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Writing Novels, but No NaNo

I am going to just say no to NaNoWriMo this year and accept a challenge someone offered to write a novel from start to finish between October 1st and December 31st. It is a much saner span of time, and will give me enough time to be able to work on some of the other things that I have going on.

So, over the next few months I am going to work on not one, but three different novels.

One of the novels is being written as part of a course I am taking, so it is going to be a long-term project that will not be finished until … well, ohh… I do believe that the final lesson for the course (if there are no delays) will be June 15, 2019. So… yeah, I will have a completed first draft of a novel by the week of my birthday this next year.

In addition to the novel that should be finished around the time my birthday hits, I am going to work on a new story based on one I have had kicking around for a long time as a basic idea. Time to stop putting off the idea and turn it into a story, so it will be the one I will write between now and December 31st.

I’m also going to be working on adding more to a story that I have about 22,000 words written for the rough draft of. It’ll be a 30,000 word novella when I finish it, I just have to add in a few more scenes for a good sub plot to help fill in some of the areas of the story. That one has the main story completely finished beginning to end, and will go into revisions as soon as I get that subplot done.

I also am revising and finishing the long awaited (by me) first book for my Heir to Magic series. It has been, I think, 30 years since I first started thinking about this story, so having a solid idea for how to start that project after all this time is really nice. I talked in depth about it with my friend last night and she alleviated some of the concerns I had, and tonight I will be working on organizing scene cards based on what I already have written, which is about 20,000 words.

So, that is technically four novels that I plan to be working on between now and December 31st, with a goal for at least one of them to be fully finished by the end of this year. It’s going to be a busy few months with little time in it for gaming or 3D modeling, but I’ll try not to completely neglect those two aspects of this site.

And speaking of this site… I also plan to finally get around to that site overhaul sometime before the end of the year. So that is another thing on the horizon. For now, however, I have a lot of plotting and writing to do on some stories.

What Parents Need to Know About the Dangers of Video Games

Imagine for a moment, if you would, a group of concerned parents gathered in a room with civic leaders to discuss the dangers that something poses to their children. Times are changing quickly and many parents are feeling a growing concern for their children, a concern made stronger by the concerns that people they consider experts express on how children are being driven to lie, steal, and skip school in order to play addictive games.

Worse, precious resources that are vital to the safety of America are being used by the manufacturers of the machines that are being used to corrupt the morals of children.

If you are a parent, then chances are you might breathe easier to know that a law was passed that put a stop to the proliferation of such morally corrupting devices. Police staged raids and even went undercover, arresting store owners who were discovered to be in possession of illegal devices.

Raids on a variety of businesses that included bars, bowling alleys, amusement centers … even candy stores, routed out over 2,000 machines in New York city, where the mayor and police gathered with news photographers to do a very public display of smashing the illegal devices with sledge hammers.

Other cities followed the example that New York set. Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles… In Los Angeles, Proposition No. 3 passed with about 161,000 votes for and 113,000 against the ban, and The Los Angeles Times reported:

Mayor Bowron and his Police Commission urged the adoption of the anti pin-ball law on the grounds that the machines are used for petty gambling, so widespread that the police are totally insufficient in number to enforce the law.

By this point anyone from Los Angeles will probably be scratching their heads over this Mayor Bowron. Most readers, I hope, will have caught the “pin-ball” in that quoted passage.

Yes, everything I have written here is the truth, it all happened in the 1940’s over the game of pin-ball and concerns that it was corrupting children and turning them to crime. You can read about the Pin-ball ban in New York at the History.com website, and about the ban of pin-ball games in L.A. at the L.A. Times website.

The concerns about gaming go back well before the introduction of video games, and the history of video games is filled with controversial periods where one group or another has raised concern about the dangers of video games or the violence that is to be found in video games.

What parents need to know is what games their children are being exposed to, and to take a pro-active role in monitoring not just what children have access to, but how the children react to the things that parents can not supervise.

Many parents are understandably concerned that children will be able to play inappropriate games at a friend’s house or have some other access to the games that the parent wishes to keep out of their hands. The reasoning then becomes banning the games to protect the children, but that is an extremely dangerous path to take. There needs to be a compromise between the availability and freedom of expression of games created for older gamers, and  the addressing of concerns parents and others have for the well-being of children.

For now the best solution remains for parents to be pro-active in the lives of their children and to study the types of games their children have access to. A parent does not need to play every game their child plays, such an effort is all but impossible with so much variation in the gameplay of RPGs and the online interactions of many of the more popular games, but parents can seek out communities of gamers who are happy to offer their insight on the various games and answer questions.

If you are a parent reading this, then please, feel free to ask me anything you are concerned about and I will do my best to find some kind of answer to help you better understand the games that you are concerned about.

Critical Outbreak Back-down in The Division?

I have been going into the mission at the Hudson Refugee Camp on Challenging Difficulty with the Outbreak Modifier set to Critical Outbreak, only to have the party immediately reduce the difficulty and Outbreak setting after the mission starts. I am not sure if they are trying to game the system or what, but it is annoying after the fifth time in a row I join a Challenging Critical Outbreak only to have them reduce it to a Hard Outbreak or even Normal Outbreak run. You need to go on at least Severe Outbreak to get some of the comms, so I do not know what they are up to.

I know one good group I joined a couple of days ago, as I joined I heard one of the guys say on mic, “Well, I’m not backing the difficulty down. There we go, we just need one more now.” I was highly amused by that, and at the same time delighted because I enjoy the runs on max difficulty, but it seems like there are a lot of people that do not like the difficulty of the higher settings.

I know the Outbreak contagion makes a lot of people growl on the mics during missions, because they do not like having the enemies close in and infect them to death, so I can only guess that is the reason for people backing difficulty down when I am joining. They probably already tried and failed Critical Outbreak and went back to the normal Outbreak setting instead.

How to Get Masks During Outbreak in The Division

I’ve been playing the Outbreak Global Event on The Division and it seems like there are a lot of people who are confused about how the mask acquisition works, so I have put this post to help people figure out how to get each of the three masks.

Clean Up on Outbreak Trench Mask

This one is fairly straightforward. You just need to kill off Cleaner Bosses. The big tough guys at the ends of the missions. I’m not sure if cleaner bosses in the Dark Zone count, but someone said the ones in West Side Pier endless wave missions count for it. I have not confirmed either one, I mainly go for the ones in Hudson Refugee Camp because that is easiest place to get the shotgun head-shots. (more on that below)

Need An Aspirin? CBRN Mask

The one that seems to confuse people the most is the Need An Aspirin, mainly because people do not understand the marking system. The game has a marking system that allows you to tap up on the D pad to cause enemies to pulse, but when they say Marked Enemy in this event they mean that you need someone to shoot the enemy in the head, then you shoot them in the head. This is a true sniper’s mission because you need a spotter to mark the target, then you shoot them and it is an instant kill. For this mask you need to find someone who has a mic and can guide you to the targets they are marking, or you just have to be persistent and watch for the marks to appear. Some last for only a half a moment, others for a few seconds, but if you’re quick you can follow up on other’s head-shots to get these even without a buddy playing spotter on a mic. You’ll need to go into one of the missions and set the difficulty of the outbreak to Critical Outbreak, then just watch for a blue or orange box to show up near the enemy level indicator next to their health bar. If you get a clean head-shot while that head-shot marker is up then it will count for the mask.

Too Close for Comfort Chemist Mask

This one is not that difficult to  work toward. You need to go into an Outbreak Mission and set the difficulty to at least hard, then set up Severe or Critical for the contamination level. I take the Showstopper, but any shotgun will work. Go into Hudson Refugee Camp and in the last area there will be multiple waves of chargers with ax and shield, they swam in through where you entered the level at. Go to the right when you drop down and up onto the platform. Set up a flame turret to stop the ax men as they come up the stairs, then stand at the back of the opening aiming down or at the top of the steps aiming back down them and aim for head-shots on the ax wielders as they pause to swat out the flames.

Division Dark Zone Rogue Plague

There is a bit of a plague problem in the Dark Zone with Rogue Agents , and unfortunately I think it will only get worse over the next week. That is how long there is to go on the Rogue Agent objectives for the Dark Zone leader boards.

I am currently almost to the first tier, and that is with minimal Rogue activity by me. Most of my score comes from taking out named enemies in the Dark Zone. I have been pulled into being Rogue a few times, but I presently only have 1 Rogue kill and 1 Manhunt Survival, so the Rogue actions clearly are not required to get a decent placement on the leader boards; it is just one way to get placement.

Which is good, because I do not really care that much for playing with the Rogues, mainly because I run a sniper build so am horrifically squishy, a point that I think is getting to be known around the DZ given how often the Rogue Agents break from the person they’re after and swarm me if they notice me. I will leave the area just so I am not giving Rogues easy kills, because they should have to work for those kills, not just slaughter the easy targets like me. But then, I’ve seen more than a few people go Rogue, take me down, then go after someone else thinking they were going to get an easy kill only to discover that I’m only slightly squishier to them than they are to a properly geared up Agent. Those moments are highly satisfying to see.

I’ll be sneaking around in the Dark Zone at odd hours in the week ahead, but I’ve taken to often wearing the Commando Beret in place of my cowboy hat when I’m in the DZ, still got the leather jacket and old ratty jeans though.

Division 2 Beta Signup: Hope to see you in Washington, Agents

I signed up for The Division 2 beta today and am more than a little excited at the news that the game is scheduled for launch next March. This will be a game I plan to pre-order and is one of the few games I am genuinely excited to see in 2019. I’m currently playing The Division as a means to reduce stress and am hoping to see a lot of new Agents enter New York, or older Agents return, between now and March 2019. I’ve seen a few people in the game and communities that have said they just came back from a long hiatus, and with the second game set to be released I am anticipating a boost in interest in people who had considered getting the first game since its launch.

Looking at the information on The Division 2 I am a bit torn, however, as I see Survivalist with a crossbow and I also see a Sharpshooter class. I main Sharpshooter in pretty much any game I play in, but anyone that knows me knows I am far more inclined to stealth and survival by wits than I am rushing enemies, so the Survivalist has also really caught my attention. I am hoping to be part of the beta so I can get a feel for each of the two classes and see which one I want to focus on when I get the full game.

For now I will content myself with slipping around the Dark Zone and seeing how many new players I can help get their gear out past the onslaught of Rogue Agents that are currently making the Dark Zone a nightmare. I am really hoping that since this event focuses on Rogue actions, that the next one will focus on decimating the Rogues Agents.

Shades Goes Rogue

Since today was my birthday I decided to spend it how I wanted to… by playing videogames. I spent the whole day playing The Division, and during that time I got into a group with some folks that went Rogue. It was not the first time I’ve been in a group that suddenly went Rogue, but I decided to go with it. First time ever the little popup on the screen said Rogue agent ShadesDaughter killed someone. The guy rather had it coming, since they had been going Rogue before that and harassed me earlier on, and they were clearly really tough and going after lower geared folks, so I considered it to be a situation of going Rogue to bring a Rogue agent hiding in the ranks to justice.

Later on I got into a party with a fellow that had gone Rogue against my team, and me him and a couple others got to a level 5 manhunt and cleared it. Sort of made me wonder what the fuss was about, sure it gives you a few boxes, but they were not anything I could not get easier without the manhunt and just extracting loot.

Overall it was fun, mainly because we were in mics and having fun talking more than anything, but it has made me contemplate going Rogue more, so… if you see me in the DZ and I am wearing a mask rather than just the filter, I might be hunting double agents and there is a chance I may go Rogue if my group does. Better odds, though, I’ll just take off and try to survive it, but it will depend on the situation.

Was overall a good way to spend my birthday, though.

Dark Zone woes – Caches lost because of wrong turn

So, I work at home and during my breaks last night I played The Division. Nothing serious, just run into the Dark Zone and grab a single area of Division Tech, then duck into a safehouse or checkpoint and go back to work. As I was making my way along I ended up collecting a few items, then scrapping things to pick up better things. I realized suddenly I had nothing but caches. It has been over a year since I have had that so I was seriously thinking an evac might be a good idea. Unfortunately, the Rogues were out by then and I could see two groups harassing others. I went into hiding and logged out, did some serious work for a while, then logged back in to check the situation. Coast was clear, sure enough those early morning rogues had left for school. I went out the door and was told, “You can’t take contaminated gear out of the Darkzone,” and there was all those cache’s flicking along in a line down the screen as they were incinerated. O.O

I hissed and swore and grumbled and wished that if you had a pack it gave you some kind of “Are you SURE You want to open this door?” Warning other than a slow button hold. By the time my tired brain realized I was at the wrong door my stuff had already been yanked off my back by that dang guy in the checkpoint and tossed into the furnace.

Live and learn and go back in to grab more gear. At least I did not lose that haul to Rogues, but it’ll probably be a year before I ever have another loot lineup like that again.

Division Rogues camping Extraction Points

Yesterday I noticed a new trick the Rogues in the Darkzone have started doing. It is probably not a new trick, but it is one that I had not encountered until yesterday.

My first observation of Evacuation Campers was a fellow standing up on some crates watching over an evac point with the chopper there to get loot, but there was no loot on the rope and he did not have any to be lifted out. I know he was targeting anyone that tried to use the lift because he had been a rogue agent at that same area when I had lifted things out a little while before I encountered him there.

My second encounter with evac trappers was two kids, financeranger and killinit4real666. I was up bebopping around looking along the furthest north wall when I saw a chopper call at the evacuation point up there. I did not have anything worth taking out, usually all I have is junk pickups anyway, but I had seen another player in the area. We had passed one another a few times, saluting one another each time. I thought maybe they were trying to evac out, so I went down to help them get their stuff out.

I walked into the area and saw financeranger, not the person I had seen before. I moved a bit slower, watching him and the guy behind him. Then killinit4real666 spoke up on his mic, “We got one, we got one.” I heard a “Whew, we got one.” from financeranger as I moved back out, and something else from killinit4real666, but missed what they said as I was moving back up topside.

But, yeah, uh, no.

(I have a screenshot of them that I was going to post here, but for some reason I can’t get it uploaded.)

The two were baiting in players so they could take their gear. I backed out and left them there. Went over to the checkpoint and teleported down to another area. Which shows how literal junk my pick was, did not matter to me that it was lost in teleporting.

Rogues are a part of the Darkzone, it’s not something that will change despite how I think it could be improved to be a bit better for those who are casual players trying to get better gear, but I have no patience for the Rogues that can only succeed by moving in packs of 8 or sneak ambushing people at evac zones. Those two types are a bad mark on good rogue agents. And yes, there are good rogues out there. I’ve had more than a few folks I have encountered in my helping people get gear out who will help lower level players lift out their stuff, then salute them, go rogue and let the poor sap have a head start before chasing after them as the player tries to escape the rogue. Or will pop them once with an extremely low end sidearm to assure they are not killed, let them get some distance, then the hunt is on. But just finding a solo player, that is struggling to get gear, and going 8 level 99’s vs one lvl 45? That’s not rogue agents, that’s just immature jerks laughing as they harass new players to the point the new player quits even going to the Darkzone, if not quits the game completely.

I know there are folks out there who find their fun in making people quit games, even people with the mentality that they have played the game long enough that it is theirs alone and any new person needs forced to quit playing it, but that is not a healthy mindset to have in a game if you ever want the game developers make a new game or if you want the server to be kept online.

New players mean new people buying the game, which means the game survives longer. Instead of chasing the newbies out, the long-time players should help and encourage them so the game thrives.

And if ya see the cowboy sniper show up at your evac, don’t worry, I’m just there to try to help you get your loot out. And if you let me get mine out, well… I won’t mind if you want to go rogue after the evac and see who’s faster through the mean streets of the Darkzone. Just play nice at the evacs, and don’t t-bag me or dance like a moron if you win the fight, and I’ll laugh it off and probably even compliment you for a good chase.

Tom Clancy’s The Division Guides

I’ve started playing Tom Clancy’s The Division again and decided to go back to making walk-throughs and guides for the game, both here and on my YouTube channel if my internet connection will allow me to upload the videos.

At the moment I am doing a lot of gathering of Division Tech out of the Dark Zone, so my first batch of guides are going to focus on how to get into the Dark Zone, find the Division Tech, and get out before the Rogue Agents can catch you.

Rogue Agents are a major problem in the DZ lately, and today they have been the worst I’ve seen them in a long while. Earlier, when I was trying to just go from a Safe House where I had logged out last night to the Dark Zone exit, I had a situation where I stepped out of the door of the Safe House and into a pack of eight tier three rogues – two full teams running together. I should have headed back inside, but I went ahead and booked it, unfortunately into a dead-end alleyway. It was annoying, but I re-spawned at the Checkpoint out of the DZ and hopped up to the one I wanted to be at for a Division Tech harvest.

Unfortunately there is an event going on for the next few weeks that is actually encouraging people to go rogue in the Dark Zone, making it even more irritating than usual to try to do anything in there. I really wish that when they had set up the fix a while back to make it so that people had to opt-in to going Rogue they had instead set it that people had to opt-in to being targets of Rogue Agents. I know it’s supposed to be a “Anyone could go Rogue” tension area, but it would not have hurt anything at all for there to be an option to not be the target of everyone that outranked you (and most of the ones that you outrank), just so you can gather some Division Tech or explore the Dark Zone. Not everyone wants to gather a group before hopping into the DZ for a few minutes.

In fact, there is actually still a mission in the DZ that I have not done simply because I don’t want to deal with the Rogues while trying to have an immersive gaming experience. (And no, a 12 yr old shooting me in the back while I am fighting a Named Boss, then T-bagging over top of my character’s body, is not the reason I bought the game.)

One solution that I think would be reasonable would be for the targets of Rogue Agents to actually be able to enter safe areas. Being shot at by a Rogue Agent, however, is considered PVP, so they will not let you into any safe areas if you are being attacked by a Rogue Agent. So, even if you can get some distance, unless the Rogues give up there is no way for you to get away from packs like the one that was harassing everyone in the DZ today. And those guys will guard spawn locations, waiting for you to step back out of a Safe House or entry area.  This means if you are trying to do something (like your daily Dark Zone mission), and don’t have the time to come back later, you miss out on that stuff. For that reason, if I see Rogues after someone, I will usually try to help the victim, but that often just leaves me also being killed by the Rogue Agents because of the 4 to 1 battle it tosses me into.

So, yeah, my wish for The Division is still some way to balance out the Dark Zone so it is a bit more forgiving to the more casual players that can not get anything done in there because of limited play time and Rogue Agents who ether ambush them when they are busy fighting, or join a group only to leave as soon as everyone has their stuff at the Evacuation area; killing former team mates and taking their loot. I know a lot of people who stopped going to the Dark Zone entirely because of the trouble they had in there with Rogues, leaving them unable to get good gear, which usually caused them to quit playing the game. And that is a shame, because the Division is such an awesome game and while the “Anyone can turn against you” of the Dark Zone is fun, it is also causing a lot of players to leave the game to play other games that have better places to gather endgame gear.

Enough of my complaints about the Dark Zone and Rogue Agents, though, time for me to do my little part of helping my fellow Agents and start working on a guide to where to find the Division Tech, and how to secure it and get out alive before the Rogue Agents find you.

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