always prone to unexpected death because there is no gated content and often no visual indicator to differentiate yard trash from true threats that can wipe the floor with you.  By removing access to saving the game wherever you like, you will be forced to inevitably retread ground due to those little hiccups in the mortal coil, and there's no fast travel.  So the primary activity of the player is to find a bed to rest in, because that saves the game, thereby establishing a stable base from which to go engage in any kind of post-apocalyptic risk tasking.
Sometimes, the threats are easy to visually identify.
Somehow, I prefer this mode.  I like how your weapons do more damage than normal mode in survival mode, even if the enemies get an even bigger damage multiplier, because I like it when my weapons feel powerful but I still want to be challenged.  Another benefit of survival mode is that it changes stimpacks to work over time instead of instantly, removing a balance fault where you have functionally unlimited health as long as you have stimpacks to burn.  I have always found fast travel mechanics to rob virtual world games of immersion, so it's nice that survival mode prevents me from succumbing to the temptation to do so.  Plus, there's the bragging rights of surviving the added difficulty, bolstering my diminished ego for nothing of real import, but it appreciates it nevertheless.

For now, the positives of playing in survival mode outweigh that negative.  Since I (arguably unwisely) invested an additional $50 in Fallout 4's "season pass" last weekend, I feel relatively invested to seeing this game to relative completion, too.  Fallout 4 is a huge game, and I am being forced to retread a lot more in survival mode, so this endeavor could take months.

3. Refining my time management skills in my quest to be an indie game developer.

When I am this well entertained, my motivation to do my own development falls off a bit.  I must admit, being bored is my primary motivation, even more than the frustration of a muse denied creative release, even more than my bank account scraping the red.

Yet, I am determined to try to keep and perhaps reinforce a habit of regularly doing some development work in Unity.  It's just all around better for me.  It's good mental exercise, and has the potential to produce something of benefit.
Also attributed to Lao Tzu, Margaret Thatcher, Frank Outlaw, and anonymous.  It's complicated.

My current method works relatively reliably.  I start a stop watch when I play a game and turn to do a little work when it goes off.  That way, I neither feel frustrated I did no development nor frustrated that I did nothing but development.

Yet, the reason why this works has less to do with what I am doing and more to do with what I'm not doing.  If I consciously choose to do anything, even if it is playing a game, it is a better use of my time than letting idle hands take over.  At times, I have discovered idle hands make it possible to do worse than nothing.

For me, the foremost destination of my idle hands have been Internet message boards.  Easily thousands of hours have been lost to them over the past decade... imagine if I had spent that time programming instead!  Yet, I doubt I will even be missed, and what a remarkably bitter pill it is to know how much time was spent for making so little a difference!  Knowing this just underscores the need to quit this habit, and the only way to escape the emotional investment may be to never look back.

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