ExtraLife Gameathon 2016 – Team Bombshelter

Well, first off, the final numbers aren’t in yet but:

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Yeah. Given that we’re a Canadian team, and that’s in US Dollars? I’m incredibly happy, and proud of my team. Seriously, they all come together at the last minute, and it just works. And they’re brutally generous with both their time and money.

That’s also not the end of the story, either. I’m currently sitting on about $325 Canadian in cash donations from the day-of (we keep a donation bucket).

And finally, if you’re so inclined, you can donate until December 31st, 2016. Just click right about here, and we thank you. Please, remember that this is in aid of CHEO (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), so,if you’re Ottawa, Kingston, that kind of area, and have, or know kids, chances are, someone you know will make use of CHEO’s services at some time. It’s a great cause, and we’re always happy to try to help them out in some small way.

So, the event itself!

I must admit, I had some trepidation going into it. It’s been … All round it’s been a rough year – I’ve had a lot going on at work, and personally, and I’m exhausted. So, it was tough to organize this year, and I almost didn’t bother. Almost. But, I had some concerns that we were going to get a super small turn out (we didn’t) that donations were gonna be tough (they weren’t) and that maybe the events time had passed for us (it hasn’t).

Call it a minor crisis of faith.

Well, I did the traditional lessons learned – We sold our pool table (that came with the house when we bought it) last winter, so that opened up a ton of space in the basement. That really made the PC gamers a lot more comfortable (And a lot more comfortable than they deserve! Basement trolls, every one of them). I picked up a couple of sets of folding table LEGS, and built two more “door tables” to provide as much space as I could, and that left us with an extra tabletop space surrounded by bookcases (which was actually really nice, the ambience was pretty great!) The network was strung from the ceiling like a spiderweb (main connection to gigabit switch, out to a gigabit switch on each set of two tables). I actually planned the layout of the house for the event on paper this year, and had myself an honest-to-god checklist, rather than just doing it all in my head. And, it all appears to have worked out fairly well.

So, speaking of that house layout, this is what we had:

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The living room – aka “Xbox Alley”. All consoles, all the time. Three years ago, this would have been the primary hub of activity, this year, not so much. We did have some bodies out sick, though, which made a big difference. Even so, our console division dropped off, which is interesting to note (also, smaller screens showing up this year, with the exception of my own, more on that later).

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Like I said, my own TV was the exception. In the dining room, I took over: That’s 65″ of 4k love – It’s my house, dammit, I’ll play the way I want to. I also knew I was going to have a huge set-up, anyway, because of my racing rig. What you see in front of you was: Xbox360, Xbox:One, Logitech G920 racing wheel/pedals/shifter, LED backlighting on the TV from the powerbar (those are AWESOME), and my Republic of Gamers G571 laptop. I was all set to play pretty much anything. Next to it was @pingoderp’s Xbox360, which basically got used for Portal.

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Family room was a general congregation area, and Rockband/DJ Hero. I was surprised at the turnout for the Rockbanding. Very good though. And the SumoSac’s were, as always, well loved by the kids for flopping out and spending time on mobile gaming, and Nintendo DS.

Basement. I wasn’t kidding. This is where the PC Master Race is shunned… I mean, situated.

Tabletop room 1!


Tabletop room 2!

I ended up not involved (for obvious reasons) but for a number of reasons, we tried a “PokeWalk” – a couple of the parents (primarily organized by @Yumi Kiddo) took a number of the kids to Carleton University to do a few hours of Pokemon Go. It does sound like it went well, and definitely helped us at the house, because it lowered the crush of kids running around for the afternoon (our highest volume of bodies is about noon to 9pm, and it can be a distinct “crush” of people in a relatively small space). I get the impression this went very well, but may have been a horde of babbling kids tearing at the nerves of a couple of parents *grin*

Lessons learned? Always.

  • the couch in the family room can’t be on the west wall – kids would jump onto it, and bump the wall-socket network cable, taking everyone out down in the basement
  • Rockband, even on a smaller scale, is still a success – IF it’s separated from all the other gaming, because it’s loud, and not everyone wants to listen to it
  • upgrading the connection (from 27/3 to 60/10 made a huge difference, and no one had any issues beyond the bumping from the couch).
  • consoles have dropped off, tabletop has grown hugely, and PC gaming staged a notable increase
  • it remains a huge amount of work to set up. Like…. a lot.

    How much? Well, take a look at the pictures, and you see what goes into the rooms. We move furniture around. the networking consists of eight gigabit switches, and somewhere around 700 feet of Cat5e. Four of those switches were new this year. We upgraded the connection, as noted, and that costs money. Ok, sure, I wanted that too but. There’s the hydro – November is our biggest month of the year for obvious reasons. It’s about an extra fifty percent of our monthly bill, for that weekend. Food, that we lay in, beyond what other people generously provide.

    And mostly… time. It takes A LOT of time to set up, tear down, organize, lead, and fundraise for. Probably 130 hours of pure, physical set-up and tear-down, plus time talking to people about the event, what we’re doing, how we’re doing it.

    This is the thing. We’ve now done this for five years. And it IS a lot of work. And early on this year, it was somewhat disenchanting to see the… lack of enthusiasm. And I know, times get tough and get better and we have good years and bad years.

    But, what I know at this point is, to turn the house into a charity fun-house (which is really what we do) for about eighty people coming and going (which is about what we have) costs me. Well, us. It costs money – I spend about $200/year now – it was more three years ago, but now we’re down to just replacing broken/obsolete things, and any hardware needed. It costs time as noted.

    But you know what?

    It’s still worth it. It really is. The event comes together, it’s really fun, we have a great time, there are some great moments, and once we’re doing it, I’m reminded of just how awesome the people I’ve surrounded myself with, are. I’m incredibly fortunate. And that good fortune is one of the reasons we still do it, despite the work, the frustration, and the inconvenience. Because we can, and it is just work, frustration, and inconvenience, and we can deal with that.

    Because at the end of the day, we do something good, and that’s really worth it. Especially right now.

    So, will we do it again?

    Well, at five years? Yeah, we’re totally going to. I’m not completely sure what form it’ll take. We may have some other options for a location coming up. Something that would really take the pressure off us in terms of the intrusion of the event into our home for weeks. I’d miss having the event at home, for sure, but it’s grown to a point now that it may really not be viable to keep doing it at home. However, a bunch of other stuff will have to come together for that to work, too.

    Cryptic much? 😀

    At the end of the day, we do it for CHEO, and I think we do an amazing job. I haven’t heard what the numbers are for fundraisers for Ottawa, for CHEO specifically, but we are regularly near the top. Which means we really are doing something good for the world, and for our community.

    Pretty much every parent we know has made use of CHEO’s facilities at some point or another, and those that haven’t? Likely will. It’s that kind of facility.

    So, one more time, with feeling, if you want to drop a few bucks, it would be hugely appreciated. Just click that link up there at the top. You know the one. Go on. Click it. You know you wanna. Makes you feel good. Doooo iiit.

    Seriously, if you’d thought about it, but didn’t get around to it, now’s the time! so, please do, if you can.

    And yeah, we’ll probably be back next year.

    But for the moment, I’ll leave it with this. I’m wicked proud of my team. Players, fund raisers, donators, all. All amazing. Thank you again Team Bombshelter, you’re awesome, and I don’t do this by myself.

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  • 2015 #extralife #gameathon

    Yes, I hashtagged my title. Live with it.

    I had previous written this “We’re right on top of the Gameathon”. Well, I never posted that. So, this is a little bit of pre- and post-gameathon.

    First things: if you don’t know, it’s a charity event that benefits the Children’s Miracle Network, via Extra-Life. In turn, you choose your hospital, in our case, that’s CHEO, or the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

    With that explanation, if you’d care to donate a few dollars, five, ten, fifty, five hundred, whatever you can, the best place to do so is here, through me!

    Donate via me!

    Yes, we have already completed our gameathon for 2015: However, donations are still counted towards this years totals until December 31st, 2015. So, if you want to donate? Please click the link. CHEO is a great, great cause. And, honestly, I would expect them to be busy in the new year: Refugee kids are going to need help, and I’m sure CHEO will be part of that effort.

    Anyway, back to the event!

    The team has become this weird combination of nerds, geeks, car-people, and .. yeah. General weirdos. There’s Chapter 11 Section 62 representation, @wrenchhaus, and the old university crew: The Bombshelter. Basically, we are legion.

    This year, we changed things up. How? well, you’d need to know last years, first. So, here’s last year:

    This year, instead of the island in the livingroom, we’re trying a long table around the walls. I think it’s free’d up a bunch of space: we had a problem last year with people needing to get in and out (food, bathroom). I think we’ve alleviated a lot of that with the new set-up.

    On top of that, with The McFee being out of town, we’re skipping Rockband and making room for more PC’s. The entire basement, in fact, is dedicated to PC gaming this year.

    Then, we’ve set up two bedrooms/offices upstairs with tables and chairs for serious tabletop action:

    At this point, in fact, we’ve got a full walk-through video for 2015, again. My apologies for … yeah. that’s me doing the voice over. So, I apologize in advance.

    Once again, I failed to do a second walkthrough. This year did, in fact, end up being signficantly different to previous years: not only did the Tabletop gaming get a lot more attention, but at the same time, one non-nerdy-family-game got played for no less than four straight hours, by a group that grew to nearly fifteen (somewhat intoxicated) bodies: “Catch Phrase”. I know. I don’t get it either. Sadly, I didn’t get any video of the idiocy involved, either, but that’s life. That said, we brought in the kids, too, and there were games of My First Carcasonne, and the like. The adults delved into a group favorite, Pandemic, as well as Elder Sign, and a multitude of others.

    The PC master race was, as is appropriate, well represented by basement dwellers. I mean, I set up the PC gear in the basement. Note the network cables EVERYWHERE.

    Speaking of the hardware, this is what it takes to set-up the house, to do things the way we do it. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to others: it’s a ton of work, and every year I end up buying more and more gear, especially networking gear. I got very lucky this year, and a neighbour was throwing out two tables (and by tables, I mean doors, with those folding legs bolted to them) which I picked up for free. Without that, we’d have had issues, so it was incredibly fortuitous.

    So,yes, the hardware and set-up. Couches get moved from basement to ground floor: the ground floor is entirely consoles.

    Also, my racing rig, which I finished at about 11pm the night before the event, and stood up extremely well. Althuogh I think I need addtional plyons… I mean, bracing.

    The hardware!

    Ok, so the house is rigged, before anyone shows up, with:

    Ground Floor:
    -Asus AC68u router
    -TP Link 8 port switch
    -TP Link 5 Port switch
    -TP Link 16 port switch
    -350′ Cat6 network cable

    Basement:
    -TP Link 5 port switch
    -TP Link 8 port switch
    -TP Link 32 port swtich (it’s what we had)
    -250′ Cat6 Network cable

    Once everyone was plugged in we had:

    Ground Floor:
    -11 TV’s (32″ to 50″)
    -5 Xbox360s
    -6 Xbox:One
    -1 lonely PS4

    Basement:
    -12 gaming PCs of various sizes, shapes, and forms

    This year, though, we didn’t blow a breaker. You laugh, but last year, we blew breakers repeatedly (due to a bad piece of wiring we’ve since had corrected) so badly that it blew a hole in the breaker itself, which had to be replaced, last winter. I’ve never seen anything like that. Compared to last year, I think we were actually bigger this year, but it’s hard to tell, because, as I pat myself on the back, I think we organized much, much more effectively this year.

    So, while it IS a ton of fun, both in the set-up, preparation, and the event itself, there is a point to all this. And the point is, to raise money for CHEO. Which we did in spades.

    Again, donations don’t close on this year’s event until December 31st, 2015. So, feel free to click that link up there, and make even a small donation.

    Here’s the numbers so far though.

    We’re showing up as the 285 biggest fundraising team in the event (international, 6265 teams, total). However, once the $400 USD I have addtionally makes it to the organizers (next week) then we’ll jump… We may jump into the top 100 teams. Which is INSANE. Most of those top-100 teams are corporate, and where they’re community teams, they have dozens, even hundreds of members raising funds. Again, I’m incredibly proud of my guys and girls: they put a ton of effort into this.

    And yes, I know it’s not a competition. But boy, leaderboards, am I right?

    Team Bombshelter is, once again, the #1 fund-raiser for CHEO, via Extra-Life, and the gameathon. I’m incredibly proud of not only our direct team, but the people who support us (with fooooooooood, in large part), those who donate incredibly generously, and those who come to wish us well. Our numbers are not 100% yet: I have a number of cash donations that are still coming in, but it looks, on the surface, as though we’ve (in what we thought was going to be an “off” year) broken through $3200 USD. That’s somewhere around $3800 in Canadian funds, going back, directly, to CHEO. Over the last four years, we’ve raised juuuuuuuust about $15,000 in Canadian funds[1].

    It should be noted, however, that the newly-formed “Ottawa Guild Superstars” were nipping at our heels this year! That’s pretty damn, awesome, too.

    [1]we lost our team historics this year, and we still don’t know why. Fortunately, I had screen captures of the previous years’ totals, so we’re not totally lost, but it is a shame, and I have to get back in contact with Extra-Life again to see if that can be rectified. It’s not a huge deal, but we are gamers, and our leaderboards are important to us. 😉

    [24-hour gameathon] More Forza Prep.

    Interesting situation.

    I sat down a few nights ago for the first time in ages, and turned some laps. I’d been playing with set-ups for my 2010 3.8L GT Genesis Coupe: specifically, I’d taken a hit on grip, downgrading the tires from “race compound” (very sticky) to “street compound” (still sticky, but less than race). this is a BIG gain for ‘other’ enhancements: the stock car with street compound is B437, on race, it’s B472, and on race with wider tires, B481. What was happening was, as the B class tops at B500, I was running out of room to get the upgrades I needed for the balance I want in the car.

    So.

    Tried something new yesterday. Deleted all my power adders (supercharger, exhaust, intake) and ran with a stock engine. Put the tire sizes back to stock, and changed the compound back to race, from street, to make up for what I was loosing in tire-width (and hopefully gain some more grip).

    Then, because I have a big, fat wing, and nose diffuser (BecauseRacecar), I played with the downforce. Stock downforce is 90lbs front, 145lbs rear. I dropped that to 60lbs front, 90lbs rear.

    My issue had been I was topping out at about 142mph on the front straight, and 124mph on the ‘uphill’ straight about halfway through the course.

    With these changes (lower downforce being the big one) the stock engine is cooking up to 156mph on the front straight, and 132mph on the uphill straight. Less power, but less resistance. And yeah, it’s a little more wiggly in the high speed corners. All that means is, I have to watch my corner entry speeds, and accelerate out gently.

    All this said, I managed to turn a CLEAN standing-start of 9:26.364, and a flying 9:09.391. that’s pretty much my best time ever in a class-B on Nordschliefe.

    Three weeks until the gameathon.

    Have you sponsored me yet? You probably should!

    I should also find a video-recorder to ‘tape’ my practice at least (I assume taping the race, at 12 hrs, will be more than a little intensive on storage requirements, and who the hell is gonna watch it?)

    Sponsor me! Sponsor me! Sponsor me!

    [24-HOUR GAMEATHON] The Rules: 12 Hours of Nordschliefe

    Driftin' for the Children

    I was bored, so I made a thing! It’s not great, but it gets the point across.

    So, we’re on. Right now, it appears we have seven to ten drivers, which, for an inaugural event, is decent.

    I’ll have to work on a driver list.

    But, here’s the ‘terms’ of the race.

    1] the game is Forza Motorsports 4 on xbox360.
    2] The track is the Nordschliefe:

    3] The car class is B. Specifically, topping out at B-500. Other than that, anything goes. Tune as you see fit. If you need assistance setting up your car, I recommend ForzaDroid as a set-up tool. It’ll give a good, basic tune that’ll get you around the track.
    4] The settings are “Full Simulation”. So, you gotta worry about tire wear, gas, and damage. The pits will be open. Under simulation… body damage does not get fixed. I found that out the other day. That means major contact? your downforce is FUBAR, and probably, so’s your aero. that takes your carefully-set-up handling and top-speed into the shitter. For the rest of the race. Be warned.
    5] Because of 4] keep the contact to a minimum. There’s gonna be some (rubbin’s racin’), but don’t be a moron and ruin everyone’s day. It could be 14 miles/fifteen minutes plus to get back to the pits in a wrecked car.
    6] No quittin’.. You wanna stop racing? park the car on the grass and wait for the race to end.
    7] Race is 12 hours. I have a feeling that’ll stretch a little, because you can’t set a ‘timed’ race. But, with a 9 to 9-and-a-half minute lap, approx 6.5 laps per hour, makes for a 77-lap, 12 hour race. I’ll probably set 80 laps, just to be safe, and we’ll run 12, maybe 12 1/2 hours.

    Right now, the starting grid is:

    Me
    Colton
    Kendra
    Adrian
    Melissa
    Andrew T

    I’m hoping I can interest a few players from XBL into joining in: HOTLZ77, Choccy, and Sleight-of-foot (who have all been bustin’ my rivals times for months, and are therefore worthy adversaries).

    Sadly, it’s not quite as big as I’d hoped. But, I think the easiest way to deal with that is…. Fill up the spaces with AI. Which is going to make for a sixteen car field. If anyone wants in at this point, let me know.

    One reminder: If you’re not actually raising money: MAKE A DONATION. This is especially important for players. While the race is gonna be fun (hell, the whole weekend is gonna be FUN) the point is to raise money for CHEO, The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, via Children’s Miracle Network. Even small donations make a huge difference: if we have twenty people playing and everyone chips in $10, that’s $200. If everyone on my facebook list chipped in FIVE bucks, that’d be over a grand. It adds up really quickly. And it’s a really good cause.

    And if anyone wants to commit to double their donation to me IF I WIN THE RACE? You’ll know by 8:30pm on November 2nd, as it’s a 12 hour race. Tell me ahead of time. I will, of course, race dirty to double the donation.