The Best of In An Age, Vol. 1
[Blaugust Day 31]
If you are looking for the best, most philosophical, endearing, poignant, expertly written posts for In An Age, then look no further.
That’s right, they appear here, at the top of InAnAge.com, two or three times each week depending on when I feel like dropping epiphanous bombs. Subscribe or add to your RSS reader of your choice, and you’ll be notified every time the light shines forth from my bushel. Which, again, is all the goddamn time. Worst… bushel… ever.
If you’re not up for reading nearly 800 posts though, here are the Top 5, in no particular order:
This post is actually somewhat topical given how it was originally written about my feeling of “offness” whilst playing Guild Wars 2. The term “wirehead” has came to represent any game I play obsessively but ends up making me feel empty when I turn it off. Favorite line from the post: “Playing Guild Wars 2 feels like going to Disneyland ahead of the apocalypse.”
Despite the years, I still consider “entitlement” to a be a trigger word for me and a Godwin’s Law for videogame arguments generally. The best summation of my feeling on the word ended up coming from a more recent follow-up post: “When you use the word “entitlement” as a pejorative, all you are doing is asserting that someone has unreasonable expectations about something, without actually bothering to offer an argument or explanation as to why it is unreasonable.”
The Problem With F2P and Microtransactions
If there was one other concept I wish the whole of the internet knew and understood, it is that of Consumer Surplus. While the F2P and microtransaction ship has long since sailed, the idea of Consumer Surplus is still useful in moderating the insanely anti-consumer sentiments that crop up in gaming discussions with disturbing regularity. This particular post isn’t the best one on the topic, but it’s the first, and it explains what Consumer Surplus is. For the others, just click on the Consumer Surplus tag.
My Issues with the Bioshock Infinite Plot
Oh man, Bioshock Infinite. It’s been over two years since I wrote that post, but I still stand by every argument made and presented. Simply put: if you liked Infinite’s plot, you’re wrong. Case closed.
Speaking of arguments, I’m still rather fond of this one. At the time, the internet was discussing why WoW was losing subscribers in Cataclysm despite the (established) fact that the actual cause was the increase in dungeon difficulty. Incidentally, I consider that post and a few others from that time period as the beginnings of my (one-sided) rivalry with SynCaine.
There you have it, the Top 5 posts from In An Age. While the newest amongst them is April 2013, my original list had at least 25 entries mostly pulled from the Philosophy category. In fact, that’s the place I recommend going to if you enjoy my writing at all and yet somehow have failed to keep current with my steady stream of genius. Priorities, people; work on them.
- A Flight Too Far
- Revisiting Single-Player MMOs
- Design > Toxicity
- No Country for Old Blizzard
- The F-Word
Enjoy Continue enjoying.
B2P MMO Goes F2P
We kinda knew from an earlier leak already, but it’s now official: Guild Wars 2 is going F2P.
The F2P restrictions can be compared here, or just read this bullet list from Reddit:
- Does not receive daily login bonus
- Start with less storage than paid account : 2 character slots, 3 bag slots
- No map wide chat interaction, can use local chat
- Cannot post on ArenaNet forums
- Can only start new whisper conversations once every 30 seconds
- Can trade and buy common items on TP
- Can’t mail items or gold to other players, can still send text-only mail to friends
- Must be level 60 before entering WvW, other unspecified zone/level restrictions
- They must play to level 10 before leaving the starter zones, to level 30 before using LFG
- They can play PvP immediately but must get to rank 20 before using custom and unranked arenas
- Cannot trade gold for gems
- Cannot access guild vaults
The more I think about it, the more bizarre this announcement gets. First, has there ever been a B2P MMO that went to F2P? I know GW2 is highly dependent on its cash shop for additional revenue already, but this still feels like a weird strategy. Especially in terms of those “restrictions,” which are incredibly lenient when compared to similar offerings. I guess the WvW restriction might prevent easier zerg leveling/karma farming, but the scaling was so bad back when I played that you practically had to be 60+ to do anything of particular note anyway.
The second bizarre thing about this announcement is the timing. Remember two months ago when ArenaNet bundled the base game into the expansion box price and the internet lost its shit? Surely they knew they were going to announce a F2P conversion two months later… right? Maybe they wanted to wait until PAX for the press coverage, but that was still a lot of negative coverage right in the summer months that could have been avoided multiple ways. Perhaps them knowing F2P was coming contributed to their laissez faire attitude at that particular information rollout.
I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling a slight itch to maybe perhaps download GW2 again, especially after I stopped playing WoW. My game experience ended on a particularly sour note last time around, but it might of been because I wasn’t completely sold on the Elementalist playstyle. Plus, you know, since I bought the retail box years ago, I could start it up and be back playing with little issue.
On the other hand, ArenaNet’s commitment to “Living Stories” and one-time events means that I’m not even sure what, if anything, would actually be different a second time around. Lion’s Arch was destroyed and rebuilt, I think? Maybe they added a few more entries to the Explicit Schedule of Villainy? Who knows. For now, I’m much more likely to get into FF14 than GW2 again.
Best of luck to ArenaNet just the same.
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:
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.
How Not to Get Money
[Blaugust Day 28]
Much like Steam before it, CrunchyRoll has completely supplanted any desire of mine to pirate its product – in this case, anime. It was really a combination of things, as it was getting annoying finding anime torrents with more than 4-5 seeders, having to download 10+ GB worth of show that you’re going to end up deleting anyway, bad fan subs, missing episodes, and so on.
Then here came CrunchyRoll with streaming content, professional subbing, and even simulcasts if you wanted to pay for Premium. If you didn’t want to pay, you could still watch the shows of your choice, with ads. Ads which, incidentally, are completely blocked with AdBlockPlus such that they barely register as a flicker on the screen.
Originally, I think I was tricked into subscribing for CrunchyRoll Premium in that they were holding the final episode of the show I was watching hostage. It might have been legitimate, in that the show just ended in Japan, and Premium users get access to the latest episode at least a week before it goes “free.” Whatever the reason, I signed up for the “free trial” of Premium and then stayed subscribed ever since. I consider it a fairly good value overall, especially since I can watch everything in 1080p. You wouldn’t think resolution matters in hand-drawn content, but you would be surprised. Or maybe that was just me being surprised.
I usually watch 1-2 episodes of some random show or another during dinner, which means I can plow through an entire series in a week or two. This wasn’t a problem, until it kinda was: I had watched just about everything ever recommended to me… that plays on CrunchyRoll.
Now I wanted to watch Steins;Gate. Enter FUNimation:
Which, incidentally, plays anime through Hulu.
Have you ever been in a situation where a friend or coworker was really shit-talking someone bad, and you nod your head, but in the back of your mind you’re thinking “Surely some of that is exaggeration. Nobody is that awful.” And some time passes before you encounter that person, so you sorta forget about them. Then you finally meet them and realize “holy shit, they really are that awful! I regret everything!”
So, yeah, Hulu.
Are you serious?
I heard Hulu was bad with ads, but my mind is still reeling from this encounter. I was trying to watch Steins;Gate, which is already hard enough to follow without two minutes, forty seconds of unskippable ads every four minutes of show. I understand that that’s “normal” television show content-to-ad ratios (22 min of show, 8 of ads), but that is also precisely why I don’t watch television. I have never bought cable my whole adult life and hopefully never will.
Really, you almost have to experience this abomination for yourself:
Apparently AdBlockPlus will block some ads but not others. I could not verify it for sure, but I’m also convinced that the timer resets sometimes when I’m Alt-Tabbed and it tries to cycle into another ad that it cannot display. At least, it certainly feels that way. Or perhaps I am so used to, you know, the internet that waiting 150 seconds for the content I want to load simply feels like an eternity.
Like CrunchyRoll, FUNimation has a Premium version that supposedly removes the ads. Given how much shit I’ve heard about Hulu, and how Hulu expressly states that “†Some shows will still serve ads to subscribers,” I have little inclination to believe them.
So congrats, FUNimation/Hulu, for being goddamn annoying enough that this becomes a better alternative once again:
It took about 35 minutes to download that. Or about four episodes worth of Hulu advertising.
Adventures in Hardware Installation
[Blaugust Day 27]
Remember that GTX 970 card I ordered? It arrived Tuesday, but tonight was the first time I had a chance to dedicate to sweating bullets installing it. I’m not sweating because I’m nervous around electronics, I’m sweating because if something goes wrong, I’d be out a lot of money when alternatives were available. Plus, it’d be an embarrassing story, like failing your driver’s test 2-3 times when you’re the high school Valedictorian.
…you know, as a hypothetical example. I’d feel real bad for that
guy person. If they existed.
In any case, I cracked open my PC case and started poking around:
The hardest part of the 560ti removal was the damned power cables. In addition to having some sort of devil-spawn locking mechanism, they felt like they were super-glued on the card. Worrying about static is one thing, but the true nightmare to me is all the wiggling, pushing, and (cringe) bending of hundred-dollar electronics that sometimes becomes necessary.
After much consternation, I managed to unseat the power cords. At which time I unboxed the GTX 970 with the care of holding some distant cousin’s infant that they just threw into your arms like some kind of crazy person. Here is a comparison shot:
Incidentally, that gross-looking stuff in the sink is dust from inside my computer case. While I do periodically clean with a can of compressed air, in my immense wisdom it appears that that cleaning never extended to the video card’s fans. Absolutely filthy, man. I’m surprised the card never burst into flame. Now that I think about it, I’m not entirely sure how safe it was these last four years to have those dumb stickers stuck on the top of the circuitry. I had been assuming it was kosher since it came like that from the shop, but I never really did double-check…
Installing the 970 was pretty easy, by the way. Push it into the slot until it clicks, hand-tighten the case screw and then plug…
Turns out that when you upgrade to a smaller card, and the designers move the power plugs to the side for no discernible reason, you’re going to have a bad time.
So at this point, I start an increasingly desperate bid to cut the zip ties inside my case to free up more power cable slack so I can plug the damn thing in. First, kitchen scissors. Second, a sharp knife in a sawing motion. Third, the Swiss Army Knife I typically use to cut open packages. When that didn’t work, I tried the scissor attachment of the Swiss Army Knife. Success! I ended up having to cut through two zip ties to get enough slack to plug it in.
And here I am, having finished taking the card for a test drive:
I feel better about this investment already.
[Blaugust Day 26]
Weirdly enough, I find myself back to playing Battlefield 4.
It all started when I was reading the comment section on a random Kotaku page, and someone mentioned that BF4 still had 100,000 people playing, whereas Battlefield: Hardline (the more recent game) had 15,000.
After looking it up myself, the numbers are indeed around those ballparks, but it’s a bit misleading:
As DLC, Hardline ain’t doing bad. Then again, it ain’t DLC.
In any case, I had an itching for some shooting, so I queued up the Origin download, then the BF4 download, then the China Rising DLC download, then got in 5 minutes of gameplay before bed. The next few days after that though, I’d say I was back to my old pattern of soaking up my free-time with games that ultimately don’t matter. And I don’t like it/can’t get enough of it.
I know I’ve talked about it before in this space, but I have a huge love-hate relationship with these sort of games. By “these games” I mean games that are more entertainment than experiences. When I finish playing Battlefield 4, I awaken as from a fugue state, disorientated… and empty. I had fun in the moment, and the moment passed. Which is great if I were simply interested in killing time between meaningful activities, but I’m not. This is my life I’m whiling away. Surely there are better games for it? Games that leave you with something.
Sometimes I just don’t know. Metal Gear Solid 5 comes out in less than a week; I have not even started playing Metal Gear Solid 4. Not that they’re chronologically connected in any way, but still. I could be playing that! I should. I should be plowing through Pillars of Eternity for that matter. I actually am making more progress through that game, methodically, but progress just the same.
What is it about these sort of games – BF4, Civilization, roguelikes, etc – that simultaneously seduces and sickens me? Is it because they are more fun than “traditional” games? Is it because they are more approachable time-commitment-wise? Do I just secretly delight in frivolity? Or perhaps the cognitive dissonance stems entirely from my misplaced sanctimony for “real” games that “matter?”
I wish I had an answer. Because then I could just type that, and be back shooting faces in BF4.
[Blaugust Day 24]
For all the the derision Hearthstone might get for being coin-flips and “dumbed down” and such, sometimes you end up facing a straight-up agonizing dilemma. For example, this game from the other day:
My choices were the following:
- Coin + Harrison Jones. This was my first instinct, as it was cute and probably the only value I would have time to enjoy against Eboladin (e.g. Aggro Paladin). The play drops a 5/4 creature on my board, destroys my opponent’s weapon, and draws me three cards.
- Mind-Control Tech. This will cause me to randomly gain one of my opponent’s minions. There’s a 25% chance of nabbing the 2/2 with Divine Shield, and leaves me with a 3/3, which is a huge swing. It unfortunately wastes 1 mana unless I Coin into Hero Power, and has a 75% of just nabbing a 1/1.
- Mind-Control Tech + Coin + Wrath/Hero Power. As the above, but spending the Coin will allow me to cast Wrath (choosing the “Deal 1 damage + draw a card” option) or Hero Power, to pop the Divine Shield on the 2/2 in case I didn’t steal it.
- Coin + Sludge Belcher. Drops a 3/5 creatures with Taunt on the field, which summons a 1/2 creature with Taunt when it dies. Theoretically, my opponent would need to run all his creatures and his weapon into the Belcher to kill it. Of course, my opponent would also have 4 mana in which to respond to the Belcher as well.
- Swipe face. It’s a YOLO sort of play that deals 4 damage to my opponent and 1 damage to all his creatures. Meaning it will kill his three 1/1 creatures and pop the other’s Divine Shield. My opponent would still have his 1-damage weapon, a 2/2, four mana to spend, and me with an empty board.
So, which one would you do? If my deck matters, it’s Ramp (Ysera) Druid without combo.
…did you pick a course of action yet?
…okay. Like I mentioned, I went with Coin + Harrison Jones. On the opponent’s turn, he cast Blessing of Might on the 2/2, turning it into a 5/2, summoned another 1/1 dude with Hero Power, and went face with everything. On my turn, I committed such an egregiously bad misplay that I’m legitimately embarrassed to type it out. What should have occurred was my Swiping the opponent’s face, destroying all his 1/1 dudes plus popping the Divine Shield, followed by trading my Harrison into the 5/2. Instead, I did that backwards. So, really, it was so bad that it was two misplays, as I could have recovered by Swiping the 5/2 directly at least. But nope.
Needless to say, I lost that game.
And actually, I probably would have lost the game regardless. The remaining sequence of the game was him casting Charge creatures and going face every time – the extra 5 damage taken unnecessarily would not have made much of a difference when you’re sitting at 5 HP to his 30. The only healing in my deck are two Ancient of Lores, and drawing those before getting Arcane Golem’d or Consecrated and such would itself be a coin-toss.
The funny thing to me is how, even in Magic: the Gathering, the best play is the one that gives you a chance to win. If you just play based on the cards in your hand and the ones on the board, you can lose sight of the Window of Victory as it slowly slides shut. If your best chance to win is to commit to a costly attack and top-deck a burn spell the next turn… then do that. If you draw something else, oh well, you were going to lose at that point anyway.
My best play for the above game would have been MC Tech and hope I get the 25% chance to nab the 2/2. Perhaps my opponent would have played different cards the following turn, but I’d have two decent minions and Swipe for the next. Or Belcher. Or Harrison. Or, at that point, dropping a 5/10 Taunt creature on turn 7, sealing the game until and unless my opponent draws into an Equality (assuming Eboladin even runs that). In this scenario, I was not avoiding the risky play that could backfire, I was making the same risky play and choosing the 0% chance to win option.
probably deeper games out there than Hearthstone. Games in which you can encounter these scenarios without the coin-flips being so naked obvious. But just because there are coin-flips, doesn’t mean there is nothing one can do to maximize their chances at success.
TL;DR: when in doubt, MC Tech.
[Blaugust Day 23]
Recommended price: bundle
Metacritic Score: 79
Completion Time: ~13 hours
Buy If You Like: GTA Supervillain, Collateral damage simulators
Prototype is a 3rd-person open(ish) world game that is GTA meets… the opposite of Batman. You play as Alex Mercer, a recently infected man who, once killed, finds himself resurrected as some kind of viral superweapon. The game revolves around Alex trying to figure out what’s happening to him, and the conspiracy that surrounds both his infection and the events leading up to it.
In one of the articles I read about the controversial game Hatred, someone pointed out that the coverage surrounding Hatred was especially hypocritical given we already had games like Prototype. Having completed Prototype, I am inclined to agree. Prototype doesn’t intentionally reward you for killing random civilians, but between the bystander density in New York City and the collateral damage you cause simply by walking around, there may as well be a body count score in the corner of the screen. And when you aren’t just walking around? Holy slaughter, Batman!
See, Alex Mercer’s powers come from consuming organic matter, or perhaps just specifically human beings. If you are running low on health, you can snatch the nearest person and kill them in a context-sensitive but always-gruesome manner, then consume them whole to heal. This ability is actually an important plot mechanic, as you hunt down members in the “Web of Intrigue.” See, as you kill and consume these individuals, you can not only copy their form, but you gain their memories. This leads you to infiltrate military camps by consuming scouts, then the base commander, then entering the base itself to consume the juicy (and skilled) members inside, upgrading your abilities to use machine guns, fly helicopters, order artillery strikes, and so on.
After a while, everyone just looks like walking power-ups.
The gameplay of Prototype is both visceral and involves viscera. Attacks are controlled with just the left and right mouse buttons, with E occasionally thrown in there. While the moves are limited, the various powers and upgrades that become available are not. As you complete story missions and the various side events, you unlock additional upgrades by spending Evolution Points. These upgrades give you new attacks – claws for hands, tentacle arms, etc – and all sorts of other goodies, like more mobility. Even from the very beginning, Alex Mercer automatically parkours his way across vehicles and smaller obstacles while being able to run up the sides of skyscrapers. Later unlocks will have you leaping 60 ft into the air with a single press of the Spacebar, changing direction in mid-air twice, and Gliding into the alleyway.
While I enjoyed my time in Prototype overall, there were a number of areas and missions that were absurdly frustrating. Some of those involved waves of enemies, in which death or mission failure (due to escort dying or similar) cause you to restart the entire wave sequence over again. Other times, you will be facing bosses in which the limited control scheme starts making you suicidal. For example, one of the supermoves you can do is “In the air, hold Left-Click, Press E.” If you press Left-Click + E simultaneously, that completes a different move. But if you hold down Left-Click too long before pressing E, you suddenly perform a jump-kick straight into the gaping maw of the hideous beast. Other times, the weird targeting system causes you to grab or fail to the grab the wrong thing at the wrong time. Would this have played better on a controller? Maybe. Still, I wish there was a “Bind Devastator move to Q” option or something like that.
Prototype is not exactly a game that I would recommend people to spend money on specifically; there are a lot of other, better games out there. But if you look at your Steam library tonight and notice that Prototype happens to already be on there for some reason, go ahead and boot it up. If you aren’t having some amount of fun within the first 10 minutes, you can go ahead and uninstall because the game is basically going to be that for the next ten hours.
Posted by Azuriel
Thank god that’s over. Nothing quite like getting into the spirit of blogging by burning yourself out with thirty-one daily posts.
I’m halfway kidding.
It was a fun experiment, but I’m doubtful that I’ll participate next year. While there is still some possibility of long-tail shenanigans, my mid-month analysis seems correct:
The numbers, minus the numbers.
In other words, in terms of pageviews and visitors, daily posting still resulted in 10% less views than the peak in May. Which, incidentally, was a month that saw eleven (11) posts. Perhaps that is not quite as fair a comparison given how August is certainly 16% higher than both June and July. Then again, I posted 11 and 13 times in those months, respectively. Talk about diminishing returns.
The thing that is up rather markedly are comments:
Probably the better blogging indicator.
As I mused two weeks ago, I am not entirely sure whether the uptick in comments is due to the shotgun effect – more posts makes it more likely you post something people want to talk about – or from the nature of the Blaugust event itself, or a complete coincidence, or what. The thing I do know is that pageviews are one thing, but comments can actually challenge your arguments, change your worldview, and even comfort you with camaraderie. All things I definitely appreciate.
Not worth posting daily for that though, Christ.
Anyway, I have a birthday and Metal Gear Solid 5 to enjoy this week. So, see you… maybe Thursday. Or whenever the hell I feel like it.
*sigh* Feels good to say that again.
Posted in Commentary
Tags: Analyst, Blaugust, Comments, Pageviews, Stats