Caster's Corner - Livestreaming on Twitch

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Let's Play: The Void Rains Upon Her Heart, Episode One

Valentine's Day having fallen on a regular streaming night for me this year, I had the opportunity to play newly released side-scrolling shmup bullet hell roguelike thing The Void Rains Upon Her Heart. I was pleasantly surprised.

This isn't your normal shmup. The roguelike elements of random enemies and rewards ensure that no two runs are ever the same, and even on Easy (or rather, Light Rain) enemies can still prove quite a challenge.

More episodes and runs, as they are completed, will be showing up here, because this game is too much fun to just check off as beaten after one successful Easy mode run.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Around the Web: Backlog Burndown #26 - Mine(crafting) The Backlog

It's been quite a while since the last Backlog Burndown column showed up on Marooners' Rock. Five months, in fact. That's more a reflection on how my production for writing, videos, and everything pretty much fell off a cliff after the move than it is on anything else, but the point is, it's been a while.

There's also the realization with this column that I may never actually finish the backlog. Is it even a challenge worth continuing? I believe that the answer is yes, if only because there are a lot of good games in there, plus it's a solid vein of content to mine. Gotta keep the inspiration flowing, right?

Anyway, BB #26 is now live. I took on Minecraft: Story Mode with decent success. On to the next game!

Minecraft: Story Mode Splash Screen - link to Backlog Burndown 26

Monday, February 26, 2018

This is Who I Am - Vlog 2018-8

Done in response to John Sonmez's (of Simple Programmer) challenge to "Show me who you are!"

Well, this is who I am (hey, that sounds like a song or something...). Bottom line, I've always been more plowhorse than racehorse. Maybe that's why grinding down miles, grinding progress in MMOs, and slogging through programming problems has always appealed to me.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Let's Play Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Two

Twelve days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the American Volunteer Group got their first taste of combat. Ten unescorted Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lily" bombers heading towards Kunming were engaged by the 1st and 2nd squadrons. The bombers jettisoned their loads and ran, losing four aircraft along the way. Ultimately nine out of the ten aircraft failed to return to base, according to transmissions intercepted by Chinese intelligence.

The AVG suffered one crash-landed P-40B for their troubles.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Flying Tigers Companion: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk

In conjunction with my Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China video series, I thought it would be fun to dig a little deeper into the history of some of the aircraft involved in the game. There's a few pretty obscure aircraft in there, but I thought I'd start with the most iconic aircraft in the game, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk!

Developed from Curtiss's earlier P-36 Hawk, the base of the P-40 design was the same airframe as the Hawk, but redesigned from the firewall forward for the super-charged Allison V-1710 V-12 engine. NACA wind-tunnel evaluation of the basic shape ultimately pushed the engine's glycol coolant radiator forward to the chin position, creating the easily recognizable shape of the final aircraft.

The P-40Bs that originally equipped the AVG in China were armed with a pair of .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, firing through the propeller, and four .30 caliber machine-guns in the wings. Not as maneuverable in a turn as the Japanese Nates and Oscars that they tangled with, the AVG's P-40s maintained an advantage in dive speed and overall durability.
Fagen Fighters actually owns two flying P-40s, this P-40K which served in Russia, and a P-40E which flew in North Africa and is of the same type that the AVG flew. (My photo)

The AVG's P-40Bs lacked provision for drop tanks or bombs. In the spring of 1942, they received a handful of P-40Es, an upgraded model which remedied the B's chief vices: bomb racks, drop tanks, and better radios. The E models also traded the wing-mounted .30 caliber guns for a quartet of .50 caliber machine-guns.

Elsewhere, various P-40 models saw extensive service with the RAF in the North African theater against German and Italian aircraft. The USAAF used them in the Mediterranean theater (including use by the Tuskegee Airmen during their first eight months of combat), in Alaska, and in the Pacific, where a pair of P-40Bs were among the few to get off the ground and engage the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

P-40E in AVG colors from IL-2 Sturmovik

The Soviets also received a number of aircraft via Lend-Lease. Not as numerous or popular as the P-39 Airacobra, the P-40 still proved a capable aircraft in the hands of Soviet pilots.

Those wishing to see the real thing are fortunate, as there are still a number of them in existence, both as museum displays and flying. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, the United Kingdom and the United States all have museums with one or more flying types in their collections, some of which make appearances at fairly far-flung airshows.

RAF Kittyhawk IIa from IL-2 Sturmovik
For those lacking the funding to purchase and restore one of these classics, there are a few plans or kit replicas that have been made available over the years. Currently Loehle Aircraft Corporation makes a replica kit, and both Jurca Plans and WAR Aircraft Replicas has previously had plans available. Unfortunately none of these companies have functioning websites at the date of this blog post.

Sim pilots will have a much easier time getting behind the controls of a P-40, as it is well represented across both the hardcore and flight-action genres. In addition to its appearance in Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, P-40s can also be found in World of Warplanes (for both American and Russian fighter trees), Secret Weapons Over Normandy, IL-2, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, Flight Sim World, and Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron WWII, among others. For the simulation minded, Flight Sim World or the IL-2 series would likely be the best options.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Coffee Is For Closers: Episode Four - First Promotion!

In which Yuri gets her first promotion, and gets out of the starting area.

Nothing major to comment on for this episode, other than that I'm still having a lot of fun with this game. Future episodes are going to get some interesting upgrades as well!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Around the Web - Dusk

My colleague Alex over at Marooners' Rock wrote up an excellent preview of retro themed Early Access title Dusk.

Dusk screenshot via Marooners' Rock

Even as video games continue to push the boundaries as a medium visually, there is something timeless about a retro look. For those that played on a PC in the early 90s, there is a visual style that probably comes to mind. Blocky polygons, rudimentary lighting that was monumental at the time, and blazing fast gameplay. Dusk takes the mold of games like Quake to create something unique that will have fans of those games smiling broadly.

Check out the whole article right here.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Why Suffer? Vlog 2018-7

A few thoughts on what makes suffering through a tough workout worth the pain.

TANSTAAFL -There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Friday, February 16, 2018

Flight Friday - Flying Tigers Mission One

I'm going to take a break from Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance for a few weeks, mostly because Battle Three, Mission Six continues to kick my teeth in every time I try it.

In its place, however, we have my play-through of Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, which I reviewed for Marooners' Rock a few weeks ago.

Due to technical issues (okay, I couldn't find where I'd unpacked my Elgato box to) this also ended up being my first stream on Mixer. That went... okay, I guess? Mostly it means there's no game commentary (unless I add some to later tracks in post) and no pictures. Source video quality definitely took a bit of a hit as well, from what I can natively record with the capture box.

Still, I think it worked out okay for this series.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Musuem Stories - Dornier DO 335 Pfeil

I first encountered the Dornier DO 335 Pfeil (Arrow), like a lot of weird WWII German aircraft, in Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. Back in the days when games came on 3.5" disks, and flight-sim manuals were hundreds of pages thick, serving as history primers and for battles and aircraft. I miss manuals like that. Two pages of legal disclaimers and a website link just isn't the same.
IL-2's DO 335 A-0 in a hard climb (and about to depart into a flat spin).
But I digress. As another of Hitler's "wonder weapons", the DO 335 was only produced in extremely tiny numbers before World War II ended. Powered by a pair of 1,726hp Daimler-Benz DB 603A engines, the A-0 and A-1 Pfeils could reach a top speed of 475mph, enough to run away from any of the common Allied aircraft in the European theater. The aircraft carried a single 30mm cannon firing through the front propeller hub, and two 20mm cannons in the cowling, firing through the propeller arc.
DO 335 cockpit in Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe

DO 335 upper and lower cockpit views in IL-2
The push-pull engine arrangement, while uncommon, has a number of advanages. Much better engine-out performance, P-Factor cancellation, and reduced drag being the major factors. It does suffer from a few common disadvantages as well, particularly in difficulty cooling the rear engine (an issue frequently shared by pusher aircraft), and potential to be hard on pilots who need to depart the aircraft in-flight. The DO 335 was equipped with one of the first ejection seats, coupled with explosive bolts to sever the dorsal fin and rear propeller blades, to solve the latter issue.
DO 335 external view in SWOTL
As with a lot of late-war German and Japanese aircraft, survivors are rare. In this case, there's only one left, one of two A-0s that were shipped to America after the war for testing. I encountered it at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C., where it hangs out with all sorts of other rare aircraft. It's a huge aircraft, sitting high on its stork-like tricycle gear (which caused a number of development issues).
The genuine article at the Udvar-Hazy center, flanked by the only surviving Arado AR 234, and the museum's FW 190 F-8. (My photo).
Gear down in IL-2
In gaming, the best current(ish) representation of the DO 335 comes from IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946. The A-0 makes an appearance, plus an up-gunned version with a pair of additional wing mounted 30mm cannons that the game refers to as the V-13, but other documents reference as the B-2 model.
IL-2's V-13 fantasy variant.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Coffee is for Closers - Episode 3: Shackle Colanders!

Welcome to Episode Three of Coffee is for Closers. In this episode, Yuri gets closer to figuring out the Big Bad who's haunting the starting zone.

With the game now in full release, it's a great time to try it out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Around the Web - Top Ten Games for Valentine's Day

Just a little bit of fun over on Marooners' Rock.

A Top Ten list of games for Valentine's Day. Maybe just a little tongue in cheek for a few of them, but whether you're alone or playing with your partner, there's something there for everyone!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Let's Talk Business - Vlog 2018-6

A few thoughts on Youtube's recent changes that demonetized a huge number of people, including me. A bit of explanation for why Youtube won't be my primary platform going forward, and some thoughts on the new productivity system that I'm trying.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance - Battle 3, Mission 5 - Commsat Chaos!

Hey look! It's a new Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance video! I haven't forgotten about this series, it's just been on the back burner for a bit. More about that on Monday's vlog. For now though, here's the next mission.

This is a Family Business mission that's deceptively simple. Just pull up close to the damaged commsat that was identified in a previous mission, drop Aeron off, let her do her thing to the satellite, then pick her up and head for home. Of course it's not going to be quite that easy. The Imperials arrive and bring enough firepower to make things difficult, especially against Aeron's YT-1300.

The main threat is the space-suited stormtroopers. They're extremely vulnerable, but they can do a lot of damage to your ship. In addition, having them get too close to Aeron is an automatic mission failure. Just let your turret do most of the work, remember to keep your shields up, and you'll do fine.

May the Force be with you!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

SpaceX and Falcon Heavy First Launch

On Tuesday, February 6th, 2018, SpaceX launched the most powerful rocket since the Apollo 17 slipped the surly confines of Earth's gravity on December 7th, 1972. It's been a long time coming.

Image via SpaceX.
I wasn't alive for Apollo. I grew up in the era of the Space Shuttle, with fond memories of its distinctive double sonic boom rattling the walls of our Southern California house for missions that recovered to Edwards Air Force Base. Yesterday, my kids stopped their schoolwork to watch the most powerful vehicle on earth launch a red convertible and a spacesuit into orbit. So did most of the office.

The best part though, was watching the two boosters recover on their pads. If the sight of a pair of  140 foot telephone poles dropping out of the sky like thunderbolts from the hand of Zeus, only to drop landing legs, fire rockets and land in perfect synchronicity doesn't stir something deep in the soul, then check your pulse, because you may be dead.

Here's to the future, and many landings to come.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Game Review

I really wanted to like Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China (FTSOC). There simply aren't that many good, or even mediocre flight games anymore, and those that do come out tend to (understandably) focus on the European theatre, or maybe the Pacific. For new studio ACE MADDOX to make their first game focus on the China-Burma-India theatre was a bold move, even if they did hedge their bets by putting the focus squarely on one of the most famous "volunteer" fighting groups to ever exist.

Screenshot courtesy of Ace Maddox

The game definitely delivers on the AvGeek side. They even managed to include a couple of aircraft that I'd never heard of before, and I thought I pretty much knew every WWII aircraft at this point. Surprise! Unfortunately, as my full review on Marooner's Rock covers, there were a few other issues that I wish the devs had put as much focus into.

Still, it's a solid game, and a good choice for would be console aviators. I'll have videos coming out in the following weeks as I break down the campaign missions, and the aircraft used.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Coffee Is For Closers - Closers LP, Episodes 1 & 2

Blame Marooner's Rock for handing me the news write-up. Or perhaps just my wandering attention span, and affection for both Eastern MMOs and anime. Either way, Closers, is my latest addiction.

Playing out more like an episodic single-player game than an MMO, so far this game seems to mesh well with playing a few hours a week. Which also lends itself well to my streaming style.

So here's Episodes 1 & 2, with more to come!

Coffee is for Closers - Episode 1: Training

Coffee is for Closers - Episode 2: Mall Monsters