Shitty Science Fiction: Another Life

Imagine my surprise when Netflix throws a trailer at me for another new science fiction original. Historically, these have been hit and miss for me, mostly in the miss category, but this one has Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame heading it up. I decided to give this one a try, and only a few minutes into it, regret sank in.

Spoilers ahead.

The plot is fairly basic science fiction fare. An alien device lands on Earth, and nobody knows what it’s up to. A mission is sent out to investigate its origins, and the original commander is demoted and replaced by the show’s lead character, Niko Breckenridge, for reasons which aren’t really made clear. Niko’s husband is left on Earth to investigate the device, because everything apparently centers around her and the people she knows in her life.

The main storyline is the mission in space, and it’s not executed well at all. The ship itself is crewed almost entirely by people in their early twenties, a bizarre decision when you consider the mission is perilous and a possible first contact scenario. Experience counts, and I’m not entirely sure a 21 year old engineer is going to cut it, and it feels so out of place. Almost every crew member has some massive character flaw which puts them immediately at odds with one or more of the other crew members. Nothing could be more dangerous on a deep space mission than crew conflict; even today, space programs take great pains to make sure astronaut crews will work effectively together for long periods of time.

The very first command decision Niko makes is met by mutiny at the hands of the replaced commander, for little reason other than he’s a massive asshole, and it’s all downhill from there.

The writing of Another Life is so utterly basic it’s almost insulting to the viewer. Four minutes into the show we’re treated by Niko’s apparent husband walking in to the house, blurting happily, “Where’s my daughter? There she is.” Such natural dialogue. The show seems to rely heavily on blunt exposition rather than being subtle or artful in any way. The conversation continues for a few minutes with Niko and her husband dumping details with nouns and events that the two of them obviously already know, but only used for our benefit.

The entire show is carried 100% by Katee Sackoff, who does a great job with what she’s been given. There’s a couple of legitimately badass moments where she elevates the script well, but the problem is nothing else works. The ship, normally a character itself in any science fiction, is boring. Nothing about the crew works, nor do you feel anything about any of them so when the dying starts you won’t give a shit. The plot in space doesn’t go anywhere interesting with one exception, which turns out to be a very tropey “it’s just a dream” episode. The plot on Earth is just so badly executed it came off as a total waste of time that the rest of the show could have used more effectively.

Even the designs don’t work; if the side effects of hypersleep is extreme disorientation and lack of coordination, maybe make it so your hypersleep beds aren’t wide open on the sides, allowing people to fall out and hurt themselves on the edges and corners which all look sharp as fuck. Maybe quality shows like The Expanse have totally wrecked other shows for me which don’t have sensible ship designs in them. Those unsecured items will be 100% deadly in the event of a high-G maneuver, after all.

I actually sat through all ten episodes of this, and the worst feeling is not that I suffered through it, but that Netflix will take that as a +1 that the show should continue on to another season.

As a science fiction fan it’s sad that Netflix can’t knock this genre out of the park.

Merry Christmas Wishes for 2018

Hey everyone! Yes I’ve dragged my ass on this blogging thing, but maybe this will be a great idea for a New Year’s resolution for the coming year to improve.

For now, here’s a pic of my shweet widdle puppy to help wind down Christmas Day. From my family to yours, I hope you have a great Christmas!

Lookit him. Ain’t he cute!?

My Destiny 2 Adventure Will Be Ending Soon. Probably.

When Destiny 2 came out I was pretty happy to be able to finally get into this behemoth of a franchise, and on my gaming platform of choice: the PC. I had followed Destiny at a high level and had seen all the ups and downs of that game’s release and subsequent expansions, and my hope was that Bungie had learned from those mistakes then to produce a superior product later. Generally speaking, this has not been the case.

Now, Destiny 2 is a pretty amazing experience. The shooting is just sublime, with each of the dozens upon dozens of weapons having their own combination of traits that lends to a totally unique feel. The story is just a way to bootstrap you into the end game gear grind, so while it’s nothing to write home about it’s a long sequence of set piece moments that spits you out to start the real game.

Destiny 2 Screenshot 2018.08.29 -

As with any game, one’s time with it is full of amazing experiences, and I’ve had my share since Destiny 2 came out. I’ve messed up the plans of the Cabal on Earth, burned out the Hive on Titan, smashed the Vex on Nessus, sent the Taken back to wherever the hell they came from on Io. I’ve participated in an uncountable number of public events on all of these worlds with fellow players, done a bit of PVP in the Crucible, and was basically dead weight for my fireteam in a few Strikes.

Destiny 2 Screenshot 2018.08.29 -

The first set of expansions came out for Destiny 2, horribly overpriced and half-assed attempts to extend the gameplay. They were great at pissing off players who shelled out basically enough for a full priced game, but received two lackluster experiences.

I’m thankful I waited until I could snag both for under twenty bucks.

At that price the expansions were a bit more palatable, and both certainly looked amazing. I romped through time in the Vex simulations on Mercury with Curse of Osiris, and blew the crap out of a Worm God (yes.. a worm god if you can believe it) on Mars with the Warmind expansion.


Destiny 2 Screenshot 2018.08.29 -

Through all of this was the ever present grind for more loot to increase your power level and get… more loot. The grind is infinite, and satisfying in one of those manipulative ways that modern games are designed to exploit. Even though the overall experience seems simple and repetitive, it’s still a lot of fun to take part in. Throwing the game up for a few minutes of play is easy enough, and can extend to hours without much effort.

Overall, my time with Destiny 2 has been a pretty cool experience.

Which brings me to my ultimate point of how I’m most likely to be giving up on Destiny 2 as it approaches the launch of its latest expansion. You see if there’s one thing this game has taught me it’s how much of a money grab the franchise is. There’s a meta gaming loop here, whereby customers pay money for something that’s not as good as the previous content, then small trickles of changes come out to show how the developers are “listening”. That enjoyment-disappointment-enjoyment loop is basically Destiny 2 in an nutshell, and it’s designed to make you feel like you’re the odd man out by not buying into it.

The upcoming expansion is a full priced game worth of cash, PLUS there is a separate season pass on top of that, for additional smaller content drops that really haven’t been described fully. Staring down the barrel of a hundred dollars worth of content that might not be good value really leaves me wanting to move on to other things.

Then again it’s just so goddamn fun.

Destiny 2 Screenshot 2018.08.29 -

Shitty Science Fiction: Salvation

I watch a lot of science fiction. It’s one of my favorite genres and if you’re reading this it’s likely that it’s one of your favorites too. The problem is there’s a lot of shitty science fiction out there. So why not start a running blog bit about it, and see if even shitty sci-fi can be a thing worth watching? Lets find out… together.

Salvation is a TV show that sounded interesting when I first heard about it, and for some stupid reason I keep watching it, hoping that at some point it will make good on its premise. I honestly don’t know why I do this to myself, but it’s not the first show that I’ve done this with. I went through two seasons of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow before I managed to shake watching that thing. I just had to see if somehow it would hit a stride and redeem its terrible beginnings.

It did not.

Here’s Salvation’s concept: a massive asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, threatening absolute destruction of all life on the surface. The clock is ticking, since the asteroid is only six months away and there doesn’t appear to be any quick solution to the problem. I was looking forward to some sort of serialized version of Deep Impact, with a core cast wracking their brains trying to find a way to save humanity while the citizens of Earth come to terms with an impending demise.

Somehow the show has made it into season two without being cancelled, all the while doing everything it can to avoid focusing down on the problem of all humans dying. Here’s a short list of some of the things that eat up several precious episode of each season:

  • Shadow government trying to take over the presidency
  • Assassination attempts on the press secretary
  • A cop investigating the mysterious shooting death of his sister
  • A hacker group threatening the world with nuclear attack
  • Assassination attempts on the President
  • Miscellaneous American political drama akin to The West Wing
  • The President is missing!


No, seriously. There’s an asteroid coming and it’s going to kill everything and that’s treated like a minor subplot to the rest of this schlock.

A scene from Salvation, with less than six months to go before everything on Earth DIES (Image from IMDB)

There’s something at the core of this that could have been interesting. There’s an Elon Musk knockoff working on an initiative to colonize Mars (because of course he is), and he’s working up solutions to try to divert the asteroid. The show might have been like a global version of Apollo 13, with some compelling science being applied to avert catastrophe. Even the hacking group plots might be interesting if it wasn’t so illogical: their goal is to save the world, but in a manner that is violently competitive with government-backed initiatives.

And hilariously the show can be almost self-aware of this at times, with characters basically uttering phrases like “I can’t believe we’re dealing with this when there’s an asteroid coming to kill us all.” I agree; taking over the presidency is stupid when everyone is about to become a smear of carbon in a less than a year’s time.

Please give this one a pass. However if, for some reason, you’ve been watching this and have found something interesting that’s kept you coming back, I’m curious what that is. Feel free to chime in below.

Finally, A Return to Blogging

Did you know it’s been eight years since my past post here on my personal blog? Crazy, hey? I figured it’s time to break that streak and make a few changes around here that might facilitate some more frequent posting.

Things are still a bit lightweight around here. The look and feel will get tweaked over time, and I’ll start building out some additional pages, but overall it will be nice to have a proper home to start blogging again.

So what sort of crap should you expect here? Most who know me know that I play a lot of video games, and love movies and music. I’m a big sci-fi nerd, so expect there to be a heavy slant in that direction as well. Who knows though, so expect this to be a variety blog filled with random things.

From a technical perspective, I decided to relocate the blog from self hosted WordPress to for simplicity’s sake; they can manage all the usual security and theme updates for me without me so I can focus on the writing part. Hopefully that works out well.

So welcome! I hope I can keep things interesting for everyone.

Worth a Thousand Words

Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on my own site. Warp Drive Active’s kept me pretty busy these days, but I’m back here and hope to continue the various article series’ that I have happening here. On to better topics, though!

The EVE Online Alliance Tournament 8 has been going on throughout the month of June, to great success thus far. The video streams have been silky smooth with no major interruptions of note, the commentary has been excellent, and the matches have been exciting to watch. A lot of the latter has to do with the rules this year, which streamline the combat nicely — no more ten minute long matches containing nothing but circle-jerk logistics setups. Instead we’ve been seeing some excellent fleet commanding, very capable commentary, and expensive ships melting before our very eyes.

In the past I’ve been allowed to attend the matches in order to do some visual documentation of the matches. For Alliance Tournament 8, the pictures I’ve taken can be found at my EVE Online – Alliance Tournament 8 picture set on Flickr. Players have enjoyed this in the past since full resolution images aren’t provided by CCP from the matches. Some have even been inspired enough to create their own content with the images, either just wallpapers for their own  use or, in the case of Umega, an entire music video.

This all came to a screeching halt last Sunday, and I figured I might as well explain to folks out there what transpired. First, let me give some background.

Back during Alliance Tournament 5, I sent a note off to the organizer at the time and inquired if there was a way I could get screenshots from the matches. I was invited to attend the events in person so I could do this myself. I graciously accepted, and proceeded to do my work back then. Players definitely seemed to enjoy the results.

After the recent Alliance Tournament 8 podcast I worked with CCP to produce, I asked if I could once again attend the matches to document them with screenshots. They got back to me and indicated it was possible. Let me explain how this has worked for me in the past.

Obviously I can’t show up there in a battleship and mash my screenshot button. I’m restricted to a covert ops frigate with no mounted modules save for a cloaking device. I am to remain cloaked throughout the matches. Occasionally while jockeying for position with the EVE TV camera ships I’ll get bumped by one of them and summarily decloaked, but that’s only ever happened during the setup phase and never during an actual match.

During the first tournament I did this for, it became very evident that staying outside the arena was going to be a problem for the effort, since if the players impulse to or have initial warp-ins over on the other side, I cannot do a Look At to get my camera close. I had asked the organizer if it was possible to breach the arena during the matches slightly in order to get within the 100km Look At distance, and it was agreed to be alright as long as I kept as large a distance as possible.

My UI is always on until I’m actually about to take a screenshot. My overview shows me where everyone is, and I have my Keep At button set to 150km on standby in case I notice someone coming my way. I immediately hit it, and I’m usually out of the arena in seconds. The closest anyone’s ever come to me is around 20km, but in that instance I was 10km outside of the arena. GMs would nuke them the second they breach the border anyway.

There are two arenas in the tournament system for AT8, and between matches I’m warping to the next one along with other EVE TV camera ships at 100km, then moving off to a random position to cloak. Players aren’t on the field at this point at all. Last Sunday, the match organizer noticed me decloak at this point — again, no players on the field at all — because an EVE TV camera ship bumped mine and decloaked my Helios. After a short chat, I was relocated out of the tournament system because I noted how unreasonable it is to stipulate a 135km minimum distance from the arena beacon.

Think about this. 135km diameter sphere has a circumference of approximately 425kms. Lets say the teams all warp in at their spots on the other side of the sphere. At around 300m/s, by the time I circumnavigated the entire arena to get close the match would be over. The probability of a player heading straight for my cloaked ship and getting within decloaking distance is profoundly small, and that’s assuming I’m not constantly expecting that to happen.

So, a decision was made. That’s fine of course, again as I said before I don’t have any special access or rights for this kind of access. From my perspective it was more upsetting of how quickly a distrustful opinion was formed of me, after more than seven years of building up a relationship with CCP through my interactions with the community of EVE and the developers themselves though such efforts as the podcast and comic.

As much as I do these things for you, the community of EVE, they are in a way also homage to the creators of the game we all enjoy. The result is a kind of tip of the hat to say “this is how much I like what you’ve created”.

Am I upset? A bit. I’m disappointed that after the things that I’ve done I can’t be afforded the opportunity to take time out of my own weekends to provide another perspective to the community on an event that’s supposed to be all about the players. Twenty thousand people viewed the set on the first day of the tournament alone, with many more thousands to follow in the days since, and a fair portion of those (if referrer stats are any indication) are the alliances who were competing.

This isn’t a rant, and my intent is not to bash all of CCP here. There are some fantastic individuals working for them who are smart, creative, and passionate about the game. You won’t see me slamming the door in the face of future opportunities to work with them, such as providing the current set of AT8 pictures for their own use in marketing or dev blogs, or doing future podcast work with them to highlight upcoming EVE events or expansions. It’s just so you as players can know what transpired in case you were wondering why the screenshots end a week before the finals.

All that will really come of this is a firm knowledge of the widening distance between those of us trying to do work for the community, and the creators of the game that it has built up around. Currently, that distance has grown to around 35km. Who knows where it will be in the future.

Planet Play

If you’ve listen to the recent podcast I did on Planetary Interaction, you’ll know you that I’ve been playing with this on the test server more and more in recent days. I figured this would be a good venue to give some more detailed information on what I’ve found about the concept so far.

The idea here is simple: there are a lot of planets in EVE, and pre-Tyrannis they have almost zero value in the game, short of a warp-to target without infrastructure around it to blow you to pieces. Tyrannis hopes to change that — and more — by letting players create an industrial surface infrastructure. I’ll get to the “why” of things later, for now lets look at the “how”.

There are a specific number of planetary types, including the usual suspects like ice, temperate, gas, etc., as well as plasma, the most rare. Each type of planet has a specific number of materials available to work with, some unique for that type. You start your endeavor by purchasing a command center on the market, one suited for the particular type of planet you want to play with. The command center has stats like power and CPU amounts similar to a ship or POS control tower, with higher level centers having more of those stats. Once bought, put it in your hold, fly to your target planet, right click on it and select View in Planet Mode. Select the location of your new infrastructure and you’re good to go.

You have two categories of tasks on the Planet View, build and scan. Build is obvious, but to determine what to build — and more importantly, where — you’ll have to scan. Scanning lets you select a resource the planet holds, showing you specifically where deposits are located that you can extract. You can play with the settings to get a nifty heat map view of the world, and almost immediately you’re going to wish you did this step first before planting your command center (hint hint!). You’ll see why that is soon.

On a particular gas planet I was playing with, I decided I wanted to extract aqueous solutions and ionic solutions. After scanning for both, you’ll see they will usually be a distance away from each other. Fair enough, so you head to the Build section of Planet View and select the appropriate extractor from the groups presented there, and being planting a few of each type into the locations you found the materials. This is somewhat like a market tab in a way, since you’ll be charged for each item you plant , although only after you click the submit button so you have time to play around a bit. I put down a storage silo to hold my extracted goods as well.

Now you must link your infrastructure together. This is like establishing roads between your buildings, the creation of which will eat up a specific amount of your command center’s stats depending on the distance of the links. Luckily you can optimize this at any time you wish. For instance if you have a cluster of three extractors in one area, linking each to the storage silo 50km away individually would be inefficient. It’s better to link them all together as a cluster and one to the silo, since links are shared.

We’re not done yet. Each extractor must be selected, so you can survey the area it’s set down in for deposits. Each deposit in the list has a a total amount and amount per extract cycle indicated, which is calculated to show you the time it will take to deplete the deposit. Select something reasonable. Now you have to route the product, by selecting where you want it to go when extracted. Doing this to your silo will show how the product moves along the links you’ve established.

Once this has all been done, and presuming you haven’t exceeded your control center’s power and CPU attributes, click submit and your set will become permanent. You’ll see your extractors will begin their work with a 15 minute cycle time. Lets get ready to take care of these raw materials.

Processor facilities let you convert your raw materials to more interesting products. Each planet type has two or more of these, each one is basically a processing tier. For my setup, I chose to put down two basic processors, linked to my storage facility. Each one converts one of the extracted materials into a product. Selecting each one, I chose the schematic for converting aqueous liquids to water for the first one, and ionic solutions to electrolytes for the second. Similar to the extractors you can set up the routing for the incoming and outgoing items. I also set down an advanced processor to take the water and electrolytes and convert it to coolant.

Just to give an idea of the amounts we’re dealing with here, to get 5 units of coolant you need 40 units each of water and electrolytes. That means 12000 units of aqueous liquids and ionic solutions.

So once you get a product and you want to do something with it, then what? You have two options. First, shuffle the stuff to your command center and launch it into orbit, in a special can with a decaying orbit that you must scoop before it self destructs. Second, you can build a launch facility on the surface which lets you interface with the customs depot in orbit of every planet.

The customs facility is a new thing orbiting each planet in EVE, allowing you to import and export goods from the surface. By exporting via this method, the can doesn’t hang out in space. This might seem less risky, however since the customs facility location is known to everyone it will probably end up being camped by those wanting to scan someone’s cargo and suicide gank them for the goods inside.

So, now the why of things. In its current state there’s not much purpose to most of this. So far I’ve seen that nanite paste can be constructed with some of the products from all of this, and I’m not sure what else out there can be constructed from the output of planet goo processing. The intent told to us is that this will eventually replace the remaining elements of the NPC market in EVE, and that is a good thing in my opinion. Additionally, this will all tie (somehow) into DUST 514, although the how of that is still a great unknown at this point.

There’s an immense time and ISK sink at work here as well. Deposits must be re-surveyed when they deplete, so every few hours you’ll be coming back to make sure stuff is still coming out of the ground. Infrastructure cannot be sold, only decommissioned, meaning you will lose the money invested. It seems to be only a matter of a few hundred thousand ISK on average for the different facilities, but that can add up especially when the ROI here is relatively low.

In a way it’s a balanced stream of passive income, as all the elements along the way can be sold off on the market to other people who don’t wish to mine/process their own. For the EVE gamer more concerned with PVP, this is a worthless addition for them directly. Industrialists and tinkerers may find a lot to reward them, but it remains to be seen if the commitment to develop this persists past a year. Think back to the Cosmos constellations and Faction Warfare for examples of promising new features that are current gathering dust…