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Decompression Stress

It's vacation week!  I supplemented my usual four days off part time schedule by scheduling to take the three days off that goes between them, and suddenly it became eleven days off.  I probably can't get away with a part time schedule forever, but it's good to enjoy it while it can.

I have not been using my time as productively as I planned.  I wanted to focus on my game development endeavors.  Instead, it seems having more free time makes focusing on doing productive things very difficult.  It is not so much that I work better under pressure as it is that there is a certain sense of weightlessness that comes with being depressurized.

Elite: Dangerous.
Speaking of which, I surprised myself by sinking some time into Elite: Dangerous.  Not a lot, mind you.  Frankly, what I do in the game is boring as snot.  I have reached the end game, and basically it is a long, torturous climb to attain one (or all) of the three big ships left above my current ship, the Python.  That requires credits.

There are effective but cheesy methods to earn that money, but I can only grind to a top tier ship once in my Elite:Dangerous career, so I might as well feel like I've really earned it.  Of the methods left that I feel are not semi-legitimized exploits, mining is the most consistently lucrative.  Thus, for me, "earning it," is shaping up to look a lot like this:
  • I fly out to a nearby "metallic"-type planetary ring.  These types of rings are rare, but have consistently the most valuable metals to be mined.  I drop out of supercruise and into a vast ring made up of countless asteroids, a bottomless haul, an endless expanse.
  • There is no rational need for pirates to exist in this field of plenty, but they do.  Pirates scan me, I have nothing but limpets, so they move on.  The police scan the pirates, find they are conveniently sporting bounties, and attack.  I also attack, rapidly pulverizing the pirates with the weapons on my three large hardpoints.  Eventually, we have so many police ships around that pirates are destroyed almost as quickly as they appear.  Bounty hunting time is over.
  • In truth, there is no "securing the area."  Its random what ships hang about, and all I really have to do is move about 30 kilometers away from the point I warped in at, because ships won't spawn there.  Was it an oversight on behalf of Frontier that I can dodge the risk:reward mechanic so easily?  I doubt it, they've had years to fix it if so.  The endless pirates spawn so bounty hunters have something to shoot.  Where the pirates don't spawn, it's so miners can mine in peace.
  • Time to start mining.  First, a prospector drone is shot at an asteroid to determine what kind of minerals it has.  The presence of a prospector drone on the surface of an asteroid also multiplies its yield, which means less time spent flying between them.  If the asteroid is of poor quality, I simply move on to the next.
  • The mining beams rapidly leech the metals out of the chosen asteroid, ejecting them into space.  My collector drones collect them and put them into my refinery.  There, the ore is processed into cargo canisters.  From time to time, I have to remove a less valuable mineral from the refinery to make room, as there are slightly more possible ores than the 10 types that can be held in the refinery slots.
  • I move to the next asteroid.  Some are gentle giants.  Others are enormous spinning death traps.  Experienced miners like myself will rarely lose a collector limpet to them, let alone get close enough for it to hit the ship itself.
  • Keep doing this for about an hour and a half, and my cargo hold is full.  Depending on how well it went, I might have a bunch of spare drones to jettison.  There's a fiddling little bit here where I ditch the really cheap ores and drones in order to fill up the rest of my cargo hold.
  • I fly back to the station and sell my ore.  If I am lucky, there might be a mission to buy some of my ore, which is significantly more lucrative than just selling the ore directly.  There usually isn't.
Each trip takes about 1-2 hours of real time, depending on how smoothly it goes.  Each trip nets me about 2M-4M credits, depending on how lucky I am.  I have about 69M credits.  My ship's trade in value is about 61M credits.  I need 200M credits to upgrade and outfit an Anaconda, arguably the best ship in the game, so I need to earn about 70M more credits.
I do the math and realize I'll be doing practically nothing but blast asteroids for 35 hours straight.

Each trip, I do the math again.

The Frontier Expo 2017 came and went at about this time, an event hosted entirely by the creators of this game, but I honestly had no idea it was even going on. What a weird coincidence.  Later, I watched it, and was hyped of the possibilities of the future.  As for the present, however... I am sick of mining.

Divinity: Original Sin 2.

Over in Divinity: Original Sin 2, the grind is one more typical of an isometric RPG.  It largely has to do with dealing with equipment bloat, constantly finding things, selling things, buying things.  Each of the four characters in my party has about 80 items each in their inventory, an intimidating amount of sift through, I have them set up like so:
  • Frontline looter (with Lucky Charm), Fane.  The face of the party, which is a good thing since his magic mask gives him several, he also holds all the keys and loot which has yet to be distributed.
  • Main loot holder and seller (with Bartering), The Red Prince.  If no one has a use for a particular bit of something looted, it gets marked as a "ware" to sell and ends on this fellow because he has the highest strength score in addition to garnering the best prices in trade.
  • Main dry craft parts holder (with Loremaster), Beast.  I don't do a whole lot of crafting, but the junk I send him is more valuable if I assembled it into makeshift things than it is if I just sold the parts.
  • Main wet craft parts holder (with Thievery), Sebille.  Our spindly elven friend gets all manner of fleshy foodstuffs and esoteric essences, if only because it's unrealistic to expect Beast to carry all the crafting junk, it's all united on the crafting screen anyway, and roughly splitting it by animal/vegetable vs mineral is a fairly quick and easy mental calculation to do.
As before, I don't really know how to build a good character in this game.  I think I am basically making peace with the fact that, when each point invested in an attribute or skill only gives you about a 5% benefit, character generation really isn't all that influential.  I think gaining levels increases a character's aptitude in all applicable ways, and this largely drowns out how base point expenditure will barely increase one such way.
Don't bother taking notes, you won't need them.
Instead, character generation seems to be more of a matter of distributing duties, much like I did the loot flow.  Part of these duties have to do with distributing the three kinds of gear (warrior/strength, scoundrel/finesse, and wizard/intelligence) and four kinds of weapons (one-handed, dual wielding, two-handed, and ranged).   Another part is making sure someone can cast all the major abilities in the game.

As it turns out, there's not much point to restart the campaign.  The only permanent thing is who your lead character is, which of the other companions are still around to join your party, what skillbooks were read by whom, and the story consequences of all of your decisions in the campaign so far.  As far as your characters' stats are concerned, there's a magic mirror that lets you completely respec your character whenever you want for free.

I find myself largely attempting to keep the campaign in Divinity: Original Sin 2 going smoothly.   A few paragraphs ago I mentioned how level seems to overwhelm all statistic investment.  This is problematic because wandering about causes you to encounter foes at every turn who are too high leveled to beat.  So you backtrack and try to find where you missed earning the necessary experience points to continue.  At the moment, turns out I was supposed to muck around in the town of Driftwood more than I did.

To be fair, you might be able to finagle some victories against higher level foes, probably after several tries and quickloads, so there is some wiggle room.  This is the exception rather than the norm, and this forms the lead critique I have of the game: you cannot pretend this is a nice and open-ended campaign when the players are constantly being forced down a linear path.

That Most Unsatisfactory Of Games: Reality.

Friend of mine grilled me quite a bit about spending so much time playing Divinity: Original Sin 2.  But the truth of the matter is that playing games, when I can bring myself to do it, is a far better use of my time than what idle hands are up to if I don't.

Before you got here, I wrote excessive details of exactly what those idle hands did, thought better of it, and removed it from this blog entry.  Thus proving my procrastination has become so protracted that it became downright recursive.
I blame the caffeine.
Playing games is so much better than that!  Of course, it would be even better if I channeled my time, not into gaming, not into worse procrastination, but into some kind of meaningful endeavor.  Indeed, that was the point of this vacation.

Unfortunately, I was foiled by my old nemesis: impromptu babysitting.  It struck without warning in the middle of the vacation, if only for a couple days, but I was devastated.  Such indignity.  Such injustice.  Lets face it, the babysitting was not the problem, it was the angst I felt at having my struggle for creative fruition so rudely interrupted by life's merciless realities.

I put my expectations somewhere unrealistic, and suffered dukkha, far worse than if I had not taken a vacation at all.  It took fully four days for the angst to retreat enough to see the truth.  I dared to dream, but dreams are but figments of the imagination.  To choose to believe in figments is to invite folly.  That's the responsible way to regard what happened.

Part of me refuses, of course, and I find myself sympathizing with it more.  Not all dreams are delusion.  A dream successfully made reality is an innovation.  Why live, if not to dream?

Ah, but now I've tore open the wound again, and the angst has descended from the fly space.  Perhaps this pain is downright Shakespearean.   "Pain pays the income of each precious thing."  Maybe the Buddha has the right of it, and it is better to not want.  If all of life is a stage, he's the actor who said an interest in tragedy is inherently unhealthy, and asked to be excused from future casting calls.  A poor actor, then, but an overwhelmingly content being.

Art is pain.  Life is suffering.  Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?  I don't know, but I do know I have been working too hard for this to be much of a vacation.
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