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Let’s Play Flight Attendant

This is an actual Nintendo DS game.  I have no idea how this concept managed to get greenlighted by any game developer.

I can hardly wait for a bold new frontier of career-related games:  Let’s Play Budget Comptroller, Let’s Play Actuarial Scientist, and what will surely be the runaway favourite, Let’s Play ISO 9001 Auditor.

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Why do modern games suck so badly?

gh3_old_guyI know I have hit my twilight years, because blowing stuff up in videogames just isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

Might as well admit it.  “I’m an old man.  I hate everything but Matlock.  Oooo, it’s on now!”

When I was a younger lad I worked in a software store.  Truth be told the store probably made more money from me than I ever made from it.  I bought games pretty well every week.  There were gazillions of games catering to all kinds of players.  Simulators of all varieties, shooters, sports games, adventure games, strategy games, role-playing games, side-scrolling console games, educational games that were both fun  and entertaining…

These days the PC gaming industry has really narrowed its focus down to four major genres:

  • First-person shooters where you blow up Nazis (or the undead, or aliens, or genetic experiments gone wrong, or—let’s get really original—undead Nazi genetic experiments gone wrong!)
  • Hack-and-slash RPGs
  • League-branded sports games
  • Massively multiplayer online games that feature one of the above.

I understand this is where they are going to sell the majority of their titles, but good gravy it is boring.  How many more Call of Duty or Medal of Honor games can they crank out?    Now that we have fought the virtual WW2 longer than the actual WW2, it’s getting a little old.  I’m done with WW2 games and first-person shooters in general.  That stuff was fun ten years ago when I was playing Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon using contemporary scenarios and equipment.  These days the big trend is to get hyper-realistic graphics with seriously unrealistic gameplay.

Most of my favourite games of yesteryear didn’t have wicked 3d graphics, fast framerates or depend on carpal-tunnel-inducing clickrates.  Here’s a little trip down memory lane for old times’ sake, featuring ten games (in no particular order) the industry will probably never make again.

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No, really, what could possibly go wrong?

This is one of the weirder things I have seen in Europa Universalis III.  In the middle of the Reformation, with religious wars brewing between its Catholic and Protestant members, the Holy Roman Empire charges off to war with the Ottomans.

The Ottoman armies rather effortlessly stomp all over Hungary and start sieging bits of Austria.  Despite having become Protestant, I toss the Catholic Emperor a few hundred ducats a year in wartime funding, as I really do not want Ottomans on Vienna’s doorstep.

The war is six or seven years long and eventually, the HRE turns the tide and occupies virtually all of the Balkans and Greece.  And what does the emperor ask for in his peace deal?  Re-conquered Hungarian provinces?  Some kind of buffer between Austria and the Turks?

No.  He asks for this:

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Hands up, everyone who thinks it’s a good idea to let ze Germans run Judea?

Yeah, me neither.

UPDATE: For the Flea, parts of Europe and Anatolia, circa 1597.

snap0009The Netherlands are busy gobbling up all their like-cultured neighbours in a bid to form Europe’s sea-level superpower.  They are presently beating the stuffing out of the Bishopric of Utrecht and will probably annex it sometime within the next five years.

They are usually my ally, but at the moment the security alliance is severed as I do not want to get dragged into a half-dozen Dutch wars of unification.  I have designs on Africa and India and can’t tie up too many troops on the Continent.

snap0007 The Duchy of Austria, also Holy Roman Emperor since the start of the game—despite my best efforts to have the Protestant electors support somebody else.

Presently embroiled in a  massive conflict with their longtime Ottoman enemies.  I helped the Austrians out a little by taking some Ottoman Middle Eastern provinces, and smashing the hell out of the Ottoman navy in the Mediterranean.  At one time they were the second-largest navy in the world, with 79 galleys and 10 transports.  Now they have about five of each.  I lost a grand total of one frigate during that war’s naval engagements.

snap0008 Well-defended Cyprus and British Israel.  This territory (along with the adjacent provinces of Qara Koyunlu) actually bisects the Ottoman Empire, so that the Turks have no land connection to their African provinces.

This may cause the African provinces to revolt away from Ottoman rule.  Or they may decide to fix the problem by invading and retaking parts of British Israel.  Only time will tell.

Sober second thought

So I was thinking of launching a crusade for Judea and Beirut, but when I scrolled over to the Levant, there was this nasty green Ottoman Empire blob where the Mamlukes used to be.

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The game year, by the way, is 1498.  The real Ottoman Empire didn’t manage to eat the Mamelukes until 1512-1520.

The Ottomans have about five times the manpower I can currently muster, and the only allied resupply point en route is little Cyprus.  Like the Cypriots won’t get overrun in the first few days of the war.

I’m putting off that Haifa beach vacation for a couple of decades.  Possibly centuries.

Europe, with some minor changes

I have been playing with the latest expansion to the Europa Universalis III franchise, known as In Nomine.  The new expansion offers many new features, most notably:

  • An earlier start date, on October 13, 1399 (the date of Henry IV’s coronation).
  • A new mission system which gives players and the game AI strategic goals for their country to focus on.
  • National and Province Decisions, which can affect stability, tax income, manpower, et cetera in either the province or across the nation.
  • Rebellions with specific goals (i.e. lower taxes, government revolution, independence, etc).
  • Countries with republican governments now have elections to determine the leader.
  • The Curia controller can now excommunicate a ruler, or call a crusade on a specific country.
  • New colonial system, colonies grow incrementally each year through colonisation funding, not just sending a batch of new colonists.
  • Combat AI is much more effective, not so easily distracted by sieges anymore.  Can mount effective amphibious invasions too.
  • The ability to take map screenshots in-game, natively, without some other 3rd party utility.

eu3_map_eng_1471318_2 Here is a screenshot of the kingdom of England, circa 1471.  This map would ordinarily show your country in its preferred colour, and your vassals in a lighter colour.  As you can see I have no vassals (they were Irish minors and Scotland, before diplomatic annexation).  I can’t form Great Britain yet as it will take another 40 years to get cores on all of the Scottish provinces.

From about 1430 onward I have monopolised control of the Papal Curia and the title of Holy Roman Emperor, which gives a massive manpower boost to otherwise underperforming England.

The Hundred Years War went pretty well, I successfully wrested Aquitaine and Normandy from France, and Picardie from Burgundy.  Ireland and Scotland were peacefully annexed.  Scotland had somehow grabbed Iceland and Orkney from Norway, and expanded the nascent colonies there.

That patch of red around Judea and Samaria were territories grabbed from the Mamelukes and their revolters, Syria, during a Great Crusade against their allies the Golden Horde.  They were all duly converted to Catholicism in the years afterward.  I also captured Gibraltar from Grenada, which is a handy port for staging into the Med.

eu3_map_eng_1471318_1 This is Europe circa 1471, which surprisingly bears a close resemblance to the actual, historical Europe of 1470.  Kind of shocking, really.

Sweden ate Norway and Denmark just a few years ago. Castile and Aragon have not yet merged to form Spain.  The Reconquista isn’t yet complete as Granada is still kicking around.  Poland inherited Lithuania and became a super-blob overnight.  Muscovy has slowly but surely devoured Novgorod and significant chunks of the Golden Horde.

That big purple blob around Greece is ahistorical, though.  That’s the Byzantine Empire, which I aided and abetted through several wars with the Ottomans.  They are now big enough to survive on their own, provided they don’t do something stupid like go to war with Hungary.  And what used to be Burgundy has been divided up between England, Brabant and France.  Navarra hangs on improbably as an English ally, although that will soon change.

Truth be told, I am getting a little tired of the Holy Roman Emperor crown, as it results in a lot of meddling in little brush-fire wars in central Europe.  The Emperor gets to automatically guarantee the independence of every HRE member, and I have no prolonged interest in policing the affairs of the very fractious empire.

The only exception to that is Brabant, who have almost completed their conquest of the Low Countries.  I am trying to ally with them and send subtle hints (by way of large expensive gifts) that I am prepared to look the other way should they decide to form the United Netherlands by gobbling up Friesland and Utrecht.  Normally I wouldn’t tolerate poaching of HRE territories, but a strong ally sharing a border with France is never a bad thing.

Speaking of France, I have nominally good relations with them right now, but I’m sure that will end as soon as some other schmoe gets elected Emperor and my manpower reserve drops into the toilet.  Then we’ll get to see just how good the newly-built forts in Normandy are.

Right now it looks like I may have to lay the Imperial Smackdown on Poland-Lithuania so that they will cough up a couple of German minors on the Baltic (like Pommerania) that have mysteriously disappeared.

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EU3 mod Magna Mundi Gold 2

With the next expansion due out in 20 days, I have started playing Europa Universalis III again.  Tried out the Magna Mundi Gold 2 mod, which is an enormous improvement over previous mod versions, with lots and lots of historical detail and enhancements.  The only downside is that it has completely destroyed my usual playing style, although that is something of a plus, too.

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR

Typically I play northern European countries, because it is fun to stick pins in France and the Holy Roman Empire.  When I play England, I like to try to win back Normandy and Caux in the game-opening Hundred Years War.  Vassalising Armagnac and Foix is also something of a priority.

Under the original MMG mod, this wasn’t too big a deal.  Yes, you start with only 11,000 Englishmen versus 30,000 Frenchmen, but you used to have a couple of highly skilled generals as well.  Invade Armagnac, get a couple of loans, hire a wad of mercenaries in Gascogne and southern England, and dispatch the bulk of them to northern France.  Most French armies start the game in the south, poised to invade English-held Gascony, and by the time they have taken Gascony and marched north to meet you, you’ve already occupied Paris and most of northern France.  They have no choice but to roll over and accept your demands.

Well, that doesn’t work anymore.  In-game, John Neville is no longer the medieval Stormin’ Norman.  Mercenaries can no longer be hired in mass quantities right at game start, so the puny 1000-man Gascony garrison gets obliterated.  The only thing that can save them is frantic diplomacy to get military access from Armagnac or Foix.  There they will sit out the remainder of the war, while 30,000 Frenchmen prowl around the surrounding territories, taunting them to come out and fight.

Magna Mundi Gold 2 also increases the average fort strength, so sieges take a lot longer.  You can no longer romp through northern France like Erwin Rommel on summer vacation.  Sieging Paris’s 5,000-strong fort takes literal years.  Ample time for the French armies clustered in the south to march north and kick your sorry ass off the Continent.  The best outcome you can hope for, if you fight tooth and nail, is to end up with a white peace and a likely rematch 5-10 years later.  The most usual outcome is for Gascony or Calais to end up part of the French patrimony while England gets overwhelmed by revolts in the Wars of the Roses.

Finally (and I’m not sure if this is part of MMG2), France’s manpower levels are just off the charts compared to England.  My armies reinforced much more slowly, at about 400 men per month, so it took ages to get back up to fighting strength after a particularly bloody outing.

I ended up fighting to a draw on the game-opening war, then warned France not to start any wars, and guaranteed the independence of a lot of itty bitty French minors.  The idea was to wait until one of the minors sucked France into a war with another European major (like Castile or Aragon), then seize the opportunity and grab Normandy and Caux back again.  Which I did, although it is worth noting that even the combined fighting forces of Castile, Aragon, England and Brittany were barely able to pull it off.  In the game, much as in history, France is THE Continental superpower.  In 1453, no other Western European nation comes close.

WARS OF THE ROSES

The Wars of the Roses have also been upgraded, gone are the small, easily-dispatched peasant revolts.  Now you face rebel armies that are numerically superior by far, and since most of your starting armies and manpower will be completely depleted by the fighting in France, you have no choice but to bring troops home quickly to impose law and order.  Chances are the rebels are going to take a couple of provinces.  If you don’t get them back in a timely fashion, they may even declare independence from England itself.  So keep the home county rebellions suppressed.

Imposing that law and order is no picnic either.  Your stability drops to -2 (or horror of horrors, -3) and you will spend the next ten years fighting off massive rebel armies (if you’re lucky), or foreign invasions from supporters of York or Lancaster (if you’re unlucky).

I lucked out a little by getting a 6-starred artist as court advisor (which grants considerably bonuses to national stability).  I further lucked out by gaining Scotland as an ally, which allowed me to grant them military access (and therefore give them the problem of quelling revolts in Northumberland and Cumbria).

Often in EU3 AARs, I see guys playing England give up their French turf and rush to invade Scotland.  I don’t understand that at all.  Scotland starts the game allied with France, but not at war with you.  Why drag your home territories into a two-front war for no good reason?  Your best window of opportunity for dealing with Scotland (diplomatically or military) is centuries.  Your best window of opportunity for taking territory from continental France is at game’s start.  After that, France starts to absorb her smaller neighbours and vassals, and only gets more powerful.  The longer you wait, the more difficult and impossible it becomes.  So make nice with the Scots, send lots of gifts; get them as allies and
they will defend your northern territories from rebellious subjects
while you’re putting the boots to their putative allies, the French.

Personally, I like to let Scotland hang in there for a good long while, they are one of the best allies you can have and never fail to contribute troops to my harebrained invasion schemes.  I get a big laugh out of watching them go to war with Norway (over the Orkneys), and asbolutely shellack the hell out of the Norwegians without me having to come bail them out.

In one game Scotland and Portugal (both allies of mine) ended up at war with each other because of their vassals.  It was ridiculous.  Portugal is no slouch in the fighting department either, but Scotland absolutely walked all over them.  Destroyed the Portuguese fleet with a much smaller Scottish fleet, and had half the country occupied in the first couple months.  Portugal eventually coughed up money to end the war, but I thought I was about to see the Scots start colonising Iberia.  Too many times in EU3, you get allies who start a fight with a
huge adversary and then expect you to come save them from destruction.
In Eu3, Scotland starts and ends its own fights, and that’s okay by me.  They will eventually get absorbed into Great Britain, but I’m never in a rush to do it.  Ireland is far more prone to the small-vassal-starting-huge-war syndrome, so I like to get them squared away first.

THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

The gent who coded this part of the mod really outdid himself.  He created a system to gauge the Emperor’s relative power and influence.  The more powerful the Emperor, the less likely it is that the various districts of the Empire will want to set up their own administrative units (or circuits).  Conversely, the weaker the Emperor gets, the more the Empire’s component states will seize opportunities to expand their own influence.

And as Emperor, you have a duty to protect the rights of the Empire’s component states.  So if someone within (or without) invades an Imperial state, you will be called upon to formulate a response.  That response can run the gamut from tacit acceptance to diplomatic/economic sanctions, from supporting dissidents and arming rebels to outright war.  And if it comes to war, the various member states will actually contribute troops, manpower and money to the war effort.  These are serious improvements to the standard game’s HRE mechanics, which are lacklustre at best.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the Reformation looks like in this new version, because prior iterations were quite tepid.  Realistically there should be a whole lot of intrafaith whoopass going on until around 1648.

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Things I Learned from Guitar Hero III—Part II

gh3_womenGenerally I like Social Distortion, but “Story of My Life” is one dull barf-fest.  You had a crush on a girl and didn’t act on it, now you’re sorry you didn’t.  I get it.  Unfortunately this song is the musical equivalent of drunk-dialing your ancient crush at 3 in the morning and pleading with her to take you back.  Try again when you’re sober.  And less whiny.  Jeez.  And I thought Springsteen’s countless elegies for Blue Collar America were annoying.

  • Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” continues to be excellent and one of my favourite pieces of music recorded this decade.  You just can’t go wrong mixing westerns, kung fu and sci fi.  Also it is humanly impossible not to headbang at 4:14 when the unicorn-riding warrior woman shows up.  The only downside is that this song looks kinda scary to play at the expert level.
  • Somebody please tell me what kind of controlled substances one has to take in order to find “Holiday in Cambodia” a pleasurable experience.  Wikipedia wants to classify the Dead Kennedys as “hardcore punk”, but next to the Dayglo Abortions these guys are about as hardcore as Ward Cleaver.  On second thought Ward was a Seabee and World War II vet, so that makes him about ten times as hardcore as the Kennedys’ frontman, that Jello Pudding Pop guy.
  • Britain continues to be the home of all that is speedy and head-bangy, as evidenced by DragonForce’s “Through the Fire and Flames“.  This is another excellent bonus GH3 track.  I am guessing that these guys need fresh finger transplants at the end of every show.  It is just crazy hard on expert level, so you can imagine how ridiculous it must be to play on an actual guitar.

Things I Learned from Guitar Hero III—Part I

gh3_womanI had the gross misfortune to become addicted to Rock Band a few weeks ago, and after a few sessions with a full “band”, it was apparent I would have to get some kind of console system and wail away on my own fake musical instruments.

I don’t understand how this happened, I never wanted to be in a rock band, ever.  But it’s just plain fun to mash the buttons on your fake guitar, or whomp the crap out a fake drum set, especially when you have three or four girls and guys all trying to get your fake band to perform well enough to get sponsors and tour to a new city.

So I finally broke down and got a console and my own button-mashing fake musical experience.  After a weekend of goofing off with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, here are some things I have learned:

  • C.C. DeVille is an underrated guitarist. I didn’t care much for Poison in my youth, mostly due to extensive overplay of ‘power’ ballads like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.  But now that I am an old fart trying to play his way through “Talk Dirty To Me” on a fake guitar, it seems far more demanding of finger dexterity than I would have imagined.  And this is one of the game’s easy songs.
  • Ann and Nancy Wilson don’t suck. I was still in kindergarten when “Barracuda” was released, so most of my personal experience of Heart involves their ’80s period of gigantic crimped-lion-mane hair and overwrought ‘power’ ballads.  Again with the ballad-hate, I know.  I do not dig the ‘power’ ballad.  Anyway, sorry ladies, I realise now that this is actually a good song.
  • Modern pop-rock can be okay—in very small doses. I stopped listening to non-news radio several years ago, so my knowledge and memory of popular music is fading like a bad dream.  Thus I am surprised to note that I still have the capacity to like music written as recent as the autumn of 2006—”When You Were Young“, by The Killers.
  • Spain knows how to rock. I love “Avalancha” by the Spanish rock band Héroes del Silencio.  It is probably my favourite bonus track from GH3.  The song is—and this is the technical term—fucking mint, even if the English translation makes no damn sense whatsoever.  It’s probably some kind of Spanish ‘power’ ballad but hell, it sounds awesome anyway.  This is Heaven’s own Latin music; forget that boy-band Enrique garbage.

CFB Trenton to Inuvik/Mike Zubko Airport

I had been involved with a certain simulated air traffic network for about twelve years, and recently decided to get back in the saddle.  Also joined a “virtual airline” specialising in Canadian military aircraft, as that is the closest I am likely to get to actual flight deck time in a CC-177.  I’m going to log my sim-time here, just to keep tabs on places I’ve been so far.

snap0146 snap0136 snap0163

RACER 702
Departure Airport: CYTR
Destination Airport: CYEV
Aircraft Type/Tail: CC-177 / 1777702
Fuel Consumed: 100,650 lbs. (approx)
Route: CYTR 1.YCF Q502 YEE J557 YSB NCA22 YSF NCA23 HARUN NCA28 BITRO CYEV
Hours: 6.1
Tasking: Transporting Supplies to Inuvik, Northwest Territories for current operations taking place there. Supplies include general equipment, medical supplies, clothing, and 6 Military Personnel; 2 Avionic Technicians, 2 Mechanical Engineers, 1 Flight Engineer, and 1 CF Doctor.
Remarks: Very strong winds at Trenton on departure (from 290 gusting 24-26 kts). Crosswind component was 19kts—within max tolerance for takeoff. If we’d left a little later with the winds gusting up to 34kts (crosswind component 24.8), it would have been dicey—within a hair’s breadth of the limit.

Quiet, uneventful flight to Inuvik/Mike Zubko. Nasty 100kt headwinds over Orillia had me thinking about hunting for more favourable cruise conditions at another altitude, but they eventually abated and dropped down to 50-60 for the remainder of the flight.  Made 8,000fpm tactical descent to approach altitude for visual Rwy 06 arrival.

CYTR1_SID CYEV_ILS_Rwy06 CYEV_Apt

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