Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Monday, August 29, 2016

Star Wars History: The Z-95 Headhunter

Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter marked the first time the venerable Z-95 Headhunter had shown up as a playable craft in a X-Wing series game. While it had previously appeared as an enemy fighter in both X-Wing and TIE Fighter, its playable inclusion in XWvT was definitely something fans had been waiting on for a while.

In XWvT, the Headhunter sits somewhere below the X-Wing in terms of capability. It shares the X-Wing's speed, but carries only half the armament, and much lighter shields. Fitting, in lore terms, since the Z-95 is generally written of as being the X-Wing's design predecessor.

However, unlike the iconic X-Wing, which has changed very little in terms of design and description of the history of Star Wars, the Z-95 has undergone numerous radical changes, with wing type and the number of engines being the most obvious.

The first in-universe description of the Headhunter came from Han Solo at Star's End, the first book  in the Han Solo trilogy, released in 1979. The Z-95 at the time featured variable geometry (swing) wings, and multiple blaster cannons.

In later books, the Headhunter lost the swing wings and took on the proto X-Wing style with four engines, a single pair of straight wings, and wing-tip mounted lasers. This is the style that appears in the X-Wing series games.

With the Clone Wars TV show, however, we got a new version of the Z-95. Used by the Clone troops, this variant drops the quad engines in favor of a more streamlined engine pair. With the Legends/Canon split by Disney, this has become the only seen variant, although the new comics have been busily adding the old four-engine style back into canon.

Any way you look at it, it's a fun ship. And while my time with it in-game has likely passed, having moved to more difficult missions featuring classic Rebel alphabet fighters, seeing the new incarnations really makes me wish for a new X-Wing series game in the Clone Wars timeline!

Z-95 Headhunter lore from Wookiepedia. Watch my continuing Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter - Balance of Power campaigns on Twitch and catch the archives on Youtube.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Teaching Something Oldschool

A lot of the fun I'm having in playing the classic Star Wars space combat games again comes from the idea that for an entire generation that grew up in the 2000s, these games are new now, and thanks to Steam and Good Old Games, they're more accessible now than they have been for over a decade.

But what about when that happens at home? I subscribed to PC Gamer magazine for quite a few years, and after the latest family move, found one more stack of old magazines that hadn't made the trip into the recycle bin in Washington. I kind of wish they'd all made the trip, but some choices had to be made, and a future that didn't involve showing up in an episode of "Hoarders" won out over my inner Game Mag Weasel.

My oldest son recently discovered this cache of magazines. He had so many questions. "Dad, is Supreme Commander 2 any good?" "Do you have Star Wars: The Old Republic?" "What does a 30% for a game actually mean?"

Oh, my son, I have so much to teach you, and you have so much yet to learn.

You've taken your first step into a larger world

One of the nice things about all these magazines being old though, is that I do have most of the good games accumulated. Sharing that fun with with my kids, and using Steam's Family Sharing system, is going to be fantastic! RTS, MMO, RPG, FPS, the kids are finally getting to the point where I can really share some of my favorite games.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Next on Play Something Oldschool - X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter

Last week saw the wrap-up of my TIE Fighter playthrough. This week we start the not-exactly-a sequel, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.

I say not really a sequel, because when XWvT was released, it absolutely was not a sequel to TIE Fighter or X-Wing. Instead, in the multiplayer focused era of late-90s gaming, it was a multiplayer focused addition to the franchise, allowing players to live out their Star Wars dogfighting fantasies over Null Modem, Network, and TCP/IP games.

Oh, sure there were some nods to single player, much like the bots in Unreal Tournament, but there was no real campaign, no epic story to follow. That would come with the Balance of Power add on pack which added a true campaign for both the Rebel and Imperial sides.

That expansion will be what I'm tackling next. It's unexplored territory for me, I never got beyond the first couple of missions back in the day, and there's far fewer resources available online. It'll be fun!

Follow along, won't you?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Star Wars: TIE Fighter Wrap-Up

Over a hundred missions. More than thirty hours spread out over five and a half months. It all comes to an end this week as Campaign #13, Mission #8 goes live on Friday.

TIE Fighter has been near the top of the list all sorts of top games of all time lists almost since it was first released. Despite a few aggravating quirks when compared to modern games (there's nothing like wiping out three quarters of the way through a mission to make you wish for a mid-mission save point) the game play absolutely holds up. It's also STILL, twenty years later, the most straight-up playing as the "bad guys" game in the Star Wars universe.

There are a few issues. The Steam version works poorly, if at all. The game doesn't like Windows 10. It's virtually unplayable with a gamepad, so you'd better own a good joystick.

But if you can get past these issues, (buy the GoG version, sort out the Win10 issues or run on Win7, buy a good joystick, and definitely download and set up the 3D graphics fix) you can absolutely enjoy one of the great classics of gaming history.

As for me, I'm moving on to something I never actually finished before. Next week starts a playthrough of the Balance of Power campaign for Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Adventures: Pipestone Civil War Days

Maybe it's the Midwestern heat getting to me (the weather service here have so many different names for humidity that they give Pacific Northwest forecasters a run for their money on creative ways to say "Rainy with some sun tomorrow") but it seems like we've been busier than ever this summer. Perhaps it's just that we're new to the area, and don't yet take for granted some of the events, like we did back in Washington, but it's also definitely true that there are a lot more events here that are both family- and budget-friendly in ways that very few events in Washington were.

So it was this weekend, as we loaded up the family people hauler and headed North for Civil War days in Pipestone, Minnesota. While my history interests tend towards aviation and thus 20th Century battles, the Civil War is still a rather facinating period in American history. Really, though, I had no idea that Minnesota had even contributed troops to the Union side of the war.

Nor, also, did I realize that in the post-war era, a number of veterans settled back in Minnesota, and that Pipestone was the site of some of the first veterans gatherings in the state.

Granted the battle felt much less like a serious historical affair and a picnic watching cannons and men in uniform exchange non-lethal fire, but it was still a very enjoyable afternoon. The kids got to see a bit of how a Civil War era army camp was set up (on both sides) and generally had an excellent day.

10/10, we'll almost certainly go again next year.

"Aren't you two a little short for a gun crew?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Kids and Airshows

Two weeks ago, we had the opportunity to attend the Offut airshow near Omaha, Nebraska. The week before, we'd attended the Sioux Falls Airshow, which I wrote a bit about.

Once again, the kids had a blast. I've not seen the Thunderbirds in over twenty years, so that was a treat for me as well. Randy Ball in the MIG-17PF (the only one of its type flying in the Western world) was another treat. That bird puts on a show, particularly with the afterburner lit!

Pictures don't do this thing justice. That afterburner stream pulses like no modern aircraft does.
(Pictures from the FIGHTERJETS INC website)
One of the oft-repeated things said about the benefits of airshows and flight demonstration teams like the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels is that they help inspire future generations to want to fly, seek out careers in aviation, and generally dream bigger.

This year I think I got to see, and hear, that for myself.
"Who wants to fly that jet behind you?"

Time will tell, but there could be a future Thunderbird pilot in that shot.

It was a great show. I wish I could have spent some more time in the static display areas, where the CAF squadrons were quite well represented, but hopefully I'll get time for that next year. Oh yeah, we'll be back for this one again!

A-26B Lady Liberty

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another Great One Gone West - The Bugatti 100p is No More

I absolutely hate stories like this. A destroyed aircraft is a bitter loss, a deceased pilot is a tragedy. That the aircraft was a beautiful, one of a kind replica, and the pilot was the driving force behind the creation of this beautiful aircraft simply doubles on the tragedy.
The Bugatti 100p replica at rest.

I never met Scotty Wilson, and I never saw his dream aircraft, the gorgeous Bugatti 100p in person, but I followed their progress, like many people, on their Facebook pages.

The achievement of resurrecting a 75-year-old pre-World War II Italian aircraft design that was never completed, and turning it into tangible, flying reality was monumental. That Mr. Wilson did so, successfully, with a small team, is a testament to his determination, the dedication of both him and the team he assembled.

News reports indicate that Mr. Wilson perished on impact in the crash. It was, evidently, the last planned flight of the aircraft before retiring it to a museum. The Bugatti 100p Project's Facebook page was showing preliminary designs for a modern composite two-seat version of the aircraft, the status of that project seems sadly unlikely to continue at this point either.

Fair winds and soft landings sir, and here's hoping that someone is able to pick up the dream you left not quite completed.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How to Run X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter (XWvT) on a Modern PC

Over on my Twitch and Youtube channels, we're almost done with the full playthrough of TIE Fighter.

This, of course, means that it's time to start prepping for the next game, and since experience has taught me to not take for granted that a 20+ year old game will just work, that meant I spent last night prepping X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter, specifically the Balance of Power single player campaign expansion, to work and be the next game in the playthrough.

Since I suspect there's been a few people encountering the kinds of problems I had, I'm putting up a helpful walkthrough of how to get XWvT running on a modern PC.

For the Steam Version:
1. Despite the helpful patch note from a year ago saying that they fixed AV programs showing a false positive and quarantining the game executable, it can still happen. My AV of choice still sees the main .exe of the game as a virus when downloaded from Steam. So Step 1, disable your anti-virus program, or add the XWvT binaries to its exception list.
2. Once you have the binaries, you'll probably get a No CD error when you try and start the game. To fix this, copy the original binaries from the XWvT and XWvT Balance of Power CDs that you've got in a dusty binder somewhere (You DO have the original CDROMs you bought in the '90s, right?) over the top of your Steam install.
3. Follow the instructions from this Steam community thread to add in the ddraw wrapper from X-Wing Alliance for optimal graphics.
4. Launch the game directly from the main binaries. Do whatever you do for good luck, and about 75% of the time, the game will get past the opening LucasArts and Totally Games logos and you can play.

For the Original CDROM version.
1. Copy everything from the CDROMs onto your hard drive.
2. Repeat Steps 3 & 4 from the Steam Instructions.

When you get sick and tired of trying these techniques, you can also do what I did, that ultimately works perfectly.
1. Navigate to
2. Type in X-Wing vs TIE Fighter in the game search box
3. Purchase XWvT using your preferred method of payment.
4. Install GOG version.
5. Do copy over the ddraw wrapper as instructed in the Steam thread link, because it does make the game prettier.
6. Enjoy your game.

Note: This is not a paid endorsement of That said, after spending two hours trying other methods to get my Steam and original copies of XWvT to run properly, it was well worth the $10 I spent to pick up a third copy of the game that works flawlessly. Every. Single. Time.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Out of Sick Days, Calling In Dead

Long and busy weekend, which unfortunately has culminated in a pretty severe head cold. I either can't think because of the sinus pressure, or I can't think because of the cold medicine. No blog, back Thursday (I hope).