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Climate, Air Pollution and Cancellations – March 3 to 12 in Bucharest

Not much will be happening here, or anywhere for that matter, over the coming weeks, and likely the coming months as well, but before the measures taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus caused the events already planned to be canceled and made any new plans pretty much impossible, there were two more events that did take place and I wanted to mention. Since I hadn’t quite recovered from the flu yet, I didn’t attend either, but I do have some information about the protest that took place on March 4, at least. About the debate about pollution and the climate crisis that took place the previous evening, I can’t say I know much of anything, but it was supposed to be between 8 PM and 10 PM, in a bar that the regulars from this leftist group seem to gather in, so I guess I’ll just mention that and move on.

The protest was again organized by Declic, this time at the Ministry of Environment, starting at 1 PM. The reason was once again the level of air pollution in Bucharest, after the limits were exceeded even more than ten times in the early hours of March 2 and the application that’s supposed to alert subscribers about emergencies didn’t even send any messages. This means it wasn’t just another protest taking place during the day, but also one on very short notice, so the organizers were understandably concerned that hardly anyone will show up and the gas masks and signs they brought will remain unused. However, this time around there were dozens of participants, so they quickly ran out of gas masks, the message sent after the event stating that they had 17 of them, and none of the cloud-shaped signs were left unused either.
The media was definitely interested in the event, television stations reporting live and quite a number of articles being published. That would have made it even worse if only a few people would have showed up, as it tends to happen when protests take place at such hours, during a weekday, but this time there were enough participants for the reporters to work with, the resulting impact being much greater than the turnout itself would have generated, seeing as dozens of people doesn’t actually mean much on its own.
Either way, the representatives of Declic met with the Minister, delivering the signatures gathered on their petition demanding the rapid modernization of the air quality monitoring system all over the country and real-time reports sent to citizens as well as to the European Environment Agency. According to the report sent by Declic, there was a “tense moment” when they pointed out that the institutions responsible should have sent notifications, including to the Minister, about the conditions that existed Sunday night, but otherwise the activists stated that they were pleased with the proposed plans, which include modifying the air quality monitoring application in order to notify citizens when the pollution exceeds the limits, adding 15 more monitoring stations by the end of September and an additional 16 until next year, and setting up a center tasked with creating three-day air quality forecasts, similar to weather forecasts. Mere promises don’t count though, so activists said that they’ll keep an eye on the actual actions that will be taken and further meetings were scheduled, starting with one on March 10, about the air quality monitoring sensors. I’m not seeing anything about how that went though.

Other than that, after a first tree planting event that took place on March 7 and was mostly a publicity stunt, politicians, including the President, taking part, the campaign should have started on March 14. Actually, since the massive campaign announced by the Ministry of Environment should have started on March 21, I guess that’s only the campaign once again sponsored by OMV, which is unfortunate to say the least, but nevertheless no reason to refuse to do a good thing. However, after the volunteers had all signed up for those March 14 events, the NGOs organizing them made changes to their plans and took measures to increase the safety of the participants and follow the regulations and recommendations enacted as a result of the new coronavirus starting to spread in Romania as well, and people were even asked to sign up for the March 21 events, announcements came that all such events were canceled. These announcements only came from the NGOs participating in OMV’s campaign, and I for one received nothing from the Ministry of Environment, be it information about any event set to take place or a cancellation announcement, after having also signed up for their campaign, but I can only assume that the part of the Ministry’s campaign involving volunteers was canceled as well.
This seems to have been a decision made pretty much on the spot, since I first saw messages asking people to sign up for the March 21 events, which were supposed to be the main ones taking place this spring, on March 9, then the messages were repeated the next day, only for the cancellations to be announced on March 11. It was said that the campaign was delayed until autumn, but since such campaigns take place each spring and autumn, it only means that the spring campaign was canceled, at least as far as volunteers are concerned, since I saw that another participating NGO, not the one organizing the event I had signed up for, stated that they’ll work with foresters to plant as many trees as possible without the use of volunteers. That’s something, at least, but it still strikes me as once again sacrificing long-term projects for a short-term crisis, and I was hoping that they’ll at the very least organize some urban tree planting events, with few volunteers in each location and no need for this kind of transportation, involving some 50 people being stuck in each bus for hours. But I guess there will be no such thing either…

While this isn’t something that actually belongs in such reports, I’ll also mention here that part of the Botanical Garden’s Spring Cleaning was canceled as well. It was supposed to take place on March 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, but things changed after the first weekend. Unfortunately, I decided that it was too soon after recovering from the flu, so I didn’t go then, and on March 12 there was an announcement stating that the events scheduled for March 14 and 15 are canceled and volunteers can no longer sign up for those scheduled for March 21 and 22. The announcement also stated that a final decision about these last two days will be taken later, and I guess some may be thinking that a small event, with only the few who had signed up in advance, might be possible, but the situation is only getting worse, so the chances of that happening seem pretty much zero to me, as do those of the activities being rescheduled, even in April. So it seems that I won’t be attending any such events this spring…

Written by Cavalary on March 14, 2020 at 4:03 AM in United We Save | 0 Comments

ESET, Lionheart and Recovering from the Flu

Tuesday I finally got around to restoring from that backup, which seems to have worked just fine, and the next day I started another trial of ESET Antivirus. At least they made that initial scan faster, lasting “only” a little over seven hours this time around, but the main thing I want to know is whether it still causes those issues with Vivaldi, of course. Since I’m not going to many sites anymore, I can’t say I tested it so far though, and if what I ended up thinking last time, that it’s likely something that happens after the first reboot, is true, a test wouldn’t be relevant at the moment anyway, since I haven’t rebooted yet after installing ESET Antivirus again.
However, one particularly unfortunate effect I’m noticing at the moment is that Internet Explorer won’t load my site anymore, displaying that message that seems to indicate that it doesn’t support the security protocol used. Everything else that worked before still does, but my site doesn’t, so I have to use Vivaldi even here, when I was thinking that I’ll eventually get to a point where my site may be the only one I’ll still use Internet Explorer for, and actually separate it from regular browsing in that manner. It’s quite clearly something caused by ESET, since it didn’t happen in the time that passed between restoring from that backup and installing it, but I even tried to disable protocol filtering and the problem remained, so I’m not sure what’s going on, or why does it just affect my site. It may change after a reboot, if it’s true that browsers may react differently to having ESET installed after the first reboot, but seeing as I only reboot when necessary, I don’t know when that will happen, or even if it’ll happen before the trial will end, seeing as there are no more Windows updates now either.

The night before restoring from that backup, I installed Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader. Started it that night as well, but then I restarted it the next day, after reinstalling it after restoring from that backup… And Thursday I restarted it again, replacing one tagged skill. The character is still poor, I’m very uncertain about my choices and in fact quite sure that I should have made at least one other different choice, but I’ll see how things work this way I guess. It’s very frustrating that you need to make those decisions from the beginning and can’t fix things later, and that choices made later don’t apply retroactively, and also that there seem to be so many ways to lose experience, but I also know that the second half of the game is poor and pretty much only suited for melee characters, and mine isn’t and won’t be, so it’ll suck either way… But what sucks at the moment is that I even found equipment that grants additional skill points when you level up and can’t afford it before gaining another level, which is just the sort of thing that makes me stop playing, so I’m just hoping I’ll either find a solution or manage to get myself to push through, despite losing that skill point now.

As for the flu, I seem to be recovering quite well. Even last Saturday I was feeling a bit better, though my body decided to make some mess by cleaning some of the plumbing in the morning, as I was sleeping, probably a year or more after this last happened. The next morning I found myself sweating a lot, which was probably a sign of healing, that feeling of having a fever being mostly gone during the day, and less bad during the evening and night, which also allowed me to finish and, since dad was taking a bath, post the review for Ascension to the Throne, also submitting it on MobyGames after a very quick check, minutes before midnight. Had more stuff to blow and spit out though, getting even worse at night… And then most of it once again seemed gone when I woke up the next day, but the fever again seemed worse, also leading to that feeling that my brain wasn’t working as it should, and my throat was sore as well. The temperature wasn’t actually that high though, since I took it twice during the day and saw 37.4°C and 37.5°C.
Felt better after eating and taking the pills that night though, so the next day I got up at 12:10 PM, spent some time on-line, since dad wasn’t here, and went out at 2 PM. While I’ve admittedly been going to bed around 5:15 AM these days, even 5:30 AM Thursday morning, I’ve been getting up around 3 PM, and usually actually sleeping until then, during this period, but I wanted to leave earlier if I meant to buy some things, and the fact that I was back at 4:05 PM allowed me to quickly restore from that backup then as well, rushing to get past the point of no return before changing my mind. My throat was sore, most likely having the worst day it had during this period, but I had no fever anymore, so I walked to Carrefour, put those things I drop off at Kaufland in a cabinet, had a look inside, saw one red cabbage that looked better and tried to sort of hide it under the others, not wanting to buy it then. After that, grabbed those things from the cabinet, walked to the nearby Kaufland, dropped them off there, and found more of those yogurts, not only expiring later but also having those free servings of cereals for those with 10% fat as well. Seeing as I hadn’t eaten any of those bought last time, I could have waited and purchased all of them then, but I couldn’t have known any of this at the time. Either way, got a few more of those, plus some more black radishes and some onions, had no problems with the self-checkout, then still found that cabbage when I returned to Carrefour, so I bought that as well, though at first I found I was missing 0.01 RON to have exact change, so I broke off a few bits as I wandered around a little longer and weighed it again.

And yes, since I’m recovering, yesterday I ran, so I didn’t skip any week because of this flu. The alarm woke me up at 2:30 PM, and I had the usual stuff, the yogurt being one of those “creamy” ones with 10% fat and the cereals one of the free servings that came with them, plus almonds and some old raisins in chocolate as something sweet. Went out at 4:30 PM, just having an undershirt under the t-shirt, the reported temperature being 16°C, and it was sunny as well, though some clouds came later. There was some wind early on, occasionally bothering me a little during the first two laps, but it died down after that.
Went for 16 kilometers and didn’t push too hard, wondering whether I’ll be able to stay under 1:20 at first but realizing after the second sector that there was no chance of that, so I was just thinking of the similar run at the end of the flu I had two years ago, and I ended up close to a minute and a half faster, the time being 1:22:30, with sector times of 4:30, 5:20, 6:08, 4:43, 5:20, 6:15, 4:50, 5:25, 6:16, 4:55, 5:34, 6:28, 4:53, 5:36 and 6:17, making for lap times of 15:58, 16:18, 16:31, 16:57 and 16:46. Did aim to stay under 16 minutes at least on the first lap, and just barely managed that, then the target was 16:30 for the next two, or 16:20 for the second in order to allow 16:40 for the third, then 17:00 for the fourth, in order to be able to take it even easier on the last one if needed. So I just barely managed to hit the better target for lap two as well, gained a few more seconds compared to the new target on the next, just managed the target for the fourth as well, but could be a bit faster on the fifth, not needing to make use of that time I had gained until then.
It was quite crowded though. It seemed to clear on the last lap, but until then I kept having to weave and go the long way around. Also had to move quickly a few times, when those who were in front of me, going in the same direction, blocked the side I meant to pass them on just when I got there, one of these situations being unintentionally caused by a fellow runner who heard me and tried to clear the way on the inside, but did so just when I had also changed direction, meaning to pass him on the outside. There were roadblocks as well, I think the first one on sector two of lap one, when two groups coming from opposite directions passed each other right in front of me and I had to take to the grass and go around a garbage can to get through. Then there was a double roadblock I had to pick my way through right at the end of what I believe was lap two, though it’s also possible it was in fact lap three, and smaller ones on sectors one and three of, if I remember correctly, lap four, requiring me to slow down a little. Otherwise, coughed a few times, and there was one moment, early on, when it felt like the stuff was blocking the air from getting into at least one lung, but that got better, as did my right hip, which gave a few warnings on sector two of lap two, the right knee being the problem, starting to hurt towards the end of that same sector and not only not getting better, but actually getting a fair bit worse from the start of lap five. Still, I just pushed through it, even on that sector one of lap five, since I wanted to make sure I’ll stay under five minutes, and then again on the last sector, though I probably allowed myself to take it a bit easier on the one in between.

Written by Cavalary on March 7, 2020 at 8:07 PM in Personal | 0 Comments

SETI@home Entering "Hibernation"

After 21 years of existence, SETI@home will cease sending work units and enter “hibernation” on March 31. According to the announcement, “the web site and the message boards will continue to operate” and it is possible that work will be distributed again in the future, if “UC Berkeley astronomers will find uses for the huge computing capabilities of SETI@home for SETI or related areas like cosmology and pulsar research”. Also according to that announcement, the decision came as a result of “diminishing returns”, after having “analyzed all the data [they] need for now”, and the amount of work required “to manage the distributed processing of data” when they “need to focus on completing the back-end analysis of the results [they] already have, and writing this up in a scientific journal paper”. However, I’m far from the only one thinking that the recent database problems played a large part, and in the discussion you can see confirmations of that, as well as other factors, coming even from some of those directly involved.
In truth, those problems seem to be the only likely explanation for the timing. I mean, yes, the entire SETI program has been starved of funds for many years and, especially recently, SETI@home seemed to be severely lacking personnel as well, but while it all seemed to be hanging by a thread, they always seemed to do a good job of continuing to manage to hang on by that thread. And now there’s Breakthrough Listen as well, sending in new data, and there are also talks of using more telescopes for this, so it seems like, if anything, there would be even more data to analyze. And the recent funding drive seems to indicate that they had no intention of ending the project, and the recent increase in the maximum number of work units sent did seem to prove that there was actually even more work to do as well, and the fact that the value was first doubled and then reduced by a quarter, ending up 50% higher than it was before, as they were trying methods to mitigate the database problems, seems to be one more piece of evidence pointing to those problems as the real reason behind it all. But, of course, SETI@home has had serious problems like these before and got through them every time, and there are reports that money wouldn’t have really been a problem either, if only they’d have asked. As such, what it all adds up to is that those making these decisions probably just had enough, decided that they no longer care to put up with it, possibly in good part because of Nebula. It is, of course, possible that it all simply became too exhausting, and/or that personal matters weighed heavily in the decision, but ever since I first heard of Nebula I worried that SETI@home will stop being a priority and may eventually be scrapped.

As strange as it may sound, I find this simultaneously shocking and unsurprising. I mean, for the reasons stated above, I feared it and know I should have expected it, but at the same time I at the very least hoped that SETI@home will continue pretty much forever. It’s not that SETI’s the most worthy project my computer could work for, and I don’t believe it likely that this method could ever be the one to confirm the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial beings anyway, so that has little to nothing to do with finding alien radio signals or any other stated goals, and much to do with personal matters, mental links and how much I commit to something once I start it. I mean, any computer I used since the original SETI@home client was updated to handle proxy connections, since I was on one at the time, worked for SETI@home constantly ever since, with just a few quick dashes to climateprediction.net, MilkyWay@home and World Community Grid‘s Clean Energy Project – Phase 2 when SETI@home couldn’t generate work for a longer amount of time. And it was also something I got Andra somewhat interested in back in the day as well, though shortly after she left she told me that she did install BOINC there, but attached to multiple projects, and it’s likely that she lost interest in it altogether soon after.
So, yes, I feel quite committed to SETI@home. There was a plan to split the processing time equally between it and one other project when I’ll get a CPU with four cores, but when I had to give up on that plan, I dropped that idea as well. Not that I found anything that “spoke” to me in a similar manner when I did search, since I’d only willingly split the processing time in that manner with an environmental project and there are hardly any of those. The Clean Energy Project is now over as well, and something about how World Community Grid works bothers me anyway, so what I’d be looking for would be an environmental project that shows up on its own on the BOINC projects list, and it would seem that climateprediction.net remains the only one to fit that condition, and questionably at that. However, that bothered me for other reasons back in the day, as I’m also obviously only looking for something that I can fully trust to be safe and free of bugs, and that works pretty much exactly like SETI@home does, also allowing me to check what my computer’s doing in the same manner, which also means finishing multiple work units per day. In addition, because of the computer I have, it’s important for it to use a similarly low amount of RAM and not write too much to disk, and I must also be able to store enough work units for at least several days and know that I’ll be able to trust it to reliably send enough work to keep my computer busy all the time on its own for the foreseeable future.

In the end… I must thank the people who created and maintained SETI@home for these nearly 21 years. For me personally, it meant a whole lot more than “donating” computer time or searching for alien signals or any other actual science goal, stated or not. And, of course, for the world in general it mainly meant creating BOINC and making the entire concept of distributed computing known and interesting, leading to many of the other projects and contributing to much of their success. As such, it’s mainly out of that commitment to SETI@home that I definitely will attach to another BOINC project and continue in the same manner, something having to do with astronomy being an option unless or until I’ll find a suitable environmental one. At the moment, I guess that the two projects I briefly attached to before that still exist, climateprediction.net and MilkyWay@home, are the first options, but I’ll see what will actually happen in the end. It’s quite frustrating that I’ll fall a few tens of thousands short of reaching a total credit of 7.5 million for SETI@home by the time it’ll stop sending work though.

Written by Cavalary on March 6, 2020 at 4:59 AM in IT & Copyright | 0 Comments

Review: Ascension to the Throne

Ascension to the Throne does a few interesting things with the combat, and that’s even more important when the combat is pretty much the only aspect it has going for it. Well, that and the fact that it’s quite a power trip, which is good from where I’m standing, though those looking for a challenge will disagree. But I was talking about the interesting elements in combat, and the most obvious one is the fact that, while you can stack up to ten units of the same type in each slot, the units are displayed and treated individually, and this changes the tactics significantly.
The most obvious effect is the fact that each attacker dealing physical damage can only attack one target at a time. Then, the number of free hexes around each member of the target group determines the maximum number of potential melee attackers, offering ways to protect units. Ranged attackers don’t have this problem and their shots ignore obstacles, but each of them is still limited to shooting a single enemy unit at a time. In addition, while units can move and then perform a melee attack, and their movement range is even extended in order to allow striking any and all units in the target group if the normal movement range allows attacking at least one, they can’t both move and shoot, or cast a spell, in the same turn, and ranged attacks also can’t be performed if an enemy unit is right next to any unit from the group. Nevertheless, melee units that aren’t very fast may tend to become irrelevant rather quickly, though those that are very fast can be used to great effect, both for and against you. As for spells, the spell power and intelligence of all casters in a group is added together, but direct damage spells usually have a maximum number of units they can strike, the others in the target group being unaffected, while the power of other spell effects is divided by the number of units in the target group to determine the effect applied to each. This means it makes sense for magic resistance to reduce the power of the effects on each target, but it’s rather strange when armor acts in the same manner, reducing the total damage taken by each unit struck instead of the damage dealt by each attacker.
Your tactics need to take all of that into account, and what truly helps is that there’s no randomization, so you can truly calculate what will happen. There are no chances to hit, no damage ranges, and even the order of movement is set, the criteria used being, in order, speed, whether the unit is in the front row, and the exact position, counting from the top. If all are equal, your unit will move before the enemy’s, and there are actually a few battles that’d be unwinnable otherwise, seeing as it’s game over the moment the main character gets killed and the AI will usually prioritize doing so if possible. However, while not bad overall, said AI can easily be tricked into using spellcasters to attack other units, and I wonder if that isn’t actually intentional, considering the units faced late in the game.

As I already mentioned, while those looking for a challenge definitely won’t, another thing I enjoyed was the fact that the game is quite a power trip, and accepting some early pain, which isn’t really that much after the earliest stages, makes for even greater gains towards the end. Yes, in the beginning you will be searching for that next fight you can survive, and after a while there may be one battle that may dishearten you, which may lead to deciding to use a raft to get around it only to find that they only go one way and you’re stuck, too weak to either advance or fight your way back, but past that point it just keeps getting easier.
One thing to keep in mind is that, on top of the value of each skill point being equal to the level it was gained at, enhancing that feeling of power as the character improves more and more each time, the rewards also scale with level, so complete quests, use altars, open chests or do anything else that offers a reward as late as possible, leaving as many as you can afford for the very end if you want to end up with the best possible character. And you can also customize the benefits, each altar offering a choice of two attributes to raise, and some situations offering other choices, the only false choice being that offered by chests, as it’s never worth taking the money for yourself.
Even leaving all those rewards for the end, by actually buying the best units you can, swapping what you have for them if room is needed, you should usually avoid tricky situations, but it’s definitely possible to finish the game with few purchased units and little cannon fodder, keeping most of what you end up with around long after better options become available, creating a certain level of difficulty through your own choices and obtaining that feeling of sort of caring for the units, necessary for me to feel comfortable while playing. As a curiosity, the army I first finished the game with included a single purchased unit, the “mandatory” conqueror, the other six slots that are open at that point being filled with the one other more powerful named unit that may join and a handful of other units that join for free later in the game. It made for a difficult final battle and I died the first time, but it worked out on the second try, with a lot of care. And then, just to see what was possible, I reloaded the save from before that final series of battles and properly filled my army with a mix of powerful units, which made even those battles a joke.

Otherwise, a fair amount of attention was given to journal entries, and my complaints about the quality of the writing can’t really apply, since it’s supposed to be a journal, not a book, and it does look like one. But to return to the elements that ensure that the player is in control, another one is that, with the exception of a few scripted battles, you can see the enemies and they will turn to face you if you approach, but they will never attack on their own, and when you get close enough you’ll see a prompt asking whether you want to fight and listing the numbers and types of enemies, including how they’re grouped. Considering all these things, it’s not exactly necessary for it to autosave before each battle, but the fact that it does is another safety net for those who want it… And it may become necessary in order to continue in one or two places, due to bugs I’ll explain below. On the other hand, I’m not sure how to take the fact that units available to recruit completely replenish over the course of one day, so there’s no need to keep them alive if you can afford to replace them. But I can’t consider it a bad thing, since it doesn’t hurt those like me, who play defensively, and those playing aggressively will have one less thing to worry about.

When it comes to the negative aspects, I must unfortunately start with the bugs. Nothing that will break the game if you’re a little careful, and perhaps make use of an autosave in one or two places, if needed, but there are quite a number of them and the reason why you need to be a little careful is that the things that should happen at the end of a conversation may not happen completely if you click through it quickly. Since it’d be far from the only text bug, I don’t know if this was the reason why I couldn’t talk to Conrad’s blacksmith after he told me to do so in order to get better equipment, but it was quite clearly the reason why the game froze at one point, and missing out on rewards is even more likely if you hurry. And it is, of course, possible for events necessary for continuing to fail to trigger, so you’re better off waiting for any other text that may show up to clear before clicking to end the conversation, and waiting for the last line to go away on its own or, if it’s a longer piece, at least giving it several seconds before clicking, if there’s no other text.
Another problem is that the game crashed quite a number of times, and a crash meant that it appeared to freeze, a window with an error appearing but needing me to hit Alt+Tab in order to see it and have the game actually close, after I clicked to close that error. These crashes usually happened at the start of battles and they were far more likely when there were multiple battles chained together, even more so if the character gained a level between such battles, and actually taking advantage of the level up animation in order to use those new skill points and/or rearrange your army made the crash pretty much a certainty. There was one place where using the autosave made before the last battle in a chain was the only way to continue, but I otherwise avoided loading autosaves, being able to do so since it worked at the second or third attempt in all other cases. The reason why I avoided loading autosaves was that I was worried that they may be somehow damaged, especially if the game crashed at that point, but also because if you load any save during battle, you’ll be faced with the prompt about starting that battle, as if you’d have loaded the autosave made before it, but all other data will be loaded from the save file you actually chose, so something seemed too strange. Had no problems as a result of loading that autosave though, nor with any other save files.
Other bugs I noticed included the fact that the character “teleported” a few times while walking, a short distance from where he was. Or that, if you have the combat instructor join you before being thrown there by the magic barrier, you’ll still have that conversation, looking like the air is talking back to you, but if you have the pilgrim join you too soon, there’s no way to get the answer to your question, though you’re admittedly able to ask for help when you reach the correct NPC even if you haven’t been told to see him. So a potentially worse problem is that the journal became unreadable, all entries appearing blank, a few times, I believe the reason being that a journal entry was added in a conversation that also allowed me to learn new spells and I did so, though it’s also possible that it was just another result of clicking to end the conversation too quickly. No idea if this can be fixed later, as I noticed it immediately and reloaded my previous save.
Moving on to text bugs, I’m sure there are more, but let’s see… The journal entry after clearing the enemies around Steelberg says you received a ring protecting against magic, but it’s in fact one protecting against physical attacks. The entry for closing the portals says that endless undead came out before you focused on the mages, but you only fight mages. You’re told to recruit as many troops as you can in Giantsville, but there’s no way to recruit any. And a particularly notable one has to do with the Old Temple quest, which seems to be a case of an idea being discarded but the journal entry being written before that happened and not changed, since said entry states that, as a reward, the monk offered to perform a ritual allowing you to resurrect if you fall in battle, but he doesn’t say so in the conversation and if you try to talk to him again at the temple you can’t say anything, can just pass by.
I’ll end this section with quite a chain of issues towards the end. You’re supposed to enter alone, without your army, and the journal entry says that you should be able to deploy it at a caravanserai, but there’s nobody you can talk to if you go there and will in fact enter with your army just fine. All conversations and journal entries will still say that you’re alone though, excepting the few units you can recruit inside. This may actually cause problems with what you can recruit, and I know it does for the group you receive when you leave, which is lost if you don’t have free slots, as you’re not asked to make some room and then try again. In addition, while a group leaves those you can see before the start of the battle, opening the gates doesn’t seem to actually affect the enemies you face in the battle itself. As for getting your armor back before that battle, I’d sure like to know how, because you’re told to meet the guy in a certain place and there would seem to be a way to get around the guards, but they still saw me even if I hugged the wall. And not that it matters, but it seems that you won’t get the soldier clothes, so the first and weakest equipment set, back when you do talk to that guy again.

I’m not sure whether a couple of oddities having to do with active spell effects are also bugs or bad design choices, so I’m adding them separately. One is that choosing to wait will cause that turn to count as two for the active spell effects, so the duration will be reduced by one, and in case of those particular spells the damage or regeneration will be applied, both when the unit’s turn initially comes and when it’ll get the next chance to act, after choosing to wait. And the other is that I sometimes got the impression that the duration of the effects is counted more accurately than in turns, so an effect with one turn left may vanish before the unit’s next move.

Something that’s clearly a bad design choice is that healing works just like any other spell, the effect being divided equally between the units in the target group instead of healing those that need it as much as possible, or at least working as an attack, allowing one specific unit to be selected, the game determining which others any remaining power goes to, prioritizing those with lower health. But now that I mentioned how attacking works, I must emphasize what an unbelievably bad design choice that is. Units are treated as individuals, not stacks, but when a group attacks another group, or when a spell that can’t affect all the units in the target group is used, you can only choose the first specific unit to target, the game determining the others, focusing on those that can be killed if they exist. If you want to spread attacks differently, possibly to “soften” a group in order to kill more with a later attack, you can’t. And, while I’m at it, movement works the same way, with only a single hex being selected as the destination, the exact positioning of the units in the group in that area being determined by the game. In addition, while when you attack you can at least see the damage that will be dealt as you hover over the target group, in case of movement you can only click directly, the positioning of the units at the destination being shown after you do.

Past that, the story is generic, mainly only there to push you from one battle to the next. But the feeling of power and the battles themselves can probably do that well enough, so it’s the conversations with NPCs that I’d consider more of a negative aspect, as quite a number of times they’re laughable, and by that I don’t mean intentionally humorous. Wonder how much of that is a case of lost in translation though, the developers being Russian. And, while I’m at it, a conversation is the only way to interact with stores as well. An interface for learning spells is created by adding a little more information to the one for casting them, and that for recruiting troops is similarly created out of the army one, but you can only talk to shopkeepers and ask them to describe the items they sell, one at a time. Admittedly, this doesn’t take long, since each shopkeeper has at most two items to sell. And no, with the exception of one suit of armor, you can’t sell anything back.

It does look like the developers had very limited resources to work with, and that shows very clearly even in Oganthar, which is by far the most developed area, the later ones clearly being rushed. The different regions follow pretty much the same pattern, and while the buildings do look different, the other assets are reused everywhere. It’s strange that some locations seem to lack some of the standard NPCs without any explanation though. But I’d say that an even clearer sign of rushing is the walk to Suntown or Arthur’s Castle, and then all the way to the back of Gilbert’s Castle and that quest location. That’s the last part of “mainland” Oganthar you’ll reach, and you’ll have no events, quests, NPCs or battles during that long walk.
What makes the exploration aspect even worse is that you can’t really explore even what is there. What would be obvious access routes are permanently closed off, there are invisible walls everywhere, can’t climb anything, can’t jump at all… Yes, if there’s nothing relevant past those invisible walls or impassable tiny obstacles, being able to go there might have done little to improve the impression. However, I found one spot, in Annaroth, where I could break through the invisible wall and wander all over the mountains, which offered some interesting views, and also allowed me to actually go to a ruin that I guess was just placed there as a piece of scenery to be seen from below. No rewards, no battles, but I rather enjoyed simply being allowed to freely explore for a while.

The graphics and animations also indicate the low production value, and the very short draw distance for scenery objects and textures, and the fact that they just pop in when you get that close, is rather strange, but that’s not something that can bother me in itself. What did at times get on my nerves, on the other hand, was that constant clinking of armor while moving. The lack of a minimap was also occasionally frustrating, but the map can be used to get your bearings well enough. And I’ll also add here that certain elements that seem intended for Valkyrie, such as rings from shops and even an altar intended for a ranged attacker, are placed in the game and unusable, the hero stating that they’re useless for him, though Eneya does take one ring you find in a chest… And that’s also the only time when a named unit improves while in your army, the other improvements to those you need to have with you happening when they return after some time away, while the optional named units never improve at all.

In the end, Ascension to the Throne is quite a power trip, and may be seen as a decent effort overall if the resources available to the developers were indeed the limiting factor. There are bugs, but nothing breaking the game, any quest or character development if you’re a little careful. The story is generic and exploration is severely restricted and not that interesting to begin with, but there’s enough content for this type of game and the gameplay is, after all, defined mainly by the battles and the feeling of increasing power. And Ascension to the Throne does a great job when it comes to the latter aspect, albeit too good of a job for those looking for a challenge. As for the former, there are some interesting concepts, even if part of the potential is wasted due to some bad design choices. Not a game you need to play by any stretch of the term, but definitely one you can play if you enjoy the genre.

Written by Cavalary on March 1, 2020 at 10:56 PM in Gaming | 0 Comments

Another Flu, Small Protest, Finishing The Way of Kings and Ascension to the Throne

The review for Ascension to the Throne should have been the week’s first post, but doubt I’d have managed to post it in time to avoid this becoming another Sunday update, so I’m writing the personal post first and then have to hope I’ll at least finish that by the end of the week. A problem is that, with the Arcabit Antivirus trial having ended Tuesday, the last update was made then and the plan was to first post that review, since I’ll likely check a few more things in the game by the time I’ll do so, and then restore from that backup, so I won’t have to still keep the game around for a day or two after that and then get rid of it again, so I keep delaying that, and moving on to another trial, as well. Then again, there’s also the fact that I’d want to be able to get on-line during the day when I’ll restore from that backup, and dad’s on vacation these days and also quite likely has the flu, so he’s been staying home. But at least the lack of updates means there shouldn’t be another one of those failures, as it happened one more time on Sunday, and that time the RAM wasn’t full.

Since I mentioned the flu, I caught it as well, and this is very clear this time around. That little thing I had last week was just a simple cold, but this is different. Throat’s not sore, and there’s not much in nose or chest, at least so far, though some crap to cough up was the first sign, Wednesday evening, and again after I woke up the next morning. But as of Thursday evening, there’s that feeling of having a bad fever, really bad in the morning. It was somewhat less bad by the time I eventually got up, but the fever is far from breaking, and I feel exhausted and my mind’s foggy, and it feels like I’ve been beaten. Seems similar to how I felt that time when dad was away and I wonder if those things I bought and took then would work just as well now… But I can’t get myself to ask him to go, nor to go myself, especially after he suggested regular medicine after I told him, and otherwise reacted just as I expected him to, unfortunately. And I did take one regular pill Thursday evening, though not the one he suggested later, on top of getting back to natural remedies, so let’s see how this will play out. At this point it does look like that plan of running a half marathon distance next week is out of the question, especially since I meant to do it Monday or Tuesday. But there may be a chance Thursday as well, depending on how the risk of rain will change by then, and I may also just do it slowly, only aiming to stay under two hours, or switch things around and do 16 km, also slowly, leaving the half marathon distance for later.

Speaking of running, this week’s run was Tuesday, when I got up when the alarm rang, at 2:30 PM, had the usual stuff, with a piece of pumpkin pie brought by dad some time ago as something sweet, and left at 4:30 PM, when the reported temperature was 16°C and it was sunny, so I just had an undershirt under the t-shirt and nothing else. It was windy when I woke up, but the forecast stated that it was going to die down around 5 PM and that seems to be what happened, since there was still some wind when I went out but it caused few problems as I ran. There were plenty of people though, and there was a moment on the first sector when the cycling lane was full of people and a cyclist coming from the opposite direction went around them on the same side I wanted to pass them on, so I had to stay behind them and slow down a lot to let him through. Otherwise, plenty of weaving and going the long way around, including going all around on the outside in turns, but no real roadblocks except on the final sector, as I was going up the stairs and a group was taking a picture there, so I had to first climb on those things for flowers that are next to the stairs to get behind them.
The time was 47:35.40, with sector times of 4:18.62, 5:02 (5:01.49), 5:51.30, 4:23.48, 5:05 (5:04.36), 5:51.63, 4:29 (4:28.64), 4:59 (4:58.92), 5:49.29 and 1:48 (1:47.67), making for lap times of 15:11.41, 15:19.47 and 15:17 (15:16.85). After sector two of lap two, I was getting worried that I’ll be slower than the previous time I ran ten kilometers, but the next sector was fine and then I just pushed on lap three, so it wasn’t a problem. There were a few moments when my right knee and hip gave me some warnings, but that didn’t last long.

The next day I was up at 10:25 AM and went out 30 minutes later, checking the nearby Mega Image for something dad had put on the list to buy and take to my mother, and then coming right back without anything, since I didn’t care to spend that much for those things even if it’d have been from his money. Then I left again at 11:15 AM and walked first to this Carrefour, getting a code for my prepaid phone card before going in. Not using it yet, but I’ll lose the number at some point next month unless I recharge, and with what’s happening with the exchange rate, I got it out of the way now… And actually spent what I should have spent, €7 plus VAT at the day’s rate being 40.05 RON while the listed price was 40.57 RON, but I gave the guy a 50 RON bill and he gave me a 10 RON one back as change, never asking for even a 0.50 RON coin or anything, and I didn’t have one anyway.
After that, went into Carrefour and got another one of those large bags of oranges, two expiring bio (organic) yogurts, two bags of cat litter and some of those things for my mother, after dad sent me an SMS while I was there to tell me to get some of their brand, since I had left a note asking about that. Have a woman to thank for not losing most of my money when I checked that message though, since they fell out of my pocket and went under a shelf without me noticing, but she did and pointed it out to me.
Put all of that in a cabinet at Kaufland and got the yogurt I wanted from there, as that two for one offer I should have found when I went to Auchan was now there. However, there weren’t packs of two yogurts, as the picture on Auchan’s site had shown back then, but you simply picked up an even number of yogurts of that kind and you got a 50% discount at checkout, so I wonder if that’d have been the case at Auchan as well, and I’d have been able to buy them for a bit less. But there was nothing like that listed there, so I’d have had no way to know, while here it was spelled out on the price label, so I knew what to do. Either way, also got a pack of those things for my mother of their brand as well, just in case, and some black radishes, and then used the self-checkout… With a guy who seemed to be unable to wait behind me. Actually he was behind the person who was behind me, but immediately asked to step forward for just a moment and set his two items down on a broken machine, then kept commenting that the machines weren’t available, that some employees were “playing” with one, though they were obviously trying to fix a problem and in the end did so, kept urging me to step forward, since I was leaving some space, so I won’t breathe down the neck of the person using a machine ahead of me… When the guy using the machine those employees had just fixed was paying, he urged me forward again and when I still didn’t move, waiting for the guy to actually finish and bag his purchases, he asked whether I really didn’t want to buy, at which point I finally told him that I don’t like being rushed, so I won’t rush others either, and he reacted with some shocked and frustrated expressions.
But I finally did my business after that, without problems, then picked up everything from the cabinet… And it took me 40 minutes to walk back here, carrying all of that, and not having a backpack to get some weight off my arms either. And I guess that was too long, since dad wasn’t here anymore when I arrived. But he had told me to buy those things, and there was no note, so I assumed he was just quickly buying something else and will be back, so I left him a note and then rushed to a nearby bakery, to get a couple of things that were on sale, one for myself and the other for him to take to my mother as well. Even ate after that, not getting on-line right away, though I did get to my room to change and noticed that I had apparently left the monitor on when I left. Either way, the point was that I fully expected him to be back, but he had actually already left, so I was left with all those things, and while the rest can be taken there later, what I bought from that bakery couldn’t be kept that long, so I ended up eating the second one as well the next day…

Took a six-hour break from writing at this point, spending most of it in bed after taking my temperature and seeing 38.3°C, which likely meant that in the morning I had around 39°C, considering how I felt. But I do need to post this tonight, so I’ll move on to Thursday, when I again had no visits recorded in either view. Woke up early again, at 10 AM, with the alarm, and went out at 11:20 AM, to attend an event at the Ministry of Economy, demanding a climate strategy, eliminating coal by 2030, coming up with a calendar to phase out other fossil fuels as well from the energy mix and reducing emissions overall. It was supposed to start at noon and I got there just on time, but I was pretty much the only one other than those from Declic, who organized it, and reporters, though another man showed up a few minutes later and then one more came as the globe was set up and we were holding the signs for some pictures. Since they knew me and this last guy, that other man seemed to really be the only participant who just decided to attend after seeing the event announced somewhere, and after approaching me at first and exchanging a few words, noticing that I was also standing aside at that time, he stood back, not actually getting involved, which makes perfect sense under the circumstances.
The problem was the wind, same as it was during the previous event they organized there that I attended, as this time they had a burning globe to set up and their initial attempt had apparently resulted in it toppling and some wires coming loose. So they were searching for a more sheltered location and weren’t allowed to set it up in the parking lot or at the entrance, eventually being allowed to place it on a tiny patch of grass in the corner of that area, the building offering a bit of shelter. After I went to get her when the others were calling for her during those discussions, Olga had already asked me to follow her to help, but in the end I didn’t help with the globe too much, the artist doing much of the work, obviously knowing what he was doing and also being taller. But then Olga handed me a banner and asked whether I wanted to hold it, and I couldn’t exactly refuse, so I ended up being the focus of the pictures, the reporters hurrying to catch something, as around 12:10 PM, before being allowed to set up the globe on the grass, they were already saying that they’ll have to leave soon, at 12:30 PM at the latest. It was also somewhat awkward when another Declic member, one I can’t say I recognized but who seemed to be coordinating this specific event, said that the banner was the wrong one, misspelled, and handed me the correct one, causing the reporters to have to start over. But at least nobody tried to ask me anything, and after asking that other guy to help and hold the lower corner, since the wind was blowing the banner away otherwise, I just stood there until they started gathering the things, as the delegation was getting ready to go inside for talks, which was scheduled to happen at 12:30 PM. The reporters left at that point, since the representative said they won’t be allowed inside, and a bit later I did as well.

The wind had picked up even more at that point, and rain was coming as well, but I managed to get to the metro station before it did, getting off at Unirii and checking out that Mega Image first, though I didn’t get anything. When I got back outside, it was wet, but didn’t seem to be raining just then, as I walked to that Carrefour and got a few things, including some more bread. Asked for half a kilogram and the woman who was there first fumbled with the gloves, then cut 890 grams, asking if that was fine, and when I said it’s hardly half a kilogram she said she was asking me if the size was all right, since she doesn’t know how much it’d weigh. So I told her to take some of it off, and at that point she dropped the knife, asked her coworkers whether they had another, and when they said they didn’t she went with that one in the back, returning after a bit, wiping it on a rag which she just threw on some boxes, so I have no idea how clean that was in the end. And then I paid at the checkouts that are upstairs, but that exit just goes to the parking lot, a sign telling pedestrians to use the one downstairs, but I had my products already, so I wasn’t sure what to do, the guard asking what I was searching for when he saw me looking around in confusion. But then he asked whether I had the receipt and told me to just go downstairs with it, and when I did so the other guard who was there just had a quick look on the receipt and in my bags and let me go. It really was raining by then though, and even harder by the time I reached the metro station here, so the walk back wasn’t exactly comfortable.

I already said how I felt after that, but another thing that happened that night was that I got The Quest Deluxe Edition from The Community Giveaway on the GOG.com forums. I did that before going to bed at night, so when it was already February 28, but I had asked for it before going to bed the night before and received the message with the code during the day. And at least the donor wasn’t that same guy this time around, so it felt a little bit less embarrassing. This edition isn’t on MobyGames yet though, so I also added it that night, though I was rushing and don’t think I included all the links in the notes, and now I’m rushing even more, so I’m not checking.

Otherwise, the timed squats during this period were just 2:17 on February 23 and 2:16 the following day. On the other hand, on February 22 I finished The Way of Kings, then wrote the quick review in a file at night and just made a couple of small edits before posting it the next day. And on February 24 I finished Ascension to the Throne, which is why I mean to post the review this week as well, though at this point that’s starting to seem less likely and I may end up with just a quick Sunday update as the week’s second post, just to be able to say I have one. But, to return to finishing the game, I first did it with the weak army I had, just managing it after dying in the final battle the night before and then reloading the save from before all four of them when I tried again, but then I also wanted to see what was possible, so I went all around Airath to use the altars and open the chests, then went back to Oganthar to get a great army, and finished it one more time, that final series of battles becoming a joke at that point. Took a series of screenshots, the first three showing the army and character, with the effects of the rings also shown, as I went through those battles the first time, without using the skill points received in between, while the last two show the army and the character at the end of the second attempt, when I did use all skill points at the end, after the last battle, and had also used them after the first one, though not also after the third, when I had gained another level. The last image also shows the gold I had at the end of this final attempt, but considering the army purchased, I should have had more the first time, but I didn’t take a screenshot of that. Managed to submit the screenshots taken while playing on MobyGames while dad was in bed for a while in the evening.

Written by Cavalary on February 29, 2020 at 4:43 AM in Personal | 0 Comments