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Mika Hirvonen
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Mika Hirvonen

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CCP's other VR game is just slightly less ambitious than the Valkyrie. Just a bit.
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Mika Hirvonen

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I also finished Charles Stross' latest book in the Laundry series, the Annihilation Score. The series has always been a mix of spy thrillers and eldritch horror; In both, lone antiheroes try to stop powers beyond their control and understanding from destroying or subverting the world they hold dear. Until now, the focus has been on the eldritch part, with the protagonist Bob Howard fighting unspeakable horrors and the cultists who serve them. This time the focus is on the bureaucratic aspect.

The book continues straight where the previous one, the Rhesus Chart, left off. The coven of vampiric investment bankers has joined the Laundry, Bob's boss Angleton sacrificed himself to stop an elder vampire and Bob just barely avoided getting himself and his now-vampiric ex from being killed by his wife's demon-slaying violin. But this time Bob gets the bit part while his wife, Dominique O'Brien, takes the center stage, both figuratively and literally. Of the two, she is the one that the Laundry calls when the creepy crawlies need exterminating. And the stars are almost right for them to come out of the woodwork en masse. Paranormal powers are on a rapid rise, and a high-profile incident at Trafalgar Square involving the Mayor and a superpowered pervert trickster puts Dr. O'Brien squarely in the spotlight. She is chosen to start a new public agency to catalog, monitor and either recruit or detain anyone showing symptoms of superpowers. To make things worse, whatever demon bound into her violin is getting stronger, even invading her dreams. And then someone deep in the bureaucracy throws in a kicker; Her first two underlings in the brand-new organization are the two people she dislikes the most: Bob's ex, the vampiric investment banker Mhari Murphy. And Bob's US liaison and paramour from a previous assignment, the mermaid Ramona Random. At least the fourth member is an actual police officer, Superintendent Jim Grey, also known as the superhero Officer Friendly.

The horror this time comes from the bureaucracy itself. The threat is real, but Her Majesty's Government is wholly unprepared to deal with it. The Laundry can sort out messes silently, but O'Brien's new agency has to deal with things in broad daylight and survive both public and private scrutiny. Bob is of no help and the unsatiable bloodlust of her violin keeps getting stronger and stronger. The sharpest minds in the government are demanding the capture of a supervillain on the loose with the implied threat that of O'Brien cannot handle it, they will give the job to someone else with much more experience in law enforcement.. and much less experience in the occult. And all of that has to be dealt with while building the entire organization from scratch. Sink or swim.

I really like the new viewpoint, and especially O'Brien's interactions with her new coworkers. And even the occult is different this time; Bob usually deals with the occult in a high-tech way; Occultism is just applied mathematics, so you can cast spells with a smartphone or draw up electrical circuits for summoning circles. The occult threats O'Brien deals with are old-school; The violin of course, but she also tussles with a superpowered neo-Nazi and his counterpart, a besieged Muslim summoning a djinn. And then there's the Mandate, who will probably make more appearances in later books.
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Mika Hirvonen

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I'm now done with Ernest Kline's latest book, Armada. Ready Player One already made it clear that Kline considers the ability to recite geek culture minutiae from memory to be as important to geek credibility as being a skilled player. Armada continues on that idea. It doesn't build on it. Even calling it derivative would be giving it too much credit; While it acknowledges that everything in it is cribbed from other works, it really doesn't do anything interesting with it.

The plot is a rehash of Ender's Game, the Last Starfighter and a pinch of Excession. And if you didn't get all those references, Armada definitely isn't for you. And even if you did, the nonstop references will just make you groan. Zack Lightman, a bored uber-geek with anger management issues, spots a craft from his favourite game while daydreaming and looking out of the classroom's window. After raiding his dead father's extensive memorabilia collection, he finds his old notebook, detailing a conspiracy that involves tracking videogame players and inserting alien references to movies and other pop culture. Unsurprisingly, the conspiracy theory was 100% correct and he is suddenly whisked away to join his favourite videogame army for real. After all, he is in the top 10 and has been unwittingly been trained to pilot drones for his entire life. His best friend, the millionaire game shop owner, was a secret agent assigned to monitor him. He soon acquires a hot punk hacker girlfriend before being reunited with his not-so-dead father, the uberest of all geeks and a general in the anti-invasion army. And together they stop the invasion, save the world, usher it into a new golden age. The end.

The book seems to be written in the mindset that slavishly repeating tropes from your favourite works will somehow infect your work with their inherent goodness. So to make your work the best possible, you need every single reference you can shove into it. It doesn't even attempt to derive what was good in any of them, let alone build on them. It doesn't even work as a wish fulfillment story, because the reader will at best feel envious towards the outcast-turned-hero. And at worst, want him to fail. Nor does it work as a cruel awakening; Even if the titular Armada is overwhelming, the war sections are so short that the dread of imminent annihilation doesn't kick in. Instead of showing, it has characters telling how scared they are. With it's merciless training sections, Ender's Game implied better how high the stakes were. And it even addressed the dehumanizing aspect of treating your opponent as just pixels on the screen, long before it became a real-life problem. Zack here is not traumatized at all, even when he realizes that last night's "special mission" was an actual attempt in genocide. So much wasted potential.
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Armada makes even less distinction between real combat and simulations than Ender's Game does. At least it had the zero-G room and the commander's interface.  In Armada, the video games are the main controls for the drones. The protagonist of course gets a top-of-the-line rig with a high-powered PC, flight stick + yoke combo and a VR helmet (Oculus Rift, of course). But lesser-ranked players also use game consoles and even smartphones. They even make a point in importing all of the users' preferences to the military-grade control stations, complete with the players' choice of snacks and background music.
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Mika Hirvonen

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The first fleet operation in my brand-new Scimitar logistics ship was a dual POS shoot in one of our border systems.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to practice maintaining capacitor stability with it's four remote shield emitters. Fortunately, the "battle" did have plenty of capital ships for screenshotting purposes.

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Steve here was the first Titan ever destroyed in combat. There had been ingame events before where the Titans were piloted by CCP staff, but after a string of abuses of GM powers and the inability to scale, the entire events department was decommissioned. And in a mature economy, there are players who can afford to blow up their own Titans just for charity. But that was not the case with Steve; He was blown up in real combat, fair and square.

https://beta.eve-kill.net/kill/-9998951/

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Another day, another POS shoot. Even when the POSes were in the enemy's home system, nobody showed up to defend them.

Of course, we did have plenty of firepower at hand to discourage them from doing so. A bunch of Tengus, several Nagflars, a variety of carriers and two supercarriers: A Nyx and an Aeon. Someone had already disabled the guns too, so there was nothing to do as a logistics ship. Except to take screenshots, of course.

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After a few uneventful mining/ratting fleets, someone finally took the bait.

A fleet was called to improve the industry and military activity indexes on one of our border systems to reduce the time our fleet commanders had to be on standby in case anyone attacked. Like before, a part of the fleet consisted of mining ships, with the rest being combat ships. The miners found some rocks, and the combat ships went off to kill some NPCs. I was assigned to babysit the miners.

Eventually, I spotted a Gallente Proteus T3 cruiser using my directional scan. We use mostly Caldari Tengus, so it's appearance was suspicious. Eventually it warped to our asteroid field and started engaging the same mining Rokh we had in the previous mining fleet too. Since myself and an another Scythe were on site, he wasn't having much success penetrating the Rokh's shields. Shortly afterwards the list of players in the system (A.K.A. Local chat channel) showed about a dozen of new neutral players. They warped to their scout, all in various T3 ships. A classic ambush.

On them, that is. Our Feroxes were still in the system and arrived right on the heels of the enemy. Their fleet commander realized that an easy gank just got a lot more dangerous and warped the fleet away. Well, most of them. Our tacklers had immobilized three of their ships. The first Proteus, a Minmatar Loki and an Amarrian Legion. We only lost one Stiletto interceptor, worth around 25 million versus their 2 billion total.

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Have him in circles
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Mika Hirvonen

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The enemy had managed to take control of a system in a nearby region from one of our friends. The TCU was reinforced earlier, so it was our job to mop up.

The only snag in the whole thing was that because this system was the only one that the enemy owned, it automatically got assigned as their capital, so they got a nice bonus to their activity index and therefore increased the time we needed to capture each command node. But as usual, the enemy was not keen on defending their new turf.

The first contact with the enemy was an Ishtar Heavy Assault cruiser, but since it was travelling alone I don't think that the enemy had any organized resistance in mind. The fleet caught up with it and blew it up mere moments after I entered the correct system, so there were no action screenshots to be had. The Ishtar did have a 100+ million Entosis Link II, which was quickly put into use. It's more difficult to fit into a ship than the T1 version, but it's also much faster.

After we had caught up with the Ishtar, reports started arriving of an enemy Destroyer gang moving in the constellation. The fleet hurried back, and we chased them around the system a bit. Eventually they tried to engage one of our Entosis ships. Unfortunately they chose the one where the Entosis Link was fitted to a Drake. The Caldari "flying brick" battlecruiser may not be popular in PvP due to it's slow speed and complete reliance on missiles, but as the nickname might imply, it can take a beating. In PVE, it can even handle level 4 missions, although it's damage output starts to suffer when compared to it's big brother, the Raven.

Speaking of Ravens.. One of the newer members had brought a Raven to a Ferox fleet. A battleship in a cruiser fleet can slow the whole fleet down, but that wasn't an insurmountable issue; If he pays attention and moves independently of the rest of the fleet, he can keep up and not slow down fleet warps. He eventually got annoyed, started arguing with people (including the fleet commander) and eventually posted a link to a picture of a beheading. The fleet commander decided to teach him a lesson and ordered the entire fleet to open fire on his (only) ship.

Lessons were learnt and us logistics pilots patched up his ship afterwards.

Right, the enemy destroyers. My guess is that they expected to find only frigates that they could oneshot out of the sky, but a Drake could take their fire all day. So when the Feroxes caught up with them, it ended quickly. They managed to shoot down one of our tacklers, an Atron and tried to kill one of our Vigils, but the Vigil managed to limp back and into range of our shield emitters. We got two of them and their tackler, and they stayed well away from us for the rest of the encounter. We captured the rest of the command nodes without any further incidents, installed our own TCU and went home.

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Mika Hirvonen

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My market capital has passed 11 billion, and progress has definitely started to slow down. There are still a few products that produce 300+ million profit per week (assuming that you corner the market), but most of them are now in the 100-million range or even lower. I'll have to come up with something less cumbersome than my Excel spreadsheet if I have to have dozens of different products in each shipment.

In other news, one of the directors responsible for the Burn Amarr event is scaling down his responsibilities, so he organized one more event for old times sake. I don't know the full statistics yet, but I personally participated in 36 kills for a total damage of 157 billion. Because this was a minor event, we had less people attending. But on the other hand, this allowed the fleet commander to scale up to Brutixes and Taloses on some of the kills. Or scale down into Atrons when someone with a profound misunderstanding of freighter fitting showed up. Supposedly the Minmatar Tornado is also a cost-effective ganking ship, but we didn't use any this time.

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Mika Hirvonen

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Today's fleet took us all the way to Omist via one of the unique systems in New Eden: Thera.

Thera is a huge, 300 AU diameter system in wormhole space, and it serves as a highway of sorts. It always has wormholes open to several different regions, so if you have the capacitor power to make all of those long warps, you can literally be at the other end of the galaxy in minutes.

Because the inhabitants of Omist were more interested in bubbling every single gate than attacking us, we headed back to Thera and camped the stations there for a while. We did kill a 800 million Gila, but he and his buddy did kill four of our tacklers trying to keep him pinned until the big guns (and myself) got there.

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Mika Hirvonen

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Today's screenshots are going to look slightly different. I decided to log on to the Singularity test server and take screenshots of the memorial to Eve Online's biggest battle in the B-R5RB system. But when I warped to the memorial, the client showed only a black screen and crashed.

Eventually I reduced graphical settings step by step and managed to get in. Apparently High shader settings or High texture details crash the game, even though I can get 60 FPS anywhere else. I guess I could visit the memorial for Steve, the first destroyed Titan in the game. Maybe one of those wrecks will load properly.

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Mika Hirvonen

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Sansha Kuvakei is one of the more eccentric figures in Eve Online. Disillusioned by the first Gallente-Caldari War, this industrial mogul set out to found a nation based on peace and cooperation. He succeeded.

Using advanced cybernetics, he created subjects known as True Slaves; They have the efficiency and obedience of a machine with a human's creativity. And with sadistic ship designs that combine Amarrian lasers with Caldari shields, he constantly "recruits" people from entire constellations at a time to his cause. And rumor has it that he even managed to "recruit" from the elusive Jove Empire and acquire some of their highly advanced tehcnology in the process.

Alas, gameplay-wise Sansha's Nation is much less impressive than in the backstory. Sure, the ships are powerful, unique.. and very, very expensive. But the Sansha heartland deep in the Stain region is just like any other space. There's no Sansha stargates or Sansha stations, just an assortment of the same models that you see back in Empire space. Even the missions are similar; The only difference is that you might be fighting CONCORD instead of other pirates. The Angel Cartel and the Guristas have their epic mission arcs, but Mr. Kuvakei doesn't have one yet. Not that I'd ever manage to complete it; The Stain region is deep in the south, and the way there is controlled by a cornucopia of alliances who would probably shoot me on sight. The test server didn't have that problem, though.

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Mika's Collections
Kaksi suurta salia on varattu efektipläjäyksille ja muille suuren budjetin leffoille, ja neljässä pienemmässä salissa pyöritetään tarpeeksi pienemmänkin profiilin elokuvia.
Atmosphere: Very GoodDecor: Very GoodService: Very Good
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
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