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.

  • [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!

    Extra-Life Gameathon Preparation

    I’ve been running Forza4 a lot again, in prep for the 24 hour gameathon in November. I’m STILL trying to organize a long race on Nordschliefe, with a dozen drivers. I’d hoped for a 24hr race, but I think I may have to cut it back to 12, or even 6 hrs, just to build the interest.

    So, yeah. I’ve been prepping my car. *grin*

    Set up suspension.
    Run on autocross for handling feel
    Tweak.
    Run
    Tweak.
    Run.
    Tweak.
    Run.
    Head to Nordschliefe, verify it works at high speed.

    Part of the high-speed verification is watching the tire temps, and whether I’m getting camber-wear on the straight-away at 140mph +, and decide whether I want to sacrifice some corner to increase the longevity of the tires.

    [GAMING] Winter Has Come

    And it’s probably a good thing. I’ve got a huge backlog of games to play, and, despite my ‘best intentions’, I got almost no time in over the Christmas break, or the weeks leading up to it.

    So, what’s on the list?

    Well, finishing Lollipop Chainsaw. Because, stupid fun.

    Then:

  • HALO 4. I got a little bit of a start, and then ran out of time to play.
  • Red Dead Redemption. I know this one’s gonna be a time-suck, but I can’t wait to finally play it.
  • L.A. Noire. Again, I’m sure it’ll be a time suck, but looks awesome, and had great reviews, once people got past the idea that it wasn’t just “GTA 1930”.
  • Borderlands 2. I’ve finished the primary game, although I’ve got some side-missions still to complete. Same with Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty DLC. I’ve not started Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, and Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, is on the horizon already. Talk about a game I’m still enjoying immensely, though. I just wish they’d slowed the DLC release schedule a little.
  • Assassin’s Creed 3. Looking forward to seeing just how the jump to the USA and revolutionary times works.
  • Walking Dead. I grabbed the entire five episode series over Christmas, because, well, episode one was free, and the rest were half price. And every review or conversation I’ve heard or read on the game says it’s brilliant.

    So, yeah. That’s going to keep me going, realistically, until about 2016. Given that I’ve got a car to work on, a house to finish renovating with @dogandgarden (and, she’s got, of all things, Mirror’s Edge that she’s looking forward to, and is grinding away at 100%ing Braid), a dog to pay attention to, and, you know, friends? No idea how I’m gonna fit all that gaming in there. But, dammit, I’m going to try.

    Like I said, it’s a good thing winter is here, and there’s very few good reasons to go outside.

  • [GAMING] #OSCeasefire

    I will be taking part in the #OSCeasefire on Friday the 21st of December, 2012. I think this is a really important thing, despite initial thoughts that it was slacktivism.

    I mean, what can stopping playing video games for twenty-four hours actually accomplish?

    Well, a lot, I think. And important things in terms of perspective.

    The #OSCeasefire, for those who don’t know, is an initiative put forth by @BlackBible via gamerfitnation to show respect, and support, for the victims and families, and all those affected by the Sandy Hook Massacre. You can find more details on Facebook.

    This is not an admission that violent games lead to violent acts. In fact, it is the opposite.

    From what I see, this is a community coming together to say that we understand the correlations that people are making. That we understand the issues at hand. That we are, in fact, paying attention to the world outside gaming. That we support honest, considered action on Mental health issues (ie. health care), gun control, and responsibility. That we support those who continue to be hurt by these terrifying, and all-too regular occurences of blinding, senseless violence.

    I have a lot more that I could say on the topic, but maybe another day.

    For now, this is about doing what gamers are actually very good at. Showing support as a community.

    So, I will be putting my virtual guns down.

    More importantly, I will be making a SPECIFIC effort to play some games during the day. And they will be competitive, non-violent games.

    [GAMING] Well, That Was A Thing!

    Whew.

    Thirty-six hours after the completion of the Extra-Life.org Gameathon, I’m pretty much human again. First the numbers.

    1] Seven (official) Participants
    2] 24 hours of gaming
    3] My fundraising rank: 451st of 15,858
    4] Team Bombshelter’s Fund raising rank: 137th of 2375
    5] $2521.34 TOTAL RAISED ($998.84 raised by me)
    6] 14 HOURS of Forza Motorsports 4
    7] 6 hours of Borderlands 2
    8] 2 hours of Halo:CE: 10th Anniversary edition
    9] 1 hour of Left 4 Dead 2
    10] 30 minutes of Bejeweled 2
    11] 30 minutes Burnout:CRASH
    12] 3 TV’s
    13] 3 xboxes
    14] 1 projector
    15] 1 epic rockband set-up on PS3
    16] 2 massive PC gaming rigs

    How it went?

    Well, it went well. Actually it went really well. I spent Friday setting up the house. Unlike other teams, we (ok, I) decided that we should get as many people together in one place to game, rather than do it remotely, over XBL or Steam. This, however, was going to call for a fairly epic set up.

    We actually have a kinda silly number of TV’s in the house right now (3). So, the plan was to set ’em up in a U, or triangle, with xbox’s attached, and a switch in the center. We’d still be playing on Xbox Live, but we’d also be playing LAN variants of games. This.. worked well:

    What we ended up with though, with the generosity of @blingdomepiece was better.

    Well, it was three xboxes as noted, but we were able to swap out the 32″ TV for @blingdomepiece’s 46″, that he loaned us at the last minute. This left the 32″ open for the kids to play Mario games on, on the Wii. So, the final set up looked like this:

    The reason for the offer from @blingdomepiece was, well, we were at his place anyway, helping him transport his truly epic Rockband setup. Now, when I say ‘epic’ I mean it. I’ve never seen anything like this. Paired with @mightydogking’s projector, it made a hell of a set-up:

    Off to one side of that, we set up yet another area, for @BambiBlue and her brother to set up their PC gaming rigs. Bambi’s, as is normal in the level of bizarrity, was donated by @Alienware for use over the weekend, and she streamed for ’em while she played her 24 hours, while singing as well.

    Morning started bang-on time. I fired up Forza Motorsports 4, first, and dove in. When Pwned88 showed up, he fired up the other copy, and we had duels, with Jay subbing in and out (loser out on each race). Unexpected epic car of the day? 1992 GMC Scyclone tuned up to C425 level, which was destroying “B-Class” (B499) vehicles on short tracks, but getting eaten on long tracks because of the gearing I was using.

    At the same time, @BambiBlue and her brother dove into their PC’s and relied heavily on Team Fortress 2 and a host of other steam-based games to get them through.

    @Blingdomepiece sang for the best part of thirteen hours, before his voice quit on him. THAT is hardcore. He had a steadily changing band, who’s musical choices ran the gamut from stadium anthems, to crooning country, to top forty pop. Everyone who helped him (he ONLY plays Rockband. It’s his thing) were rockstars in and of themselves.

    One of the true highlights was six-player “SLAYER” HALO:CE multi-player. All the players in the room, two per TV, and all the smack talk you can imagine. By the time we started this, we were already past the twelve-hour mark, 8pm.

    BUt, to make it really interesting, player ages ranged from 10 to 41. How THAT for a multi-generational coming together of gamers?

    And while the ten-year old didn’t win a round, he put aside his own smacktalk, was calm, rational, and even COMPLIMENTARY of the people who were shooting his block off. Trick, we were all really proud of you. And, for all that, he held his own! When he remembered not stand in the open, and get a little stealthy, he got some kills, and good, clean, smart kills, at that.

    That was a good, solid, two hours of play. We also tried to get some Left 4 Dead 2 going on, but, I’ll be honest, we’re either not built for that game, or it’s just not as good as I remember the first being. We quit after an hour or so, because we just weren’t having that much fun.

    As the non-team bodies started to filter out and go home to sleep, the rest of us settled into a groove. One of the TV’s went dark: there was no one left awake to play on it. I played more Forza and Borderlands between one in the morning and four AM.

    Jay and I competed on Forza, head-to-head with long, thirty to fifty mile, races, on an even playing field (read: same car, stock tune). We tore off lap after lap on Road America, Maple Valley, Laguna Seca, and a multitude of others.

    At 4am, though, I started to nod. This was bad. Twenty hours in, and damned if I was going to quit, or just fall asleep. I was actively not concentrating on Borderlands2: I couldn’t concentrate on aiming, or on the missions.

    I opened another Redbull. I didn’t put vodka in it.

    What I did do was switch to Burnout:Crash, and Bejeweled for an hour and a half. It was just enough ‘rest’ to get me through. By 5:30am, I switched back to Borderlands 2 again, and finished off the mission I’d been failing to get through. At 6:30, the wheel and pedals came back out, and I was off down the road (or around the track).

    At 7:16am, with forty-four minutes left to go, I needed a bump again. There was only one thing for it. A single race. A long, long, single race.

    At 7:22am, I headed back to Germany, and the Nordschliefe, also known as “The Green Hell”. 14 miles, 22km of fast, technical, nearly-unmemorizable track. The holy grail of auto racing circuits. And I set up a three lap (66km) race. I chose my weapon (1992 GMC Syclone, modified to B492 level, with longer gears, and an extra sixty horsepower). At 7:31am, the green flag dropped.

    I was really suprised. Better still, as the clock ran down, I hit the start/finish line, literally and figuratively, with one lap to go in the race, and 8 minutes left to go in the 24-hour gameathon. I’d previously turned a respectable 9:52.434 from a standing start, but I hit the start/finish line for this last lap flying: 148MPH at 6700rpm in six gear. In a pickup truck.

    And I ran well.

    In fact, I finished the race at 8:02am: twenty-four hours and two minutes after I first sat down at my xbox.

    Not only that, but despite no sleep, and gaming for twenty-four straight hours, I set a personal best time: nine minutes thirty-three seconds around Nordschliefe. Even better, I did it “clean”. I didn’t go off the track, I didn’t hit a single other vehicle, I didn’t hit a wall, nothing. I hit every corner right, or even if I did it wrong, I didn’t do it so wrong I wrecked the car.

    This is what happens when you combine a CarNerd(tm) and a GameNerd(tm).

    At that point @Dogandgarden came and got me, pushed me into the basement, and she and @blingdomepiece sang the gameathon out with GladOS’s “Still Alive”.

    I was then sent to bed.

    I got three-and-a-half hours sleep, and got up again. I’ve never been able to sleep during the day, no matter how little sleep I get the night before. When I got up, the house was NEARLY in one piece again. @dogandgarden had enlisted our “community service slave” to get all the furniture back where it needed to be, and I got the rest done. The house was back to normal.

    By 9pm, the final totals were in, the cash from the door was counted (oh, yeah. Everyone who came to play, had to donate, if they hadn’t already).

    And, that was that.

    I’m thoroughly stunned by the money we raised. I set the bar intentionally low ($150 for the team) as a goal, figuring that maybe a hundred bucks a piece was realistic. The people who have donated are phenomenal. I’d list ’em, but it would be waaaaaaaaaay too long a list. Of note though, we had eight or nine donations over $50, three of those over $100, and one of those for $200. A huge number of people sponsored $10, $20, or $25 dollars each.

    Basically, people emptied their pockets for CHEO.

    So, thank you to all who donated, participated, and cheered along. I said it kinda faceciously at the top of this, but I’m not, at all. I’m absolutely blown away by the generosity of people, and you all renew my faith in humanity sometimes.

    We’re totally doing this again next year. And I have IDEAS.