XCOM 2, Linux, and Mods

xcom2bannerI run Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon and I’m enjoying the explosion of games available for the platform. One of these is XCOM 2. (A current release! Oh, be still my fluttering heart!) Vanilla, the game ran just fine, but I’m not a vanilla sort of girl. I crave mods. Sweet, juicy mods that enhance the game without turning it into a cheating bastard. Problem was, the launcher only successfully loaded once out of ten or more tries when mods were installed.

I found that the launcher was reading the mod files from .local/share/feral-interactive/XCOM2/VFS/Local/mods_lowercase. However, it took me far longer than it should have to figure out that these weren’t the actual files, but symlinks pointing to the files stored elsewhere. The launcher (or something related to it) was converting the symlink names to all lowercase and reading the mods from the local user folder. It was also deleting and rebuilding the Steam Workshop mod lowercase folder each time the launcher ran, sometimes more than once in a single instance. That multiple deleting and rebuilding always heralded a crash of the launcher.

Mods that I downloaded from Nexus weren’t having that problem, but the few I got from there were stored in /steamapps/common/XCOM 2/share/data/mods and converted to all lowercase in both file and directory names. In the brief moment before the launcher crashed, I could see that those mods were loaded, yet none of the Steam Workshop ones were. Not only that, but the Steam Workshop mods were stored in /steamapps/workshop/content in a folder with a numerical name. Time to run an experiment!

I favorited all of the Steam Workshop mods I subscribed to, so that I could easily find them again, then unsubscribed to all of them. Now, the
only mods were the Nexus mods in the /data/mods folder. I ran the launcher and it opened without a hitch. Now, the Nexus mods were also being symlinked in the local user folder, though in their own subdirectory beside the one used for the Steam Workshop mods. It seems like this second (now only) symlink directory was also being deleted and rebuilt each time the launcher ran, but only once.

So, I’m no Linux guru and I just want to play my damn game with my damn mods. That means that I stop digging into the cause of the problem once I identify enough of it and go after a solution that will achieve my goal.

That meant resubscribing to all of the Workshop mods, and then copying all of them to the /data/mods folder. To make my life easier, I picked up pyRenamer out of the Software Manager and used it to mass rename all of the files and directories within the mods folder to lowercase. Make sure to select both the “Files and directories” and the “Add files recursively” option for the easiest conversion of your mod folder.

I ran the launcher again and it opened without a problem. All of my mods were there and my saved game recognized them. I was able to continue playing where I had left off. Yay!

This solution means that I’ll have to update my mods in a more manual method, but it also protects my save from a mod disappearing from the Workshop and rendering my save unplayable. I’ll take that tradeoff.

Hopefully, this post will help anyone else struggling with the same problem I had. So, how does a modded XCOM 2 play in a Linux environment? Quite nicely, once this whole Workshop mess was sorted out.

Finding an old friend

While rummaging through my shelves and crates to find empty three-ring binders, I found one old binder stuffed full with notes and drawings for an old novel in progress under the working title of Interregnum. Nestled among the pages was a printed copy of the story. This particular copy of Interregnum was the last complete draft printed, dating to 2005. Ten years ago.

Past the sharp scents of old paper and aging plastic, I recalled sitting in plazas and study rooms during my last university years and scribbling down the editing notes that litter the lines of text. A story I once knew came to life again as I flipped through the pages in my rapid reading. The writing was rougher than I liked, but it bore my basic rhythms of prose. I’ve learned a great deal about writing, including things like pacing and tone, since then. Characters long forgotten bantered in energetic exchanges. Main and secondary characters all possessed unique voices, especially when they teased and ribbed each other. Even the mercenary captain, who became increasingly dour during the waning drafts, was allowed to have some fun and have fun poked at her expense.

This draft suffered from the traveling bug, spending far too much time on the road to get from point A to point B, yet rushing through for the sake of expediency. My notes remark on this, advising to spend some time at certain locations. Show the mercenaries earning their pay, show the lost princess gaining and honing her skills, show the mercenary captain in command. Illustrate the duality of hard power and soft power through the approaches of the mercenary captain and the lost princess. Let the mercenary captain and lost princess make mistakes and figure out how to recover from them. Show the core characters bonding with one another. Spend the time to make it work.

However, that wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t the sole writer in this project. There was a co-writer involved and she had different priorities. The waiting political drama took precedent over the journey. Here, the tone changed from my punchy prose to the co-writer’s aspirations of loftier lines. It made sense for the tone to shift with the focus and reflect the machinations of refined nobility. My words still wove through those sections to prevent a hard jarring of the reader, but the change was still noticeable. As the next draft progressed, the mercenaries were pushed further and further back, while the political drama consumed all of our collective resources.

My notes in the two years after this printed draft show a great deal of struggle with reconciling the elements of the story, even as I admitted to myself that Interregnum had morphed into two different tales. The first book should have been nothing but the journey, then the second focusing on the political drama. That’s a more experienced eye, clarified by hindsight, and has no bearing on the past. Scattered among the notes are multiple attempts at rewrites, a few as fresh starts to help cast new perspective. Those clusters of notes through 2007 show a great deal of frustration, both at fixing the pacing and reconciliation problems and at my co-writer’s growing disinterest. As Interregnum languished, I realized that I could be spending my time working on other projects.

Driven by the need to be working on some sort of original writing project and unwilling to break apart Interregnum after laboring on it for so many years, I started to craft a new story. I threw so many ideas at the proverbial wall, hoping one would stick. One did and that idea grew into the Black Mark series. Interregnum was ultimately broken and abandoned, though the circumstances of that sad event is another story.

As to those empty binders I was looking for, I found them after spending a while on my office floor and revisiting some old friends.


Archeage Beta Impressions

Does it live up to the hype? As with most other games, the answer is no. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s just not my thing.

tl;dr summary: This is a Korean grinder with an interesting economy mechanic – if you’re a paying “patron”. Otherwise, it’s just a Korean grinder. If you have the time and money to burn, you might be sucked in after level 30, if you like grinding.
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Live-Action Rurouni Kenshin

『Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno / The Legend Ends』 Trailer (English)

Normally, I’m not too interested in live action adaptations of manga/anime, but these two upcoming films have my attention. One, it’s the Kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin, and two, it actually looks decently done. The characters are recognizable without much alteration from their original designs, yet are translated into live action without looking horribly silly. It’s nice to recognize scenes from the arc in the trailer.

I wonder if the renewed interest in Rurouni Kenshin will also mean that we’ll see the Jinchu arc either animated or given a live action treatment.



Years ago, my then roommate had a betta fish that I wanted to make something like this for. He was such a lonely fish and often looked like he wanted to follow us. In one of my old sketchbooks, there’s some drawings of a fish-controlled tank on wheels. That someone else had the same idea and actually built it delights me to no end.

Az and Audra Concept Art

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Doodles of Azarola and Audra from the upcoming fourth book of the Black Mark series. Az doesn’t let something like an injured leg stop him from getting into trouble. I can never settle on what hairstyle to give Audra, so it just keeps changing throughout the book. It’s become one of her quirks.

Writing to entertain

My first priority with the Black Mark series is to be entertaining. Not to show off my amazing ideas or world building. Not to spread a message. Not to prove something to myself or anyone else. My prime directive is to entertain myself first. If I write something I like to read, then there should be others who will like reading it, too.

However, I didn’t realize until I was halfway through writing the third book that I had plotted out a crucible story. Yeah, let’s make a crucible story entertaining! Let’s make a dieselpunk fantasy cognate of WWII North Africa a ~fun~ and ~magical~ experience! I’m good, but not that good.

So, I looked at my first draft and thought that I might be nuts and bit off more than I could chew. I ended up blowing my deadline goal by about two months, trying to make this story into something that wasn’t a hard sit. The last thing I wanted was for someone to think that this was getting too heavy and put it down. Because once the book is put down, there’s a risk that it won’t be picked up again. I know that there are plenty of people who like grimdark and the like, but that’s not what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for the old pulp action adventure novel. Those ten-centers with the WTF covers.

Eventually, I reworked the trouble spots and shifted some focus around. The beta reader receptions that I got were all pretty positive with only a couple of minor, fixable quibbles. A sigh of relief from me. I can deal with little fixable quibbles. That’s usually me forgetting something in between drafts, because I suck at linear writing. I’m too easily distracted.

If you want to check out what I’m talking about, I have some sample chapters for each of the available stories under the Black Mark menu above.

Number four is on the way and I’ll just say that the Indiana Jones theme was playing on loop in my head while outlining it.

I’m sure someone will think that I should have stayed on the grimdark path, but I think that grimdark and angst are like powerful spices. They are best when used sparingly.

A Brief Return to GW2

Very brief. I’ve been gone since the end of Flame and Frost.

I can see why everyone is saying “go ‘zerker or go home” now, too. DPS is king and everything is balanced around the dodging mechanic and twitch play. Control and support are just theoreticals.

The downside to the Living Story is that, after an absence of several months, nothing substantial has changed in the game and I’m still left with little to do or care about. It’s not like I can spend a week or few to catch up on the story and understand what the deal is with the current events. So, there is no investment in what is going on. There were some zone events with rescuing or protecting Vigil engineers, but nobody was doing them in the maps that I passed through and no one stopped to help on the one that I soloed. Wintersday is Wintersday, but it doesn’t look like I can finish up the achievements from last year. I can make more snowmen, but it doesn’t count for anything. So, there’s the same mix of dungeons and dragons that were there when I left. I was tired of repeating them months ago and I don’t feel any impetus to go back to them.

After running around a bit, I found the new construction in Divinity’s Reach. Not much explanation of what it is or why I can’t get into the blocked off area with the laurel vendor. I don’t have a pass and I didn’t find info on how to get one, if I can get one. I just threw up my hands at that point and decided that I had other things to do with my time.

I still don’t understand the decision to make so much content temporary without any way of visiting it after the event it done. Upon return after several months, there’s really nothing to reconnect to and catch up on. Well, there’s another armor tier. Yay. *shrug*

So, I’m left with an MMO itch that still needs to be scratched.

Az Doodles


Some spoilery doodles of Az from the upcoming fourth book of the Black Mark series. I’m liking the shoulder holster look for him. And yes, Az does get a new pair of glasses in this book. Anyone want to take bets on how long they’ll last this time?

If the first book is a twisted fairytale, the second a Supernatural episode, and the third a WWII movie, then the fourth will have the Indiana Jones theme. After writing the crucible story that is Fire and Foxholes, this next book is a welcome change of pace. Pulpy dieselpunk action-adventure fun.

Audra Sketches


Another page from my smudgy sketchbook. This time I’m trying to figure out Audra’s look for the Black Mark series. She makes her introduction in the third book, Fire and Foxholes. Here, I’m trying out different faces and hairstyles for the towering aviatrix.

Here, I had a small dilemma while redesigning her. The story is set in an equivalent of 1932. Short hair for women is all the rage and highly fashionable. Would Audra cut her hair short? Her original design called for long golden locks.

Eventually, I decided against Audra cropping her hair to a bob. She’s so tall and strong that she would keep her long hair to prevent people from mistaking her for a man.

The challenge in her design is to make her imposing, yet still feminine. I added the bangs to soften her face and keep her from looking too angular.