Friday, December 26, 2008

Sins of a Solar Empire

Bad news folks (or good news for some, I guess, depending).

I’ll probably stop blogging.

In fact I’ll probably stop sleeping, eating, and showering. I’ll probably be found wild eyed, emaciated, and raving.

See, I’ve discovered something more addictive than heroin.



Well, OK – I’ve never been addicted to heroin, so I don’t actually know that Sins of a Solar Empire is actually more addictive, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I’m not big on computer games.

My son has a Playstation, and we’ve thought about getting him a Wii. I’ve tried to sit down and play with him, but ten minutes of car chases, or motocross, or Lego Star Wars combat – and I’m bored. I can’t help it. It just feels like such a waste of time, and I have no interest in it at all. That and that damned head splitting, car crash music. Gah.

But, Sins, well, Sins of a Solar Empire is something else entirely.

My son gave it to me for Christmas, so I loaded it up last night and fooled around with it. I downloaded the latest updates from the maker, Ironclad. Read a bit of the manual – then started fooling around with it.

And I promptly got my ass handed to me.

Really, you need to do the tutorials – especially if you’re a middle-aged guy like me who is not up on the latest gaming technology.

What I am up on though, is military strategy. Hell, I wrote actual military strategy and executed it in combat. I was a CIC officer, I’m used to military interfaces and computerized battle management software. And I’ll say this – the pentagon needs to start talking to game makers like Ironclad. Because we need interfaces like this. We really, really do.

Sins is a science fiction real-time strategy game. The graphics are fantastic, especially in ultra hi-resolution on my big honking HD monitor. The complexity is unbelievable and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of limits. So far I’ve only played in a single player mode, but it can be played in multi-player mode through the Ironclad site or over a VPN. I don’t think I’ll ever get that far though, in two days I’ve barely scratched the surface in single player mode – I don’t think I want to go up against somebody who takes this stuff seriously.

This isn’t any kind of review of the game, as I haven’t gotten far enough to actually evaluate it yet. And may not for some time (though I did hold my own against a full dozen pirate attacks this morning).

I just wanted you to know why you won’t be seeing much from me, at least for the weekend.

Well, yeah, that and the fact that I’ve got to go move several tons of snow.

And I’ve got a dozen jobs in the shop.

And there’s some pressing research.


Screw that. If you need me, I’ll be fighting the pirates.


So, what did you get for Christmas? Bet it wasn't your very own interstellar empire.


  1. "Bet it was your very own interstellar empire."

    If by that you mean groceries, then yeah, I did.

    (My favorite so far is the peanut-butter and chocolate Lindt truffles.)

    Also got: socks. And a device to sculpt styrofoam with (for set-pieces for the stop-motion animation I need to get back to doing.) Bowls! Ludicrous amounts of tea!

  2. Well, that should have been "bet it WASN'T your very own..."

    That sculpting device, Scotte, is that one of those hot wire jobbers? I need to get one of those to sculpt styrofoarm for the model train table.

    And there is no such thing as "ludicrous" amounts of tea, there is only "sufficient amounts" and "insufficient amounts" :) And just for the record I'm drinking green tea right now. mmmmmm.

  3. Kitchen Gadgets. You can't have too many kitchen gadgets. And on Sunday we're going to look at the big honkin' stove we're giving each other.

  4. Oh, and BTW, is this more practice for that FueyU thing?

  5. Jim, I've got worse news for you. Or maybe it's good news. Depends on perspective.

    See, one of the things that Stardock's last game, Galactic Civilizations, was acclaimed for, is that Stardock continued to teach the AI (incorporating data from player uploads, if I'm not mistaken), and making the AI tweaks available with every patch.

    Meaning the game has gotten smarter over time.

    I assume they'll do the same thing with Sins.

    Which means--good news or bad news depending on how much you like seeing your family--you've taken up a game that learns (after a fashion) how to play better over time.

    I really enjoyed your blog, and it was nice knowing you.

  6. It's somewhat like the hot-wire jobbers, but it looks more like a soldering iron, with more heat at the tip.

    It's something more directly suitable to sculpting something like this from straight slabs of styrofoam.

    (I've previously used the hot wire just to modify found bits of polystyrene packaging into suitable shapes for painting, but didn't really find it lent itself well to sculpture per se, though it will be great for model railroads. What scale do you do your training in? I've got the O-scale bug now, thanks to my Dad, and N, for later).

    Constant Comment by the pound, is just to one side of ludicrous. But so very tasty (it is my one source of caffeine).

  7. ScottE, your link goes right back to this post. Fix please, I'd like to see what you're talking about.

    Oh, and we're HO gauge here. In retrospect we should have gone with N, but it's too late now.

  8. Hah, sucked in. :) Yep, it was nice knowing you - maybe we'll see you again in a few months.

    Just don't do what some Starcraft players have been known to do, which was to play for days on end, straight, without stopping, not even going to the bathroom, and ending up dead. o.o

    Hmmm. Any chance I can talk you into playing Starcraft? :D

  9. Oops. Forgot to actually put it in (though it does only lead to sketches). It's here.

    HO has several advantages over N (I actually think it's less expensive, for one). I only went with N because a lot of the Japanese kits I needed were only available in that scale.

  10. Oh, also - so far for Christmas I've gotten socks. Festively striped, home-knit socks. Well, the other pair is actually crocheted rather than knit, but they're warm. ;)

    Also some good food. We didn't really do a formal gift exchange.

  11. New thin parting tool, $50 certificate to Lee Valley Tools :) so I can get stuff to make more spinny bits, Titanium framing hammer, heavy work shirt, rechargable flashlight with 12V and 115V chargers, 12V coffee cup for the truck, coupla Clive Cussler books, and 2 seasons of The Tick :)

    But the crown jewel of gifts was one of those SD card picture frames from my son's stepdad - with over 200 photos of my son's growing up - things I had never seen of the times I wasn't around, the times it was just them. Best gift, ever.

    And I got to be with my folks one more time, and my brother came back from the mine for 2 days to be with us, sis is expecting (and scared and excited), and my son is straight A's again for the fall. I didn't need any of the goodies... That's just sprinkles...

  12. Lathe tools, always a good choice, Karl.

    I have a Sorby Thin Kerf parting tool. And several other custom made parting tools, that I made myself from tool steel or old files. I do have a couple of traditional diamond-shaped parting tools, don't use them much.

    Oh, I looked at your site - love that 1953 Delta Lathe. Damn, what a beautiful piece of hardware. Also, very, very nice work. You're a hell of a craftsman, Karl.

  13. Mine's a 'Melvyn Firmager' 1/16" parting tool and shear scraper - British, of course (as he fogs up his monacle). I already have two different Delta tool sets, a Marples set that I got from my dad a few years back (that he's had since I was a kid), a Craftsman set that's about 40 years old (new in the box) that I got from a friend who was going to chuck them (pun intended), and a set of barely used ShopSmith turning tools that were also slated for the dustbin. I have a few bits and parts that I've made myself, and a few different chucking options (mostly homemade).

    You've got some damned nice pieces, too, Jim. I don't have the patience for doing green work, though - or the space to dry like you do. I have to wrap and stack for 7 months or more...

    That lathe has a pretty cool story behind it - reminds me I need to get hold of the guy I got it from - need to get some belaying pins made for his boat. It was a long grungy project restoring it - but definitely worth it - she goes from about 50 rpm up to about 3400. :) It used to look like this.

  14. I'm a big fan of Robert Sorby lathe tools. Sorby is, of course, also from England - what is it about British lathe tools? Sheffield steel, good for bayonets, better for chisels. I do have a couple of Crown's and a few assorted various and sundry.

    I do use Shopsmith lathe tools, and have pretty much everything they make and which are of very high quality. Of course, I have two shopsmiths too, so it would sort of figure. :)

  15. I really don't need to introduce Michael to that game; he LOVES strategy games (almost never plays first person shooter games or anything like it) The on-line games he plays already suck up hours of his time. If he finds a new game then the trash will NEVER get taken out!

    Regarding loot:

    I'm getting a Cuisinart convection toaster oven. If it ever gets delivered.

    Michael got me a macro lens for my digital camera. But the adapter is on back order.

    I did, however, get a boat load of books from my brother.

    So see you some time next year!

  16. Lego! I got Lego. Castle Lego, which is THE BEST. Karl's SO gave me a MAC gift certificate. The nephew gave me tools.

    It's been a good holiday. :)

  17. HO: Specify time period, prototype modeled, etc., please.

    I've nothing set up or assembled in years, but boxes of Santa Fe diesel era, mostly modern, HO scale, and then CP/CN in N scale. Some day...

    I don't buy the magazines very often, but just saw ads for HO-scale Rapido United Aircraft TurboTrains. Eek. I could spend serious money on those -- rode both Amtrak and VIA Canada.

    Dr. Phil

  18. We got a Wii and a trip to Germany. The Wii is really fun, and a bit of a time sink. And even without the Wii fit it is exercise, right? Right? Fine, it isn't really exercise, but I will continue to pretend.

    Germany is cold. Okay, not as cold as Alaska, but as we are used to MD temps, it might as well be the Arctic Circle here. No snow, though. Tonight we will be at a family party (my friend's family, not mine) -- wine, beer, food, and her uncle is bringing his accordion. You have never lived until you hang out with a bunch of Germans who've had some booze to drink and are now singing to an accordion. :-)

  19. Why have I not heard of this one?


  20. You can always beat the pirates. The game sometimes moves at a snail's pace, especially after you are done with your researches.

    Civs IV. Now, that's cryptonite anybody can be proud of.

  21. Why yes, Konstantin, you can beat the Pirates. Providing that they don't attack you en masse while the entire combined armada of the alien Vasari Empire is bombarding your homeworld from orbit with nuclear weapons and at the same time deploying several dozen advanced capability capital ships against your paltry half dozen level 1 ships because you didn't have the foresight to concentrate on military build=up over exploration and diplomacy. Yeah, then you can beat the pirates just fine.

    Why, yes, I did get my ass handed to me yet again. Thanks for asking.

  22. OK, now you've got me really wanting this thing. Is there a Mac version?

  23. Unknown.

    However, I warn you, Nathan, stay away. I played this thing until 1AM last night.

    However, 1) I did find the pirate's base and bombed it out of existence. And 2) the Vassari Empire continuously rebuffed my offer of alliance and trade, so I found their homeworld and bombed that back to the stone ages. Then I bombed all of their colonies off the face of their worlds. Then I colonized the ruins. Fuck 'em. It's my universe.

    However, I've noted a few scouts from outside the system. Hmmm. Troubling.

  24. Sounds like you're having a a good time.

    I'm not a games person, so my Christmas goodies were DVDs (like the new Dr. Who seasons 2 and 2, and Jeff Dunham's new comedy special) some clothes I wanted, and books.

  25. Sorry, Jim, I have my own interstellar empire already. I'd say that as the author, I have control, but that's not strictly true, because as fun as it is up through 2891 AD, it is going to deteriorate in the future -- several times. Oh well, love 'em and leave 'em. Even Rome fell. Twice.

    I have had to avoid RPGs and other gaming all my life. It would be addictive, I am quite sure. Best to channel it into fiction -- and then try to sell the suckers for money! So I can spend time and write more!

    Dr. Phil

  26. The game sounds like something the husband would love - I'll be shopping for it. ;)

    I got an advanced silversmithing class the first week of Jan. Casting, enameling, advanced forging and stone setting. Squee! I'm cleaning off my workbench tomorrow and brushing up my skills on my vacation time this week. There may be photos if things work out.

    The family also got BOTH Rock Band II and Guitar Hero World Tour, an AC/DC song pack, and an extra dual game platform guitar, so our living room is never-ending metal game jam right now. This is cool with me.

  27. Jim, this does sound cool, Jeri's right, I would love it. I did a head over heels over Civilization III a few years ago, a similar sounding type of strategy game. Civ IV was fun too, but then the bastards latest update was not made for the PC, and not for the Wii either, which is the game console of choice for us. So probably no more Civ for me for a while, which is probably a good thing. This also sounds like Star Trek: Armada, which is set in the Trek universe with those ships and characters involved.

    We got tons o' Rock Band and even a Guitar Hero game, so we're rockin' out here. Also got some books and CDs I wanted (classic rock) and a Monopoly computer game, since I love board games...

  28. OH, and I almost forgot, a very cool Seahawks uniform...#51 Lofa Tatupu. My sweetie was good to me.

  29. Yes, Bryan, I'd say she was. Though, I have to say that the mere thought of that rock band hero noise gives me a headache, but I'm glad you all are enjoying it.

    The music in SoaS is terrific. I actually enjoy it and it enhances the mood of the game - like a good movie sound track.

    I'm actually playing right now - I have the game set to windows mode so I can see blog traffic and email. Very cool.

    And speaking of sports paraphernalia, I got a limited issue Iditarod Sweatshirt with the official patch. Yeah, I'm wearing it right now. And I'm warm, baby, so warm. Which is important because it's about -20 at the moment.

  30. Oh, -20. Sigh. I love subzero weather. After getting snowed in, essentially all of it is gone because the weather jumped up to around 60degF, and then rained, all with 40mph winds gusting to 60+ which dried out the rest of the snow banks.

    Winter should stay winter. This on again off again shit is for the birds.

    Dr. Phil

  31. Heh, my brother got me sucked into Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom in the meantime. It's Windows-only, which means I can't take it with me, so I've been offline for days now trying to cram in as much playtime on it as possible (in between visiting family). Seems I've missed a lot of stuff going on in the rest of the world by doing that. o.O

  32. Bryan got this yesterday. I haven't heard from him since. ;) I'm not sure if he loves it or is just obsessed with it, but he's having a blast.

  33. Jeri, I would like to respond to your comment, however, I am currently under attack in three systems by rogue elements of the foul Vassari Alliance and cannot spare the resources.

    This has been a automated response. Thank you for your interest. God Bless the Empire! We will be victorious!


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