Avie the Birdbrain Gamer # 3

I’ve been wanting to make videos for Youtube for ages! The computer I have now is fast enough to run No Man’s Sky while ALSO running the screen-capture software. (My previous computer can’t even run No Man’s Sky). The video editing software I’m using is called Movavi. I have been working on these videos for several weeks and I keep learning new things about the software. Yesterday I figured out how to add a “freeze-frame” (stop the film and hold it on one picture) without making a big gap in the background music.

Here is video # 3. (I’m redo-ing videos 1 and 2. ) I still need to fix the soundtrack. The sound effects coming from the game footage are in stereo (comes through both ears of your headphones) but the music I composed is only coming through one ear. I didn’t notice this flaw when I uploaded the video (because it wasn’t as obvious when using speakers). Thanks K for pointing this out!

Amusing glitches in No Man’s Sky

There is a phenomenon that can happen in computer games called “clipping”. It’s when one object seems to project right through another instead of being stopped. Here is a case where the  grass under my planetary base is clipping right through the floor.

grass in the labSince the little guy in the corner is my agricultural team leader, it seems extra appropriate. Maybe he likes having grass growing in his laboratory.

Here is a case of clipping that adds a certain thrill to the game. I’m running away from a dangerous animal, jumped into my ship, and before I could blast off, THIS happened

heads up

heads up 2


Ugly Planet contest

I have been collecting the most beautiful images from my planetary explorations in No Man’s Sky. I don’t bother to take pictures of the ugly scenery. But maybe I should start a collection and have an “ugly planet” contest. Here are 2 examples–

Planet with radioactive water

ugly 1

Planet of tacky plants

ugly 2

Returning to No Man’s Sky

I took a break from No Man’s Sky for several months. The emotional turmoil of the 2016 presidential campaign and election took up almost all my “processing power”. Then there was Christmas and some family issues. Finally on January 2, I got back into my spaceship to see what was going on. There had been a big game update called The Foundation Update which added many cool new features such as a choice of play styles (normal, creative mode, survival mode) and the ability to build a home base and modify it. You can even invite NPCs to live with you and work there.

On the other hand, apparently the planet generation algorithm has been tweaked to allow the creation of a wider spectrum of planet types. When I tried to return to planets I had previously visited, they had been changed. Some of their names had been lost (reverted to their original game-generated names) and most of them had different terrain types. I felt sad about the familiar places I had lost.

So I left the past behind and traveled to some new star systems. I was looking for a planet where I could build a base. You can’t build a base on just any planet — it has to be a planet that already has a “habitable base” marker. I had read that if you use “free exploration” mode on the galaxy map, you could travel to stars that were red, green or even blue. These supposedly had increasingly rare resources and increasingly dramatic alien life.

My first trip to a blue star system was a disaster. Each planet was extreme — radiation, heat, cold — and several of them had Sentinels that would attack on sight. I didn’t find any interesting life forms (my main interest) though I did see some extremely weird resources I had never heard of before.

Also, any trips between planets resulted in attacks by other space ships (which disables pulse drive, slowing you to a crawl) or even attacks by Sentinel ships (which I had never seen before). One of these battles was so terrifying that I called my son in a panic and handed the mouse over to him. Even he struggled to survive this battle, exhausting all my shield resources. Eventually he made it down to the planet’s surface, and even there the Sentinels (and their enhanced, robot-like fighters) were beating us to a pulp. He managed to blast off, circle around, and shoot them from above.

Crazy levels of adrenaline, but I left this star system ASAP!

After that I made a hurried survey of about 30 planets. Land, walk around, take some pictures, leave.

Finally I found a planet with a habitable base that was kinda-sorta OK. I really wanted a planet like one of the old ones from before the upgrade. But no luck, and I was getting tired of searching. My planet that I settled for had moderate weather, no radiation, relatively peaceful Sentinels. The terrain was semi-arid and not very diverse, but dramatic storms caused the purple grasses to wave in the wind. There were a few peaceful herbivorous animals. The main problem was almost no resources except for iron. The deposits of iron were hidden in beautiful, colorful caves, well-hidden from Sentinels, so that was a plus.

It began to feel like home. I renamed the planet Northruby because of a huge ruby-like structure to (what I think was) the north.

My new base was equipped with a Teleport terminal. In order to activate it, I had to travel to the nearest space station and teleport back home from there. Amazingly, this process does not expend any resources; even my ship was transported!

I have lost track of the details, but after further faster-than-light-speed voyages, my home teleport offered the opportunity to warp to the space stations I had visited in distant star systems. I set up a work station, then transported offworld to hire a friendly Gek to work at my base. He said that he would love to have company and could I hire more workers? If I gave him certain resources, he could set up a science station for my next employee.

I thought to myself “Fetch quest!” But that’s OK, my Gek friend was charming and it was nice to have company in what had previously been a very lonely universe.

To be continued!

No Man’s Sky meets Mass Effect

In my version of the Mass Effect storyline, Commander Anna Shepard chooses to take over for the Reapers. They relinquish their powers to her, in shame and humility. To the galaxy at large, it seems that the Reapers have been destroyed and Shepard has disappeared. Only Liara knows the truth about what has happened, and she is good at keeping secrets!

Meanwhile, the galaxy has entered a new age of exploration. New alliances are forged.




These are screencaps from NMS that I played around with using GIMP (free art software!) and a Wacom graphics tablet. I’m just getting the hang of GIMP. I know the more I practice, the less awkward it will seem.

No Man’s Sky and Gamer Backlash

I was awakened out of a sound sleep last night by shouting and swearing. It was a gamer.

Let me explain. Once I have fallen asleep, I sleep like a log — but I have trouble dozing off. If I don’t have something to focus my thoughts on, my mind runs like a hamster in a wheel. It has to be something familiar enough to be relaxing, but still interesting enough to stop the wheel from spinning. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks or podcasts; lately I’ve been listening to familiar videos. Noah Gervais is a favorite (I’ve watched or listened to his videos multiple times). Last night I drifted off to his review of No Man’s Sky. But it turns out I had left my You Tube setting on “autoplay”… and so at 4 am I was awakened by someone yelling F-bombs in my ear. It was a gamer, ranting about No Man’s Sky.

I hurriedly hit “X” to close the window; I don’t even know who was speaking. The intensity of the anger was like the shouting I hear when there’s been a car accident in front of our house. Or the way our apartment neighbors used to yell at each other in the months before their divorce.

And I know it’s not just the one guy who is angry.

steam-review-nmsThat’s 65% negative reviews. If you actually READ the reviews, they are enough to blister your eyeballs. The hostility continues in the comment sections after articles (here’s an example at Kotaku). And the Reddit environment is caustic enough to challenge the most extreme of extremophiles.

Even my son, who is normally a soft-spoken person, howled in outrage when I started up the game. Something about the loading screen wasn’t right? I don’t understand. It seemed fine to me.  And as he watched over my shoulder, he kept doing this


This is frustrating for me, though. It’s hard to listen to. I LOVE the game (OK, I loved it more after my son hacked into it and added 2 billion credits to my account). I worry that the negative backlash will make it harder for such groundbreaking games to be produced in the future.

My son and his friends have been gaming since they were 10 and have experienced (I’m estimating) HUNDREDS of games. They are connoisseurs. They have very clear cut ideas on how things should be done.

I’ve had very little experience with gaming, but I’ve been a musician for years. I have clear cut expectations about what an instrument should be like. I have to admit, if I ordered a keyboard instrument online, and instead of this I got this


…I would probably be upset.




But I’d like to think that I could get over my disappointment, put my expectations aside, and at least give the new instrument a try. Noodle around with it. Find out what it actually was good at. Who knows, maybe it was actually something like this?




I hope that instead of dropping F-bombs and howling in outrage, my review would be something like “I wanted a piano, and this sure as hell isn’t a piano. If you were looking for a traditional piano, don’t buy this. But if you would like to try out some groundbreaking new technology, all I can say is…”




Credits and Notes

The colorful “definitely not a piano” thing is by Knock On Wood Quality Wooden Toys.

And for you youngs, the thing with all the knobs and wires is a Moog Synthesizer, which started to become popular around 1967 ( I was about 10). Nowadays the technology has become so mind-bogglingly advanced that the whole thing can be emulated, realtime, in your PC. Whoa. It’s available here