shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,

Been a while

I'm not even going to look back to see the last time I posted something real.

We're into October now and the fires are gone. My town (well, the other end of town from me) was threatened for about three days but the fire line stopped before it got into town proper. Outlying towns were not so lucky. One of my coworkers lost his house. On top of the fire itself, the entire area was blanketed in smoke thick enough that you couldn't see the houses two down. It was perpetual twilight for about a week, and the air quality index was literally off the scale (I think the scale goes to 500 - we were well over that), so everyone was told to stay inside and, if you couldn't get new air filters, don't turn on the air. Finally, a thunderstorm ran through the area, helping with putting out the fires and scrubbing the air, and we finally had blue sky and actual shadows.

Life in general has been more of the same. As I've said before, I'm enough of a hermit that being confined to my house for six months is a perfect life for me, but I got into a stretch there where I just got sick of the food. I hate cooking so we've been subsisting on the same set of meals - I'll make spaghetti, hamburgers, rice mantua, steaks, tacos, and maybe a couple of others, and then there are frozen pizzas and microwave meals. At one point, I got so sick of it that I switched to peanut butter sandwiches and tuna sandwiches for about two weeks. (I was going to type "peanut butter and tuna sandwiches", but realized that wasn't quite what I meant. Ew.) We do treat ourselves once a week to a to-go or delivery meal, which has been nice. My husband has commented multiple times that he really misses eating in restaurants. Ah well. Maybe in 2022.

I'm pretty happy that I finally finished the multi-chapter that I started over two years ago. It's the Doctor & Donna fic that every Doctor & Donna fan is going to hate. Now onto the next multi-chapter that I started years ago. Sigh. I haven't actually felt like writing since I finished that thing. I think I need to do a couple of short pieces before tackling another long one.

Much of my time has been taken up with Starcraft II. My husband and I love to play co-op anyway, and then as part of the tenth anniversary of the game (it's that old? geez), they introduced a new system in which you level up the commanders to gain new powers. With fifteen different commanders that we own (and three others we don't) and three different leveling paths for each commander, we knew it would take forever to complete all of this, so we each bought a leveling booster to get extra experience... which means that we felt compelled to play as much as possible while the booster lasted. It just expired a couple of days ago, and we're not even a third of the way done, so it was worth it.

Thing is, SC2 with my husband is just a lot of fun. Strangely, we've played the available maps hundreds of times (and before this new content, for no rewards) and yet we still love it. Compare to playing Guild Wars 2 together: you finish a content area and that's it, there's little reason to go back and it's boring to do again. I don't know what it is that keeps SC2 fresh and interesting, but it works.

SC2 is also remarkable from a game development standpoint. It's a ten-year-old game that, when you purchase the base game, you get everything: the main campaign plus access to PvP and co-op multiplayer. There are microtransactions you can buy, mostly cosmetic like new skins for the units but also some of the co-op commanders. Thing is, this means that we've each spent $60 for the base game and about $60 for the commanders we wanted, plus the $10 exp booster I mentioned earlier - that's $130 for ten years of gaming fun. Blizzard has stated that they make no money from co-op players like us (co-op players don't tend to buy the cosmetic stuff), and yet ten years after their initial launch, they're still developing the game and putting out major co-op content releases for free. That's simply amazing. Blizzard still profits from the PvP multiplayer, and obviously some of that money is being put toward co-op development, but most companies would say, if part X of the game is not making us money, we're not going to put any more money into part X. Blizzard is, and always has been, stunning. It's too bad Activision is running them into the ground.

I've recently picked up an old hobby back up: painting gaming miniatures. My husband got a fig for his D&D campaign that he wanted painted, so I started back up. (To tell the truth, he got the fig a year ago and I refused to let our friend paint it. Then I procrastinated until now.) This is probably worth its own post soon. So now I've got another hobby taking up my time. I find it's easier to practice calligraphy during boring Zoom meetings and save the painting for after hours.

Speaking of boring Zoom meetings, I've been on that project I talked about many months ago, for over two months now. Way back then, I'd whined that I'd been put on a project that I really didn't like and despaired about being assigned to the project that I wanted, because my husband (the QA manager) thought that the good project needed someone with automation experience and the other QA analyst had more experience than I did. Well, he changed his mind for a couple of reasons and decided to put me on the project I wanted and left the other guy on the project I disliked.

This new project is supposed to be a system that game developers can use in their games rather than developing their own. (If that isn't understandable, think of it like Adobe Flash. If you wanted to make a Facebook game back in 2010, you could either build it on Flash, which made the window and displayed the graphics, or you could build the entire engine yourself. Doing it yourself is not quick or economical, so most games were built on Flash.) The system is fascinating - and also in some ways, a pile of shite.

It suffered from a lack of concrete design in the beginning and from developers and designers who concentrated on theoretical constructs rather than on what would be useful to the end user. The system is comprised of four separate parts, each developed by separate teams, and until I and another QA team member joined at the end of July, there were only two QA people on the project. That's two people testing four parts created by over thirty developers, not to mention that the QA people were co-opted to do other things - this resulted in nothing actually getting tested and verified.

I suppose it was good for me, though. I've gained a reputation on the project of being a monster tester, finding tons of bugs every day and inspecting the minutest details of the project. Thing is, it isn't that hard to do if everything is broken. Seriously. One example was a store where a player can go to buy items. I set up the store then had the player try to buy an item and it threw an error. The devs protested, saying that the store had always worked, so why is it breaking now? It turns out that I had set the prices of the items to be numbers other than 1 gold, and that was the problem: 1 gold worked; no other positive number did. No one had bothered to test prices other than 1. (The other two QA people who had been on the project before me had been kept so busy doing things other than QA that they never even got to look at stores.)

The good news is that we are having a profound impact on the project. We have a total of four QA people (and the guy from the other project is joining us on Monday), and with me doing manual testing and design critique and my husband keeping the other managers off our backs, the other three guys are able to concentrate on their jobs, which is doing the automated test development. The software is a lot less buggy, and as an example, we just completed a release (we do have beta customers of our software) only a day late; the previous release was three weeks late. I am also enjoying myself and learning a lot (this is why I wanted this project in the first place), so my general quality of life has been pretty good.

That's life in a (rather long) nutshell for me. Toodles.
Tags: real life

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