Category Archives: Miscellany
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“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.”
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.
And thus PAX came to an end.
The more charitable conclusion is that I simply came during an off year. Or perhaps an off PAX. But what I truly want to say is that the show sucked. At least to this particular non-con going groupie. And I’m thinking that the allure of cons are getting diminished by the same forces that generated a niche market in making physical boxes for all-digital games.
The Twitch booth out on the show floor was extremely hard to miss. After a few minutes, the irony of my having spent a considerable amount of money to fly into the Boston snowpocalypse just to come to PAX and watch a Twitch stream in person was too much to bear. The same principle held for Overwatch and the new expansions to GW2 and FF14 – why stand in line for 2+ hours to play these particular games that will either be released or in public beta in a number of months? Maybe it made sense back in the days when we got our gaming news from magazines (remember those?), but not today.
I mean, they had a bunch of booths for iPad games for god’s sake.
Luckily, I came because of friends. PAX definitely had a better setup for free-playing various games than GenCon. But that was about the long and short of it. If I could do things over again, I probably would have bought a PS4 and just took a 5-day staycation.
I wouldn’t say this was the most amount of people I’ve been around, even at a convention, but still:
Place was packed, in other words. To be expected.
I didn’t actually stand in any lines, as while playing the new GW2 expansion sounds somewhat fun, waiting two hours to do so does not. The line for Overwatch was… well:
I missed a chance to meet some of the Wildstar devs at a local bar, but I’m not too tore up about it. We’ll see if any similar opportunities present themselves.
So, hey, I’m (hopefully) at PAX East!
I’m not sure yet what the internet situation is going be like, so you can expect either radio silence or frequent updates. Probably the former, let’s be honest. That said, I am fully prepared for the PAX schmoozing campaign:
Of course, if any developer scans the QR code the day I start reverse-pickpocketing these on their person, they’re going to see this post up top.
In which case… hello! Please send me all the review copies you have. Thank you.