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Coasting Through Microcosms

Looking back over the last week, I've a bit of a mishmash of various little things that happened during my time off.  Such a blog entry is hardly worthy of the gaming public, but fortunately Google stats assure me that the gaming public generally doesn't come here very often anyway.  If lack of fame has any outstanding benefit, it's the boundless freedom of obscurity.  So let us precious few count the ways I have earned my lack of recognition this week.

Sunday, March 12th, 2017: After work, I restarted my little Unity project.  It is sorted in terms of maps that contains chunks of tiles.  I decided to make those elements a lot more visible in the Unity editor, tightening my dependence on it, because of two reasons: 1. They clearly know how to build a better engine than I do.  2. If I am going to put up with the added overhead of a professional grade tool such as Unity, I might as well take advantage of its robust editor.

Monday, March 13th, 2017: After work, played Streets Of Rogue all evening.  In simplest terms, this game is a 2d isometric perspective mix of random arcade chaos, roguelike map construction, and some semblance of urban living complete with vending machines, street people, and shotgun-toting barkeeps and shopkeepers.  In practice, it's a fun game, but its pre-alpha state does not lend well to its longevity, even if the content is layered in such a way that it is not so quickly exhausted.
Day one in Farming Simulator 2017 had me exploiting extra cash by selling farming mission farmers' own produce back to them.  However, it is not much of an exploit considering how little bonus money this tactic generates.
Tuesday, March 14th, 2017: I was feeling ill so I took the day off.  I found myself dwelling on what I found so fascinating about watching Farming Simulator 2017 footage lately.  I came to realize it was because it was another aspect of virtual worlds to investigate:
  • On one perspective, we have Minecraft and games like it, essentially survival games where you are invited to build housing and tools to survive, but there's ultimately no purpose to the game other than what you bring yourself.  Anyway, thanks to a bit of meddling by the Curse Client, my copy of Minecraft refuses to run anymore.
  • In another perspective, there is The Sims series.  I often bemoan a lack of procedural interpersonal relationships in virtual worlds, but what is The Sims if not little computer people going about their lives, developing complicated interpersonal webs as they do it?  If only the world of The Sims was not so trite and dumbed down for mainstream appeal.  The series lives in this rut now, watching somebody try to play The Sims 4 confirms what a self-satisfied little slice of banality the series has become.
  • Advanced vehicular simulations such as the truck simulators by SCS Software or Giant's Farming Simulator series offer a vehicular perspective, casting you as the operator of a company that uses the advanced equipment of our age to turn a profit.  Elite: Dangerous is the Sci-Fi version of this.  But they all spend too many development hours focusing on detailing their vehicles and barely any hours at all developing long term goals: it's all about using vehicles to make money to buy bigger vehicles, a self-defeating cycle.
I spent most of the day dwelling on whether I should buy Farming Simulator 2017 at its full $35 price now or wait until it goes on sale in the unforeseeable future.  (Probably not that soon since it was just released this year.)  Three factors eventually won me over:
  1. The details of the farming equipment were so well detailed as to be fascinating.  In a way, Farming Simulator 2017 is genuinely educational.  
  2. Farming Simulator 2017 allows you to upgrade your farm, making changes to the world as subtle as planting trees or as major as putting down a million dollar solar recharging station.  That's important because it contributes to a sense of world building, even though that's not a major feature of the game.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, the vehicles of Farming Simulator 2017 provide a much wider variety of activities than the other games mentioned here.  Not individually, since I could say a ship from Elite: Dangerous could do a lot more activities than a combine harvester.  But collectively, you can do everything from farming to logging to animal care.  
 So I went ahead and bought Farming Simulator 2017 and played it for the rest of the evening.  Friend of mine thought I was nuts to play that when I could have been playing more Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  I told him that the sinus headache I was suffering from was making that game a bit too exciting for me at the moment, and that was probably true.  But, at the same time, I was performing an investigation of a sort, soul searching for the game I wanted to play. 

As it happens, my investigation of Farming Simulator 2017 was largely over that very evening, as it certainly gets monotonous working fields all day.  But I still find myself wanting to boot it up when I want a borderline meditative experience.  Harvesting fields is pretty relaxing.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017: Thanks to the wonder of EA Early Access programs, I was able to give Mass Effect: Andromeda a play this evening after work.  There's quite a bit of controversy surrounding the game's aesthetic clashing with the uncanny valley in some ways.  It didn't bother me, I didn't expect the characters look like anything more than 3D models in a video game anyway, and they're certainly less doll-like than the ones in Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017: Other than an hour fertilizing my fields in Farming Simulator 2017 before work, the real life job kept me too busy to do much of anything.  But I decided to go ahead and buy Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Friday, March 17th, 2017: My weekend arrives and ends a day early.  I had a quiet day at home doing exactly what I wanted to do in life, splitting it halfway between game development and plaiyng games.  Towards the end of the day, I discovered that the wonder of EA Early Access programs includes cutting you off from playing the game you already bought because it is not formally released until the 20th of March.
Are you kidding me?  Seems I was playing a demo and didn't know it.  I guess this does prevent spoilers prior to release.
Saturday March 18th, 2017: I successfully motivated myself to do game development for most of the morning.  I figured it would be easy enough to add existing field of view and A* pathing code from other projects to my code.  Turns out I was dead wrong, the code I was trying to implement was too complicated to easily add and intended for finite maps.  While I only had a couple hours to try, it was a demoralizing reminder that I have a LOT to learn before I am any kind of great coder and user of a professional tool of Unity's caliber; at the moment I feel mediocre at best.

At 2pm, the sister moved back in with her two kids (early grade schoolers).  They'll be here for a two or three weeks while transitioning to a new home.  My days of solitude are over for awhile.  Speaking as an introvert, there are few worse fates.  But this is the part of the cost I pay for dodging rent and living at home.

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