Monday, November 28, 2022

Subnautica Below Zero Revisitied

By Rita Mariner 

For Rita's first review, Click Here.
 It's been awhile since I wrote about my gaming.  I am still playing both Subnautica and Subnautica Below Zero.  According to STEAM counter, I have over 11,000 played in Subnautica and closing in on 4300 hours, in Below Zero. How can I play both games, for so long and not get bored?  Simple, both games NEVER play the same way twice, in a row. Your starting point varies and stuff does get randomized.  The best thing is, you can chose to play the games, anyway you want.  For the most part it you search, discover things for yourself.

  Both games have 4 modes of play.  Freedom, where you only worry about health and air.  Survival, where you have to keep track of health, air, food and water. Hardcore, pretty much same as survival, but you only get one life.  You die, you lose everything and have to start over. Creative, you start out with everything, don't have to worry about anything, just play..

Two months ago they had a major update to Below Zero, fixed a lot of annoying bugs and added a new,Sea Truck Dock.  When you unlock the Moon Pool, you also get the new Sea Truck Dock. This allows you to now enter the dock, with your entire Sea Truck train. No need to detach any modules. It also has a built in vehicle control panel, allowing you to color and name your Sea Truck.  It also repairs and recharges the Sea Truck cab, while docked. You also get access to modules from the dock.  So it's very useful.

With the new Large Room addition, you can really get creative with your base building.  That is probably the nicest thing about the game. I put the Large Room out first, then build the rest of my base off of it.  Of course, you can build you base in any configuration you like.   

They also added a Control Room, you can add this to your base.  It was multiple functions, but the one most players like, you can color and name your base now, just like your Sea Truck and Prawn suit. I have seen some players color their bases in eye blinding colors.

As to the creatures in the game, some are retreads from the first game, but all the bigger ones are new and 90% of them think your on the menu. While most are just plain annoying, a couple can eat you in one gulp.  Even after 4300 hours, I still get unlucky, BITE!, SWALLOW! TASTY!

Regarding the alien in the game, I died laughing when I first heard his name. It's the same as my RL name, so I comment, "When I play this game, I am talking to myself."

Overall the game is beautiful to watch, they really did a great job on the environments.  It's easy to play, that helps a lot.  There is no real set path you need to follow, you go in your own direction and speed.  They give you prompts, but when you heed them is up to you. Plus the game is cheap and the music is awesome.

I can therefore highly recommend both Subnautica and Below Zero to play, if you want a good, relaxing time, mixed in with moments of horror. 
Images from Rita's steam account

Rita Mariner

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Misadventures in Rust Angels: The Base Defense Contest

 By Bixyl Shuftan

Anyone remotely famillar with Rust knows there are two kinds of servers. There are the PvE servers in which all is peaceful between players. And then there are the PvP servers, in which there's the potential of combat and raiding between players. Of the later, a few are somewhat relaxed, somewhat, with a majority of the players not fighting or raiding unless provoked. But some can be so vicious, players can expect to be attacked within minutes of entering, let alone after they've gathered enough materials for and having set up a base. While some of my friends have given PvP servers a try, hoping for the more relaxed variety, others have had more then enough of the "PVP kiddies" and are sticking to PvE ones. So when the Angels Rust server was back up, it was soon populated with Nydia and her friends, including myself.

But the trouble with PvE is, what to do to liven things up? Yes, there are the "ninja bears" who appear out of nowhere to eat you, the scientists who shoot at you, and the ever threatening chopper that fires death from above. But without human opponents, things can seem a bit predictable. To spark some excitement, there's been a couple "Wacky Races" in the server. But setting up the track was a lot of work to server moderator Umbra. So for September's challenge, he had a different idea: have the contestants get ready for a raid.

Most folks have built their base so for those who are interested in doing so I have a little competition for those interested.

The contest:

Build a base to house 4 to 8 players.
No items from mods
Base should be built to be defendable.
Base size around 12-20 foundations across, no height restrictions.
Contestants must build their own base, no team builds. (But definitely talk among your team mates and bounce ideas off them).
Required items that must be in base:
Workbench 1,2,3
Research bench
Repair bench
Anything else is optional. Be creative with your designs.
How long?
Now till the end of the 24th.  Judging on the 25th by myself and Nydia.

How do I enter?
Pick a spot on the map, screen capture the map location and dm it to me.

Are you in this channel?  Good, you can enter.
Im not whitelisted on your server…
Dm myself or Nydia with your steam ID and we will get you whitelisted

Do I have to gather resources?
Wood stone and metal are provided in three kits that are now live on the server.  Items that require scrap or tech trash you will have to source out.

Judging criteria?
Functionality - Does your base have all the necessary items to be sustainable?
Defendable - Can you fend off a determined raid of well equipped players?
Architectural design - Is there an idea of theme in how you built your base?

Foxy, who had experience in PvP servers and defending against raiders, one would think this contest would be a welcome challenge. But be bowed out as there'd been a few complaints about large bases causing lag, "I'd build the Citadel again but I'd get yapped at. So I'll be on the sidelines." But there were two entries. There was Snowy and there was me. Both our initial bases were too small to fit what the contest rules required. So she started a new one nearby. I ended up packing and moving to not too far from where she was, to a spot close to the stone quarry and within fair distance (by vehicle) of the sulfur and high quality metal quarries, as well as some abandoned marts & gas stations and a mining station.

Snowy had no real experience with defending against an attack, so she studied several Youtubes of bases made to be hard to crack. The result was what she called a "Frustrator." It was a two story base with a top wall that sloped outward - which rendered scaling to the top with ladders impossible without wrecking them. The top of the base was a "battledeck" with special slit windows that defenders could fire out of, but were reasonable protected. And the walls were made of high quality metal, making it a tough nut to crack. And if they did, they place was "honeycombed" with garage doors that were more difficult to take down than normal metal doors. And the tool cabinet was cleverly hidden. This would not be an easy base to take down.

My personal experience with defending against being raided has had, mixed results. A lot of redundant doors made a few turn around and leave before getting to anywhere important. One I caught in the act trying to chop down a door with hatchets, and blasted him. However I've found well-planned and equipped raids impossible to stop. Only once was I online and at the base when this happened, and I was poorly prepared, the two invaders armed with explosives blasting their way through and me with just a shotgun and grenades. I tried waiting in ambush, then tried tossing a grenade just as the wall in front of me came down. But somehow instead of being thrown, the grenade fell to my feet. Respawning in my bed, I tried getting them from behind with a pistol. But they saw me coming, and stopped me with a machine gun. There was nothing I could do after that, and they pretty much wrecked the place. Later on after traps were developed, I once logged on to find a hole in the wall and a number of doors knocked down, the last one having a shotgun trap behind it.

Concluding a determined raid couldn't be stopped at the outer wall, instead of going all out to try to, I concentrated on making the place hard to get through once inside. The place was also larger than Snowy's base, with individual bedrooms, the refinery and large furnace inside the building, and numerous stairwells. Only the bottom of the outer wall was metal and high quality metal. the rest was wood, with interior walls made of metal and stone. There were numerous HQM doors, most of which could be where the tool cabinet was hidden. But it was well hidden that would made finding it hard, at least that's what I thought. The main "vault room" where most of the guns and more valuable items were stored was out of the way, and I thought about making my stand there if they did get in for an ambush. And then there were the traps. I placed shotgun traps all over, notably in the stairwells and behind doors in closets. Thankfully Snowy had encouraged me to learn about making an electrical system, so I set up windmills and batteries, and rigged a number of turrets. Maybe Umbra would make a mess going in, but I was determined to make it a slow hard slog.

Snowy and I also ended up cooperating some, trading some resources. I guess we saw it as more than just a competition, but also cooperating against someone who thought he could beat us, "All your base are belong to us." I also started helping her in fights against the Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier, patrolling the launch site. The thing is tough to beat, with a machine gun and a cannon. While it's possible to blow it up with explosive charges, you'll need a rocket launcher and rockets if you want much of a chance. Snowy found the best place to fire at it was from the top of one of the buildings. Beating the thing, you have a chance of finding an M249 light machine gun in the loot crates, one of the best guns in the game and one that can be found only by beating that or the attack helicopter, or things like heavy metal doors, which helped me in honeycombing my base. Snowy found taking it on and blowing it up therapeutic, as well as a team-building exercise. While she occasionally went after it alone, she usually had the help of her friend Nikki. For me, it helped that the launch site was not far from the sulfur quarry. Since the thing ran without my help anyway as long as it had fuel, several times I would go and help her while it churned out the mineral. I also gave her some shotgun traps.

With all of the traps on my base, I was confident at times Umbra would be in for it. Recalling the scene in "Home Alone" when the burglars called the kid's home a "funhouse," I started calling it just that. Snowy thought it more resembled a hotel with it's bedrooms and stairs. One small complication, I found out Nydia would be helping Umbra on the raid. Since Nydia and I are close, I was a little worried a hard fight might upset her. But she assured this wouldn't happen. So we got ready, during which time Snowy had a little accident with her camper that she had to take a picture with her camera to be believed.

Finally the day of the contest approached.

After judging Nydia and I will attempt to raid the base for 30 minutes, while we do that you can see how comically bad we are at this kind of thing and/or get shot.  A lot. (Said base if destroyed will be rebuilt)

The day of the raid was going to be on Sunday night, but it got postponed a few days due to technical issues. I used the time to set up another few turrets after getting a few more TV cameras from military crates and Bradley kills. I also set up some "dragons teeth" around the Funhouse walls to discourage ladders. Finally on Wednesday night after the Cutlass party, Snowy and her friend Nikki got ready at her base while I got ready at mine. Umbra and Nydia decided to go after the "Frustrator" first. Umbra was streaming their actions, which made it a little easier for us. A little as we still couldn't always see what Nydia was up to. 
Flying over in their helicopter, they encountered trouble right away as the base had a Surface to Air Missile launcher, as well as their own personal rocket launchers. Nydia dropped Umbra off, and tried to safely land the copter nearby. But it caught fire, and became unusable after she landed. Umbra tried sneaking over, and throwing grenades into the upper windows. It worked sometimes, but while one was respawning and running back, the other was still firing away. Umbra also got hurt by a shotgun trap and blown up by a mine. At one point, Umbra hopped into Snowy's camper and took off, "The keys were right in there." That might have been a successful troll, but unless there were any weapons or ammo in there, no contribution to the fight.

Finally Umbra and Nydia gave the place a rocket barrage from a distance. The walls took a beating, but being made of High Quality Metal, they held. Snowy's team did have some trouble. Stormy came on late, and a glitch knocked her off the team, causing the shotgun traps to go off on her. Then for some reason the shotgun traps started going off on all of them. It seems after two or three respawns, they no longer saw you as friendly. They ended up having to hole up in the sleeping area. But Umbra and Nydia still couldn't get in.

Finally after a little over an hour, Umbra called a ceasefire. Snowy's base had successfully held off the assault. It was then my turn. Seeing their chopper, I tried firing at it with my rocket launcher a couple times. But the only result was to get their attention. They landed and managed to get to the building, and I tried dropping grenades on them. They missed, but I'm sure it shook them up some. I then tried making quick peeks, and fired with my M249 when I had a target, darting back after a few seconds. Once I wasn't quick enough and got nailed with one of Nydia's rockets. I quickly got back up and resumed, and managed to get her back with the gun. They tried grenades, but only ended up knocking themselves out a couple times.

Eventually night fell, then Umbra and Nydia went back and gave the base a rocket barrage from a distance. I tried looking out with night vision goggles, but I couldn't see them. While trying to see them, another rocket ended those efforts, and trying to get back up, I got hit by my own shotgun trap. And with so many of them around, I could only hole up next to the vault and wait for them if they ever made it there. Their rockets ended up blowing a big hole in the side of the building, taking down not just the outer wooden walls, but sections of stone floor and metal and stone walls. Then then started moving inside. But while they took out a few traps, there were still enough turrets to slow them down, Umbra getting knocked out by them a few times and Nydia once.

Finally after a little more than an hour, Umbra called a ceasefire. While they had gotten in, they had neither found the tool cabinet or main stash of supplies. And progress was slow due to the traps. So he felt this counted as a win for me. It was then he noticed, "Um, is your tool cabinet still up?" In all of the excitement, neither one of us noticed it was gone, presumably from the rocket barrage, the stone walls it was behind not quite enough. But since Umbra had already declared for me, it was too late for him to place one of his own. While I'd gotten some unlucky breaks in the fight, in the end luck was on my side.

So both Snowy and I had won against the raids. Nydia ended up leaving her weapons behind at my base after the raid, and Umbra didn't bother picking up those from when he'd gotten clobbered earlier. But they'd left a big hole behind while Snowy's base was intact. It turned out one wall was close to breaking, but it didn't. So she was the bigger winner in the competition. Nydia and Umbra offered for us to return the favor on their base, but Snowy answered she'd rather take out Bradley another time.

Umbra would later do a post-mortem on the raids. The fight at the Frustrator had more people getting clobbered more often, Umbra getting 5 kills while clobbered three times. Nydia got two kills in while being knocked out three times. Snowy was even, four to four, while Nikki got a kill in while getting knocked out three times. Stormy having gotten in late ended up getting clobbered once by opposing action without getting a kill of her own. Umbra didn't count the deaths by the shotguns. With the Funhouse, there were fewer kills overall, but more friendly fire accidents and several kills by the turrets. Umbra missed one of the two rocket kills by Nydia on me and considered us even. He never got a kill on me, joking that time he was a "deployable dummy," just on the traps which he considered hollow victories. "Those turrets Bix ..." he would later groan, saying they really hurt, musing if the machines ever take over, I'd have a place among the robotic overlords.

So could the lessons here be applied to a base in a PvP base? Maybe. We both knew when the attack was coming and had time to prepare. In PvP servers, this would seldom happen, attacks coming anytime from anywhere and most likely when we were asleep and logged off. There's also that decay was extremely low in the Angel's server. In a normal one, both bases would require materials to maintain every day, mine more overall and Snowy's more of the hard to get high quality metal. Still, some version of the Frustrator would be useful, and would certainly deter a number of raiders who would look for easier targets.

With the competition over, Snow and I would take on Bradley a few more times. Once I would clobber it solo while waiting for her, real-life having interrupted her trip over. But most of our time was getting ready for the wipe by deciding what to store in our backpacks to make setting up again easier. Snowy had gotten more M249 light machine guns than we could take. Umbra told us we couldn't take metal, wood, or stone. Among the things I would take with me were several weapons and stacks of ammo, pipes and tech parts, a stack of cloth, a tier three workbench, and lots of scrap. Snowy and I would say goodbye to our vehicles and bases that served us well.

And if we hold another base-defense competition? Foxy would say he might take part if we have another, time permitting. I've also thought about what worked and what didn't and what I might do differently. But there won't be another for some time at least. As for what Umbra's challenge will be in October, he hasn't told us much. His only clue was that it would involve "precision." That could mean a number of things. In the meantime, there's time to prepare for whatever it is, and time to set ourselves up again after the wipe.

"Good gaming to you,"

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Rust: Automotive Addition and "Wacky Races" Part Deux

 By Bixyl Shuftan

It's been some time since I last wrote about my experiences in Rust. I last wrote about the survival MMO somewhat infamous for its PVP action in August 2019. The reason was when I had to get a new computer around then, the game took over an hour to load and easily disconnected. So I had to say goodbye to the game for a while.

Recently, I had my computer upgraded. And not only has my performance in Second Life improved, so have other games. And Rust is playable once more. There's been some more changes to the game over the past few years. But the most interesting one from my point of view has been the addition of cars. 
There have been alternatives to getting around on foot before that. But it's my opinion this is more of a game-changer than the others. Boats just take you around the shore and maybe up a stream if you can get to one. Balloons are slow to control. While horses are more versatile, they can be killed with gun fire, as well as you. Cars, or modular cars as they're officially called, are not only faster than horses, which can make a difference with that pesky chopper, but one often feels more comfortable inside a vehicle if someone might take a shot at them. 

So where do you get a car in Rust? You can find them alongside the roads, abandoned and in poor shape. To get one up and running, you're going to need to repair the vehicle with metal, wood, and maybe some high quality metal. You're also going to have to find engine parts: crankshaft, carburetor, pistons, spark plugs, and valves. And you're also going to need some fuel in it's gas tank. Once those are taken care of, you have your car. Keeping it, however, is another issue. Someone else could swipe it if it's unattended. And in the words of one Dutch player, "they deteriorate faster then a French sedan." So if you're offline too long, the car will fade (or Rust) away. 

To take care of both problems, you need a car lift (hydraulic jack) *and* electric power going into it, constantly if you don't want your car to degrade. So you're going to need a power source: a solar panel (put outside where the sun shines), windmill (huge, the higher up it's placed, the better the power, works night and day), or a generator (small, but can be placed inside), a battery (small, medium, or large), and a wire unit. Place the power source and battery, then plug the latter into the former then plug the battery into the lift. It's now powered, and when you drive your car onto it, it will be maintained as long as the power is going. 
Lifts, as well as windmills and solar panels, appear once in a great while in crates. Or you can buy one at an outpost for some scrap. Or you can use the new research table system to learn the blueprint at a level 2 workbench. For the later, you're going to need to farm a lot of scrap if you don't have the bench yet.

Once it's on a powered jack, either your own or the one at the Junkyard, you can make a lock on the car so no one else can just drive off with it. This cost 75 metal, and you'll need to keep the key on you. If someone knocks you out and you can't get back to your items in time, you won't be able to drive it. While it's on the jack, you can also modify the car. You can take sections off and replace them and move them around. The larger the framework, or chassis, the more sections can go on. Sections aren't available in crates, but you can research and build them with metal and wood and maybe some high quality metal. You can make yourself a flatbed truck in which a buddy can shoot from, a storage truck with space for loot you find while going about or on raids, a camper with storage space and a cooker for meat plus a bed you can respawn at, or some combination with a large chassis.
And yes, if you get hit by a car hard enough, you end up having to respawn. Conversely, you can also kill things while driving them, such as those pesky bears and shoot-on-sight scientists. After getting "ninja-beared" so often, it was sweet revenge turning bears into roadkill. 

For me, cars have changed the game in Rust. I can get around places and farm items faster. Instead of having to stop somewhere for the night I can just turn on the lights and drive home. There's also a less primitive feel about the game. This has made the game more interesting. 

For more on cars, check out this guide here: Rustified Modular Vehicles Guide.
With a two-section chassis, you can put in a large engine and a cockpit for a racer, which will go faster if high quality engine parts are used. In a PvP server, this would be useful from getting away from danger in a hurry. In a PvE server, perhaps less of a need for a faster car. But the lack of actual humans trying to get you means one can hold a race. Earlier this year, Nydia started up her Angels server in Rust again, and in May they had what got called the "Wacky Races." They had so much fun, there was talk of eventually doing another. 

Finally in late July, I had my computer upgraded. And among the first things I did was to download Rust once more and check out Nydia's server. I took a look at my friends' bases, took part in some zombie raid defenses, and set up a little place of my own. But not for long. It was soon time for The Wipe. And before long, we had to start over. This time I would set up a place next to a road near a grocery store and not too far from the junkyard. Snowy and her friends would set up a few buildings in the desert area on both sides of the road. 

Shortly after the middle of the month, there was talk to doing another "Wacky Race." Players such as Kamida and I wanted to give it a go. And Snowy wanted to try again after overturning last time. So we agreed, and Umbra began building a course. 

Finally, he announced it was ready for a test run, so I decided to check it out. The starting line was a little north of Snow's compound.

Next to it was a garage called the "Pist N Broke Speedway." Jasmine joked she was thinking "Pissed And Broke."

Inside were the cars for the race. Since the server was No Decay, the lifts didn't need to be powered unless the cars were being worked on.

Umbra let us practice a few times.  The race was originally going to be on a Sunday, but it got postponed a day to Monday. 
Several of us, Jasmine, Nydia, Snowy, Nikki, and myself were taking part. Umbra was also taking part, but was also watching over things.

The start of the track was a twig build that went straight for several seconds, then led to a turn, 
followed by a jump. 

And then back onto the road.

Then a heads up things were about to get interesting.

 The course went off the road onto some rough ground.

Which could easily result in you going topsy-turvy.

Eventually, there was a road besides the course, but a very narrow one through some woods.

Then back onto the main road.

 It was then back onto another stretch of wooden track.
 Which led to another jump.

And back onto the road.

And soon things got cold.

Which led to some offroad into the snow.


And at one point going over a frozen lake and it's ice. I never tried braking on that. 
Just after that was an airport, 

and it's narrow security gate.

Past the airport, it was down a stretch of road in the cold area.

 That soon changed to temperate.

 Then the course went offroad again, 

this time onto a section of rails. 

Bear, you better run.

The forest soon thinned to the dry and somewhat flatter land.

A brief patch of green.

Then back onto the dry land.

Driving up onto higher ground.

After some time, the course led back on the road for the final stretch.


 And back at the start and stop line. The race involved two laps.
 The race went wacky from the start. A couple cars overturned at the first turn, and after the first jump my car did as well. I spent some time trying to push it up, and with that I figured winning was unlikely, just avoid finishing last. I ended up overturning as well in the cold area, along with Umbra's car. As we were both trying to push our cars upright, somehow mine ended up on top of my persona and I ended up having to respawn. Umbra had to teleport me back to my location, where I got my items back, uprighted the car, and resumed the race. Second lap, after the first jump I lost track of where the course was supposed to go and had to turn around to find it once more. And all of us ran over various critters, and shot at by NPC scientists.

First place was Jasmine, then came Nydia, myself, Nikki, Snowy, then Umbra himself. 

Umbra's reward to Jazzy for finishing first was to lend her the Chinook helicopter, normally NPC controlled, to Jazzy for an hour. Yes, it's flying upside down. 

Nydia would say, "I want to publicly thank Umbra profusely for all his hard work on our servers, and without him, we wouldn't have them."

There would be a couple more races. Nydia, Umbra, and I would have another one a few days later. She ended up first, followed by me, then Umbra. The day before I finished this article, Snowy, Nikki, and I had another. I finished the first lap first. But without Umbra there the chopper showed up, and when my car overturned, it caught up to me and fired a missile salvo. I had to respawn and run over back to the car. Nikki had her own problems, her car ending up into the water. Snowy was first, then me, then Nikki. There should be at least one more before the end of the month.

So what happens next month after The Wipe? Umbra says he may just hold a competition to see who can come up with the most raid-resistant base. But this isn't the end of the racing. He may build another track in October or November.

In the meantime, some of the group have been checking out another Rust server run by "The Orange Floof" (FriendlyDaWusky Resident). This one has treasure hunts, in which people try to get to the spot in time, defeat the guards, then grab what's in the trunk. But the server also has some lag. Floof plans to change this soon.

There are other things to talk about soon. There are the backpack mods that allow people to store additional items, which are carried over if the person gets clobbered and depending on what the moderator wants may carry over through the wipe. There are the zombies that appear at night due to another mod.

But those are for another story.

Thanks again Umbra,
And Jazzy, there's next time.

Bixyl Shuftan