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Ottawa, Ontario
Canada

Just a little corner of the interwebz where I occasionally jot down a thought or two. Why do I do it? Partly to communicate in some way with you, the reader, and partly because it's some sad way of leaving a legacy of some kind I guess.

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Ramblings

out east

Jonathan Tom

It's fair to say that I've been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things; six continents, dozens of countries, and hundreds of cultural experiences. They say that the last places you ever really explore are the places you live, be it your city, your province (or state), or your country. This week I get to check off another province from my list and thus complete my tour of the Canadian provinces which leaves me with just two of the territories left: the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Enough about the future though, this week I am in Newfoundland near St. Johns and while it's only been a few days it's been really picturesque and all around lovely. Earlier in the week I made it out to Quidi Vidi with my sister for brunch at Mallard Cottage where we split (family style) rhubarb French toast and a pork eggs benny before taking a walk around the area.

Quidi Vidi

We also took a day and wend out to Cape Spear which is the eastern-most point of North America excluding the Danish-controlled Greenland. It's a pretty cool location as you can see from the first photograph in this post which depicts my niece and I on one of the boardwalks there.

Throughout the week I'm planning on trying to make it out to a few other places that have been left on a must-see list for me before heading back to Ottawa. 

a farewell to ship life

Jonathan Tom

A friend shared this post on Facebook today and, though it's been over a year since I stepped off my last ship as a crew member, it still resonnated with me so here are some excerpts but if you can spare a 5 minute read I highly recommend swinging by Derek's Blog for this particular post.

‘Ship life’ is the term used by all the thousands of cruise ship crew members worldwide to describe the unique lifestyle that defines the entire essence of our existence. Whether working on board a 150,000 ton, 3000 passenger ocean liner or a 500 passenger ultra-luxury ship, ‘ship life’ involves the rules, both written and unwritten, the interactions of several hundred crew members representing over fifty nationalities, the late nights in the crew bar and the fish head soup (popular among the large Filipino segment of the workforce), the fake smiles and ‘good afternoon madams’, the cabin inspections, the obnoxious guests, the security screenings, the consistently failing relationships. Nepalese security guards, Ukrainian dancers, Filipino deck hands, South African hair stylists, Moldovan bartenders – everyone survives in an unfathomable underworld that rules every second of how we live and work.

Crew members always joke to each other that the best times off the ship are simply when the ship itself is not in sight. A day spent on a beach with the ship still in view is pointless and better spent on ‘metal beach’, the crew sunbathing area on the topmost deck of the vessel. For those that can get far enough away in order to truly release the day’s frustrations, they undoubtedly enjoy an extremely valuable period of time. But once you re-enter the port gates at the end of your day, and you wipe the sand from between your toes, that first glimpse of the ship forces a dreaded yet necessary alteration in mindset. Back to the routine, back to the ‘ship life.’

Now, when I try to fall asleep each night, the strong winds cause the willow trees outside my window to sway, leaving my room itself completely unaffected by its gusts. Although I no longer wish to float upon the seven seas, I still close my eyes in the hopes of fading into some sort of familiar dream, perhaps one in which the white sands stretch forever, the money flows and the world is my home.

Photo by Sean O. on Unsplash

green mountains

Jonathan Tom

They call it the Green Mountain state - a place I've been going to off and on for as long as I can remember. My family has a time share near Stowe and to say it's breath taking would be an understatement. In the mornings it's nice to get up, grab a coffee (or a tea) and head out to the porch which overlooks a valley which is usually filled with clouds until the sun crests and burns them off.

It's surprisingly quiet given the number of people spread across the grounds of the time share but even given that fact it almost feels, at times, as if it's just you and the mountain. If that's the ultimate goal though there are plenty of trails around that can take you anywhere from an hour or two to a day or two out into the woods. While I probably won't partake in any long hikes I am looking forward to having some time there this year - now that the family has grown it's not possible to have all of us there at the same time. There are two rooms and a pull out bed in the living room so, at most, the unit can accommodate six people and that is a definite stretch so when a year like this year comes around where it's just my parents and myself... well, let's just say it's hard to turn down.

Recently my parents got the opportunity to secure a week in the fall as well and I'm very interested in checking the same area out in autumn. It won't be on the agenda this year but maybe next year we can make that happen. All in all, it's nice to have a decompression week coming up soon in the green mountains.

Photo by Brad Fickeisen on Unsplash

E3: Ubisoft

Jonathan Tom

In our ongoing commentary of the pre-E3 studio press conferences… ok, ok, I know I only did one previous to this… just let me have this. Anyway, today we look at the Ubisoft Conference which took place today in Los Angeles. So let’s get into it:

An opening number with a horn section and a drum line is a win in my books.Graphics featuring Just Dance “coming this October”.

The first trailer is for “Beyond Good and Evil 2” and the cinematic is beautiful. I thought the first teaser for this game looked good but this has really come a long way. Described as a Space Opera, it’s a sci-fi game that seems very character driven. They showed some Pre-Alpha game play footage. Near the end of the 24th century you play the captain is an action adventure RPG open universe. The community will be able to weigh in on the creation of the game… Ubisoft is offering an open invitation to submit art which will be incorporated into the game via Hit Record (Joseph Gordon Levitt’s company). This is an interesting concept which, I hope, isn’t a way to get out of paying actual artists for some of these assets.

Next up, “Rainbow Six: Siege” - the community has grown to 35 million players strong over the last 2.5 years. Operation Parabellum is open right now, they’ve invited everyone to give it a shot. The community manager is pushing the esports side pretty hard - announcing a few tournaments from Brazil to Montreal. They also premiered a trailer for “Another Mindset” which is a documentary that follows eight community players and talks about how it changed / improved their lives. I think more studios should put a human face on games.

The game dev for “Trials Rising” just rode in on a motorcycle wearing a daredevil outfit and then mock smashed a podium. Crashing with style and getting up again is the motto for this game. The game seems to be as much about the spectacular crashes than it is about completing the course. Ride in iconic locations around the world, and crash in iconic locations.

Brad Hill, created a YouTube channel on mastering the game. He was a player that was approached to make the tutorial content for the new game. He’s plugging the closed beta which should open later this year and announcing the release date Feb 2019 on Xbox, PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.

Next up is what I’ve been waiting for, “The Division 2”. The Creative Director is taking the stage to talk about it - he opens with the story of The Division 1. The sequel starts seven months later in Washington DC where civilians are trying to rebuild. They’re showing a cinematic which looks pretty good… the little girl running seems awkward but maybe she is supposed to have an injury. It’s doing a good job of showing a post-apocalyptic city - setting the stage for the new game.The trailer ends with three division agents finding the little girl’s note which reads “Help” as they walk into the city.

Heavily story based campaign where player decisions affect the game play and the story. After the main progression campaign you choose a new progression style / specialization. This is interesting… a focus on the end game content so early on. I hope this doesn’t mean that the campaign is short. They are announcing that raids are coming to The Division 2 for teams of eight players - this gets a huge round of applause. The Creative Director announces that year one will have 3 DLCs with new stories, new activities, and new areas all completely free. It’s safe to say that I am very excited to play this game when it comes out March 15, 2019.

The next game has a scene change? The screen flies up and a band setup is rolled out… to celebrate the upcoming release of a new Donkey Kong adventure? Releasing June 26th, it looks neat but not really my type of game.

There have been several audio problems in the broadcast (possibly in the venue as well) where the presenters miss haven’t been muted properly when going off stage and conversations were heard for several seconds (one such started with: “I’m sorry they changed your entrance…”). Someone is going to hear about that…

Next up “Skull & Bones”, the opening caption of “Piracy is Dead, Long Live Piracy”. The cinematic is very well done - details are crystal clear and the action is engaging. This seems to be another shared world game which could lead to some interesting PVP, I’ll be interested to hear more about this game as it becomes available.

Another trailer starts… for Elijah Wood’s entrance? The game is called “Transference”. A first person exploration game in VR and traditional platforms, it’s billed as a psychological thriller. Complete puzzles solved through multiple characters… the premise seems interesting. I’m not usually a fan of scary-ish games like this but I’m interested in the story, or at least what I’ve seen in the trailer. We’ll see in the fall what it turns out to be.

The next trailer is for “Starlink” - a sci-fi game with a real world miniature component? I’m not sure I’m a fan of that idea. It looks like you attach real pieces to a model to upgrade your in-game ship; I hope that’s not a monetization scheme. A blast from my childhood though, this game is incorporating StarFox into the game… I guess this means it’ll be available on Nintendo Switch. And there it is, they even have Mr. Miyamoto (renowned game designer for Nintendo) in the audience. The game will be available on October 16th but the StarFox portion will only be on Nintendo Switch… oh well.

For Honor” is a game that I never played but here is the Creative Director for “For Honor” on stage announcing a weeklong giveaway of “For Honor” on the UPlay Store for PC and thanking the players for their passion. The real meat of this portion of the presentation is an expansion to the “For Honor” world - moving into the orient with “For Honor: Marching Fire”. A new faction and four new fighters is an update come along with a new mode called Breach which is a castle siege 4v4 mode.

The Brand Director for “The Crew 2” takes the stage will be available on June 29th. The cinematic looks stunning and fast paced - maybe a mix of Forza and Steep. There’s not been much emphasis on story but that can be seen in the open beta starting June 21st I suppose.

Here’s the other announcement I’ve been waiting for, “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”. Set in Greece it looks like you play a Spartan! The trailer doesn’t seem to mention anything about the Assassins or the Templar, could this be a deviation from the previous games? Described by its Creative Director as a role playing fantasy, the Peloponnesian war is the setting for this game that’s been under development over the last 3 years. References are made to choices… you get to choose your character that you play for the entire game. You are part of the bloodline of Leonidas and you have his weapon, a spear, which is a key part of the combat for the game. The clip they show to feature the combat starts with a nice easter egg to the famous “This. Is. Sparta.” kick… very nice. Interactions with famous historic people such as Socrates seem pretty interesting though. This section ends with (rendered) game play footage and it looks pretty amazing taking place on the island of Mykonos. Combat seems similar to previous games in the series which is nice as it’ll be familiar. I’ll definitely be playing this when it arrives in the fall.