25.2.15

Project I/15

V-Wing

The yule goat had given me a Lego V-Wing as a silly surprise. My 2,5-year-old production assistant got much more excited about it than I did, and I consider that a really good sign for the future.


The construction phase

Everybody's built something out of lego, so I am not going to blabber about the obvious. This device had funny turning wings, of which I wasn't aware of. Guess that's because I haven't seen a full episode of the new Clone Wars series. The semitransparent green bomb-rocket-things were shot out of their launchers at an impressive speed
Luckily the bright green things were pretty easy to find from under the dvd shelf.





Swooshing

This was the result. The production assistant was supremely happy with it and swooshed it around the apartment with all the appropriate sounds. I guess we'll call it a success!
To protect the innocents I'm only displaying pics of my own fingers.







20.2.15

Super Win the Game

Some background

I had ended up following mr Pittman's doings for a while, but because I still remembered very vividly how foul the CGA graphics looked like in its days, the Minor Key Games' retroplatformer You Have to Win the Game didn't appeal to me. My deep retro spirit didn't help, even though I read plenty of praise about the (free, iirc) game.

When I started seeing screenshots of Super Win the Game, I was getting interested. The NES-like approach appealed to me, even though I had never owned the classic device myself, I played its games at friends for hours on end. By the time I saw the trailer I was sold. The funny feature that caught plenty of attention, the NTSC effects, didn't do a thing for me, as I grew up in a PAL country.

The game

Without further ado: I bought SWtG from Steam the moment it was released and I was beyond happy. Audiovisually it's like from the golden age of NES and I guess you'd tag it as "metroidvania". The player runs around an overworld map and then platform-jumps around the levels themselves. Your character has no offensive or defensive skills or items, touching just about anything kills you straight away.

Next to the ice lake

Fortunately the controls were awesome. Whenever a jump went wrong, the problem clearly was between the keyboard and the chair, not in the contol(ler)s or input handling. Or that's how it always felt and that was a very important thing in keeping the inevitable white-hot frustration at bay, when you had to try the same set of jumps (especially that one deep spiky cave-drop in the Underworld) again and again and again...




More or less accidentally the defenseless character came across different useful items along the journey, which took the adventuring into new directions. This then lead to some backtracking and revisiting the levels, but it didn't bother me one bit. Finding totally new dimensions in familiar levels was pretty damn fun.



All these items gave pretty traditional bonuses to aid in the game. The first two unlocked the occasional red and blue blocks that were sprinkled around the levels. Spider gloves allowed wall-jumping and wonderboots gave the double-jump ability. In the very beginning of the game even water kills you, but that was fixed with a snorkel and some sort of armor-thingy protected against the other liquids. If my memory serves me, the mask in that latest pic revealed some invisible platforms. Classics, the whole lot of them.

Each of the levels that hid the items had an entrance to a dream world. The dreams aren't dangerous, the adventurer just has some weird dreams. Going through them wasn't necessary for the game itself.

Storyline

So, the excuse for all this. The king's heart has been removed from his chest and the poor pump has been spread around the kingdom in six pieces. Along the way you got some vague hints regarding their whereabouts, but the good old-fashioned trial and error method was mandatory. Or I'm just bad.

The first...

... and the last heart piece

When you had stuffed all the missing pieces into your pockets, the locks into the Hollow King's place were unlocked and you had to go through the palace and its numerous traps. You had to slam the heart into his chest and shoo the evil wizard from the kingdom. For some reason the palace level was insanely much more difficult than the actual last level, but let's not spoil that any more than this at this point.



After I had just about completed the game I decided to return to the Underworld. There were a total of 128 diamonds hidden in the world of SWtG and I had found a respectable pile of them already. In the end I missed two, one of them I had seen but my nerves simply couldn't take wall-jumping up and down a wall with alternating timed spikes. The aforementioned Underworld had some locks that you had to open to get to all of the levels in there. I finished the last two of them with a granny-scaring amount of swearing, but I did complete them!

The last thrice-cursed lock

All in all I had spent something like nine and half hours, even though Steam's playtime counter was a couple of hours on the plus side, thanks to my idling. Not that it matters one bit, I think I paid about ten eur and I vastly enjoyed the time spent (excluding some annoying moments) 8)

630? Not bad. I guess.

My verdict

An awesome game, that's what this was. I heartily recommend this to anyone who has ever liked NES games, two thumbs up. Some people have been bitching about the music being repetitive, but to a chiptune freak like myself it's only another sign of authenticity and sank into my happy brains like a chainsaw into a space monster.

These folks at MKG have another project under way: Gunmetal Arcadia. I'm following that with great interest, as well.

18.2.15

Borderlanding some more

I mumbled about the first Borderlands over two years ago. Despite the pleading I'm going to stick to the path already, months after the pre-sequel was released.

Borderlands 2

Originally I bought the Borderlands 2 Season Pass, but I did it a month in advance, as I had read my calendar funnily. For that I was compensated with a silly preorder bonus (two Gearbox-made guns to begin the game with) and later on a fifth character class. Wupii.

The artillery

They had changed the gun system so that the products of different companies and the basic features would be more clearly visible. Apparently the powerful Atlas corp guns and Eridian alien guns were thrown into the furnace, or at least I couldn't remember finding any. To compensate, there was a new Bandit brand of weaponry, with immense magazine sizes. In addition to that the components in general were much more numerous, I guess and their specs were more varied.

So, the visual differences of manufacturers were clearer, the types were mostly the same as before. Dahl guns fired handy short, controlled bursts when zoomed in and ate ammo like bread; Hyperion guns get more accurate the longer you aim / use them; Jakobs' bolt-action guns were slow but powerful; Maliwan products always come with an elemental effect; Tediore guns don't need to be reloaded but are thrown into the faces of your enemies while a new fully loaded one is being digistructed into your hands; All the Torgue guns dispense explosive ammunition; Vladof's people's ammo hoses fire at incredible rates of fire. Then there were those Bandit weapons that, as declared before, have huge magazines but are usually otherwise inferior.
All the weapons are generated using the components from these manufacturers and the end result is a ludicrous amount of variety, at least on paper. At least one doesn't get bored while comparing the loot to what the backpack already contains.

Playables

Originally there were four characters: the new magical Siren Maya, megagunning Gunzerker Salvador, the mandatory boring soldier Axton and last but not least, the assassin ninja Zero. I pondered on the selection for a good bit. Gunzerking could be lots of fun and after all, the soldier's turrets could end up being interesting (especially when you got to drop two of them), but the magical one didn't interest me one bit. In the end I picked Mordecai's replacement, Zero, whose ability was to turn invisible to backstab his foes.



In the very beginning the ghost mode didn't impress me, but it worked for some funny surprise attack (or more often escaping from a bunch of surrounding enemies). Later on I got it pumped into something much more useful, when a) its duration was longer, b) one-shot backstabs gave more ghosting time and c) the backstabbing got more powerful. With a bit of luck I could wipe out a band of enemies in a single go without anyone seeing anything besides my hologram copy.

The story

The game started on a glacier and from there you had to go and help Claptrap in his quests for who knows how long. First you had to find its stolen eye, then show who's the boss to his torturer, steal a ship and sloooowly find your way to other people at Sanctuary. From there you went for a quest to find the mysterious Firehawk - and after a surprise plot twist, you went to rescue Roland. So, all the characters from the first Borderlands were to appear, that much was clear, just the method was still uncertain.



My approach to the gameplay was exactly like in the first one: "Proceed to place X, kill absolutely everything that moves or doesn't move. Dig up everything, snoop through every corner. Proceed to place X+1, goto 20". This made everything pretty slow, of course, but at least I gained tons of loot and xp, as I excused it to myself. Thanks to my slow approach, the robot carrying Roland got away and I had to attack a new location (Friendship Gulag) filled with an armyful of Loaders, until I finally had him saved. I have to say I was pleased to notice that the missions didn't all go in a linear fashion but things could actually change by the way you played. Even if they changed only a bit, it was better than nothing.

When I finally had the stub of a team set up, I was sent to get the key to the Vault Jack was going for. Of course the key was being transported in a train and the obvious answer to that was to drop it off its tracks. But surprise! It was a trap! Horrible!
Someone called Wilhelm was lurking in the wreck. After a bried fight I found a handy power core for Sanctuary's shields from his corpse.
That sneakily modified power core was Jack's trap, of course, but the whole town managed to escape anyway. After a couple of extra corners and quite annoying battles (my first Constructor and a huge Tresher) I found my way near it again. To actually get inside a working Fast Travel station was to be set up and of course Handsome Jack's robotic minions were harassing the project with all their fury.

The GUN Loaders remind me of Cougar-OmniMechs

After an amount of pointless and frustrating deaths I got the idea of starting the fixing process, climb on a tower to snipe the waves of Loaders to bits and only then go to start the device again - instead of trying to keep it running while being swarmed. It wasn't the first - or the last - time this happens.




At this point we needed more firepower in our time, so Mordecai and his sniper rifle were to be talked into joining us. Jack had stolen his bird Bloodwing, so that one was to be rescued before he'd bother to help us. I spent, without exaggerating, many two-hour sessions to solve the map (Wildlife Exploitation Preserve). And exactly that level got me ultra-annoyed with the inability to save the game properly. Instead you had to restart the level from the beginning if you had to quit. At least the mission subtasks stayed completed (and doors mostly unlocked) once they were completed. But you still had to wade through countless enemies to actually get to where you left the previous time you played - and that took ages. Graaah. Thanks a lot, console-burdened design.



The bestest thing was that the last savepoint before the final lift was damn far away, both in time and space. No, no, no, no. Not like this.
After a good bunch of evenings I got to the very end of the level, into the miniboss fight. Then I ran out of playing time in the middle of it (not that it was going well, anyway) and I'd have to restart everything yet again the next day.

For the sake of my own sanity I decided that the WEP could get bent, I'd do something more entertaining with my valuable time. Maybe I could bump my space ninja's levels up a few times so that I'd practically sneeze myself through this annoyance.läpivääntäminen menisi sitten aivastamalla läpi.

Changing the topic

The pirates of the space deserts

On one of the corners of Pandora a desert pirate's treasure was waiting to be covered! The story was just as silly as the others and the characters were also equally insane, so I don't go deeper into that. All the enemies were pirate-themed and instead of ships everybody went around the deserts with floating barges. If someone hasn't seen the Return of the Jedi, they'll be totally lost but we normal people are on it immediately.



I managed to raise my levels and equipment nicely enough on the deserts that the thought of returning to the WEP didn't offend me anymore. Of course I could've played through all the DLC packs before, but I thought I'd keep them as aces in my sleeves, in case I'd need to take this sort of detour again.

The rest of the storyline

In addition to being much stronger this time around, I had realized that I could run past the normal enemy concentrations without a care, for most of the time, as I knew where to go. By jumping, running and occasionally ghosting by the biggest enemy groups I rushed to the final stage of the level. Fighting the miniboss was now easy and really fast, thanks to the half-dozen levels I had on it (measured both in skills and equipment).

After the next surprise twist I had to get a fourth person to join my group. That was as surprising as it could be, I guess. Then we needed a copy of Jack's voice and that was to be found in the city of Opportunity. Opportunity offered, again, one of the types of subtasks I've always detested to no end: "Keep this thingamagick alive through a long, multiphased, phased and slow route while a quadrillion enemies attack from all directions in waves against you, it and a handful of other critical targets. With a strict time limit, if possible!"

With all the side quests completed and a copy of Jack's voice in my pocket I was sent to the Control Core Angel's bunker to get the Vault Key. After a long multiphase battle and some plot twits we were going to plan a new attack on Jack.





The location of the Vault itself was to be stolen from a Hyperion Info Stockade. Of course I just couldn't drive inside, I had to get a bridge blown open for me first - as long as I stole the explosives from another location. All that wasn't too difficult, they just took plenty of time.
Finally on my way to the stockade someone dropped a huge, nasty-looking robot on me. Somehow I managed to park myself under a bridge so that I was pretty safe from its range of attacks. For a change.


At around this point I got a bonus mission to silence the propaganda voice of Hyperion Truth Broadcasting, Hunter Hellquist. That was lots of fun! It's a pity that HTB didn't get a replacement to scream for justice, revenge and other things. That's mostly because this quest was given just before the last story mission and suffering through the Hero's Pass.

The mystery of the Vault



The Vault contained the final boss of the game, of course. This Vault Warrior was a lot more fun than the Vault Guardian, but taking it down took me something like 45mins. My best sniper rifle gave it something like 7k+ damage while my second best weapon (a rocket launcher) mere 2k+. Luckily I had the time and a good place to shoot from.



In the end Jack was shooting his mouth. Luckily he was much easier to kill than I had thought, as I was fearing for a third boss battle in a row. I was also very pleasantly surprised when his face wasn't shown without the mask, after all.

After the credits I went to check Crawmerax's big brother just for the fun of it. This encounter looked like something I wouldn't be touching in many months... or ever by the way it looked.



Mr Torgue's campaign of carnage

This DLC campaign, apparently full of '80s heavy metal spirit and all was something I wasn't looking forward to. I mean, I had skipped the arena-based DLC of Borderlands because the arena stuff didn't interest me, but people had said that there's something else to this one, so....




Everything was so over the top (even with Borderlands standards, I'd say), but slightly amusingly. The arena fights were mixed into some sort of a ladder and it was pretty fun, after all. The shocking plot twists were as predictable as they were supposed to be, but the final boss was just beyond sanity. If I remember correctly, I died within five seconds, but as the respawn point was as it was, I was then safely hiding behind a half-closed door and shooting the damn thing to pieces. Maybe something bugged, maybe not, but the important thing is that I won.



A colonially themed hunting trip

Hammerlock's hunting trip was supposed to be a weekend-long boy's hunting trip in the mindset of British colony lords, until someone called professor Nakayama started being paranoid over nothing. All the enemies in this area were unbelievably annoying. The savages and especially their healing (self-healing and friend-healing) witch doctors, flying sacks of something and whatever there was - they were just plain annoying. Fighting them wasn't entertaining at all.



As the photo above hints, in the very end I thought that some sick monster had mixed the witch doctors and Loaders, but no, they were merciful. In all honesty I have to admit that the boss fight was actually fun and challenging. It was actually the only fun thing in the whole DLC pack.




Bunkers and badasses

Headshots were useless against emtpy skulls

At first glance Tiny Tina's Assault on whatever the fuck Fortress reminded me of the Futurama tv-movie "Bender's Game", as they both poke fun at D&D. I was hoping and wishing that this last pack would've been more like B1's awesome General Knoxx's Secret Armory, as the other three packs weren't comparable. But no, this was a pretty straightforward "run there, kill everything" show. The enemies were typical fantasy monsters like skeletons, knights, entlike things and so on. The boss fight was difficult and was ended by a damn weird visit by Butt Stallion, who Jack was referring to in a couple of his Echo messages in the early main storyline. My biggest complain about this DLC pack is that Tiny Tina isn't funny at all, she's damn annoying.



As everywhere else, I tried to solve all the extra quests, but that didn't really work. The level 50 challenges were impossible and the three-dragon fight wasn't doable alone - at least on my levels.

Not-so-surprisingly the Song of Ice and Fire was referred to quite a bit. I really enjoyed my encounter with Prince Jeffrey.




Another round

In late 2014 I thought I'd return to Pandora for a bit, about nine months after I had upgraded my pc. I thought it could be fun to see if it'd look much different with full details and maximum physx effects. For some reason playing through everything again with Zero didn't appeal and after a couple of side quests and got disinterested in the rest as they were either impossible or required hours of grinding ("travel there for half an hour, a million times, to maybe spawn a total of ten of these special monsters to be killed" - no thanks). Nope, that wasn't interesting at all.



At some point the fifth playable character out of six, Mechromancer Gaige with her Deathtrap robot, had unlocked. I thought I could give it a go, maybe it would have a bit of a different playstyle. The robot was insanely efficient, at least if you compared it to Zero running around or B1-Mordecai's Bloodwing who attacked a maximum of four (or was it five?) enemies. Deathtrap fights your enemies for a maximum of one minute - it claws them, spits fire, death rays and Unreal Tournament-like energy spheres. At its best the henchbot was when you released it and ran by the monsters in relative safety.



A playthrough in a few weeks

Based on my first playthrough I knew that most of the locations can be stormed through and leave the baddies yelling behind you. This way I managed to save Roland from the clutches of W4R-D3N in a heartbeat, and as my absolute favourite moment: solved the whole Wildlife Exploitation Preserve in less than half an hour from start to finish! The only slowdowns there were the two doors: first one before the Slag Labs (the yard where you had to destroy a couple of dozen of Loaders were done) and another yard where the Engineers didn't storm out until you had killed enough Skags. The flying level 22, multielemental miniboss got destroyed very quickly, even on equal footing.

I didn't bother wasting my time on all the side quests anymore, after I had solved WEP, I just did what was handily on the way or didn't require many detours. Or if my xp-meter was almost full, then I did stuff to get the level up and got to the main quest as soon as possible. In short: I mostly ran through the rest of the game, ignoring exploring and perfect performance.

This time I found myself in the Vault just after reaching level 30. With the help of Deathtrap I dropped Jack in a couple of minutes and the level 32 Warrior took just a bit under half an hour. At this point I decided that I'll take a break from the game and maybe later run around a bit to see if I could get the last (I think) explorer achievement I'm missing. We'll see.

Care to go again?

I was pondering if I should try the other three characters, for a few levelfuls at least, but going through the same slow beginning until I get to level 5 and unlock the special ability... it sounds bothersome. There's little variety in the very beginning, especially without the action skill. Of course I'd get a couple of Steam achievements unlocked eventually, but I don't think they're important enough for me to go through with that right now.

11.2.15

Finished: Project V/14

A German type XXIII submarine

My last assemblage, paintage and weatherage -related mumblings were taken care of the last time, with photos and all. The net is full of stuff about the fascinating engineering projects of the late-war Germans, still their navy has been (for a reason, I guess) mostly out of the limelight. And from that little the genial type XXI submarine has been the most popular one, at least over this type XXIII coastal sub (I cannot claim to understand how the Germans set up their types), so this build has been done with very little aid from online references.

As it seems to be the way of the Project Mumblings, the model was built OOB and without the decals. I didn't bother painting the U-numbers into the conning tower, and they were something of a super rarity in the pics I've seen anywhere. Funnily enough the kit provided the white lines on the tower, but using them sounded plain silly, so I just painted them on, as reported earlier.

Some parts and pieces were missing from the box, such as the torpedoes. And I got the model partially assembled already, so I didn't have much input on that, either, the hull is in the condition I received it in. The build was quite fun, but in all honesty I have to say that the immense size (99,1cm) of it provided some practical challenges to both assembly and painting.

Photos of the finished product

The english/german mix on the plaque is annoying me to no end








Some comparison shots

The insane size of this model is difficult to convey, if one doesn't see it in person. To aid in that I took a couple of silly photos with a bunch of tank models in the same scale. Just in case that didn't help, I also took a photo with the dvd box of the absolute best submarine movie in the history of all the multiverses. Everyone's seen a dvd box at least once in their lives, I assume, so this one should enlighten the non-modelers as well.

The land-vehicles are lined with the ends of the U-Boat




Off-topic

Now that I'm done with this sting and February is well on its way, I'll be doing something completely different for a week or two. Along with the (slow) finishing of the U-Boat I've been working on my pygame project for the last two weeks and a bit more. While I'm writing this that project is functionally better than before and looks much more elegant.
My next scale model is going to be one of the 1:72 scale A-10 planes. I'll be mumbling about that after a couple of weekly posts, in case someone was keeping tabs.

4.2.15

Under the weather

Weathering

My plan was to keep this boat relatively fresh-looking, without a ton of battle-scars or years of mistreatmeant under horrible conditions. Despite that the salty sea-water should've left some marks on the surface, espacially where the water might be pooling for longer times than on the smoothest surfaces.

A rusty wash

For this stage I dug out my Vallejo rust liquid (VMW 76506 Rust) and applied it pretty carefully here and there. I mostly concentrated on the conning tower and the numerous openings of the topmost hull. On those I typically dabbed a bit with the brush and pulled it down gently for a drip-like effect. The stronger ones I then smeared with my fingers to make them look a bit subtler.




Messing with pigments

I had thought I'd try out the fresh rust pigment (VP 73118 Fresh Rust). The point was still that the effect wouldn't be too strong, but as I'm a total amateur with them, the expected result wasn't guaranteed to be perfect.

Port

Starboard

The result

It didn't look too bad to me. Of course, differing opinions are welcome. I doubt that I'm going to modify this model anymore, but accept it as finished at this point. Then we get to the question I've been afraid of asking for a good while: "how on earth do I stage this monster up for the final photos?"