Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Oh my! I’ve been waiting for a game like this since seeing the movie Avatar. And it looks like I’ll have to wait another year, until 2022, but I’m on fire with enthusiasm. For one thing, I sort of got my gaming legs playing the Lara Croft games, produced by Ubisoft, and this gives me confidence that they’ll do a good job on Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. Checkout the trailer, released yesterday. I think it will thrill you also.

Following the release of the film in 2009, several of Second Life’s creative people setup some fun sims and groups, and I eagerly joined in. I had a lot of fun but SL role play can lead to a lot of different interpretations of what should and shouldn’t be done. There were also, of course, plenty of griefers. Nonetheless, I have great memories of my life as a Na’vi in Second Life. Below are some photos.

That’s Yordie Na’Vi on her dragon flying across Pandora’s Moon in Second Life.

The game will be available on Xbox Series X, and there’s no plan for backward compatibility. So, if you’ve been putting off buy a new Xbox, like I have (I mean, I own an Xbox One X and S already), you will have a lot of incentive to buy next year. And I will. Can’t wait!

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Fallout 3: Traveling Back in Time

I bought Fallout 3 a couple years ago, starting fiddling around in it, then came Fallout 76. I spent over a year in FO76, then spent over a half-year in FO4, and have been planning on returning to FO76. But I’ve been curious about the Fallout lore. I’ve watched several of Oxhorn’s Fallout Lore videos, even back to Fallout 1, but I wanted to get back into Fallout 3 and get the feel for the gameplay. So, last week I did. I wasn’t interested in being competitive, so I set the gameplay to “Very Easy” (I know, how lame!). Anyway, I’ve been running around in the Wasteland and despite the fact that it feels like travelling back in time, I’ve enjoyed it.

That’s me at Level 9 in my combat armor and helmet.

When I began playing I expected the gameplay to be very similar to Fallout 4, but it’s quite different and several things are a lot more cumbersome. For example, I have an Xbox One and the controller doesn’t easily permit me to use the favorites wheel; in fact, I can only put four items in the wheel and use them effectively. Another thing, tossing grenades is a bit of a hassle; in FO4/FO76, your grenades are equipable and can be thrown without changing your active weapon. And there are several different controller buttons that give me fits, but I’m adapting. And then there’s the dismal post-apocalyptic landscape! It is even more abysmal than Fallout 4, and greenery is hard to find.

Nonetheless, the quests are quite challenging and I’m really glad that I’m just playing for fun because yesterday I did the Find Vault 112 quest. Wow! I can’t really say much about it without SPOILERS, so let me just say that I had to turn to Oxhorn’s Fallout 3 – Part 7 video to figure out how to proceed. I was smart enough to figure out what the elements of the quest were, but it appeared to be too much work while I was playing (Again, I know how lame that is, but hey!). So, I backed out and did other things, but I’ll prolly head back into the game sometime this week and deal with the Tranquility Lane thing.

One thing I especially like about the Fallout games is the lore. I became intrigued when I first played Fallout 4 and Paladin Danse told me that he used to live in Rivet City, in the Capital Wasteland. Then I became more and more familiar with the evolving lore. I think the lore is one of the aspects of the Fallout games that I enjoy the most.

I’ll keep playing Fallout 3 for awhile longer, but I’m starting to spec up on recent changes to Fallout 76 and will return soon.

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Second Life: A Friend is Someone…

I’ve been hopping into Second Life from time to time over the past month. Mainly, when an old friend IM’s me, I’ve headed inworld to hangout, chat, and go dancing. We don’t spend more than a hour or two at a time, but it’s really nice to be with this old friend again. I don’t know how long this will continue but our virtual experience has changed so much since the early days when we naively roamed the grid, wide eyed, and full of great expectations.

Anyway, as the saying goes: A friend is someone who likes you. So, it’s a real treat to reengage after so many years apart–over a decade. I don’t know his real name or age or much about his real life, and he doesn’t know me any better, but I think we know everything we need to know about each other. We do talk about shared interests and experiences, but mostly we talk about a wide range of subjects. And somehow the sharing of these points of view seems to have built a connection between us. It’s not like this will ever develop into a real world relationship, but it is an enjoyable virtual relationship.

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Fallout 4: Sadly, The Saga Continues

Following the wipeout of a game I had been playing since 2019, I made a concerted effort to resolve several key issues I had been having with a new download of Fallout 4 (ver

Bethesda support was very helpful and escalated my issue to their Advanced team, but after several days they couldn’t resolve the issue. I also worked with Microsoft’s Xbox Support but they couldn’t or wouldn’t help; by “wouldn’t” I mean, it was pretty clear to me that the version was being rolled out by Xbox Services and Microsoft wouldn’t pursue the problem that far. I’m not angry about this because I trust that Microsoft is still trying to deal with the problems created by the SolarWinds hack. So, I decided to try to live with the new version despite the fact that it is inferior across a broad list of categories. Nonetheless, it is stable…so far.

I restarted my game without any Creation Club (CC) items or Mods. I played quickly through the lower levels but around level 20 I started adding some CC items: dogs, back pack. I continued moving forward and eventually added more CC items, then a couple mods, then a couple more. I’m currently back to Level 50. I’ve also been very strategic in developing my factions, and I met with the Minutemen and took back Fort Independence (The Castle), but there’s a new problem.

That’s me in my Home Plate private house in Diamond City.

The new problem: I’m reasonably certain that the version of Fallout 4 I’m running on Xbox does not notify me when my settlements are under attack. This would be something I might be able to live with normally, but after taking The Castle I noticed that the morale of all four of my settlements cratered 30 to 40 points. At Abernathy Farm, several settlers told me that they are “really in trouble here.” But it was not at all clear what I needed to do to help. I’ve played this game a lot over the years and I’ve never seen this level of morale destruction. So, here I am, once again, wondering where this will lead.

About a month ago I repurchased the Fallout 1st subscription within Fallout 76, so I’ll probably put Fallout 4 on the shelf for awhile and return to FO76. My hope is that at some time in the future, a new version of FO4 will be release that solves the many anomalies I’ve discovered. I really, really, really hope Microsoft/Bethesda comes through with better version of FO4, but it’s an old product and they may be putting their money elsewhere.

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My Novel & My Writing

Along with a lot of people in this world, I’ve been suffering my way through the COVID era, and I’m sorry to say that I lost the handle on my novel writing. In fact, I’ve been more active as a blogger and social network commenter than I have as a writer. Now, I’m trying to get back in the saddle, so to speak.

This pic kind of feels like where I’m at right now.

I know what I want Book II of The Temporal Expeditions to be. I know how I want it to progress. I know that it will be at least 120k words, of which I have about 70k words in first draft format. But the completed work is the ending half of the novel, and I’ve been struggling to fully map out the first half. I call this writer’s block’s crazy uncle.

In the year and a half since I published The Temporal Expeditions, Book I I’ve lost the context of that book in my thoughts. I mean, it isn’t fresh because I’ve had to do a mental refresh several times, and that means I’ll need another refresh cycle. I’m planning to use Read Aloud to reread Book I to me. This will help me plunge into the writing of Book II. I use the reader because I’m dyslexic and spoken words enter my thoughts more easily than reading. Yeah, I know this is odd but dyslexia is weird.

BTW, dyslexic writers are not that uncommon. In my case, words pour out easily. I’m even a pretty good speller. But drinking the words into my thoughts through my eyes requires a lot of discipline.

I’ve added a new tab to this blog: My Writing. In general, I’ll be pulling in meaningful posts from my Journal blog, so all of my blogging activity will be focused here. I’m not sure this is going to workout well, but I’ve already added the first entry about the inspiration for The Temporal Expeditions.

I plan to continue writing about Second Life and Gaming in general. In fact, playing Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 put me in a mindset of existing in a world where all of our precious civilization is rough and raw. It’s abstract, but it lets my thoughts roam over a different landscape.

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“Tryin’ to get that feeling again”

Okay, I know Barry Manilow is really old timey but he did so many memorable songs, like Tryin’ to Get That Feeling Again (go ahead, give it a listen, it’ll strum your heartstrings). Anyway, I’m feeling the sentiment of that song, even though there’s no woman or man in my lyric, just my second life or Second Life.

BTW, I didn't know Manilow but I've always liked "I Write the Songs" because a different songwriter I knew joked with him: "No, I write the songs!" And I think that joke became a thing among songwriters of that era.

Yesterday, I spent several hours checking my file of Landmarks, mainly looking for places that have live entertainment, and after tediously deleting locations that were either gone or had become something other, I discovered that I’d deleted two-thirds of my entertainment landmarks.

The good news is, many of the old clubs and scenic areas are still there and I’m thrilled about that, but I only found one favorite entertainer still doing live shows. There are probably plenty of new entertainers, but I’m feeling that: You can’t go home again thing.

So, seeking out new venues and new entertainers is certain something to feel excited about. And getting back in the cockpit of my Street Dancer (I think I used to call her, Seabiscuit) and racing around the Blake Sea is still cool. And there’s flying. I was never very good at it; I always was more happy just being a passenger. But I’m still thinking about that SR-71 Blackbird. And hey, there’s always a chance of falling in love again, kinda-sorta. For sure: I want to attend the Junkyard Blues 14th Anniversary!

You can dock your boat a Honah Lee Field and shop for an air planes. Cool, yeah? The tiny girl is me.

In my last post, I was still thinking about keeping my SL premium account, but it expires in June and I’m not sure anymore. And then there’s Fallout 76 waiting with some new quests and adventures. Oh, yeah, and there’s that real life thing too. Like I just bought some old Hemingway books I want to reread, and I’ve also got to get past a new bout of writer’s block if I even intend to finish my trilogy. So…

...I've been/ Up, down, tryin' to get the feelin' again/ All around tryin' to get the feelin' again

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Second Life: 14 Years Later

It’s hard to comprehend where I was when I joined Second Life on April 6th, 2007. I vaguely remember seeing a report on CNBC that featured Philip Rosedale and the virtual world he’d created. I was fascinated by the idea of a virtual city and made my decision to join this new world. Before I knew it I swept into the scene with all it’s drama. In hindsight, it felt like I was in high school again with a new body, new clothes, and a tendency to do the crazy things that only make sense to teenagers. Yeah, I was nuts. Heh. It was so much fun though.

It all came together for me at a tiny club named “PIER”, but unfortunately I didn’t know how to use the camera at the time and don’t have any pics of those early days. I used to go to PIER late at night, hop on a Salsa dance ball, and dance to the tunes of the many DJs that got started there. A few years later the PIER closed but in 2010 I rediscovered PIER had reopened. Below is a pic from that era. I guess the owner decided it was too much effort to keep it going, but she left it roughly where it had been in the beginning. It’s still there.

PIER didn’t change much between when I attended regularly and the reopened club.

Anyway, I expanded out from PIER and raced all over the grid for the next five or six years. I found a real home at Junkyard Blues, but enjoyed several other clubs. I built numerous Zen gardens and expanded my Harvest Moon CafĂ© every time I found a newer and bigger plot of land. I remained active in SL until about 2013 when I moved on to other things, but there’s something about Second Life that always drew me back. And so it was about a week ago; I just wanted to see what was going on, who was still inworld, and what kind of changes have been made.

About a month ago, a viscous hack of Microsoft servers caused them to make some changes to mitigate the damages. I’d been playing on Xbox and a lot of things when wrong, so I’ve been reluctant to reengage. That’s partly why I’ve reengaged in SL during the past week, and I’ve felt the draw of Second Life again. There are so many things to do in SL that I’ve been scampering around, checking things out.

I even looked into buying an SR-71 Blackbird. Okay, some explanation: I once visited the flight museum near Boeing Field where they have one of the retired SR-71s. And let me say simply, if you’ve never seen an actual Blackbird, you have yet to see the most amazing aircraft of the past century. I was in awe of the enormous aircraft, but also about the story of when and how it was built in the early 1960s; built with slide rules, flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3, and altitudes above 80,000 feet! The SR-71 set a record: New York to Los Angeles in two hours. Below is an advertisement for a Second Life plane I’m still thinking about buying.

Check SL Marketplace for the LuciForge ad. I’m just worried that I’ll crash this beautiful airplane.

I did a lot of other things during the past week. I spent time on the Blake Sea where I sped across the open water sims with relative ease; most of the serious problems related to sim crossings seem to be resolved. And it is a thrill to go fast on open waters, it just is! Here’s a shot of me at rest; I forgot how to snap a shot while speeding around. I know.

That’s me in my trusty Street Dancer speedboat.

I also spent some time over at the massive Bay City sim complex. It is a huge city right in the heart of Second Life, but I’m sorry to say that there weren’t many people there enjoying the many facilities that include an insane asylum, amusement park, stores, houses, hotels and so much more. The lack of activity is sad.

In Fallout 76, a multiplayer game, there are vast landscapes and post-apocalyptical cities and they are full of life in a sense because they have many Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and monsters. Of course, the monsters are ready do attack you, so you often have to fight for your life, but hey (*smiles*). That artificial activity gives FO76 a sense of life that is missing in SL, except at the SL clubs and a few sites. Perhaps, a city like Bay City would be far more enjoyable if there were some NPCs doing menial tasks, maybe even talking about their personal stories. It’s just an idea and would probably create a great deal of stress on SL’s underlying game architecture, but I saw signs that work is being done on something akin to NPCs. Just saying. OTOH, communicating with friend in FO76 is really difficult unless everyone has a headset and I rarely run into peeps wearing headsets.

One thing that caused me some consternation, a lot of my old shoes were broken. I thought I’d fixed this problem ages ago, but maybe a new problem has been introduced. When I left SL I had over 200 outfits organized in “My Outfits” and now I’m having trouble figuring out how to get a single outfit organized; this is on me, I just need to figure things out. Also, my Intan dance ball didn’t work. So, I’ve had some frustrations. I did some fun shopping though, kind of just weird spontaneous buying: Some military pants and some short-sleeved mohair sweaters. Here’s a new outfit.

I know this outfit is incongruous, but FO76 has given me a taste for the military-ish look.

To make a long story short: I’m kind of at a “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Night” (Robert Frost) moment.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,

I’ve been so tempted to plunge back into SL with both hands and feet. I’ll keep my premium membership for at least one more year and all that. I’ll be around from time to time. But I still have promises to keep “and [hopefully] miles to go before I sleep.”

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