Introducing my not-so-new-anymore apartment

As always, click the pictures to enlarge

Blaugust’s Introduce Yourself Week is long over, but since my last post already featured some parts of my home I figured I might as well show you a bit more. Considering I promised as much to y’all over nine months ago it’s about damn time anyway.

What you see up there is indeed the view from my apartment’s balcony, amateurishly stitched together by yours truly. Technically I moved in on February 1st, however neither bed nor couch had been delivered yet, so I’m actually living in it since about a week later.

The kitchen arrived another two months further down the road – I don’t know if you’ve tried to buy anything other than everyday-stuff lately, but delivery times are hell on toast since Covid started, no matter the line of business. Luckily I already had fridge, stove and washing machine, so I lived, but it wasn’t pleasant regardless.

This is the view from the kitchen window, obviously at dusk. On the left hand side you can see Cologne’s big cathedral in the distance. I don’t care for it that much as I’ve seen it basically every day for over twenty years now, but I’m sure I’m paying part of the rent just for that.

As you can see living on the 12th floor (of a 23-story building in this case) definitely has its upsides, and I’m digging it a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by tall buildings anyway; every time we’re in a city like New York or San Francisco I love to just wander through the street canyons with wide eyes and stiff neck. As Germany doesn’t have many high rises I never would have placed this high on my must-have list for apartment-hunting though, so I consider myself very lucky in this regard.

There are downsides too however. We have two elevators, and in a building with approximately a hundred flats there’s pretty much always someone coming or going, so waiting times are a thing. By now I’ve gotten into a habit of taking the stairs when I leave, especially on weekday mornings. When I come home though, not so much. Lakisa and I had to climb up once because both elevators were out of order, and, well, it’s manageable of course, but I really wouldn’t want to do it every day, especially not during summer.

Overall I’m very pleased though. Another plus is that my “cellar” is on the 22nd floor, consequently it’s completely dry and for the first time ever I don’t have any concerns about storing stuff there long-term.

This is the building from the outside, and the X marks the spot…err…I mean, the circle marks my balcony.

You’ve already seen parts of my living room, but since it’s rather big the gaming cave has also found its place in there:

Now you know where that Diablo II record went

All those CDs I mentioned last time have to be stored somewhere too, as well as books, photo albums and stuff like that. This is still a bit of a work in progress though. Of course the keepsakes of my time playing football are kept in a place of honor (pardon the reflections):

The dining table in the foreground turned out to be a tad tiny, so I’m currently looking for one that looks basically the same, but is bigger, yet not too big at the same time. It’s funny, some things you thought will be difficult turn out to be a piece of cake, while stuff you’d basically taken for granted can become a real headache. Astonishingly that table falls into the latter category.

As soon as I own enough records for storage to become an issue the bookshelf on the left will be moved next to the one on the right, and the vacated space will be occupied by a dedicated record-shelf.

And there you pretty much have it. I won’t bore you with pictures of the other rooms, as they look like…well…like kitchens and bathrooms and stuff usually look.

I’m really glad that I found this place and the owners accepted me as their tenant. Here’s hoping I won’t have to look for a new place anytime soon.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 5

Relearning to spend musical quality time

Two weeks ago I went and bought myself a record player.

Now that’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d say or write, but there it is. I also bought a HiFi-rack to put it on and a CD player while I was at it.

Depending on how old you are you may wonder what’s so bloody remarkable about this. I was born in 1976, so neither records nor CDs are anything new or special to me. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

But here’s the thing. During the past year I’ve mused a lot about the stuff I do or don’t do with my free time, and I’ve realized that there is something I used to do a lot in the past but pretty much never do anymore, and that’s spending quality time with music.

It’s not that I just don’t do it – I’ve basically forgotten how to do it.

Of course there are multiple factors that led to this, but I believe my biggest mistake was to move away from physical media and only use my phone to manage and play music anymore. Now, I still made sure that I listened to it in fairly good quality at all times, either via ‘real’ speakers or a good pair of headphones; just using the phone’s speakers or some such always was out of the question. Nevertheless my listening habits changed dramatically because of this without me even being aware of it, at least initially.

First of all, I very rarely listened to an album all the way through anymore. Just one or two tracks, then off to the next. What’s worse, I was already browsing my library for the next track while listening to something, which of course meant that I was barely paying any attention to what I was hearing.

Over the years I started to perceive this as a problem, and I’ve been feeling the need to do something about it for a while now. During the past six months or so two things happened that nudged me over the edge.

One, I had an extensive talk about the issue with my buddy Dark, who himself started to listen to and collect records a couple of years ago and confirmed my assumption that it’s a much more conscious and appreciative experience. Thanks for the tons of advice, by the way!

Two, my rekindled love for Diablo II made me wish I had something physical to display in my gaming shelf – other than the original Diablo and Diablo II boxes, which I obviously already have. So I browsed the net and found this:

The collector in me loves this SO much

As you can see I bought it right away, and it all looks and feels amazing. Only now I suddenly owned two records that I couldn’t actually listen to.

So I finally made up my mind – I would buy a record player and “force” myself to relearn how to fully experience and appreciate music again.

Obviously I don’t have a great many records to listen to yet. What I do have are about 500 CDs though, so I thought what the hell, I’ll also get a new CD player, something I didn’t have for over ten years now either. Sure, I could’ve used my PS3 or Blu-ray player at any time, but those don’t have displays of their own, and I don’t like having to turn on my TV just to play music. Fortunately I still kept buying at least some music on CD throughout the years regardless, I just never listened to it the way it was intended anymore.

Well, I’ve swiftly started to make up for that missed opportunity now that I have a “complete” HiFi-rack again (sans tape deck because screw that crap). For the first time in over 25 years I’m in that position, and I’m simply loving it!

Oh, and it looks pretty nice too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some music to listen to and don’t want to be disturbed.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 4

Warframe- The New War (new to me, that is)

Released in December 2021, The New War continues and concludes the game’s main story arc revolving around Ballas and the Lotus, which began all the way back in ’17. Despite being available for eight months already I only now played through it.

Not that I hadn’t been anticipating it before it came out. Despite featuring some annoying bits of gameplay here and there I always liked Warframe’s main story quests a lot. The thing is though, most of them have such an immense importance to the player character’s – and sometimes the whole galaxy’s – fate that once you’ve started there is no going back to regular gameplay until you’ve finished it. The New War is no different – in fact the game even warns you about it before you start.

Since I’ve played only sporadically and been rather strapped for time in general this past year I didn’t want to commit to that. Now I’m taking a vacation at last, and we’re not actually going anywhere until the 25th, so I’ve finally dug in and finished it over the course of two days.

It’s really great!

Spoiler warning: I won’t talk much about the story itself, but obviously the screenshots show scenes from it, so if you haven’t played it yet and want to go in with a blank slate I’d suggest you stop reading now.

First of all, the visuals are jaw-dropping once more. Warframe isn’t the most gorgeous game out there, not by a long shot, but DE always go all-in for their big story moments.

The huge vistas are enhanced further by some nice little details. For example, during the first hour or so you play a couple different characters, and they all have their own distinct UI-elements fitting their themes and abilities. Above you see a Grineer soldier, below a Corpus tech, and finally Theshin (whom you’ll be acquainted with if you’ve played the preceding quests).

They even designed a new hacking mini-game (of which I forgot to take a picture), a nice variation to the well-known Grineer- and Corpus-style hacking.

Overall there is a good mix of combat, stealth sections, boss fights and cutscenes. Yes, the stealth bits could be a bit more forgiving, and you know how I think about boss fights in general – but these really were ok.

Also featured are Railjack- and Necramech-gameplay, and to even start this quest you need to have finished building both.

I liked the story itself too, especially since we don’t just go back to normal after it. In the tradition of The War Within and The Sacrifice not only we as players have grown and learned in the end, but also our characters, and the whole galaxy has changed too. Well, at least a little bit.

I didn’t keep track of time, but I’d guess that the whole thing took me five hours or so, whithout skipping any cutscenes and with the occasional pause to take screenshots. Time very well spent in my opinion. Highly recommended!

To cap it off here’s some more pretty pictures:

Blaugust 2022 post count: 3

Quitting EVE Online – For real this time (question mark?)

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. It’s been a fair few months since I canceled my main account’s subscription, although I admittedly hadn’t made any final decisions at that point yet. In a way CCP made that decision for me a bit later on, when they decided to raise their subscription price by a third back in May.

I know, I know, writing “I quit”-posts is lame and all that, but this is kind of a big deal for me. I created my main account and -character on December 22nd, 2005. Fricking two thousand and five! Yes, there were breaks in between, but I’ve played this game for a hell of a long time. I’ve seen – and been, at times, part of – empires rise and fall. I’ve been a manufacturer, trader, policeman, mercenary, pirate and lowly fleet grunt. Features came and went. Things changed, and we all adapted. This is truly a game like no other.

However, for me personally many of the changes CCP have made during the past couple of years resulted in a game that’s become less and less enjoyable to play, and along the way my willingness to adapt has all but vanished. EVE has always been a game you had to put work into in order to get to the enjoyable bits, and each and every time I took a break it was because the tedium had started to outweigh the fun. Well, by now the tedium has reached a point where I just don’t want to deal with it anymore at all, and the game’s become more expensive to boot. So, yeah.

Now, of course I could just leave it at that, but since this is my own personal platform I’m also gonna use it to tell anyone who’s willing to listen (well, read) which changes in specific made the game so much worse for me. Keep in mind though that I’m not saying reverting these changes would make the game better per se, I’m just saying it would make the game better for me.

    • The big Cyno change

Almost three years ago CCP drastically reduced the selection of ships a Cynosural Field Generator could be fitted on. Before that you could fit this device, used to provide a jumpdrive-destination for capital ships, to almost any vessel, which meant that even as a solo player you could move your capitals around with almost no financial risk (provided you didn’t make any mistakes, and making mistakes is very easy in EVE). Since the change you have to use at least a Force Recon Cruiser, which means that you’re forced to put upwards of 300 million ISK at risk – per jump.

Not even taking into account the fact that you also need to have your cyno alts trained up to the point where they can even fly these things, this change alone put a hard stop to any activity that would have required to move a capital ship on my own.

So no carrier ratting for me anymore – which I’d only just begun to do, goddammit – but even more importantly, no more moving all my shit without the safety of a whole fleet. Ever since then life in null sec has become a huge bother for Lakisa and myself, because we know that we absolutely can’t risk missing any move ops else we might get stuck. We also can’t get stuff into or out of null without using the services of a shipping company, and I’ve always liked to do these things myself (and it was cheaper that way too of course).

I know that this change has brought its upsides when looked at on a bigger scale, but for me as an individual it sucks big time.

    • The economic starvation plan

Not very long after the cyno change CCP began their assault on too much wealth and stuff and everything being too easily obtainable in the game (their opinion, not mine). In their usual way of sledgehammering every perceived problem into an unrecognizable pulp they heavily nerfed mining outputs, ratting payouts, the efficiency of the once strongest mining ship and probably some more stuff I can’t recall right now. The value of minerals soared to all-time highs, and naturally prices of ships and, well, most player-manufactured goods (which is almost everything) followed suit.

Now, it is true that out in nullsec it could feel, at times, like pretty much everybody had their army of Rorqual-alts as well as their own Supercarrier and/or Titan. However, I can assure you that such was not the case. I certainly didn’t have any of that, and a substantial percentage of any fleet’s regular grunts didn’t either.

Still, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have done anything. Some kind of change probably was needed. The way I see it a better way would have been to somehow incentivize more usage of caps and supers, so more of that stuff would have gotten blown up. Their solution led to much less caps being fielded instead, because most people were too afraid to loose them all of a sudden.

Worse for me personally – and for many more I’m sure – is that the “little man”, as usual, got affected just as bad as the trillionaires, if not more. The fact that the nerfs were primarily aimed at capital ships, which are all Tech I hulls, meant that other Tech I ships got a lot more expensive too – only that those are actually supposed to be the “cheap stuff”. Suddenly flying battleships instead of Tech II cruisers wasn’t the much more affordable alternative it once was anymore. Aspiring to own one of the big toys some day, a daunting task even before all those changes, has become entirely unachievable for the average player.

As for income, since the cyno nerf effectively took carrier ratting away from me my modus operandi for ISK-making was pretty much back to “run level-4 missions in highsec”, and let me tell you, when that’s your only viable income stream you really don’t want to buy, let alone lose, anything of value. Yes, there are other things I could have done to earn some more ISK, but I didn’t want to do those things, simple as that. The game felt like a job at times even without any additional busywork.

CCP can argue that doing this was necessary all they want, it has made the game less fun, end of story. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion any change developers make to their game should make the game more fun, not less.

    • More focus on (and power to) the cash shop

You know what I dislike even more than seeing a beloved game getting worse and worse? Seeing that and also being bombarded with cash shop advertisements, every new “opportunity” being more pay to win than the last.

I don’t give a damn whether it’s Pearl Abyss pulling the strings in this regard or not (because what difference does it make?), fact is that the cash shop is being shoved right in our face at every opportunity nowadays, and you can pretty much buy everything your heart desires. Yes, even skill points. Not that it matters much ever since the introduction of skill extractors, because PLEX is a thing and you could always sell that for ISK and then buy injectors with those.

As you know I generally don’t consider cash shops to be the spawn of the devil per se. But the bottom line is this: to me EVE Online in 2022 is a game that’s as unfun to play as it ever was since I started, has a higher subscription price than any other MMORPG on the market (as far as I know) and seemingly cares more about selling me shit I don’t need than entertaining, let alone humoring me as a player…nuff said I guess.

Of course the timing couldn’t be worse, what with Goons getting a new leadership just recently and declaring the time of stalemates to be over. There might be interesting times ahead.

Oh well, I guess from now on I’ll just be one of those guys who keep saying that watching the goings-on in EVE from the sidelines is a lot more fun than actually playing the game.

I’ve said that before though, so we’ll see.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 2

A gaming session to remember

The other day my mates, Dark and Elric, and I played Hunt: Showdown in the evening, as we regularly do. However, what was initially planned as “just a couple rounds” turned into a full four hours of hilarious shenanigans the likes of which only few games can provide.

I’ve talked about the variety and unpredictability inherent to the game’s main mode, Bounty Hunt, before, and during this session we had lots of that. But that wasn’t even half of the fun, as we additionally stumbled into various situations that would not have seemed out of place in any silly slapstick movie. This was well above and beyond what you’d normally expect to experience when playing a shooter, and I don’t think I’ve had this much fun since we used to blow each other to bits with proximity mines in Blood a long time ago. Yeah, we were easy to please back then.

Of course stuff like this falls into the category You Had To Be There more often than not, so you might not find this as hilarious as I do. Just like the guy at the watercooler who won’t shut up about whatever it is that doesn’t interest you in the slightest I’ll tell you about it anyway.

Awww…missed the triplet by just two yards or so

Things started out relatively calm. These guys just kept running into our line of sight one by one, trying to revive each other. You’d think that at least the third one would have learned from his buddies’ mistakes, but apparently not.

There’s a reason for me bringing an axe to a firefight by the way. Before we started Dark wondered why I still hadn’t unlocked the throwing axe. As it turned out picking up and using one of the axes lying around in the game doesn’t reward usage-XP for the combat axe, a certain amount of which is a prequisite for unlocking the thrown variant. So instead of a secondary gun I brought the stock combat axe to the fight.

Actually, as any XP your teammates earn when using a weapon that you have also equipped award you with an equal amount of XP, we all had one to speed up the process. Yes, we were a trio of axe murderers, prowling through the bayou of Louisiana.

The catch is that you can only equip either one large and one small weapon or two medium ones, and since an axe is a medium weapon we were a bit outgunned in the…well…gun department. Not that we’d let that stop us.

Many more funny tombstone inscriptions can be found on this graveyard

Here we had just scouted out a compound, a church with surrounding graveyard, without finding anything interesting and were about to leave, when I spotted another hunter just outside the premises. I called her out on Discord, adding a general description as we always do, so we all know what to look out for. This person kinda looked like a nun (I think the skin is called Hail Mary), so I said that. Maybe she just wanted to go to church, but we weren’t in a particularly pious mood.

We always try to fan out a bit – staying too close together is usually a recipe for disaster – so it happened that I ran down a little slope towards a waist-high brick wall on my own, when another hunter came into my sight, sprinting from right to left on the other side of that wall. Without thinking I immediately aimed my revolver and fired a shot. Unfortunately my aim isn’t all that great most of the time, but lo and behold, I hit his head right away and down he went.

I had just finished laughing out loud to celebrate my glorious kill when I thought I heard Dark suddenly shout “Aahh, the nun has killed me with an axe!!”. She obviously wasn’t just going to church after all. I swiveled around to locate my downed friend (you can see teammates through walls, dead or alive). He wasn’t far away at all, I just had to jump over said brick wall, which I did, axe at the ready, only to find them both, him and the nun, lying dead right next to each other.

Because what actually transpired is this (seen from Dark’s perspective):

So he’d actually met the nun and her buddy head on. Fortunately the latter cowardly turned and made a run for it as soon as Dark pulled out his axe, only to promptly appear in my line of sight and eat that headshot I talked about earlier (it’s my laughter you hear right after the guy dies just out of frame). So my axe-wielding maniacal friend has clearly earned an assist for this kill of mine, well done! After that it’s actually Dark who kills the nun with his axe, but she gets a shot off at the last millisecond and downs him too. A proper double-kill, albeit involuntarily.

I promptly revived Dark and the three of us went on with our business. To be honest, I can’t remember whether we actually survived that round or not, but it was glorious either way. [Edit: Elric informs me that we indeed won that round most gloriously.]

This is what a mission summary looks like when you did quite well yet didn’t survive

The next one happened when Elric and I rummaged around a compound mainly consisting of a large wooden barn and some smaller sheds surrounding it, while Dark was on the lookout from a nearby sniper tower.

I can’t recall how the fight began, all I know is that hunters appeared and Elric was downed, which left me more or less on my own in the compound, as Dark’s line of sight was pretty restricted by various buildings and objects. I tried to be sneaky and get a jump on them, but since they had superior numbers chances weren’t looking great. Then I heard the hasty footsteps of at least two hunters – they had detected me.

To hell with stealth, I thought, time to go on the offensive. I wasn’t going to face multiple enemies head on though, that’s usually a surefire way to die. Instead I ran away from them, my plan being to make a full circle around the little cluster of buildings and get behind their backs.

There – a little shed with its door facing right towards me. I’ll take a shortcut through there and will be behind them in no time. I rip open the door, dash into the dark…and this is the sight awaiting me:

Actually not quite, when I pressed the screenshot-button I’d already killed one with my knife. Funnily enough you can see Dark’s blue silhouette far in the background too.

Imagine yourself entering a room only to find four zombies standing there, slowly (but actually not that slowly) turning towards you as they take notice of your presence. Yeah, exactly. I panicked.

After I’d instinctively taken out the first one I immediately realized that a) I didn’t have enough stamina to take them all on, and b) there were still some hunters after me who’d undoubtedly heard the ruckus I’d just made.

I dashed right through them towards the rear door, astonishingly without them so much as leaving a scratch on me. I crashed through the door, turned to the left and believed to be saved for at least a moment. There was no time to linger however.

Sure enough my luck ran out very soon. Just as Dark had said “Don’t die on me down there, mate” I turned another corner and got instantly perforated by a guy with a chain pistol and the Fanning trait, which is pretty much akin to auto-fire, and that was that. And you know what? I was grinning from ear to ear. I’d released so much adrenaline – those zombies in the shed almost gave me a heart attack – that I couldn’t have been angry even if I’d wanted to.

There were even more cool moments that evening, but these were my favourites.

It doesn’t happen often to come across a game that can create this kind of great memories. If such a game also has pretty much zero chance of nothing happening at all and doesn’t hold much potential for frustration either…that’s a very rare bird indeed.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 1