Lago Simiore: A Sims 3 World Experience

It’s time for one of those rare game reviews of mine! Horse people, feel free to move right on.

Lago Simiore is Blacky Sims’ final big Sims 3 game world. It’s a large world, almost completely filled out, with mere two empty lots for builders. The focus is heavily on the scenery and the views. This world is eye candy, pure and simple Mediterranean eye candy. How it escaped my notice for a year is beyond me. I’ve been looking for a Mediterranean world since Monte Vista came out and turned out to be too small.

Distinctive Mediterranean feel, with the vendors’ market around the beautiful cathedral.

Lago Simiore uses all the expansion packs but no custom or store content, making it an easy install compared to some custom worlds. On the down side, it’s made by German players so all lot names and flavour text is indeed in German.

This is my tiny starter home. It ain’t much but it’s … tiny?

The lots are highly decorated and take a bit longer to load on my computer than I am accustomed to. They seem free of routing errors so far, though. A 30 seconds wait for a beautiful lot where the game doesn’t stagger to sort out pathing is a good trade-off. This is a world that has been played in, solidly tested, before release. I am finding venues to be nicely populated now. Empty venues are a big issue in most worlds where routing fails keep consuming CPU attention.

Scenery porn.

An immense amount of detail has been put into the lots and what’s on them. My favourite is a residential lot in the hills. The flavour text simply tells us that there was a fire. Well, that’s a fixer-upper for sure.

There was a fire.
The quaint little elixir shop atop a hill, overlooking an inventor’s villa — and in front, my little gardener doing gardening things.
Forget video games. I want to visit this spa in real life.

If EA wants me to fork out cash for The Sims 5, this is what they need to start learning to do. Beautiful open worlds. Well tested pathfinding. Sceneries that beg you to take screenshots to show off to other players (hell, why not do what Blizzard did and build Twitter functionality right into the game?). Smooth, functional design with lots of quirks and things that make you stop and go wow. I’ll never trade this game play in for the glamourized date simulator that is The Sims 4.

Download Lago Simiore here.

It’s Gotta Hurt to Get Better – Right?

I am becoming porcupine.
I am becoming porcupine.

I’ve had ten treatments with bailine electrotherapy as part of my treatments for chronical pain. My mobility was visibly better after the very first treatment, and it’s honestly only been going forward since.

Bailine advertises itself as a weight left therapy. You’re given a book which, among other things, discusses common food sense. If you have horrible eating habits and start following these diet plans, a weight loss is pretty much guaranteed. However, my eating habits are really quite all right so I am not surprised that I have not lost weight. I have lost centimetres, fat turning into muscle.

Combining electrotherapy with acupuncture has been a complete win. The electrical stimulation makes my nervous system relax enough that it can be manipulated — and I have no idea how the needles work but they work. They sure as hell work. I haven’t been this mobile in 20 years.

The win for me is the pain relief. My central nervous system and ischias nerve got me on early retirement. I’ve gone from barely being able to climb onto my therapy horse’s back with help — to mounting on my own without much trouble. I can ride 45 minutes a time now instead of 10-15 minutes as before.

It’s worth the money.

And because I subjected you to looking at my pale white backside, have some kittens.
And because I subjected you to looking at my pale white backside, have some kittens.

No Man’s Sky

At last! The game is released for the PC and I bully the husband into letting me buy it. It's not a cheap game.
At last! The game is released for the PC and I bully the husband into letting me buy it. It’s not a cheap game.

I’ve been waiting excitedly for this game since a friend told me about the first time, back in spring. Minecraft but in space, she called it. The original Minecraft appealed to me, with its ambling about and resource gathering, but I always was left with a feeling of now what? I’m not really hooked on building giant 3D pictures of real life or fantasy cities, that sort of thing. I just want to potter about. Well, guess what, that’s exactly what No Man’s Sky is about. Among other things.

The user interface for my startship which I traded a rather crappy trader to get.
The user interface for my starship which I traded a rather amateurish trader to get.

Pottering about and picking up everything that isn’t nailed down means you need inventory space. Guess what you don’t have a lot of at first? Yep. It proves an interesting challenge, deciding what to keep and what to throw away, while you hunt for the exclusive trading outposts and space stations where raw commodities can be turned into sweet, sweet cash.

What do I want cash for? Well, guess. Bigger ships with more inventory space. Also bigger shields and bigger guns. At some point I want my exosuit to be upgraded to let me survive on freezing cold ice balls or irradiated toxic waste balls. I want to carry so much loot that the space station director starts to drool when he spots my ship. And I want to have the guns and shields to defend it, because you know what sucks? Jumping in from hyperspace to land among a pirate fleet. You learn to fear that ‘hostile subspace scan detected’ chime. Space combat is very much a thing.

Geks are cute. Not all of the races are quite that easy going.
Geks are cute. Not all of the races are quite that easy going.

The first hour or so you play through some very simple situations to teach you how the game works. You wake up on a random planet, your ship in pieces. Go forth, brave one, and collect everything you need to repair it! And while you’re out there, could you please catalogue every life form, be it flora or fauna… And don’t forget, some of those life forms think you would make great dinner.

My starting planet looked like a dark brown Swiss cheese and I kept getting lost trying to walk around holes and mountains. As it turns out, my little space self and his magnetic boots are actually pretty good at running up almost vertical surfaces, and a jetpack upgrade really made things easier. It all felt very overwhelming at first, but the controls are surprisingly intuitive. After an hour or two, I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing anymore, and I’m not very good at this sort of thing. I still run face first into walls in War of Worldcraft, for Pete’s sake.

This planet is lovely. Nice weather, lazy sentinels, great loot — I should have stayed.

Once I was ready to leave my initial star system I had a stroke of great luck; I ran into a trader who sold me a decent newbie ship at a remarkably low price (those of you who play will agree with me that four hundred thousand units is very, very cheap). Then I jumped into what turned out to be a gorgeous star system with a beautiful red planet. I named it the Aeson system, after a friend whose roleplaying character has a fondness for scarlet.

Lynne Prime, as I named it, had lovely weather, a pleasant range of temperatures, no particular toxicity or radiation, and lots of rare minerals. It had a beautiful colour range, red grass, green trees and cobalt blue shades of minerals. Interaction with offworlder aliens was scarce, granted, but it was a short hop to the system’s space station to sell my loot. The local space pirate gang only caught me once.

I wasn’t joking about the lots of loot.

When at last I felt like taking on new challenges and perhaps meet exciting new aliens with exciting new technology, my luck ran out. I hyper jumped from system to system, and flew from planet to planet, without finding a rock to put my feet down on. I jumped right into a stellar battle. I landed on planets so cold that I froze almost solid before managing to close the door to my ship again. Planets with acid rain so intense that my exosuit caved like plywood. Planets where the sentinels were so aggressive that —

Did I forget the sentinels? Well, those are the robotic overseers of the universe and they don’t much like change. Blast a few rocks to pieces to get at their valuable minerals, sure enough, these little robotic pests turn up. Fortunately, they’re not very smart. If you’re already done when they get there, they’ll usually just fly around and be confused. Or, if you’re on a high security world, they’ll attack you without the slightest provocation. I thought it a tad ironic when I had to take out four sentinels after they tried to kill me because I killed a dog-lizard-thing that tried to eat me. That’s taking wildlife preservation a little too far.

After many attempts, finally found a world that didn't try to kill me.
After many attempts, I finally found a world that didn’t try to kill me.

Planets and moons are generated following a complicated formula that guarantees that their ecosystems make some kind of sense while not two are alike. My second lucky shot got dubbed Arizona Prime because it reminds me of pictures from there. Also, I like the word Prime.

This world gets a little chilly at night, some minus 50 degrees Celsius or so, but my exosuit can handle it and fuel is in ample supply. Day temperatures range around 20 degrees and the views are quite something. There’s no radiation and no toxins, and most of the wildlife is quite friendly (except the unicorn dogs, I shoot those little bastards on sight).

Though the storms were a tad heavy handed.
Though the storms were a tad heavy handed.

Extreme environments can be handled with upgrading your exosuit and in many cases, by seeking shelter. This can be a literal shelter at an alien outpost (you’ll want to search around those for new technology anyway), or hopping into a cave to get out of storms. Arizona Prime is unfortunately prone to some really, really violent dust storms.

Always know where your nearest shelter is.
Always know where your nearest shelter is.

So what do I love about No Man’s Sky? The pottering about, searching everything, poking everything with my multitool, learning alien languages one word at a time, trying to speculate in trading goods (markets fluctuate from system to system), the grand over-all quest to get to the core of the galaxy (I think, it’s a tad unclear), the beautiful vistas, the smooth and elegant user interface… I like all the options. There are countless things you can do in the game, and my choosing to be a peaceful merchant and explorer doesn’t mean that you can’t be a vicious space pirate.

But stay off Lynne Prime. That’s the world I plan to retire to.

RideCare Camp, July 2016

Sometimes, a picture says more than a thousand words. Ergo, 53 pictures tell quite the story. Riding camp for adults at RideCare by Taulov, Fredericia, Denmark — the pictures appear in no particular order.

Photos by Birgitte Heuschkel, Caroline Frandsen, Tine Engell-Nielsen, and Tina Hald Petersen.

Kristoffer and Pilar experiment with the concept of jumping. Pilar thinks it’s easier to simply walk over, something which surprises no one that knows her.
Cargo takes jumping practise a bit more seriously.
Nathalie jumped liberty-style on Angie, using only a cordeo, or rope around the neck.
The weather was not entirely on the group’s side, but a trip to the beach was managed all the same.
Pilar did what she does best: She ate sea grass.
We had a spread of competence ranging from absolute beginners to very experienced riders. Here, Kristoffer is leading on Pilar after just four days of horseback training.
And here he is, trying out the gallop.
Beautiful trotter Keystone jumping with laid back ease.
Maria Louise has to jump bareback on White — she will not tolerate being saddled.
It’s a bit ironic that the Danish riding organisation, DRF, is being all panicky about allowing bitless riders for some competitions. Here, we had bit, tack, and saddle-less horses all over, and to no one’s surprise, no one died.
Lisbeth tries riding with the cordeo on beautiful Mara — but keeps the bitless bridle on just in case.
Lone practises the cordeo galloping on beautiful Ginny.
Bit- and tackless horses everywhere. Still no casualties.
Cargo is the resident expert at liberty riding. That horse can do anything.
But Angie is no amateur, either.
During lectures we were asked to write or draw our goals with our horses. Here’s mine — wanting to be totally relaxed when I’m on Pilar’s back.
No collection of horse girls without a beautiful black Arabian.
Every morning and some afternoons, rides into the open countryside.
Want a break? Go play with the Icelandic mares and their babies in the field.
The weather wasn’t all that fantastic. We had weather like this most of the time — not quite wet, not quite dry, just sort of undecided with casual showers.
Icelandic gelding Ari and PRE gelding Desca had the best view of everything.
Saddling all the Friesians. Spot the Arabian.
Tina takes a break with Simba, the old yellow lab attending camp with his owner, Lone. He charmed his way into everyone’s hearts in a matter of minutes, such a friendly old boy.
Saddling a horse is not as easy as it looks when you’ve never tried it before.
Friesians, Friesians, Friesians. I’m going to hang this picture of Mara and Ginny in Pilar’s stall in winter, and tell her to practise looking like the Friesian she’s supposed to be.
Lessons in close range combat were restricted to the very youngest attending student.
Two extremes, once again — Friesian and Arabian.
Nathalie and Angie became quite the couple. I think Nathalie was giving serious thought to hiding Angie in her backpack when going home.
No need to worry about not knowing everything. Helpers Tine and Maria Louise were everywhere, assisting experienced riders and novices alike.
Hands-on lessons in clicker training, with Pilar assisting as the highly treat-oriented horse that needs to learn to stop shoving the trainer for food.
Novice riders Camilla and Kristoffer on Cargo and Pilar. In five days, they went from the very most basics to galloping and jumping. I’m still impressed.
Babies, everywhere, running along when their mums were being exercised.
The sun did come out at times, and when it did, Pilar did what she does best. Aye, eating.
Baby needs to go back to mum and be just a bit less adventurous.
Beautiful pinto mare White can do her smiling trick when ordered from her back, too.
Who doesn’t love a Haflinger mare?
Or a beautiful white PRE gelding?
Or a gorgeous pinto pony?
Karina and Pone (short for Al Capone) had help with posture and seat. Those two really made big steps.
Trail riding through the ears of a Haflinger.
On one of the morning rides, a halter broke.
Guess what Pilar is doing…
The RideCare horses are used to being turned out without fences or ropes. It’s not like they want to leave.
Tina on Friesian Trisse. So gorgeous.
Lectures were based on student requests. Understanding, concentration, courage, ease, body, accept, feeling safe, peace, relaxation, joy, company, communication, pleasure, learning, trust, anatomy, balance, listening, jumping, belonging together, daring to try new things.
Writing down or drawing our expectations.
Multiple smoke breaks in the sun and in the rain alike. A large part of the fun of riding camp is all the talking we riders do between lessons.
At the end, though, we were all exhausted. Here’s Pilar saying goodbye to go do what she does best.