How about a game status update for the thing that has taken over most of my free time this past month? (Yes, I bought it on Dec 3rd 2020 and here it is, Jan 3rd 2021 and the honeymoon ain’t over yet.) I managed to send up another shipment via the space elevator, which means I unlocked the potential to make petroleum products such as plastics and fuel from the newly-available oil.
The operative word there is, “potential.” In order to take advantage of the ability I’ll need to craft a bunch of materials needed to build the production facilities. I have a spreadsheet for tallying up the requirements.
Yes, a spreadsheet. For a video game. No, I don’t know what sort of stranger I’m becoming, either.
At any rate, a big part of today’s session involved retooling my meager copper operation into something which can crank out more materials, faster, routed and stored more usefully. I need Wires (made from copper) to pair with Steel Pipes (made from steel, which is made from iron and coal) to make Stators which, when paired with the Rotors that the iron works produces, makes Motors, and I need hundreds of those to get the oil fields project running.
Early this month, a friend on Twitter invited me to watch their streaming session, a tour of a power plant they’d just finished in an early-access game they’ve been playing and talking up for a while now: Satisfactory. The game’s a bit like a mash-up of a survival game (“you’re alone in this wilderness with a couple of basic tools, now make something of the situation”) and a systems-management sim (Factorio comes notably to mind).
It didn’t take long for me to decide that I needed to try this game for myself. The demo of the Hyper Tube sealed the deal, if I’m honest. “I have got to try this!”
(Spoiler: I have not yet tried the Hyper Tube. I’m close to unlocking the tech, but I have other priorities at the moment.)
I ponied up the thirty bucks, connected to my (ugh) Epic account (on the off-chance that at some point multiplayer is something I want to try), and found myself in the desert on an alien world, armed with a taser (needed for dealing with the occasional hostile local fauna, not that combat is much of a factor in this game most of the time) and carting around a box of parts to build my starter “hub.”
Weeks later, I’ve poured nearly 24 hours of playtime into this thing and am loving it. The gameplay loop boils down to facing a new logistics challenge and figuring out how to achieve the immediate goal in as efficient a manner as you can fashion, then moving on to the next one. It’s not really an “open world” affair: You are given a strict hierarchy of milestones, though within a given milestone level you can choose in which order you want to tackle them, and the details of exactly how to meet your goals is in your hands. This is ideal for me, as I work best to a clear set of guidelines.
The first stretch of the game is very… manual. You hand-craft most of the things you need, you hand-feed the various machines, your equipment is strewn around wherever you can clear the space, and so forth. A lot of your early game time is spent collecting every single piece of plant life you see in order to power the “bio-fuel” power generators that keep your equipment churning out needed materials. Your main goal at that point is to progress far enough along the tech tree to unlock coal power, then acquire said coal power. Once that’s up & running you can stop spending every free minute collecting & processing plant life and start focusing on the larger picture.
A big part of improving that larger picture is making your production environment look a bit less… haphazard.
Let’s talk about my latest project by way of example.
A few years ago I took a picture of the Moon with my then-new Coolpix camera, and it didn’t turn out too badly. Today, thanks to some lovely weather and excellent timing, the opportunity to try that shot with the Lumix FZ80 came up and I couldn’t pass it up. How did the new camera do?
Not too badly, if I’m honest. Mind you, I wish I’d been able to get the remote control app for my camera (yes, such a thing exists) to work properly so I could snap the picture without actually touching the device. Despite the camera being mounted on the tripod, I still introduced a bit of wobble to the results. More’s the pity.
If you compare the two I think the Lumix did a better job, though the Coolpix result was entirely handheld, which is some kind of miracle considering how unsteady my hands are.
As noted, I have my new camera (and it’s great). I have a bin full o’ duckies. I have a tripod. And now, as of this afternoon, I have a light tent (or whatever it’s supposed to be called, I dunno, I’m not a pro photographer or anything like that).
So how about some duck pics?
The “tent” is… larger than I originally wanted, but the size I wanted wasn’t in stock and I didn’t feel like waiting even longer to start this project, so here we are. It’s a 60x60x60cm cube with a big ring of tiny bright white LEDs up top for illumination and reflective surfaces on two sides. It gets bright in there, is what I’m saying.
During the process of figuring out this test shoot I discovered that my camera has an aspect ratio setting. Hooray for the 16:9 option, but this means I need to be more careful about vertical composition since I won’t be slicing selected bits off the top & bottom anymore. A new learning curve to ascend, I suppose.
I figured out how to lock the camera to an ISO of 100 to keep the graininess to the absolute minimum that I can with this rig. The aperture’s set to give me just a wee bit more than the minimum available depth of field as well. What I might need to do before embarking on the final photo shoot is to find a way to account for just how dingdanged bright it is inside the light tent. We’ll see, I suppose.
At first I wanted set dressing that wouldn’t distract or detract from the look of the ducks, but as I went through a variety of test shots I noticed something: While the gray blanket works great for the more traditionally (and less-traditionally) colorful ducks, the monochromatic ones have a harder time, like so:
We have a polyester throw blanket similar to the gray one you see in these pictures but in purple, and I think that might do the trick. Otherwise, we’ll figure something else out.
Of course, the perennial problem of taking high-resolution pictures of plastic toys is that they get so dusty and dingy so very easily. And some of them are rather hard to clean due to the specific formulation of the plastic. I’ll do the best I can with what I have, I suppose.
There’s a long vacation-like stretch coming up next week, and that’s when I’ll try to get this project done properly. Wish me luck!
It’s a beautiful day, the last of those we’re likely to get for a while since the weather’s supposed to turn hot again after Monday. We decided to go on a hike up at Bethany Lake Park, and I figured I’d take the new camera along. There’s not a whole lot to interest your average shutterbug there but why pass up the chance to put the new gear through its paces?
Neither of us had ever walked much past the shaded part of the pathway, so this time we pushed onward to the top of the hill where the path goes right through, apparently, a whole entire golf course. Yes, it’s quite possible to get beaned with a golf ball while on a summer afternoon hike. (Neither of us were harmed, but there were a couple of close calls.)
Having seen what was there to see (mostly dry grass and golf balls all over the place), we headed back down and found a shaded place to spread out a blanket and eat some snacks. Afterward, of course, I took more pictures.
It really was a marvelous time. Quiet, sunny but not too hot out, people generally behaving themselves (to varying degrees), and enough exercise to make my doctor happy.
On the way back toward the bus stop we paused at an unoccupied bench for a rest since our bus was some time off yet, and after looking around in the lake a bit I had to grab my camera because look at this marvelous bird:
I then noticed a mallard swimming nearby and decided to push the camera’s zoom to the maximum and see how that turned out. The results were… better than the old camera would have done, but still, I think it’s best if I don’t try that again any time soon:
The best part, though, was when the mallard swam right by the heron:
All in all, a good time out and a great validation of my new camera purchase.
The Nikon CoolPix gave up the ghost, as noted previously, and for a while I didn’t think I’d bother replacing it. I don’t take many pictures, after all.
And yet. And yet.
I researched my options for a “bridge” camera, which is apparently the common term now for a device that’s not merely a point-and-shoot, but not a full DSLR or mirrorless body rig. In other words, a bridge camera is a fancy point-and-shoot. I avoided the Nikon brand, because that “take a picture, then vaporlock” bug seems to show up in several of their bridge-range models. Yuck. One particular model seemed to hit the sweet spot of being moderately well-reviewed (considering it’s a budget camera) and staying below my desired price threshold. And this week, after what’s been an absolute bastard of a month, I went ahead and ordered one.
My new piece of shutterbug gear is the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80, which came in at a bit under three hundred bucks (on sale).
Here’s the first pic taken with it, just a few minutes ago:
My first few shots show that I’ll be fighting against a certain amount of graininess, but thanks to my research I knew that before making my purchase. (The amount of money required to escape certain problems is… more than I’m willing to part with.) What’s definitely missing is the Nikon’s weird feather-shaped smudges when you zoom in on the image file. I was worried that those smudges were going to be common to all image-stabilization algorithms. Apparently, no, just the CoolPix has that bizarre quirk.
Hopefully I can dial in a combination of ISO (to reduce grain) and aperture (for depth of field) that gets me the kind of results I want on this new rig. Then… it’ll be time to (re)start the Rubber Duck Image Gallery Project!