Category Archives: Miscellany

Lessons Learned: Home Theater Edition

[Blaugust Day 29]

If I had to pinpoint the exact moment when my home theater plans started falling apart, it was when I decided not to get a home theater. I still don’t want one, for the record, but I’m currently in that sort of purgatory where doing something and not doing something are both equally bad. Since I cannot go back in time, I will have to settle for dispensing vicarious wisdom.

Originally, I bought a 32″ TV and a PS3 for my console needs. That was fine at the time, as I was living with a roommate and thus had the TV in my bedroom. Then, of course, I decided I needed to get some kind of soundbar because TV speakers are universally terrible. This setup worked for about a year and a half, until I ended up getting a new apartment by myself. At that point, a 32″ TV just starts looking comically small from 9 feet away. So… new TV.

Enter the dilemma.

Price-wise, the 42″ TVs I was looking at were the same price as projectors. I decided to go with the projector because A) why not?, and B) poor long-term planning. I’m not saying that I regret the purchase per se, but it definitely set me down a path that I had not fully anticipated.

So I had the projector and the soundbar. I was not all that happy with the soundbar though, because its volume settings were such that Volume 4 was a bit too quiet to hear, and Volume 5 was too loud. Now that I had a projector, surely it would be as good a time as any to pick up a set of 5.1 surround sound speakers, yeah? No, past self. The answer is no. Unfortunately, I was not quantumly entangled at that point and ended up buying this particular set of speakers for a sum that was probably around $100.

It was not until this point that I realized I had made a mistake like six moves ago.

See, home theaters are like building a computer – you can’t just randomly buy the shit you need (motherboard, CPU, etc) and expect the disparate parts to just come together somehow. For example, let’s take a look at the back of my projector and speakers for a second:

Uh oh.

Uh oh.

There are a lot of things wrong with this picture. A lot of embarrassing, quite-obvious-in-retrospect things. Things like “how the hell are these two things supposed to connect?” The answer is two audio-out cables from the projector. So I have HDMI quality picture and sound coming from the PS3 to the projector, which then downgrades the picture to 720p and reduces the sound to 2-channels, aka stereo. That… sucks. What’s worse is that I’m not even sure these speakers were better than the soundbar, because most times its either too quiet or shaking the walls, and while I have reduced the amount of neighbors I have with my recent move, I remain in an apartment.

A “solution” to this problem is precisely the thing that you’re supposed to buy with any 5.1 speaker setup: a receiver. Which, despite a rather exhaustive amount of research, is a device I have a hard time believing needs to exist as a discreet product. Near as I can tell, a receiver is a $200+ ugly box that takes the already-5.1 sound from your main device and “translates” it into 5.1 sound for your speakers. Why the device needs a receiver to exist, or why speakers can’t just play the sound, I have no idea.

So this is the dilemma I now face. It’s dumb to have 5.1 speakers playing stereo. Spending $200 on a receiver though, is also pretty dumb since I don’t necessarily care about true surround sound. And even if I do get a receiver, it’s also kinda dumb to spend that money to pump surround sound through my cheap speakers. That’s like wearing $200 dress shoes with sweatpants. But my current setup is not particularly good by itself; it works, it’s passable, and it also contributes to my lack of desire to play console games. I’m tempted to just buy a better quality soundbar and call it a day, but that leaves me with a set of useless speakers. There’s also the problem that I’m using a projector, which means the soundbar either needs quasi-receiver-like powers so I can run my PS3 signal through it, or I suppose it can run on the two stereo cables. Would the optical speaker jack in the back of the PS3 work too? I have no idea.

On the one hand, I have to be mindful of the Sunk Cost Fallacy here. If a soundbar would solve my problems, the speakers will just need to go back into a box in the closet. A receiver would also solve my problems though, and presumably be more modular/useful in the future home theater experiments. And, just throwing this out there, buying a regular (40+”) TV and soundbar would solve even more problems still. The projector is cool and all, but it’s one of those things I’m starting to realize that you can’t (or shouldn’t, at least) just half-ass.

Well, there you go. Learn from my mistakes.

More than Half Done

[Blaugust Day 16]

The whole Blaugust challenge is more than half over now. Do you know where all your free-time went?

A full analysis will need to wait until the end of the month, but so far, the one good thing to come out of this is a reaffirmation that a more metered posting schedule is best for me. I looked at the subscriber numbers for this blog on various sites, and so there was a passing thought that if I went from 3 posts per week to 7, then my traffic should necessarily double, right? That does not appear to be the case. Like at all. Which means either the subscriptions aren’t being added to the views or perhaps less people are reading (due to more competition for their time).

On the actual writing front, nothing much else has changed either. While I am tempted to bang out a lot of buffer posts, it almost seems too cynical, even for me. Instead, I am sticking with my tried-and-true method of relying on my fickle muse for sudden inspiration. And Blizzard devs doing something outrageous – they’re always good for a post or two.

All that said, I do want to take a moment and thank the all the people posting comments. That particular metric is way up this month, and I’m not entirely sure why. Well, I guess it makes sense that more posts = more chances for people to chime in on a topic they want to talk about. To give some perspective, this past May had the most pageviews out of any month in the last year, and while August is less than half that right now, the comment totals are even thus far.

In any case, I think what I will do later is start combing through some of the other blogs I’ve seen on the Anook page. I’m not a huge fan of just adding everyone and sifting through hundreds of posts, but I do find it useful from time to time to add new blood to the routine.

And I suppose that’s how most of you found me in the first place. Fair’s fair.

The Collector

[Blaugust Day 14]

In a roundabout way, Sony almost pushed me back into a life of piracy with their latest PSN Square-Enix sale. Not sure how long it’s going to last, but some of the games include:

  • Tactics Ogre – $9.99
  • Final Fantasy IX – $4.99
  • Final Fantasy VIII – $4.99
  • Final Fantasy Tactics – $4.99
  • Legend of Mana – $2.99
  • Vagrant Story – $2.99

When I saw this list, my first thought was “gimmie gimmie gimmie.”

My second thought was “What? No, that’s silly. And $10 for Tactics Ogre? Yeah right.” What was pulling on my strings a bit at this point was that all of these games were cross-play with the PSP and Vita. I don’t actually own a Vita, and fully expect the handheld to go under in the next few years or less, but I do own a rather inordinate amount of Vita games by virtue of my PS+ subscription. So despite the fact that I own physical copies of at least three of those games, my inclination was purchase digital copies “for the future.” You know, one in which I move again and don’t need to lug the discs around.

Then I started to think about why I own a PSP and not a Vita in the first place. Then I remembered that post I wrote last year. And then I went to Amazon to reaffirm the insanity:

Abandon all logic, ye who games here.

Abandon all logic, ye who games here.

Yeah, fuck you, Sony.

So there I sat, fuming, fingers ready to raise the black flag out of spite. Seriously guys, Sony’s proprietary bullshit is over five times more expensive than a microSD card! No matter how cheap a deal I could get on a Vita, that memory card would just erase all of the gains by itself. What would the price of one of those be even in a Toys-R-Us fire sale? $40? $30?!

Ugh.

Then I remembered that the last time I touched my PSP was six months ago. And the likelihood of me actually playing those games again are even smaller. If I lived in a city first-world country that actually had a working commuter rail system, things might be different. Alas, I am in the United States, and can’t even settle for a busing system that could get me 10 miles to work in less than 2 hours.

Oh well.

Okay Then: Blaugust 2015

[Blaugust Day 1]

So I decided to go ahead and do what all the cool kids are doing in August, which is spamming your RSS feeds with a minimum ten sentences of nonsense.

This post is going up in the evening today because I honestly wasn’t going to participate. In fact, it is entirely possible that this turns out to be a terrible idea, much like my attempt at Movember 2013.

See, I have a love-hate relationships with blogs that post on a daily basis. Since I mainly read posts while at work, a steady stream of content ensures the day flies by while I’m thinking about all the reasons why the blogger is horribly mistaken. Unfortunately, that same steady content stream also ensures that the discussion generated by any individual post is buried almost immediately. Within a day or two, the “audience” for your carefully structured rebuttal is probably just you and a person who is already 2000 words deep in other subjects entirely. Ergo, I feel 2-3 posts a week gives a blog room to “breathe” and evolve.

Plus, you know, it’s easier.

Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and give Blaugust a go for one main reason, and several iffy reasons. Main reason? The grand prize is a free game from my Steam wishlist.

Hey, I never said it was a good reason.

The iffy reasons include “Do I think I can?” and “Wonder what my traffic will look like by September” and a general experiment to see if I can break my predilection for posts that “have a point” or some overarching argument. I prefer to write those sort of posts (and to read them), but sometimes that means abandoning otherwise serviceable drafts just because I haven’t crafted a thesis. Sometimes you just want to talk about how you had fun playing a game, and not feel like you’re questioning the validity of an objective reality, you know?

So… here we go.

Prisoner’s (Gaming) Dilemma

BINGO was postponed for a week, but I’m not even mad. Seeing the shit Blizzard is getting on the forums every time they introduce another flying mount is payment enough. For now.

Let us set that aside for a moment.

So I was presented with two hypothetical scenarios over the weekend which I found interesting for reasons. The first one was this: you’re going to jail for ten years, but it’s a minimum security prison that will allow you to take one offline game (any DLC included) with you. But that will be the only game you get for those ten years. Which game do you pick?

The second scenario is similar, but this time it’s life in prison. For some insane reason, the Warden will allow you to take any three games and allow an internet connection. The parameters did not specify whether future DLC or microtransactions will be free for you, but let’s assume you can make enough money stamping licence plates to cover, say, $30/month. Which games do you pick?

The answer to the first scenario was pretty much unanimous amongst my fellow hypothetical jail mates: Minecraft. There was a Skyrim holdout in there, but ten years is a long time and I don’t think mods could extend the attention of even the staunchest Skyrim fan that long.

The second scenario answer was more diverse, with my friend solidly in the Destiny camp (which is his current console mini-MMO game of choice). Mine was more blunt: World of Warcraft. Yes, even with bile I feel towards Flightgate, I have to admit that WoW is a game A) most likely to still be around and supported for decades to come, and B) one offering the most diverse playing experiences. In other words, you could spend a lot of time getting real good at raiding, master it, and then set off to roll the boulder up the PvP hill and feel a difference.

I found my own responses interesting primarily because I don’t particularly like playing either of them. The last time I seriously played Minecraft was before they introduced the Hunger meter; it may not have even been out of beta yet. I am still “playing” WoW currently, but it’s in the same way I play Clash of Clans: short bursts of activity to kill time, because apparently I’m going to live forever and have no standards. Or perhaps it’s because if I devoted the whole of my free time to one game, I’d probably clear three games a week, and the corresponding post-game depression phase three times. No thanks.

Still, what does that really say about me, and presumably us, that we aren’t simply playing these games full-time? That we could conceivably be playing them for 10+ years, but would rather not to? Obviously the intensity of a novel experience is higher with new games, so it makes sense that we enjoy playing the newer ones more (at least for a while). But here are these other games which clearly are mechanically superior in a replayability sense and we, or I, don’t seem to care. Until we’re in jail, anyway.

In any case, I’d be interested to hear other peoples’ choices in these two scenarios. For me, it’s Minecraft for the first, then Minecraft, WoW, and Counter-Strike for the second. I thought about swapping Magic Online with Minecraft in the second set, but the $30/month limit, while arbitrary, still wouldn’t cover hardly any reasonable amount of gametime.

SSD Failure

Yeah, so, my main SSD up and died earlier tonight. You know, the one with Windows installed on it. And the one with the extra Windows partition, to make reinstalling easier. Just a quick BSOD followed by the BIOS no longer recognizing the drive. No other warning whatsoever.

While I did manage to make a frantic trip out to Best Buy to get another SSD in some insane fantasy that’d I’d be able to play videogames tonight, I was instead presented with the cruelest of ironies: you can reinstall Windows from the disk, but not the driver necessary to get on the Internet. I can’t even begin to imagine how that makes sense. Nor why it’s so goddamn difficult to have single, centralized place to download said driver (from another computer, if course). “Check your computer manufacturer.” Uh, it was custom-built; not like I can go to Dell or Apple’s website here. I did manage to figure it out, inexplicably, and shall henceforth seed my house with USB sticks with said drivers upon them.

The silver lining here is that the original SSD was only 64gb, mainly used for the OS, and thus my 500gb data drive remained intact. The new SSD is 480gb because why the fuck not, so once I preform the necessary blood rituals getting evening reinstalled, I might just migrate my Steam folder over.

In any case, here is your monthly reminder to back up your files. And your drivers.

I Asked For This

If you have been reading this site for a while, you probably know I have an aversion to paying full retail price for videogames. So much so that I created it as a tag: Day 1 Embargo. Why pay $60 for something when it will be half off (or more) three months from now? It’s not like we don’t have 50+ games in our Steam backlogs anyway, right? Better to avoid the hype and save money.

Oh, hey, what’s this:

In the gibberish language of Twitch, let me say: H Y P E B O Y S.

Adam “I didn’t ask for this” Jensen is back. Michael “holy shit this music is amazing” McCann is back. Out of all the game worlds I have experienced in the last few years, the one presented in Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been the most authentic and immersive. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to state that there is something about Deus Ex in general that presses all the right buttons for me. Cyberpunk morality all day, erryday.

Seriously, have you seen the “movie” trailer for Human Revolution? Still gives me chills.

So, yeah. I shall be preemptively lifting my standard embargo on new games for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, whenever it is that it finally gets released. Because I want to believe. I want to believe so bad it hurts. Hurts like Neuropozyne withdraw.

Impression: Kingdom Rush

So… anyone got mobile strategy(-ish) game recommendations? I’m on a bit of a kick here.

I am currently playing Kingdom Rush and finding it rather fantastic. Tower Defense is one of those genres that seems sort of shallow on the face of it – and perhaps even is in the scheme of things – but I’m liking how it’s presented here in Kingdom Rush. You have the standard lanes, tower placement, and varied enemies with their rock-paper-scissors attributes. Even the implementation of a somewhat controllable hero and magic powers seems almost standard these days.

The very attractively stylized graphics doesn't hurt either.

I could go AFK for the next two waves, honestly.

The thing that strikes me though is that the lanes in KR are wide. In other words, the enemies marching down the road and the resulting battles feel a bit more organic, as your soldiers might engage near the edge of the lane and allow a few enemies on the far end slip past. There is a granularity there, a sense that slight tweaks to troop or hero placement will result in better outcomes. Tower choice is such a huge change that there are clearly better options given the enemies you face (high magic defense vs high armor defense). Moving your troops just slightly to the left of the corner though? The result might be better just 5% of the time, but that 5% chance gives you the opportunity to demonstrate mastery over the game mechanics.

Of course, just like with most other Tower Defense games I have played, discovering OP combinations of towers usually results in me going through the motions for the rest of the game’s duration. I am definitely at that stage with Kingdom Rush right now, although it has lasted longer than other, similar games like Bloons.

So, yeah. I’m also playing Clash of Clans (near max TH7 base) at the moment. I have enjoyed the aforementioned Bloons TD 5, iBomber Defense, and the Anomaly series. I recently picked up Ironclad Tactics from the latest Humble Bundle but haven’t played it yet. Heard good things about Card Crawl too, and might actually pick it up if I can mentally prepare myself for playing on my tiny iPod Touch screen. Speaking of iPods, that reminds me of Hero Academy… another good one from back in the day. And presently perhaps? It’s been a while.

Give me your best strategy, Tower Defense, and/or card game games. Apps. Whatever.

Correction

I officially change my book answer on Wednesday to the Discworld series. Eternal apologies to Terry Pratchett (RIP) for not remembering how much I miss Rincewind, Two-flower, Luggage, Granny, Nanny, Magrat and Agnes, Vetinari, Vimes, Carrot, Angua, Colon, Nobby, Littlebottom, and Moist. And Death, Susan, Death of Rats, and… all the rest. The stories starring Vimes are probably the most famous for being “the good ones,” but I enjoyed the subtlety of the Granny series as well.

Actually, they were all really enjoyable.

God damn.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

Liebsteri Fatali

So apparently there’s this Liebster thing going around, and since I’m still kinda wiped out from traveling, let’s dive right in.

1. What was your very first MMO character and why did you choose that race?

Blood Elf warlock in WoW named Izuko. When I first decided to get into WoW, I had to decide early on whether to buy just the base game or the game plus Burning Crusade expansion. Since I went with the latter, I also knew that companies have a tendency to make expansion races/classes overpowered, which meant I needed to roll either Blood Elf or Draenei. While I clearly ended up sticking with Azuriel the Draenei paladin overall, Eversong Woods was perhaps the best possible starting zone for anyone new to MMOs.

Useless personal trivia: I quit playing Izuko after my leveling guild fell apart while I was in the mid-40s in Hinterlands. I was ready to quit WoW entirely at that point – old-school Hinterlands was awful at the best of times – but felt like that I wouldn’t get my money’s worth if I didn’t at least roll a Draenei. So I did. And here I am, blogging about going to PAX East with my former WoW guildmates, whom I’ve only ever met in person once before, at GenCon. Then again, I’ve probably talked to them over Vent for more hours over the past six years than any of my IRL friends.

2. Would you rather have a tiny elephant as a pet, or a tiny kangaroo?

Neither. I enjoy other peoples’ pets and have owned some in the past myself, but having to literally manage their shit has lost all appeal. If I had to pick though: tiny elephant, no question.

3. Do you overuse any figures of speech in your writing or speaking?

So… yeah. About that. For the most part, I write like I speak, including adding what probably amounts to superfluous commas all over the damn place. I have also noticed that an embarrassing number of sentences are bisected by “but,” but I’m not sure what I can really do about it. And the “so” thing.

4. You can snap your fingers and visit any city in the world. Where are you?

It’s a bit pretentious, but… Kyoto. Been there both times I traveled to Japan and plan on including it on any future Japanese itinerary.

5. What was your first (real life) pet? Who is your favorite pet?

I believe it was a gecko, which soon got lost in the grass when I tried to “walk” it. My favorite pet was probably my dog, Bo (we had a cat/dog pair named Rocky and Bullwinkle). Bo was one of those pets that spanned multiple Ages, from elementary to college.

He’s been dead for a while now, thanks for asking.

6. You’re on a desert island and only have one album, one movie, and one book. What are they?

The album question is a bit tough, as I have zero loyalty to specific artists, only good songs. Based on number of top-rated songs on my iTunes account, it looks like Auidoslave’s debut album and/or the soundtrack to Her would win overall. Hmm, apparently Fort Minor’s Rising Tied is also up there. On an island though, I’d probably need to relax, for which the Her soundtrack is most conducive.

In terms of being able to rewatch/reread something over and over, I have to go with Fifth Element and… uh… the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Because who reads one book over and over?

7. Why did you start a blog?

I was pretty active on the WoW forums back in TBC and Wrath. Over time, I realized that the same (discredited) arguments were being trotted out again and again, so I figured that I could save myself time by copy/pasting a well-sourced post rather than spamming the same text. Additionally, things on the forums had tendency to go “poof,” so I also wanted some way to preserve Blue posts and the like. It was a pretty poorly thought-out plan, I admit.

Later on, I found that I played WoW for the AH shenanigans, so it made sense to make Player Vs Auction House. This was followed later on by the realization that, no, I did like arguing with strangers over the internet more after all. And still do, to this very day.

8. What’s your favorite video game soundtrack?

I’m changing this question to favorite video game composer. In which case, Yasunori Mitsuda, hands down. Being forced to choose between the Chronos and Xenogears soundtracks is simply cruel. Although have you listened to Xenogears Creid? Hmm… now that I think about it, I’ll go with Xenogears straight-up.

9. Which writers have been the most influential in your own writing?

I’m not entirely sure how influenced I am in writing style, but I am quite often in utter awe over Jerry Holkins’ (of Penny Arcade) poetic prose. Something something Dickwolves, I know. But seriously, read this shit:

It must be said, though, that they have a different kind of cold than I have in my town.  Brenna wanted to take a walk before she had to fly out one year after the show, and I said no, that was a terrible idea, because people were freezing in place where they stood out there and being loaded onto trucks like cordwood, bundled for quick sale, to those for whom freshness was paramount.

Somehow we ended up on the walk anyhow, because whatever, who cares, and we hadn’t gotten three blocks before we turned back.  I would like to say that this was a choice we made, turning back, but we were turned back because your cold is of a fundamentally different sort.  We went back because we could not go forward.  It wasn’t a land habitable by people.  Their cold is the great Leviathan, which marks the edge of the map.

That was just a recent example in my spartan, verbal shrine to well-crafted sentences.

10. What is your favorite virtual hat in any game?

T6/Veng Glad paladin helm in WoW. I’m a sucker for halos, especially since I usually turn helms off.

___________________

And that’s it.

While I answered the questions, this was a half-assed commitment, so I’m breaking the chain.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers