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.

  • 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. 😉

    On Game Peripherals, and Maybe We’re Trying To Make Too Much Money

    I love racing games. I swore up and down, I was going to buy an Xbox:One, and Forza5, and I have done so. I’ve not yet played Forza5, because I also swore I wouldn’t play it with a standard paddle controller: I’d wait until I got a wheel. And, because I’m doing ok, and I know I’ll get the use from it, I decided that when it happened, I’d buy a Fanatec wheel. For those who don’t know Fanatec, they are the be-all-end-all for wheel/pedal, and basically, driving simulator components.

    But.

    The announcement went out that they’d finally made an agreement with Microsoft so they could produce a hardware interface for Xbox:One. Awesome.

    Except not.

    It’s a $299.99 ($399.99 with the steering wheel attached) (USD) add-on for your existing kit. I don’t have an existing kit from Fanatec. So, I’d be on the hook for, and I kid you not, $1300+ USD for wheel/pedals/adaptor, and shifter. Again, I shit you not, this is what I would need to pull the trigger on a set-up for the XB:One:

    That’s the cheapest set-up I can configure, for my usage. I’d rather go with the $150 (or $199) Clubsport V shifter, and add a $99 Handbrake. So, remove $60 from the cart above, but then add at least another $249 to it.

    Again, that’s USD. So, throw shipping in there, AND convert to Canadian dollars (about $1.26 right nwo) and that…. TWO. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. For a wheel/pedal set-up to play a console video game. Now, I love Forza. I truly, truly do. But I can’t imagine a world (well, I can, and I have the lottery ticket in my pocket right now) where I could justify that kind of money on console peripherals. I mean, are they going to sell any? That’s a hell of an outlay for anyone who’s not already heavily invested in the hardware, at the xbox360 level, and “just” wants to add a $300 (USD) lump to it all so they can use their existing gear on XB:One.

    I seriously can’t imagine them selling enough of them to make it worthwhile. I’m about as rabid a race/gaming fan as you can have: I have thousands of hours invested in Forza2, 3, 4, and Horizons2.

    So, what do I do?

    Well, the Thrustmaster TX is looking better and better. I’d sworn I wasn’t going to “cheap out” when I did it this time: I got a ton of use out of my $99 Xbox360 original wheel

    It’s a good looking piece of kit, it’s reputedly well built, and it’s $400. But I swore, I wouldn’t. I swore I wouldn’t pay THAT much for two pedals: I had to have the clutch. But it turns out, I can have the clutch.

    So, the third pedal? I can get that (hah. Figures, right? I started this post a couple weeks back and since then, the pedal set has gone out of stock on amazon.ca). I can also add a proper shifter, too:

    The bad news is, by the time I add that H-Pattern shifter (which looks pretty damn nice, I gotta admit), and the three-pedal rig, I’m looking at close to $800 again. At least that’s already in Canadian dollars, though, and shipped. It’s a lot less than the near-enough-to-make-no-difference-two-thousand-dollars Fanatec dream rig.

    And that’s the problem right there. It IS a dream rig. It’s exactly what I want, and have wanted for nearly ten years. But it’s really, really, really not in the budget. Ever, I don’t think. Which kinda sucks, but there you have it. My only option, I think, will be to look for a used CSR set-up that someone is selling, and then add the Xbox:One adapter to THAT. That would get me in the door and running, and even if the use stuff breaks eventually, I can replace piece-by-piece from Fanatec. It’s the initial outlay that’s the issue, really. I can’t throw down that much up front for what is, at the end of the day, a toy. Even the Thrustmaster rig is going to be out of the real range of most people. You’ve got to be pretty well-off to even get into the Thrustmaster base rig, with two pedals, never mind turning it into what it should be. If thrustmaster were smart, they’d make a $600 kit available (wheel, three pedals, shifter) rather than having people buy two pedals, then replace them for $200 with a full pedal set-up. Maybe that’s just me though.

    But at the end of the day, what all this really means is that my beloved Fanatec rig is off the table.

    I mean, that two grand is a lot of parts for a REAL car. Which I also have.

    Forza: Horizons 2 Review

    Ok, so Forza:Horizons 2 has been out for ages now. I didn’t bother with it on Xbox360, because it was effectively castrated for that system: the only real way to play it was to do it on Xbox:One. And, I wasn’t buying an Xbox:One right away, because I need wheel/pedals to make it worthwhile for me.

    But then a deal came along, and I bought a used Xbox:One, with Forza:Horizons 2, Forza 5, HALO: Master Chief Collection, and Destiny. Now, I was definitely not interested in playing Forza 5 without a wheel/pedals, but as I just ended up with a copy of Horizons, I figured I’d give it a shot.

    I’m coming at this from negative space, right from the start. I didn’t like Forza:Horizons in its first iteration on the Xbox:360. I saw the Forza name on it, initially and thought “awesome! Open-sandbox simulator/racer! This is evrything I’ve been waiting for from Forza!”. And then it wasn’t. My general review of Forza:Horizons was “If I wanted an Need For Speed game, I’d have bought one”. The physics were arcade-y at best, sloppy at worst, there was none of the modification (parts) and tuning (set-up) that Forza is rightly famous for. Car’s didn’t feel particular different, and the modelling was pretty “meh” in general. I’m a car guy: I expect a lot from a brand who’ve made a name for doing car games, and specifically, a car SIMULATOR spectacularly well.

    And Horizons wasn’t it.

    So, enter Horizons 2.

    I…

    I LIKE IT, OK???

    I said for months, I wasn’t going to bother, it’d just be more of the same, because Horizons sold well, so they weren’t going to fuck with the model that worked: NFS-style apparently had a market in the Forza world. Depressing, but there it was.

    I was wrong.

    That’s not entirely true.

    The physics are not FORZA 4 or 5 accurate. But the Forza franchise is a spectacular evolution by Turn10, and Horizon isn’t made by Turn10. However. Turn10 do have a stake in it, and it’s primarily developed by PlayGround Games. It uses a heavily modified version of the new Forza Motorsports 5 engine. they physics are GOOD. They’re not awesome, but they’re good.

    Upgrades.

    Upgrade and tuning system is identical to Forza Motorsports. GIMMIE HALLELUJAH! This was my big thing: Forza Motorsports allows very specific additions and changes to the cars, it’s what makes it fun for me. I tend to opt out of the super-, ultra-, and exotic-cars, and racecars. They’re not that fun for me. I get the appeal for people, but again, I’m a car guy: I get more out of making something slow, fast, than just having something fast from the factory. Which means I’m far more likely to pick a 1967 Fiat Abarth 131 (Class D) and build it my way to Class A, than to buy a 2014 Corvette (Class A), in game. Tuning is the same thing: I choose my gear ratios, suspension settings, etc based on experience and knowledge, (and, honestly, I learn a lot from doing it too, about what works and what doesn’t). I want the Front Wheel Drive car I’m using to drop some of its understeer and rotate a little in teh corner? Take a few pounds out of the front springs and sway bars, add a few pounds to the rear, and remove some rear downforce, then test drive. Drive, tweak, drive, repeat.

    And that was the bailiwick of only Forza Motorsports.

    The good news is, that’s all now in Horizons. you don’t HAVE to do it, to win races. But if you want it, it’s there.

    Better, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s familiar. The parts and tuning segments are lifted wholesale from previous Forza games. Awesome! So, I can make an All-wheel-drive car that balances perfectly in the corners, and I can make the same car oversteer madly if you look at it funny. Last night, on a super-tight street course, I had to turn my final gear ratio up from 3.56:1 to 6.5:1. Why? I wasn’t getting out of 3rd gear, and the engine was bogging down. I finished the race in second (just too little power to really pull it off) and was using 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears for the majority of the race, keeping the revs in the powerband.

    Yes, the tuning is just THAT good, and that accurate.

    The environment is beautiful, and put together brilliantly. YEs, there are “hard walls” occasionally, where they don’t want you to go. But most items are deformable (ie. you can hit them with a car and destroy them) and if they’re not, they’d realistically not be in real life (ie. you’d deform the car first). The sandbox is staggeringly huge. I’ve not seen all of it yet, and I’ve covered well over 1000 miles / 1400km. The roads are well thought out for free roaming, but also tighten down into courses really well. There’s a solid breakdown of on/off road races, and you really have to think ahead before you go into a race. This is where the tuning comes in: you’ll want to have at least an on-road and an off-road tune, for any car you use regularly: you can load the tune at the start of the race, and it swaps in tires, suspension, etc, that’s appropriate to the race you’re doing. Trying to do a cross country race on road race tires is an effort in absolute futility. Speaking of racing and free-roam, the AI is excellent too. I don’t really know how the whole “Driveatar thing works, but it really DOES work. I’ve built up rivalries with AI “Players”. Some of us just get “bumpy” with each other in races.

    So, where does it fall down?

    Like I said, the physics aren’t Forza Motorsports good: they’re probably… I’m going to say 70% of Forza Motorsports, and 30% NFS/Arcade. Which, honestly, broadens the appeal. I don’t have an issue with this, as long as it doesn’t flop over into the simulator that is Forza Motorsports. I think having the two products is a really good idea. So, not really a failing, just not as hard-edged as FM5.

    The interface.

    one of the “challenges” specifically is both really fun, and incredibly irritating, all at once. Early on, you’re assigned an easy to way to make a few bucks: take pictures of unique cars: you get credits for each one, and a bonus for every twenty.

    The problem is that it takes forever to get in and out of camera mode! And you might do it three or four times on one stretch of road. It’s incredibly intrusive on the game play.

    Example.

    You see a Ferrari you’ve not collected yet.

    You hit “pause” to go to the menu.
    Across twice to “camera mode”
    Wait while it loads.
    move the camera sight around to get your shot.
    Click the shutter.
    Click “OK”
    Wait for it to save.
    Click “B” to go back to the camera
    Click “B” to go back to the menu
    Wait for the menu to load
    Click “B” to go back to the road
    Wait for the game to reload itself and put you back in the drivers seat.

    Now, do this 200+ times (I’m currently at 218 cars captured on film).

    Given how important the camera usage is within the game, there must be an easier way to go in/out of camera mode that doesn’t take up five minutes of your time.

    ON a personal level, for me, the game still loads too heavily to “high end” cars, as well. I’d love to see more low end stuff, and have challenges specifically for it. The game is definitely directing me to start higher and higher, if I want to progress, and I’d rather work one car up from the bottom. I’m probably in a minority in that, however, as most people just want to get in and go.

    So, all in all, it’s a good game, if not a perfect one. I can see it go either way in terms of the sliding scale between arcade and simulator. Obviously, I’d love to push the slider closer and closer to “simulator”, but at the end of the day, I’ll be happy if it just doesn’t go any further back to “arcade”. That was the primary failing of the first game, on the Xbox360. The simulator side of things is what really makes this special, I think.

    I’d give it a solid 7.5/10. There’s some flaws, but they don’t ruin the game by any means. there’s also room to improve. But this is a seriously solid bridge between arcade and simulator, and should continue to do well, and attract both sides of that coin.

    I retract my previous statements about the Horizons franchise. I like this game, they’ve done well.

    ExtraLife2014

    Once again, Team Bombshelter took part in ExtraLife. This is the biggest we’ve ever gone, for several reasons.

    The long and short, as I’ve talked about before, is that Extra-Life.org coordinates an event wherein you play games (console, computer, tabletop, whatever you like) for twenty-four hours. The money is organized by Children’s Miracle Network, and distributed to the Children’s Hospital that your team chooses to support. In our case, that’s the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, or CHEO. This is a great cause. Doubly so, because despite the trouble that charities have had with, ummm, “overhead”, 100% of proceeds go to the hospital you choose.

    We’ve done this for three years now. This is, in fact, my birthday event. It costs me a bunch of money, but, honestly, it’s a great cause, I have a good time, and it’s a good party, too.

    This year was, admittedly, planned to be big. @thirtyyearhouse and I bought a new house in February, and we planned to have space to entertain (in our own, distinct manners). Which means I may have gotten enthusiastic in the way we set-up. On top of that, we not only grew the staples (PC Gaming, Xbox360, Xbox:One) but we also added tabletop.

    What we ended up with was:

    15 TV’s varying from 32″ to 55″
    1 projector (at about a 120″ screen)
    8 xbox360s
    5 xbox:ones
    1 PS4
    1 PS3 (epic rockband setup)
    15 PCs, gaming laptops, and Alienware
    1 combined game of Cards Against Humanity and Crabs Adjust Humidity
    1 room devoted to tabletop gaming

    So, yeah. You can imagine the parking we took up on the street (at least it’s a relatively quiet street! who knows what my neighbours think?)

    The list there is pretty impressive. But you don’t really (I don’t think) get the scope of it until you SEE it all:

    SO, yeah. That.

    We blew the breakers twice: primarily for the xbox360 room, and family room (PC game overflow). The power meter read 36216 on Saturday morning, and 36316 on Sunday morning. I don’t know how that measures, what the units are, but I’m intrigued to see the power bill.

    On top of all the direct gaming hardware, I upgraded the entire house’s network. Fortunately, I have my connection through Distributel and had ZERO issues all weekend with my 28 down / 2 up connection. There’s no cap on it either, so all the updates that people inevitably had to do, won’t cost me.

    The network:

    1 ASUS AC68u Dark Knight II router
    1 ASUS 24-port gigabit switch (basement/PC Gaming)(borrowed)
    1 TP-Link 8-port gigabit switch (Xbox:One room)
    1 TP-Link 16-port gigabit switch (xbox360 room)
    1 TP-Link 8 port gigabit switch (basement overflow room)
    10x Cat5e 10′ cables
    1 Cat5e 25″ cable
    1 Cat5e 50″ cable
    1 Cat5e 75″ cable

    Why the gigabit cabling? Well, all the consoles, and PC’s have a wired network: not everyone uses it regularly, but it’s there. With the sheer volume of devices, I figured that was going to be a better way to organize: messy, but we weren’t going to kill the wireless throughput (good thing too: pretty much everything in the family room, which we weren’t expecting to use for electronics, went on wifi, as did our lone mobile gamer, @simonsage (who also brought MobileNations into the fray as a sponsor, and with them, Nvidia, and Gameloft. Gameloft donated a thousand freakin’ dollars! So, HUGE thanks to them): Basically, what I’m saying in this tired, near-fugue state is that I wanted to keep the wireless for people who definitely needed wireless.

    So, the gaming!

    The gaming was excellent: I didn’t get my Forza 4 race this year, but I did venture out into the online world for some racing for a few hours. There was some typical (about three hours) HALO shouting (you put 10 people on consoles in the same room, playing HALO, there’s gonna be some shouting!) and the Xbox:one guys, with the exception of jumping to 360’s for the HALO 3 multiplayer (we had enough copies of HALO3: I’d have preferred CE/10th anniversary, but… what do you do?), played the entire time on Destiny. SO much so, that the servers was so empty at 4:30am they all ended up gathered and chilled out, together, despite technically being on different servers!

    There was TombRaider (2013); @thirtyyearhouse and ProonJoos played the entirity (I think) of Portal 2, together; Fallout3:New Vegas, PAYDAY 2 (PC), WOW (PC), Borderlands2, Borderlands2:ThePreSequel (PC & Xbox), and, oh, of course:

    Rockband.

    I know, if you’ve read the previous years, you know that @blingdomepiece‘s rockband setup is pretty damn epic. But, if you’re new here, here’s a few shots:

    He brings all of this in one car-load. It’s pretty impressive. And even more so/more fun with it being on the projector, with the right sound behind it. It’s a hell of a lot of work to tear down, move, and set-up, and he does this every year. He’s one of our total heroes here, because there’s a lot of love for Rockband in our group, and he makes it just a little bit more special than you expect with rockband.

    The other thing I have to bring up is the food. We’re a (mostly) middle-aged group now: most of us have been friends for closing on twenty years, and we met in university. But the way people put effort in before the event to ensure there’s enough food for people, is spectacular.

    There was (and I’m pretty sure I have a kitchen picture), 9.5 dozen assorted homemade cookies (Loralei), Chicken Tika, made fresh (Bundy), Ribs (Magoo), Chicken BBQ Dip (SketchedOut), Two pans of Lasagna (Phae), McMuffin fixin’s (Pwned88), vegetable and fruit platters (thirtyyearhouse), Dr Pepper & Keiths Lager, and Canadian (Dwight), cupcakes (Kathy & Phae), pizzabites (Jiff), and so much other miscellaneous foodstuff…. Unbelievable. No one was going hungry. So much coffee, as you can imagine.

    Not everyone managed the entire twenty-four hours. No one is required to. We value the effort, and as I said, this is for charity.

    4am Eternal.

    Here’s the thing.

    Even after all of the above, I’m blown away by the generosity of my friends: this core group, and the ones surrounding us. As I write this, I need to go to the bank and make a cash deposit: we keep a bucket at the door, and ask people to make donations that way, if they just want to come hang out: it’s not obligatory, but it’s nice if you can throw a couple bucks in (Five dollars, a handful of change, whatever). Again, these people? So far above and beyond, it’s not even funny. There were TWO hundred-dollar, effectively anonymous cash donations. It’s OK. I know who you are, and thank-you. Twenties abound. Tens. A plethora of fives.

    A four year-old boy, Moe, who is awesome (and drove some Forza), donated the contents of his piggy bank:

    ANd it’s so friggin’ dusty in here, we’re all tearing up on the internet.

    All told, there was somewhere around $420 in the bucket when I turned it in to the bank this morning. I then made that single, lump donation with my VISA so it gets to the tally-card quickly.

    WHere does that leave us?

    Not so fast. There’s some serious shout outs.

    Again, I want to thank our PRIMARY, leading fund-raiser. That’s @simonsage. Yes, he brought in a single donation of $1000. He didn’t stop there, and did more than $700 on top of that.
    I’ll pat my own back too: prior to making the lump-sum cash from the bucket, I was at $715 raised.
    Jason pulled in next, at $590.
    Bambi: $390
    Greg M: a new-comer, $301!
    Sean: $240
    Rob: $165
    Ryan: $165
    Greg: $130
    Jaron: $125
    Alex: $100

    Here’s the thing. The top three teams in the event raised between $190,000 and $250,000 each. HOWEVER. They have thousands of members on their teams. RoosterTeeth (who are awesome) had 3000 members on their team. They raised about $80 per team member. Which is fantastic. But my guys and girls, who I am superbly proud of, averaged $380 per person in terms of fund raising. That takes serious effort. Asking people for money is hard, it really is. And my guys and girls do an awesome job, and have done all the way back to the days of the Labatt 24-hour Relay.

    One more thing. Donations are US Dollars. SO, that $5100 or so is in US. We raised in Canadian. That means it’s closer to $5800 in “our” money, for our local (Canadian) hospital. Damn.

    SO, the final numbers. I know you want ’em.

    Well, you can see any movement that may occur in the next month over on the Team Bombshelter page on Extra-Life.org, but the day-after numbers look like this:

    There’s a couple of things there that stand out. First: we raised more than FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. For a Children’s Hospital. It was noted that, even prior to the event, we were the largest-donating group who’s target hospital was CHEO. That’s a big deal to us. The whole point is to make a difference. And that, apparently, is what we’ve done. Second, we’re gamers: leaderboards count. There were nearly 6000 teams participating in ExtraLife this year. We were the 94th biggest fundraiser, as a team. We did better than a lot of notable corporate teams. We, as a community team, with a dozen members, did better than a large number of corporate and community teams, who had more members (in some cases, a lot more members). SO, yes, I am totally, again, patting us on the collective back, because you guys deserve it. For everything I’ve written about above, you deserve it. Those who fund-raised, those who contributed, those who ran coffee runs, wrangled kids, helped trouble-shoot electrical and network problems, everyone who spread the word, shared the links on social media, everyone who was part of the whole thing, thanks.

    It’s something this group of people I call my friends do very, very well. I just rarely see it laid out in a format like this. It’s pretty damn awesome, and I’m proud of all of you.

    That’s the entire international event. How cool is that?

    The Extra Life Gameathon is a truly wonderful time. Let not speak of it again for a while, because… wow. Just so tired. Worth it, but so tired.

    Also… can we have a fundraiser to pay my electrical bill? 🙂

    Burnout Racing, HydroThunder Idiocy

    All of a sudden, I got really nostalgic for Burnout: Takedown, Burnout:Revenge, and Burnout:Paradise

    Takedown, especially, took up a TON of our time back in the day. I know we had Takedown for the xbox, which is kind of a shame right now, as I’m not 100% certain where my old Xbox (first gen) is anymore (I think MightDogKing has it, because we were playing Drunken SSXTricky a while back. I should get that back one of these days.

    So, yeah, Takedown: hammering down the coastal/Island road, to (a band I hated) My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not OK”, just to miss that one wreck, and shave a tenth of a second off your time? Yeah. Good times.

    SImiarly with Revenge: Lost a lot of time to THAT in 05/06, too: crash mode for the win, kids! I generally dominated the racing segements: @MightDogKing and @Notmike generally covered the crash! challenges with aplomb and style.

    And then Paradise came along and it should have been awesome, and just wasn’t… quite. I mean, it was really good, and a lot of fun, but it wasn’t quite Revenge, which hadn’t quite been Takedown.

    Still, the Extra-Life Gameathon is coming in a week. HOLY SHIT, A WEEK, and there’s gonna be time for these things.

    This, and HydroThunder. Thank god they re-released it a few years ago as a downloadable, fixed up nicely fo the newer gneeration of console, as HydroThunder:Hurricane

    OHMAGERD.

    Players can also use any combination of splitscreen and Xbox Live players to play online with up to eight players.

    OH, SHIT.

    I think I know what we’ll have to do at some point the weekend of the gameathon. SOunds like RACIN’ TIME.

    New House, Bigger Bills, Catching Up On Games

    Yup, with the move to the new house completed, I’m waiting to see where all the bills settle down to. Given that, I’m actively spending less (where I can) and waiting to see where all the new bills seem to settle into place. What that means is, there’s time to play some games.

    I mean, it helps that it’s the dark days of winter (and ok, it’s getting lighter later in the day, and it’s almost DST here again, too) but, games are a good way to pass the time. Along with reading, but that’s another post.

    So, games.

    I’m playing a bunch of affordable DLC on Xbox Live: I’ve not seen the need to upgrade to the Xbox:one yet: that’ll probably happen after the summer, funds permitting.

    Digression: one of the big reasons, for me, for not upgrading to the Xbox:One yet is that it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg. Specifically, there’s really only one or two games I really want at this point, and only one of those is a “must have” on the new console. That game is Forza Motorsports 5:

    Now, why is that a holding point? Well, for one, I don’t see the point in buying a new $500 system for one or two games: I’ll let the platform mature a little, first. But second, for me, for Forza, it’s not a $500 system. It’s a $500 system, plus a $70 game, plus a $200-$400 wheel/pedal set-up. Because I don’t play sims with a controller/gamepad. I just.. don’t. It’s fine for stuff like Need For Speed, but for a simulator, it takes me out of the SIM part of it to use joysticks and triggers. I want a wheel and pedals. And when it comes to pedals, I want three of them. Yup, I stir my own gear set.

    So, that’s where I stand on the Xbox:One, and the PS4 is about the same for me. Not enough there yet, for me to justify my interest.

    Where was I?

    Oh, yeah, DLC and the ol’ Xbox360.

    So, I started (and fell in love with) Spec Ops: The Line: I continue to be told over and over that it’s worth playing the story repeatedly, and making different decisions. So, I think I finally have to finish it this weekend. I probably won’t re-play right away, but I’ve already had two serious, significant, gut-check moments in game. You know the “holy shit what have I done?” that you get in real life when you really fuck up? Yeah. That. And that, from a video game? Totally stunning. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. This is a spectacular game that didn’t get the attention it deserved. It’s worth every penny of thirty bucks, but it goes on sale fairly regularly, too. I got it on XBL for $7, which is ridiculous for a game of this quality.

    After that, I’ve not raced in a long time, so, back to Forza 4. If anyone wants to race, gamertag is B000zysmurf. Hit me up, I’ll take you down. I’m sure someone’s burned some of my times in “Rivals” too, so I’ll get some of THAT back.

    Then, there’s HALO4, which I bought, and never got past the first chapter. Just didn’t have time. So, it’s time to hit the story there, too. And I grabbed “DUST” recently, which is REALLY pretty, and a lot of fun for a side-scroll button masher:

    So, that’s my weekend, what’re you playin’?