Category Archives: polls

Picking My 2014 Club Nintendo Reward

Back when we got the Wii and a paid of Nintendo DS Lites and my daughter an I were playing Pokemon or Mario Party 8 or LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy every Saturday morning, we went pretty whole hog into the Nintendo experience.  We got Nintendo Power Magazine, we kept up with their news sites, we went to Nintendo events that showed up locally, and my daughter even went to the Nintendo World Store in New York when she was there on a trip.

And, of course, we set ourselves up with Club Nintendo.

ClubNintendo

Club Nintendo is basically Nintendo’s customer loyalty program.  You make and account there and register your Nintendo products (each product comes with a code that directs you to Club Nintendo, so it is tough to miss) and take surveys about the games you have played to earn coins.  The coins can be spent on various cheap but often exclusive prizes.  I had some coins that were expiring this year and used them to buy my daughter a pair of posters with all of the characters from Animal Crossing: A New Leaf.  It can be a lot of that sort of thing.

Animal Crossing Posters

Animal Crossing Posters

If you get enough coins in a year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, you can earn Gold (300 coins) or Platinum (600 coins) status.  That entitles you to a special reward at the end of the cycle.

Back in the day those were rewards were similar little things.  I think we got a set of special DS Lite styluses one year and a Pokemon plush toy another.  That was about it during the Wii and DS Lite days.  But as time moved on and Nintendo bought into the digital delivery system, which started with the Virtual Console on the Wii for old games and then became a regular store with the Nintendo DSi series and the Wii U, game downloads started to become prizes.

Occasionally there is a special new game, but mostly they are popular games from Nintendo’s past.

This year, with the purchase and registration of two Nintendo 3DS XL units, two copies of Pokemon, and a couple of other games, we hit gold status pretty easily.  The rewards have been announced.  I have until August 15, next Friday, to choose one.  But I cannot figure out which one to pick.

The choices are:

Gold Level 3DS Rewards

Gold Level 3DS Rewards

There are actually more choices on the list for Gold level rewards, but they are for the Wii U, and we haven’t been convinced that buying one is worthwhile yet, MarioKart 8 and the Luigi Death Stare not withstanding.

Having come to the world of Nintendo later in my life… I already had a computer when Atari crashed the video game market and avoided console gaming for years… a lot of the Nintendo classics are just names on a list for me.

Given the choice of these four games, I would probably go for Donkey Kong 3. I am not a big fan of old DK, so it would be mostly because I am at least familiar with the oeuvre of the big ape.  Throw barrels, kill plumber.  We call all related to that.

I have heard of Metroid… Nintedo fans tend to say that name in hushed tones and a sense of reverence while wishing for a perfect remake… but have no idea what it is actually about.  And the other two are completely opaque to me.

Basically, four blind choices.  So I am going to put it out there for a vote.  Which of these four titles should I get?

We shall see where that takes us.  Expound on your choice in the comments if you are passionate enough about it.

TAGN Theme Test

I was playing around with WordPress themes last night and came up with this one… which happens to be the same one I use for my other blog, Piano Black, with some different colors.

What do you think?

 

I’ve kept the old theme for nearly eight years.  Is it time for a change?

Addendum: For reference, you can see the old theme layout here.

Looking to the Steam Summer Sale for the Next Game

Our game of Civilization V goes on.  I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday.  Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become.  I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Remember Chuck Hestonia!

But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!”  A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through.  But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.

We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale.  While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing.  So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here.  Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation.  And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.

But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.

First, this is not the MMO group.  MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)

The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening.  Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.

And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient.  Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock.  So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.

With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)

Total War: Rome II

SGRome

Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option.  I know people who like the game.  Gaff has played through it.  I have played a couple of the past games in the series.  If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything.  I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four.  Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take.  But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.

Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale

Company of Heroes 2

SGCompanyOfHeroes2

I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II.  I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else.  As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match.  Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing.  And Gaff likes it.

Possible alternatives: The original Company of Heroes, the second Combat Mission series.

Driver: San Francisco

SGDriver

Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other.  Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other.  The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not.  Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.

Possible alternatives: Need for Speed: World, a billion other driving games

Boarderlands 2

SGBorderlands2

Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well.  Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key.  And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink.  But are we ready for a shooter?  And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?

Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator

SGArtemis

No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies.  This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it.  This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously.  Alcohol might be required.

Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?

Ticket to Ride

SGTicketToRide

I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list.  This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board.  It is one of my favorite games on the iPad.  But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage.  While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience.  So it has that going for it.  But are we up for board games?

Possible alternatives: Other digital version of board games such as Settlers of Catan or some Carcassonne variant.

StarCraft II

SGStarCraft2

As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II.  While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing.  It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.

Possible alternatives: The original StarCraft, something from the Command & Conquer series

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it.  The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine.  And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons.  The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.

Possible alternatives: Speak not to me about Supreme Commander, it is but a pale shadow of Total Annihilation… but maybe Planetary Annihilation when it ships.

Summing Up

So those are the choices that come to my mind.  I would certainly be interested in hearing about multiplayer experiences with any of these games, especially involving four players.

And, because I haven’t had a poll in a while, I will put one up so you can indicate your favorite pick without having to much around with the whole comment thing.

 

 

The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?

The question of the hour in our guild is, “What class should I level up to 90 with the Warlords of Draenor expansion?”  For some of us, it represents an opportunity to change up the group and play something new.  For others… well, me… who have changed up their character a couple of times already, it is still a chance to try something new after all these years without having to go through the work of catching up.

Through the years in Azeroth

Through the years in Azeroth

This question became all the more pressing when Blizzard announced that your free insta-90 boost would be available as soon as you pre-ordered the expansion. (If you pre-order the collector’s edition, you also get the pet and the mount and whatever else in-game they offer.)  Leaving aside the “that sure sounds like we won’t be getting WoD any time soon” aspect of the announcement, it seems like we could be granted our level 90 boost in the near future. (My pre-ordering as soon as it becomes an option seems per-ordained.  I am pre-pared… or something.)

So this seems like a perfect opportunity to bore people and start arguments by looking at the classes in World of Warcraft and my relationship with them.   And I might as well break them up into arbitrary categories to further horrify people.  So on with the debacle!

Already 90s

Classes out of the running for an insta-90 boost because I already have one at level 90, or will have one there before WoD ships. A look at what I guess I like in WoW.

Paladin – Back in March 2005, when I finally broke down and bought World of Warcraft, having been otherwise devoted to EverQuest II since November 2004, the first character I made was a dwarf paladin.

That was a mistake.  The paladin’s life was a hard one back then.  The only ranged attack you could pull with was limited to undead and demons.  Judgement was a strange beast.  Their epic mount quest was a serious chore, and no cheaper in the end for all the work.  Warriors were better tanks, priests were better healers, and just about anybody was better DPS.  The joke was that a paladin never dies, but neither do his foes.  Add in the fact that the snowy dwarven starter area that was the least interesting of the bunch and that I started out hating the dwarf character models and you might begin to understand why it took me some time to warm to WoW.  I deleted that character after not too long.

However, I did return to the class later, and stuck with it in the end.  Paladins have evolved over time and I have been happy enough playing one.  Picking up engineering as a profession filled in some of the class gaps back in the day.  I was always fond of the wrist mounted rocket launcher enchant that engineers could add.  The character I consider my “main” in the game is Vikund, my one and only paladin. (Ignore that low level blood elf! He means nothing!)  He was my first to level 60, 70, 80, 85, and 90.  He’s the guy, my “do all the things” character.  I don’t need another paladin.

Hunter – The go-to class for a lot of people when they want to solo.  I have always enjoyed the class, I have several on various servers.  If my pally was first to all those levels, my hunter, Tistann, was second.  He just hit level 90 this week.  I have always enjoyed the pet taming and interaction aspects of the class.  And while people often groan aloud when they see a beast mastery hunter show up in their Dungeon Finder group, you can be quite competitive with other DPS if you play right.  But I don’t need another one at level 90 just yet.

Druid – I think everybody has a class they are dumb for.  I would have told you that, for me, the class is hunters.  Then I noticed I had five druids over level 60, including two above level 80 on the same server in the same faction.  So as Earl has his warriors, and my mother has a collection of hunters, I have an army of druids.  There is a lot to like.  I tell people I have two druids on the same server so I can play all four druid specs… druids are so special that they get four specs… but I think I really just like flight form.  I jump off of high places just to invoke flight form mid-fall.  It is too cool.  But with two druids in the 80s, at least one of which will be level 90 before WoD drops, I don’t need to use my boost on this class.

The Mid-Level Blues

Classes I have worked on at various points, but which have never quite made it to level cap.

Death Knight – This seems to be cheating a bit as Death Knights start at level 55 and are close to 60 by the time they get done with their starter zone.  Mid-level at birth, depending on where you set the bar for “mid-level,” I never really thought much about DKs until I was pushing druid #2 through Outland and Northrend as a healer.  Then I noted how durable they were and figured that maybe this was a class even I could play the tank in.  So I rolled one up and he currently sits at level 64.  My main problem with him is that he is in 5th place after my pally, hunter, and two druids, so I do not get around to him very often.  But DKs totally seem like a class I could play up to 90… once the two druids are there… so perhaps it would be a waste to use an insta-90 on mine.

Priest – The first thing I rolled up when our old TorilMUD guild finally said, “screw this!” to EverQuest II, just as Kingdom of the Sky squelched onto the scene, and headed to WoW, was a priest.  This never quite worked out.  For me, a priest is a cleric in the D&D vein, wearing heavy armor, wielding a mace mostly for show, and dispensing heals while taking repeated punches to the face.  So it was in TorilMUD, EverQuest, and EverQuest II.

In WoW a priest is a holy guy that wears cloth vestments.  On what sort of Bizarro world does that make sense?

Plus we never really formed a group where I could be the healer, so my priest made it solo to about Stranglethorn Vale before I said, “To Hell with this!” and just focused on my pally and hunter.  The pally was the cleric I really wanted to play in any case.  Now though, with Dungeon Finder, having another healer around wouldn’t be a bad thing, and I am still pretty sure I wouldn’t want to level one up.  So there is possibility here.

Rogue – I actually rolled up a rogue for the instance group back in late 2006.  Blintz was going to be our DPS, lockpicker, and stealthy scout.  He is in at least one of the group shots at the top of the post.

And then as soon as the group hit 40, I swapped out Blintz for my paladin and barely ever played him again.  The rogue class and I aren’t very compatible.  Attacks are very positional, I never had a good feel for the skills, and I can never quite use stealth right.  These are things I also struggle with as a feral druid, but at least with the druid I can claim status as a backup tank and healer when Ula and Bung are blowing me away on the DPS chart.  So I am not sure being a level 90 rogue would change any of that.

Still, I keep thinking about him.  Every once in a while I will play him for a bit.  He has managed to make it to level 46 in the last six year.  But is a level a year really progress?

Never Got Very Far

And then there is everything else.

Warrior – I’ve rolled up any number of warriors over the years, but never found the time to focus on one.  Way back in the day there were drawbacks to being a warrior, at least if you didn’t have a healer along.  You needed potions, bandages, and lots of food around.  I chose a paladin to avoid all of that, and of course ended up with another set of problems.  Later on, when that was less of a big deal, I did tinker with warriors now and again.  But like the Death Knight, warriors were never high enough on my list to get enough play.  And the question remains, what would I do with one at level 90 is I had one?

Shaman – I recall leveling up a shaman once into the 20s, but I can’t remember when or on what server.  I think I was horde.  Maybe.  Clearly the class never stuck.  As with warriors, back in the day the class used to be a bit of a trial to get used to.  Later, with things smoothed out, it was simpler, but it still didn’t do anything I couldn’t already do, which is what you get when you play two classes that can do it all I guess.

Warlock – I rolled up a warlock once, but only played a couple of levels in.  This was back when warlocks were completely OP, as opposed to just being mostly OP.  Still, everybody I know who has a level cap warlock can burn stuff down like no other, so there is some allure there, even if I have never been good at the DPS caster role.  But if Bung decides he wants use his insta-90 boost to swap out his warlock and try something new, I might be up for the challenge.  The utility value of warlocks, with health stones, soul stones, and a variety of pets, is high enough that I would feel useful.  I’d just have to learn the class, though you could argue that I need to do so even with the classes I already have at level 90.

Mage – I do have a mage who is in the 30s.  He was part of the Worgen instance group we rolled up for Cataclysm.  I never really liked him all that much.  In part because of the Worgen thing… which I could stand until I found out the racial mount was just them running around on all fours… but also because of the “I’m not really a cloth wearing caster type,” which I have mentioned above.  I do not find the mage all that alluring as a class, so even if Ula decided to trade out, I am not sure I would step up to play one again.

Monk – And, finally, there is the latest class added to Azeroth.  I rolled one up and played it for a bit when we first jumped back into WoW last August, but wasn’t really fond of it, so I never bothered to get him out of the Pandaren starting area.  So I went and made a hunter… and a druid… because that is apparently how I roll.  The one thing that the monk has going for it is that it does fit my pattern of playing classes that can be all the roles.  Paladins and druids can play tank, healer, or DPS, and so can a monk.  If I play to that type, the monk should be good.  But, as I said, I didn’t enjoy the class when it started and, for no good reason, Pandaren monk tanks annoy me.  I cannot explain why.  So this is not a sure thing.

Make a Choice Already

So those are the options.  And, honestly, I am not sure what I will choose.  It likely won’t be until the very day the option becomes available… and maybe not even then.  There will be a point when I will press the button and do this, and I guess  I will just stew until then.

I will say that, at the moment, the leading contenders are the warlock, the monk, and the death knight.  My gut response way back when WoD was announced was a warlock.  But I could easily be swayed elsewhere.  I will be watching what other people say on the topic.  I see that Liore already has a post on this.  I expect that others will follow suit.

In the mean time, I’ll throw out a poll asking what you would do.  You can, of course, attempt to influence my decision in the comments.

My MMO Outlook for 2014

There are three posts I have done around this time of year for most of the last few years.  There is the looking back post, which I did for 2013 a ways back.  There is the predictions/questions/whatever sort of bigger picture post which I posted on the first of the year.

And then there is a look at what might launch in the coming year that could be of interest to me.  I usually do that one first because it is usually the easiest.  The other two, theoretically, take some thought, while that post is mostly about emotion.  What upcoming game speaks to me?  What will I have to buy on day one just to play it?

This year though, I am just not feeling much of that emotional tingle, the burning desire to stomp around on some new world.  The list of potential contenders did not spring immediately to mind.  Still, I march forward out of habit if nothing else.  Here is what I have.

5 – EverQuest Next Landmark

On the list because… I felt I needed five titles… sort of.

Ars Technica Reports...

For specific definitions of “MMO”

I am mostly uninterested in Landmark because it is billed as a tool not a game.  Not that tools can’t be fun.  I’ve spent the last 15 years working on development environments of one sort or another… tools, in essence… and have had more than my share of fun in doing so.  But for gaming time, I am not sure I am in the tool zone any more.  Somewhere between Pinball Construction Set (or Adventure Construction Set) and the level editor in StarCraft, I fell out of the desire to build levels and such.  I am pretty much just a consumer of content now, at least when it comes to me leisure time.

That said, SOE seems to be on something of an “It’s a dessert topping! No, it’s a floor wax!” riff when it comes to Landmark, so my lack of interest could change when the people who paid to get into the early user guinea pig test cycles start reporting back on what it really is.  Until then though, it is a very unlikely candidate for me in 2014.

4 – WildStar

A step ahead of Landmark by virtue of it being solidly in the “it’s a game!” category.

Wildstar_logo

WildStar is also the latest attempt to break out of the stock MMORPG template with some change-ups to combat and movement and special development paths that you can select for your character. The latter are supposed to represent the different Bartle types,  though I recall Bartle himself writing a bit about such an implementation representing a misunderstanding of what he meant with his types.  Explorer types will want to try all options, as an example, not just the explorer path.  It’s what makes them explorers.  Or something.

Otherwise, it looks to be very much a product of the last decade of MMO development.  Will its “different” bits be different enough to make it stand out while its “same” bits remain familiar enough to not scare people off?  And can it struggle out from the massive shadow cast by World of Warcraft?  And will NCSOFT race to put a bullet in its head if it turns out to be a “3 monther?”

WildStar is a title where I have no real desire yet to be in-game on day one, but I wouldn’t discount it as a title I try eventually.

3 – The Elder Scrolls Online

Now we’re getting into more likely territory.

I'm skeptical about that date...

I’m skeptical about that date…

Despite the reports of boring sameness, seeming to be another MMO in the post-WoW mold, and the annoying official acronym change from TESO to ESO, I actually feel like I might want to play this one.  Maybe even on day one despite… or maybe because of… my prediction about it.  I am guessing it will be a disaster on launch day… well, more so than your typical MMO launch.  But sometimes being part of the disaster can endear a game to you.

Anyway, why am I even looking at this, give the combo of alleged sameness and the potential for day one catastrophe?

I guess that the key here is that I cannot imagine that the developers of this MMO could be so daft as to create a game based on the Elder Scrolls franchise without looking deep within themselves to ask the most important question: Does it capture even a bit of the essence of the series?  Because that is the vital ingredient here, the winning proposition, the thing that would make people knock over their grandmother to grab a copy of the game.  If they can come up with something that feels just enough like Skyrim, but lets me play with my friends, then they will prevail . The only issue I have with Skyrim is that I cannot play with my friends.  Solve that, profit.

Of course, if they fail to do that, they are toast.

2 – EverQuest Next

On the list because, as of a date in early August of last year, this has been the official “next game” for me.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

Will Firiona Vie make it to 2014?

Even after several months of SOE trying to beat any enthusiasm out of me by almost exclusively talking up Landmark while relegating the actual freaking game to inane roundtable discussions on topics like whether or not female dwarves should have beards and what color barbarian toe jam should be rendered in, this is still the only upcoming MMO I am actually really looking forward to at this time.

Of course, part of that is no doubt the stunning lack of tangible information available about the game.  Between the inane, like the beards, and the broad stroke terms, like “sandbox,” and the promise of Storybricks technology and voxels and what not, there are huge gaps in which one can build castles in the sky founded on hopes, dreams, and aspirations that might not enter into the reality of the game when it ships.

But, even now, knowing all the gaps, it is still the game I lust for.

Which is a pity, because I cannot imagine it being in any sort of playable state in 2014.  Still, if it shows up, I am there.

1 – Warlords of Draenor

This one, this is the gimme.  The default choice.  The Meryl Streep nomination.

The New Expansion

The New Expansion

Unless something radical happens, this is the one game… well, expansion to a game, because frankly I couldn’t even come up with five NEW MMOs I would consider… that I know I will be picking up this year.  Maybe even the collector’s edition this time around.

Yes, I know, for every new feature in Warlords of Draenor there is going to be a dozen re-skinned or re-used items and that they are pulling out the time travel gimmick yet again and that we’ll be fighting a bunch of orcs… the same thing we do every night, Pinky.  I’m not even bursting at the seams, “gotta have it now!” excited about this expansion.  I’m content to let show up in good time.

But I didn’t end up back playing the 9 year old fantasy MMORPG (along side the 10 year old internet spaceships game) because they don’t know how to make a smooth, comfortable, playable game with plenty of attractive rides/treadmills for me to while away the hours on with my friends.  Yes, it isn’t the early days any more, or even the 2006 heyday of classic WoW, but I am back and have found I like it.  And I expect that I will like Warlords of Draenor as much if not more.  Go boring old me.

And Into 2014…

The new year is upon us, and what I say at the start of a year doesn’t always come to pass by the end.  At the beginning of 2013, where I lumped my predictions and outlook into a single post… hey I was in Hawaii at the time… I said I would “finish” Rift and and make it to tier 8 in World of Tanks.  Didn’t happen.  In past years I have also declared myself for such titles as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Neverwinter, neither of which ever gained a lot of traction with me.  So this is just the usual stake in the ground, declaring the lay of the land as I see it today, not knowing what tomorrow might bring.

And since, in looking back on these sorts of posts, I always seem to end them with a poll, I will keep with tradition, adding in a couple more titles that did not make my list.  Which of these will you likely play in 2014?

Four Space Operas and a Funeral

Another in my series of Sunday posts to clear out my backlog of started (but not finished… not even close in most cases) posts about books I have read.

This one follows from a grand idea I had for a post which I have been kicking around for a couple of years now.  I was going to do a mighty compare and contrast post about four space opera science fiction series that I had read over the years.

SpaceOperaSelection

The problem turned out to be in the final word of that previous paragraph, “years.”  As in, it has been many years since I have read some of these books.  My idea just wasn’t viable without my going back and re-reading a whole pile of books.

So my back-up plan is to lay out a very basic summary of each series in the order in which I read them, so oldest (and most vague) memories first.  Then I will hang a poll at the end to let people vote on which series they might recommend and call it a day.  So let’s get started.

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

Summary: Follows (mostly) the life of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, the physically handicapped son of a powerful noble in a down-on-its luck empire.  Think Tyrion Lannister in space.  In fact, aside from a better relationship with his father, that analogy is surprisingly apt, and since the series kicked off in 1986, it pre-dates Tyrion.  Call Tyrion Lannister a medieval Miles Vorkosigan.

Highs:  I read it so long ago… this is where my comparison idea really fell down… it is hard to remember.  I have a positive mental image of the books.

Lows: I didn’t keep the books for very long, so I clearly felt, at some point, they were not worth re-reading.  Maybe they felt too contrived?

Honor Harrington Saga by David Weber

Summary: Honor Harrington, a female officer in the Royal Manticore Navy, rises through the ranks via brains and skill.

Highs: Early stories are good, tight space sagas.  Technology and politics are believable.  She has a cat.  I actually re-read On Basilisk Station recently, and it was still good.

Lows: Series evolves from external foes to internal politics and gets dull.  I didn’t make it through the fifth book, which was the latest in the series when I read it.

The RCN/Lt. Leary Series by David Drake

Summary: Follows the careers of, and the friendship between, Lt. Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy, in a series of adventures inspired by Patrick O’Brein’s Aubrey/Maturin series. (Which I have also read from end to end.) 18th century attitudes and politics in the era of space travel.

Highs:  Fun books, interesting approach to FTL space travel in order to give it a feel of the age of sail.

Lows: Series doesn’t shake out and settle down until the third book.  We spend, in my opinion, far too much time with Adele reflecting on her past and her relationships with the other characters in the book.

The Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell

Summary: John “Black Jack” Geary is awakened after 100 years in stasis sleep in an escape pod to find the war that was just starting when his ship was destroyed is still going on.  Picked up on the way to what was supposed to be a war winning attack, he is there to see it turn into a trap.  The commanding admiral puts Geary in charge as he goes to his death.  Afterwards, Geary keeps command of the fleet, being the most senior captain by many decades, and tries to get everybody home safely while most of the other captains try to call bullshit on his right to the command position.

Highs: Well thought out and consistent space travel and combat.  Political and personal entanglements, as well as feelings of doubt, guilt, and anger, that Geary gets into feel real.

Lows: Carboard cut-out bad guys and seemingly endless passages about honor and responsibility and sacrifice in the name of the cause plague the series.  But far and away the biggest negative for me is the idea that a commander with pre-war ideas and tactics can show up, apply those ideas and tactics (which everybody has forgotten), and win.  That is pretty much war in reverse of reality, where pre-war tactics go out the door after the first few bloody engagements and new tactics and counter-tactics are constantly developed.  Armies and Navies evolve in war or they lose.  They don’t regress to “run straight at them” blood baths.  Even WWI, well known for such “run straight at them” tactics was full of attempts to get around that.

Legacy of the Aldenata by John Ringo

Summary: A long running, galaxy spanning war is headed towards Earth, and the alien alliance on the defensive sees the human race as a good chance to pull their irons out of the fire.  Our military prowess and their technology and production abilities, its a match made in the heavens.  Literally.  All these races were genetic creations of the Aldenata, a very advance race that has since buggered off to nobody-knows-where, leaving their toys to run amok.

Highs: Excellent depth into the military, technological, political, and social aspects of this sort of upheaval, doubly so when the aliens hit Earth.  There are few simple answers, and Earth’s allies clearly do not have their best interests at heart.  And Bun-bun.

Lows: John Ringo hates city dwellers and will murder them wholesale given half a chance, a theme which recurs through his works. (That is why this book is “The Funeral.”)  But anybody who lives in the country or on a farm possesses the wisdom of the ages and an illegal arms cache that would put many third world countries to shame.  Civilians in general aren’t worth fighting for, but the military does it because honor, duty, country and so on.  Series goes on forever.  Easy to lose track of who belongs to which secret underground organization.

You Rate Them

Those are my basic recollections.  As expected, the more recent my reading, the more detail I recall.  You should not read anything into the fact that I have more lows than highs for these books.  Things that work tend to just flow into the mix, while things that do not tend to fester and thus become more memorable.  I would recommend them all, at least for those in search of an escapist space opera.

Now for the poll.  Which of these series would you recommend?

As usual, there is the comments section below to add in what you might think of any of these or to call me out on the low quality or inaccuracy of any of my brief summaries.

Google Reader is No More – Where Have You Gone?

Thank you for stopping by.

Google Reader has been discontinued. We want to thank all our loyal fans. We understand you may not agree with this decision, but we hope you’ll come to love these alternatives as much as you loved Reader.

Sincerely,

The Google Reader team

Frequently-asked questions

What will happen to my Google Reader data?

All Google Reader subscription data (eg. lists of people that you follow, items you have starred, notes you have created, etc.) will be systematically deleted from Google servers. You can download a copy of your Google Reader data via Google Takeout until 12PM PST July 15, 2013.

Will there be any way to retrieve my subscription data from Google in the future?

No — all subscription data will be permanently, and irrevocably deleted. Google will not be able to recover any Google Reader subscription data for any user after July 15, 2013.

Why was Google Reader discontinued?

Please refer to our blog post for more information.

Google Reader is now officially gone.  The above is all that is left at the URL.  No reprieve was forthcoming, though you still can download your feed list until July 15.

I swapped over to The Old Reader last week.  Among other things, it has the ability to create an RSS feed of stories I flag, which I put in the side bar here.  And you can access the service through a nice iOS reader called Feeddler.  However, with Google Reader finally gone, a lot of people are now rushing out to find an alternative, so performance is really, really slow today, when it works at all.  I am essentially feedless now.

And I am not sure they will stick around.  They are asking for funding, but then require you to join another service to donate… or you can use Bitcoin… which simply isn’t going to happen in my case.  I already have my financial information out in too many locations as it is.

But now that Google Reader is gone, I can have my final poll and ask where people ended up.  The last one showed that most people hadn’t changed over yet.  They are probably doing that today.

So what RSS reader have you moved to?

If you are still looking for an alternative there are a few articles out there comparing them.