Category Archives: Miscellany

Gen Con Uniform

I went to the thrift store over the weekend in an effort to get some “sweat my balls off in Tokyo August heat” clothes. While browsing, I stumbled upon this treasure and literally Mackelmoored a “shit, it was 99 cents” out loud:

The look on my face was worth at least $3.50.

The look on my face was worth at least $3.50.

It actually took me a minute to wrap my head around what I was looking at. Fortunately, the back cleared things up:

Ooooooh.

Ooooooh.

In taking the photo, my Google Goggle app notified me that there is a Facebook page dedicated to this… thing which, while obvious in retrospect (who would make one custom shirt?), docked the coolness factor a bit. Then again, I’m about as fashion unconscious as you can get without being declared clinically deceased, so maybe there was never any coolness. Or any coolness to a 30-year old wearing graphic tees.

Be that as it may, if I can’t wear a dorky awesome FF7 T-shirt everyday one day at Gen Con, then when can I wear it? The answer is anytime I goddamn want because I’m an adult. So am I detained, or am I free to go, Fashion Police?

Japan and Gen Con

So, have an uncharacteristic amount of shenanigans going on soon.

First, a week from now I will be in Japan for ~14 days. The last time I was over there was back in 2005 during a college exchange program, so this will be quite interesting going back. I would not expect a lot of updates for those two weeks, but you never know. Beyond the normal touristy schtick around Tokyo, I do plan on stopping by things like the Ghibli Museum. If you have recommendations of similar attractions that might be interesting given the scope of this site, feel free to let me know.

Second, and possibly more relevant to our mutual interests, I will be at Gen Con 2014 this August. I’ll actually be hanging with my ex-WoW crew the majority of the time, but if you are going and would like to share an awkward greeting IRL, I’m game. And speaking of games, I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to Gen Con; the event registration page is about the most unfriendly UI I have ever seen. So if you know of interesting panels or whatever that I should check out, let me know. Seriously, ain’t nobody got time to manually browse 1558 board game events.

Oh, and I guess Blizzard is releasing the Naxx expansion to Hearthstone two days before my flight. Fun times.

Restart

Ever come back from an extended videogame break – be it vacation, work project, family thing, etc – and just have no interest in anything whatsoever? Or perhaps more paradoxically, have so many conflicting interests that you end up spending your entire free time with procrastinating activities? I have just blown a solid three hours that could have been more productively used progressing through any number of games. Instead, I’m talking to you guys and playing Dungeon Keeper. You know, that almost universally reviled app from the studio that no longer exists?

I’m actually kinda a big deal in that game. The highest ELO bracket is 3200 and I’m 3500+. I don’t actually know where that puts me rank-wise, especially because the designers were dumb and allowed people to farm rank at super-low levels for several months, but at least I’m legit.

I don't know why either.

I don’t know why either.

In any case, this post was not an elaborate ploy to humble-brag about my Dungeon Keeper prowess. Rather, how do you guys bootstrap yourself out of a post-break gaming slump?

I logged into Planetside 2 for long enough to remember why I hate-love that game (fun gunplay followed by 10+ minutes of camping empty bases) and my Wildstar log-in didn’t last much longer because, hey, Medics still feel terrible. Do you pick a game at random and just plow forward? Do you have an old standby? Or do you just give in to the ennui and take a nap or whatever?

I Come Bearing Time-Sensitive Gifts

First, the US Playstation Store is having a “flash” sale on PS1 classics. There are 28 total games going for $0.99, but here are the ones I picked up:

  • Legend of Dragoon
  • Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
  • Wild ARMS
  • Wild ARMS 2

Given my pirating travails, I decided on principal to put my dollar(s) where my mouth was and purchase the above legitimately. Plus, since those four activated on the PSP, I got to test out whether it was a memory card issue or what. Turns out it might have been a memory card issue because they became corrupt files too. However, the eBay’d PSP came with a 4gb card that successfully transferred my legally-acquired goods so… yeah.

As for the rest of the games not listed, you might find something worth something. I hope you do, actually, because apparently the Playstation Store has a $5 minimum buy-in, so you can’t just pay your dollar; the rest will sit around as store credit for the next sale. Which is kind of good to know that they are willing/capable of putting those older games on sale in the first place. Alternatively, Twisted Metal: Black is pretty good if you enjoy the series at all, but I already own the actual game.

Second, there is a Humble Bundle going on featuring 2K games. What’s amusing about it is that someone fucked up which games get hidden behind the beat-the-average and flat-amount paywalls. At least, that is what I imagine is going on. For example, they put XCOM and Bioshock Infinite behind a $20+ lock… despite the fact that XCOM was like $3 in May and Bioshock Infinite was about $7.50 in March. Meanwhile, a cool Washington (that’s $1 USD for you foreigners) gets you Bioshock, Darkness 2, and more importantly The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. The beat-the-average is filled with filler that has likely filled your Steam library from a dozen similar sales already.

Now, perhaps The Bureau is as bad as they say (66 on Metacritic), but seeing as how it’s the only item on that list that I haven’t seen already in a bundle, I would say that it is worth the risk. I’m not usually so cavalier with my dolla dolla bills y’all, but the first step is recognizing how utterly insane I come across most of the time, and thus take steps to remedy the affliction. Unless the affliction is in fact buying games I likely will never play, in which case fuck that.

PSP PSX

Way back when, Gaben of Valve and Steam fame put forth an assertion that (game) piracy is an accessibility issue, not a monetary one. In other words, the primary driving force for piracy is because companies make it difficult to legitimately use/acquire their products, and not because people don’t want to pay for them. The economic argument can’t be dismissed, of course, but the accessibility one was particularly novel for its time. The meteoric rise of Steam as a PC game platform certainly has codified the argument as a truism.

I have a series of vacations coming up soon (in fact, I’m on one right now) that will see me far from my normal means of entertainment. Indeed, one such vacation will be 2 weeks in Japan, and the corresponding 13-hour one-way flight is particularly noteworthy. So, in order to assuage my upcoming gaming withdraw, I purchased a PSP from eBay for about $60. I was going to spring for the Vita instead, but the outrageous price of its memory sticks and lack of hackability dissuaded me from a purchase. How could it really compare to a cheaper PSP with nearly a hundred of the best NES/SNES/Genesis/GBA/PSX games on it?

Well, let me tell you how: by not being a giant pain in the ass.

This is truly a First World Pirate Problem, but setting up the PSP to play original PS1 games has consumed more time thus far than I would likely play any one of them. If I sat down and devoted an entire day to copyright infringement, no doubt I could get everything set up and likely streamline the process somehow. But every minute screwing around with POPS loaders and converting .ISO files to .eBoots and wading through sketchy websites for files is another minute I’m not using my leisure time for its titular purpose.

A friend of mine had gotten on the PSP pirate train early, so I hit him up for advice. “Get a Vita.” If the news passed you by, Sony has digitized a rather large selection of PS1 classics to be purchased and downloaded from the PSN service. Much like me with PC games, I’m relatively certain that my friend’s change of heart had more to do with ease of use than necessarily a moral epiphany. Nearly 5-10 hours into this process across as many days, I am certainly pondering how much I would be willing to spend to just have everything work.

Nostalgia is expensive.

Nostalgia is expensive.

$9.99 per 700MB game that came out in 1998 that I already legitimately paid for? Tactics Ogre at $19.99?! Ehhh… let me dick around with it a little bit longer.

Player Churn

It’s been about two weeks since this Gamasutra interview with Jeremy Gaffney, but I think it’s still worth a read. Or just have your mind blown with this thought experiment:

“Even a good game churns 5 percent of its users out every month,” says Gaffney. “That means every 20 months you’ve churned out your whole user base.” If you have one friend who still plays an MMO, that means you might have 10 friends who used to play that MMO.

That 5% monthly figure has been pretty consistent over the years, as WoW had an apparent 4-5% churn rate even during the heights of vanilla/TBC. That means each expansion could basically have an entirely new playerbase. Obviously, some stick around for the long-haul, so there’s some continuity.

Nevertheless, I feel like this more succinctly highlights the design pressures on MMO developers. Does an MMO ever get more hardcore over time? It’s hard to see how it could, given how one needs to entertain an entirely new audience every (at best!) two years.

BM Steam?

So what are the odds that Steam is selling RPG Maker VXA for $17.50 (75% off) the same day that RPG Maker VXA is a part of the Weekly Humble Bundle (i.e. buy it for $1)?

Someone is a bastard and/or genius.

Someone is a bastard and/or genius.

I mean, it can’t be all just some amazing coincidence, right? And I would imagine that the Humble Bundles are, err, less nimble than Steam sales. Then again, maybe this is actually Good Guy Steam for letting us use RPG Maker VXA for free before deciding if one American dollar is worth the risk. Tough call.

On a related note, I was all set to plunk down some monies on the bundle before I realized that I already owned RPG Maker VXA. I’m not sure how, when, or why, but I do. Back in the day, I used a similar program on the PlayStation to start up what would inevitably be The One game that broke me into the industry. But after spending literally 15 hours coding item stats via controller (Stone Sword –> Iron Sword –> Steel Sword –> etc) I decided that my dreams were dumb.

I still have a lot of ideas, but they are tempered in the reality of getting other people to do them.

Proprietary Hardware

This weekend got me thinking about proprietary hardware and how much of a total loss of value it is to consumers.

As I mentioned earlier, I spent most of this weekend moving to a new apartment. While I never double-checked the validity of the claim, the housing company stated that the only internet that could be provided would be from AT&T, e.g. U-Verse. Okay, fine. AT&T ended up mailing me their modem/router combo and was going to add $100 deposit + a monthly lease for equipment, which I attempted to decline (since I already own a modem & router). AT&T mailed one anyway, which I slapped a return sticker on and sent back Friday. When I went to hook up my modem on Sunday, a growing sense of horror enveloped me as I realized that a CAT5 cable would not fit into the installed plug. Uh oh.

Thank god for smartphones, eh?

After several fruitless Google searches for, in retrospect, impossible things like phone jack -> Coaxial cable adapters, I came to understand that AT&T utilizes their own proprietary internet hardware. This was further confirmed at Best Buy (hey, I was desperate) when the DSL modem I was looking at stated that it would work with AT&T DSL but not U-Verse. I ended up going to a AT&T store but they didn’t carry any of the U-Verse equipment with them and would have to order it to be re-shipped. Lesson learned: make sure your shit works before sending anything back.

What this reminded me of though is memory cards.

Any time I kinda sorta maybe get the urge to bite on a PlayStation Vita sale, the reality of proprietary memory cards that damn near cost the same as the system itself always shocks me back to reality. Right now, a 32gb Vita memory card is $69.81 on Amazon. Do you know how much a 32gb MicroSD card is? $20.22. Shit, you can get a 64gb for $38.60. Is there anything extra you get for buying Sony? Nope. It is a total fucking loss for you to purchase a Vita memory card other than the fact that Sony forces you to buy into their bullshit proprietary technology, which is itself just a more-expensive version of ineffectual DRM.

And just let me say how much a regret buying a Google Nexus smartphone these days. At the time, getting an unlocked $250 smartphone was my overriding concern, but the biggest model I bought is clocking in at… 16gb. Of which you can use 12.92gb. And hey, I’m sure it’s just a huge coincidence that the majority of these phone manufacturers don’t have expandable storage options and yet multiple models with differing levels of internal storage. I mean, seriously, how much space/weight/battery juice does a phone actually lose by having the MicroSD slot? Shit, is it too much to ask for a $20.22 32gb MicroSD card to be built into the damn thing? Proprietary hardware strikes again, at zero benefit to the consumer.

I understand the logic, to an extent. Proprietary hardware is sort of an enforced patent, the sort of difference between a brand-name pharmaceutical drug and the later generic version. But in electronics and gaming, we hardly ever get non-proprietary hardware (controllers and Game Genies aside). Talking myself out of a Vita purchase the other day almost resulted in talking myself into a PSP purchase solely on the basis of ROMs, at which point I started to wonder why Nintendo (or anyone, really) never bothered with a handheld that could officially play SNES (etc) games. Or did they and I haven’t noticed? I know about the Wii’s virtual console and Sony’s PS+ deal with some older PSX games, but it almost seems like a no-brainer for some company to swoop in with a fully open-source, Vita-like handheld that can load ROMs and be an otherwise premier ROM target. I mean, it certainly seems like the smartphone market never quite got there all the way.

Stuff, and Other Things

So, there are a lot of things going on in the next few weeks, and it has impacted (and may continue doing so) my posting schedule. Basically, I’m moving to a new apartment, applying for a Grad School scholarship in Japan (all expenses paid, if I get it), getting ready for a completely unrelated vacation in Japan this August, and playing videogames like a madman in effort to unpack the stress of all of that. I might start doing shorter posts of my various digital escapades rather than attempt to forward some kind of thesis every time I write something, but we’ll see. Hell, there’s been a decent amount of juicy gaming news, but sometimes it’s tough to write without a narrative.

By the way, if you have suggestions for good blogs that you read that are not already listed on the sidebar, by all means let me know in the comments below (or email); I might not directly add them to the sidebar, but I promise to take a look. My Feedly app keeps me sane during breaks at work, and my normal dealers seem to be on vacation lately. Or, you know, they might be in similar situations to myself. Nevertheless, this dry spell couldn’t have come at a worse time. Feed me your words/arguments.

“Explicit schedule of villainy”

Props to Zubon of Kill Ten Rats for the coining of a new phrase in regards to Guild Wars 2′s timetable for dynamic events: “explicit schedule of villainy.” No, seriously:

This is just a snip; it continues on for 3 pages.

This is just a snip; it continues on for 3 pages.

“Oh, 7pm? I’m just in time for the Megadestroyer!” Read that in a faux British accent for maximum effect. I also appreciate how they gave us a generous 15 minutes inbetween world-destroying bosses. “You too can save the world four times an hour, on the hour!” Japanese train conductors would be so proud.

That said, I am actually somewhat interested in ArenaNet’s April not-an-expansion expansion. I decided to give TESO a pass (technically I’m gambling on a Press™ copy) but just the thought of character progression of sorts was tempting me to boot up some MMO or another¹. GW2 is free, so why not, right? Titanfall has scuttled the plans for the time being, but maybe soon.

Well, provided I have enough hard drive space

¹ The Secret World is still installed, actually, and I still play it from time to time. I consider that a single-player RPG though. Still, it is 40gb…