Paradoxically Permanent Plastic

| Friday, June 29, 2012
I came across this note that I'd left myself, a story idea which I never started on: "Free matter, but cannot ever be moved or transformed.  It's plastic."  The idea of that was to explore what would happen if we could literally build anything we wanted, with no material or construction costs, but these creations would be permanent.  Would we fill up the world with junk or build almost nothing out of fear of the junk?  Who would have the ability to build?

The part that amuses me is the note itself and how it is phrased.  I used the term plastic in reference to the common perception of plastics as substances which do not decay and unless we directly act to destroy them, tend to stay around for a very long time.  But plastic is also an adjective, meaning something which can be molded or take a shape, in effect, things which can be changed, the exact opposite of my permanent buildings.

Language is a fun thing.

When the Floor is Undead, You Must Kill It

| Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Once upon a time there was a game and people made a mod for that game and then some people who might have been the same people made that mod into a game of its own and it was called Killing Floor.  Then Syl's boyfriend (I know, who wasn't disappointed to learn that?) bought me this game and together we shot zombies and it was good.

The basic gameplay is this: mutant zombie people come after you and your team and you kill them.

Starting out, you'll have a pistol and a few grenades.  Killing zombies gives a bounty for a few pounds (it's in Britain, so they use weight as a measure of wealth, which is why the US is so rich), with much bigger bounties for more powerful enemies.  After a wave has been eliminated, which can be anything between a couple dozen to a couple hundred, depending on the wave and number of team members, there is a minute of peace.  During that time you can buy guns, ammo, grenades, and armor from the trader, who spawns in a few possible locations on each map.

As might be expected, more expensive guns are more powerful, though it's not a matter of "buy the biggest gun."  There are variable weights, so you may be unable to carry everything, or even much at all, maxing at two of the larger guns and maybe a spare pistol or melee weapon.  I've had fun trying to figure out the loadout that works best for me.

On top of that there is a perk system.  Players can pick from one of seven perks, which make them better with the various types of weapons and make them a bit cheaper.  These are leveled up by some aspect associated with the perk, such as dealing lots of explosive damage as a demolitionist or healing as a medic.  The points can be gained while using any perk, so in my case, since I often use the inexpensive pistol to get headshots on weak enemies, I leveled up the sharpshooter perk at least once while using a different perk.

There are a dozen and a half or so standard maps to choose from, with a half-dozen which are particularly popular.  One of my favorites is called Mountain Pass, which takes place on a mountain with a road going around it, which gives a nice mix of a fairly-safe, high-visibility road area with a more close-in, riskier forest area higher up, which is where much of the spare ammo can be found, sometimes making it a necessary risk.

Oh right, you can run out of ammo.  It's not a constant problem, but if you're shooting aimlessly and without aiming, you're going to run into problems.  This is why I've gotten into the habit of using the pistol, because it's inexpensive to restock and it saves my expensive ammo for dangerous targets.  I like that aspect, that bigger, more expensive guns are not always better or always the best choice.

West London is probably my second favorite, which I suspect is due to it subconsciously reminding me of dead-side Stratholme (though now the sub part is ruined).  Of note is a tunnel where players often take cover, with a team watching each end of it.  It sounds very secure, with certain choke points and responsibilities... until one side gets hit hard, the other side needs to help, and then suddenly the choke points aren't for zombies getting in, but players getting out.

Another fun map is Biotics Lab, which is where the mutants were created (they all have some backstory, but it's not important for the gameplay).  It's a closed-in area where it becomes critical to watch everyone's back and keep an eye on door welds and side passages.  I've seen some games that go perfectly smoothly, with guys on both ends keeping things safe and secure, and games where a side door bursts open and suddenly we have three dozen very angry zombies right on top of our heads.  Each is a different sort of fun.

On the subject of fun, it's a fun game.  You can pick the map to play and either with friends or just join a server and hope you get good people.  Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't.  Thankfully, there isn't really a penalty, or reward, for winning, beside satisfaction and of course achievements.  While this makes victory seem a little hollow, given the frequency of defeat, it's probably for the best.  It can be pretty quick for things to go from good to disastrous.

The nice thing is that either a smooth or a barely-surviving game can be fun.  A smooth game can give the satisfaction of playing well and working as a team.  A game where you barely survive, well that's exhilarating!

The graphics aren't anything spectacular, but they get the job done.  If you do much long-range shooting, particularly as a sharpshooter, turning up the graphics is a big help.

The sounds work quite well, alerting you to nearby zombies, or just making you nervous and paranoid.  I'm not sure if it's designed this way, but it often seems as if certain enemies have no directional sound when far away, but then they do when closer.  So you might hear the rattling or chittering of the Crawlers (arachnid-human hybrids), somewhere, but it's not quite apparent where.  Until you're certain that they are... yep, right behind you.  This sound is essential for survival, since the first-person view doesn't say what is behind you: so if you're backing up, listen for the moaning or deranged whispering (the latter is a cloaked Stalker).

It makes a sort of conditioning.  If you've played WoW, particularly on a PvP server, you know the reaction to the "woosh" of a rogue: WHERE IS IT WHERE IS IT AOE AOE I KNOW YOU'RE THERE COME OUT NOW NOWNOW OH GOD I'M DEAD ALREADY.  Similarly, hearing the sound of a chainsaw or the snuffling of a Fleshpound (it is named for the fact that it pounds you into mere flesh) causes you to back up, while the angry ROAAAAAAAR makes you either A) Run away while peeing or B) Turn and unload a full clip while peeing.  Note that the "only have to be faster than the other guy" rule is not always consistently applied.

In terms of the in-game community, I think it's generally okay.  People help each other, sometimes effectively, sometimes not.  They share [in-game] money when they can, since it's not any help to have a poorly-armed teammate.  Of course there are the jerks, but I've not run into many people who I really wished I'd never met.  For the most part I didn't care and in a few cases, I wanted to shake the hands of the people I met, because some were truly amazing players.  If you don't want any of that, just play with a few Steam friends on your own server.  Or even solo, but soloing isn't as much fun, and can be quite a bit harder since there is no one to watch your back.

I highly recommend this game.

P.S. Buy a level-action rifle; it's the absolute best gun for the price.

RDKP: Refined

| Monday, June 25, 2012
Last week I proposed adding a currency, called RDKP, to groups which would be spent when winning need rolls.  It was meant to reduce two problems: perceived unfairness and ninjaing.  Since the first one is a perception problem, it is going to be tricky to convince anyone that there is a problem and even then, that there is any solution or even a way to reduce the problem.  Ninjaing, while seemingly so easy to define: taking unneeded items from those who need it, is not so easy, in fact.  There are many grey areas: relative upgrades, sidegrades, offspecs, and so on, and it is unlikely that we'll see developers implement a feature which perfectly blocks ninjaing.  After a great number of helpful comments I think I've gotten a better grasp on how the system should work.

While it is implied, I want to clarify that if I say  "roll need" or "win a need roll" or anything like that and mention spending RDKP, what I mean is the following.  Picking "need" has no cost.  Winning an item has no cost.  Picking need and winning the need roll costs a set amount of RDKP (or none if the player has none)

All characters start with enough RDKP to roll need on two items.  The exact number isn't something I'm tied to, it's just meant to be enough to get the system moving.  Because it's zero-sum and players cannot go into debt, there needs to be some initial amount.

In the previous post I noted that if someone has insufficient RDKP they can still roll need, but will automatically lose to someone who spends RDKP.  This still stands, however,  RDKP would only be gained if people roll need and spent RDKP.

The amount of RDKP gained is based on the ratio of spending to group members.  The goal is that the income matches the spending.  For example, in a typical 5-man group, if two items drop and both are needed on, then each group member will get the following: (10 RDKP x2)/5 or 4 RDKP, so that altogether, there are 20 RDKP spent and 20 RDKP gained.  In implementation, it is likely that all RDKP values would be increased tenfold, in order to avoid decimals and to make it seem more lucrative.  If this sounds complex, it can be thought of like this: winning a need roll causes the winner to automatically split some RDKP with group members.  This equalizes spending and earning and also explains the situation when the winner has no RDKP.  You might have noticed that I divide the RDKP among five people despite one of those five being the one who won the need roll: it's just accounting and could be done just dividing among the four, with a corresponding reduction in the RDKP cost of rolling.

Because the system is close to zero-sum, it is not necessary to worry much about inflation.  Someone running an instance for no loot with other people who need no loot will not gain any RDKP, so farming is not an issue.  If players are running when they don't need loot, the amount they gain still does not exceed the amount spent, so even farming cannot cause inflation.

Because inflation is not an issue, RDKP can be safely traded without creating adverse incentives because it cannot be farmed except by joining groups that spend it, so that instance running transfers RDKP without creating it, just as player-to-player trade would.  The rule exception is that a character must be at least level 60 before they can trade, to ensure that players do not make new characters just to trade the free initial RDKP.  Again, the exact level isn't something I think is important, just so that it is high enough that no sane person would spam characters just to farm RDKP.

The benefit to having a trading system is that it would allow for market flows to even out the irregularities of distribution which would likely be created by instances.  Some classes and roles are likely to get more from instances than others, so they will need more RDKP while others need less.  A trading system allows this imbalance to be corrected.  This could also provide some useful information to developers: if they notice that a particular class or role is buying or selling a high amount of RDKP, it would indicate that they are too dependent on instances for gearing, relative to other classes, or are finding little useful loot in instances

The downside to a trading system is that it could create the impression that players are getting loot because they bought RDKP, despite the amount of RDKP a player has not influencing rolls.  It is irrational, but given that one of my goals for this system was to reduce a potentially irrational sense of unfairness, creating a different sense of unfairness is not productive.

For consistency, RDKP would be used in all non-raid instances (though it could be extended to raids).  This includes pre-made groups and partially pre-made.  Due to the ability to trade RDKP, friends can undo any redistribution the system causes.  By making RDKP a constant feature, there is no ambiguity or confusion when forming partial groups.

As before, comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

DKP for Random Groups

| Friday, June 22, 2012
This is a modification to the standard need-greed-pass loot system which would reduce the frequency of ninjaing in randomly formed groups and increase the perceived fairness of loot distribution.  It does this by adding a currency from killing bosses which is then spent when rolling need.  The exact mechanics would need working out, but I think the general framework would be beneficial without adding much complexity.

All players in a group when a boss dies gain  Random Dragon Kill Points or RDKP.  There would only be one kind of RDKP, though higher level and higher difficulty instances would grant increased amounts.

When items drop, players can then spend RDKP in order to roll need on items.  The amount would not be set by the players, but would instead be presented to them as a set charge for picking need.  They would not lose RDKP unless they won the item.  Players with no RDKP would be able to pick need but would be subordinate to those without enough.  This is so that early on, when players may have no RDKP or are frequently finding upgrades, that they are not stuck rolling greed (that would negate the perceived fairness and effectively cause unintentional ninjaing).

Players could not have negative RDKP.  RDKP could not be traded.

The Benefits
The first goal is to increase the sense of fairness.  An earlier post related to whether players should roll on items when they were only present for the final boss, with some pointing out that it seemed unfair that they didn't have to help the group through the rest of the instance and some taking the position that can, may, and should are perfect synonyms.  By having an RDKP system, players would still have a sense that someone was only helping them for one boss", but would also get an indicator that they had helped other groups over other bosses, and on average, we'll have joined at last bosses as often as we've missed last bosses.  In effect, this creates a social accounting, so that even if two individuals have not helped each other in an instance, they will have helped someone who helped someone, and given the size of the pool, let's say fifty steps, and finally Kevin Bacon will have won the item you wanted, but it will be slightly less annoying because by spending RDKP, he's showing that he's not just some lucky guy who perpetually hops into groups on the last boss and runs away cackling with all your loot.

Or in short form: even if they haven't helped you, they have helped others, and others have helped you, so it all loops back around to be fair.

The second goal is to reduce ninjaing.  By putting some cost on items, a ninja roll is at the cost of a later, legitimate roll, so the ninja may be setting themselves up to lose on an item that they wanted.

Technical stuff that would need muddled through but shouldn't impact the two main purposes
The amount of RDKP overall, per player, from kills, and per roll, would need to be managed.

Clearly there are more details to work out.  With that in mind, I want to make a request regarding comments.  I'd love to hear suggestions for improvements and for filling in missing details.  However, criticizing details is utterly pointless because there are none (beside the half-thoughts at the end), so stick to pointing out that the overall idea is terrible rather than the specifics.  That is, unless someone brings up a specific, then you can say it is stupid (or great).

Values and Rules

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Syl's at it again, stealing ideas before I could even think of them.  Pretty awful, right?  Now she's talking about loot rules and how people have different perspectives on when it is okay to roll or not.

I'm of the general opinion that laws should be based on values.  These values may be general, such as valuing human life, resulting in specific laws regarding murder, pollution, and healthcare.  I suspect people share my opinion on this (laws based on values), though the particular values will not be the same.  This is why we have voting, compromise, and geographic and other separations of jurisdictions.  The idea there is that I live under the laws I want and you under the laws you want and if there is overlap, we have to work things out somehow so that the resulting laws are not in excessive conflict with either of our values.

This is why we have legislatures which get voted in and out, petitions and protests, and at times, even have direct democracy, with the public voting on particular rules.

Games tend to have none of these.  Instead, there is just a set of rules.  In the case of this subject, loot rules.  The developers say "These are the rules for action and beside a few anti-scamming rules, if you can roll on it you may roll on it."  The result is that people of widely different values are playing under the same rules.  This is inevitably going to result in disappointment.

What's to be done about it?  Some would say that there is nothing wrong, but denying the existence of a problem doesn't actually solve it.  Given that the problem in this case is a matter of individual perspective, of what is a fair loot system, the perception of a problem is the problem, though obviously it is a bigger or smaller problem depending on how many people care and to what extent.

I suggest a "create your own rules" system.  Developers would create a set of rules which could be set on or off and given thresholds and groups could then create a rule set which works for them, and people wishing to join the group would accept or reject the rules.  For example, there could be a "minimum bosses killed before current" rule, which Syl might want to set to 2, so that if a player has not killed at least 2 bosses with the group before the final, they will be ineligible to roll.  Players who dislike carrying others might set a minimum percentage of damage done.  Players queuing up for groups would then have the option to toggle whether they'd automatically accept certain rules, reject others, and manually accept or reject particular sets.

It's complex, of course.  That's what happens when trying to create rules that more closely match the values of those playing under them.  The question whether the complexity is worth it.

All the ways that WoW changed me

| Monday, June 18, 2012
Syl of Brown & Pink Monkey's has a post up about all the ways that WoW has changed her. I'm not too good for a bandwagon, or anything else, so while you're at it, imagine that you opened this post because you saw a scantily-clad attractive young woman in the post and only clicked to get a bigger picture.

I've not played much outside of WoW, dabbling in a game here and there, so I've seen the AAA titles, but not gotten much into them.  So I can't really comment on what was different about WoW, beside somehow having a different feel, perhaps the graphics or class mechanics just fit me better.  I tend to find myself turned off by attempts at realistic graphics for people, because they're extremely hard to do, and consequently, fall short, or just a little too far into that uncanny valley.  Fonts are another issue, where I often found myself struggling to read those in other games, which would pull me out of the world, leaving me disoriented and not eager to return.

I can't really say what of WoW changed me in terms of MMOs, because again, there was no MMO before or after WoW.  Maybe that's what changed: I might have explored many worlds otherwise, but by having one which was so dominant, with friends and internet resources dedicated to it, I stayed in one place.  This might have been for the worse, since it meant that I was not used to change, so that as WoW transformed itself in mechanics, social aspects, and then the world itself, I was unprepared.  Maybe players who had more variety would have taken it in stride, or seen alternatives and left even sooner.

Superficially, I think WoW has had some impacts on me.  I've inherited its language, not necessarily words that it invented, but that's where I learned them.  Many concepts came from it (again, it was my source, not necessarily the originator), such as dance fights and the absurdity of mechanics that only make sense when explained rather than seen, by which I mean mob mechanics which would not be readily apparent by battle, but require outside guides to understand in any useful manner.  It was a while before Tuesdays stopped being my Sabbath day.

WoW itself wasn't the biggest change.  It was the people I met.  One of my close friends I met on the forums of all places, where I was the troll shaman on the paladin forums (the troll shaman Klepsacovic was the first character I ever made, knowing only that trolls looked cool and shaman sounded like a nice way to start, being able to do a bit of everything).  Two other friends I met in guilds and still talk to.  And even more I met through the blogosphere, such as the previously-mentioned Syl.  As an introvert, WoW was a great thing, a place where I could fit in as a loser of a college student.  Until the community shifted, I had some notion of where people stood, and where if things were perhaps too much srs bns, that was fine, because we were all on the same page with it.  Different people are playing now, and that's fine, but it's not the place for me anymore.  I'm sometimes a bit sad about that, but loss is inevitable.

Stemming from the blogging about WoW was an increased appreciation for writing.  I hated writing in high school.  It was a torturous process of being forced to write about something I didn't care about and consequently, didn't know much about either.  WoW and gaming gave me another chance at it, showing me that I could write about something I knew and understood and that researching a subject could be fun, making the eventual writing even better.  I think my writing has improved, but as importantly, my willingness to write has increased.  Even if I do not particularly care for a subject, I can at least learn about it and write about it, without hating it.

In conclusion, this is the end of the post.

Headshot! Or, Why FPS PvP MMOs are a Bad Idea

As I pointed out last week, my new header is a modified wallpaper from Stalker.  Because they're awesome (the game and the wallpaper, but this post is based on the game). It's an FPS, but with RPG elements such as currency, inventory, and quests, as well as taking place in a mostly open world. FPS + RPG = Awesome game.

I also think it could be a blast to play with friends. The game generates AI teams which do, approximately, what players would do: explore, search for artifacts, loot, fight bandits and mutants, and run for their lives when the Daily Everything Dies event is coming. Best daily quest ever. It's a world already designed for groups to exist, so being able to bring in friends seems like the logical next step.

Just as long as we cannot shoot each other.

I'm not suggesting that there should be no friendly fire. It's part of the challenge, when mutant dogs are darting around, to track them without hitting friendlies. But players should not be the enemy.

We've all had it happen, or at least are familiar enough that I can pretend: you're at some small level running around when seemingly out of nowhere you die. Maybe it was a rogue stealthed, a hunter far away, or a warrior whose charge-swing came so fast that you couldn't register what had happened. Whatever the specifics, the same general event happened: a much higher-level player killed you instantly, with no chance to retaliate. It's an annoying side-effect on level-based MMOs with PvP, but little more than that because it is a temporary state: merely leveling up will fix it (though gear imbalances continue the problem, those are for another day).

Imagine if that was instead the standard form of interaction. In Stalker I might take down a team of enemies in a few seconds, at long range. At the least, it would be trivial to take down one and fall back, untouched. Obviously this is fun for me, but is it any fun for other players? We don't like losing, but this is beyond losing, this is essentially random death, which you cannot out-level or out-gear. At best you can become incredibly paranoid or refuse to leave any safe areas. Not much fun.

The RPG solution is to allow you to out-level and out-gear it, so that you react to the bullets in the FPS the same way you'd react to a hunter's auto-shot, by taking damage, but almost certainly not being instantly dead. Now the sniper is trying to pull off a dozen headshots to kill someone. Now he's just wandering into a 3v1 with a minor advantage from getting the first attack, but he's not all that much better off than if he'd just wandered right up to them. All his careful sneaky hunting is a waste of time.

At least for me, part of the appeal of FPS games is the feedback. Shoot, kill. No miss table, no wondering if the enemy will survive because of armor. When a bullet hits you in the head, you die. Or more accurately, they die (from the bullet in their head). The carefully aimed first shot can be the only shot, a reward for being careful and sneaky. This is also why most FPS don't appeal to me, because so often you can put a full clip into someone's chest and they don't die, turning it into a weird punching match. TF2 is the exception because it makes no pretense of reality, embracing the absurdity of it all.

Maybe the S is the problem, and rather than First Person Shooter it should be First Person Speller, where you say words at enemies and if they can't spell them fast enough they die.  Sorry, I guess I should have gone with the less ambiguous First Person Sorcerer, where you throw spells at people's heads.  In this case, a perfectly-plausible "a wizard, that is to say, your character, did it" explanation can explain why a magic bolt to the head isn't deadly.  It may even offer more variation.  Frost magic to the feet slows their movement, to the arms slows their attack, chest slows their breathing so they get tired faster, and to the head slows their casting because of a terrible brain freeze, but without delicious ice cream.  Healing or counter-spells could require similar targeting, so a fireball into the skull of your friend isn't going to do him any good, but into his frozen legs it will get him running again.  This would mean that a dedicated healer/buffer class wouldn't be needed, since rather than making different spells for different targets, instead the spells would have different effects based on what they hit and where.

Okay then, is anyone making a First Person Sorcerer?

Thanks, Syl!

| Friday, June 15, 2012
You might have noticed that this blog is a bit less ugly.  That's thanks to the urging of Syl of Raging Monkey's, a great deal of profanity on my part (code is hard, especially when you know next to nothing), and Syl making the nifty new header image, based on a wallpaper from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

European-Style Civilization V

In the world we have seven continents: North and South Americas, Antarctica, Australia, Africa, Asia, and Europe.  Within Europe there are between ten million and one hundred gazillion countries.  Or about 50, but I cannot count past 41.  After that things just get fuzzy and I start to panic.  Within those countries are various ethnic and cultural groups which often seek to divide their countries.  But of course division spawns division so you know they'd just form new groups to hate each other.  It's a fractal of division.

And a breeding ground for war between small countries.

Lately I've been using this as the inspiration for my games of Civilization.  Rather than having a half-dozen civilizations and a dozen city-states, all with room to comfortable build a half-dozen cities, I instead have no city states, replacing them with civilizations, and use a map too small for them.  The result is a lot of civilizations of 1-3 cities, with barely any room at all.  And of course, a lot of war.

The effects can be strange.  While war is generally destructive, having so many civilizations also means a lot of research agreements, so science can move ahead quickly.  The constant war, and constant need for war, means that diplomacy isn't going to keep anyone alive, because no one trusts anyone enough.  Odds are, they've been at war before and will be at war again.  With only a couple cities these aren't big wars, but enough skirmishes to keep everyone nice and angry, but without the nice, so just angry.  City placement is even more important, since if you're only going to get a few, they'd better be great.   While there is temptation to try to get every single tile covered, there is a limit to how close cities can be built and borders can expand far enough that these cities tend not to add much and don't work at all due to the happiness mechanic in Civ V.

Have you found any settings to dramatically change the way you play your games?

Girls are scary

| Wednesday, June 13, 2012
We're all familiar with the shy, nerdy, awkward guy who can't talk to girls.  He stammers and sweats and mumbles before escaping.  It's a bit sad to see, or experience, on either end.  He has a problem with girls.

Then there's the guy who also has a problem with girls, but of a different sort.  He also has no clue what to say, but says it anyway.  Rather than a total lack of confidence, he has an excess, a failure to recognize that given how he acts, he should have a lack of confidence.  Perhaps a lack of reproductive organs as well, but somehow eugenics always focuses on ethnicity rather than fraternity.

These two share a common thread in that they get lumped into a "gaming culture" dominated by men which causes all manner of problems for women who attempt to do weird things such as take part in a hobby which they enjoy.  Perhaps I should do a survey: "Of these undesirable reactions, would you rather be greeted by awkward stammering or by a demand to see your tits?"  Ideally it would be neither, but I write the questions so I get to make the false dichotomy.

Maybe what is needed is "Objectification Separation", which is the ability to objectify and also not.  Porn: objectify.  Not porn: don't objectify.  This would require the highly complex mental task of recognizing that some women at some times wear nothing but those some women most of the time wear clothes and most women even more most of the time wear clothes.  So sometimes there are women whose job at the time is to be stared at, but not always and not all women.  Can you imagine going to a friend who designs websites and demanding, right then, that he break out some code?  Or on an even greater level of absurdity, insisting that all male friends be able to, and have to, hand over a flashdrive of templates, on demand?  That would be ridiculous.

Someone should make a gay MMO and bring it to E3.  Have "Booth Beef", hot, shirtless men who sit and stand around looking hot and having no other purpose.  Have women wandering by and gawking and then laughing at their male friends for not looking as good.  Spread the phrase "dicks or it didn't happen."  At first men might think it's great, being demanded pictures of their penises (by which I mean, one per man, multiple men, not the other way around).  That is, until they start getting mocked.  Laughed at.  Measured by nothing else.  Not even their epeen.  So what if you've gotten every achievement, you're ugly and tiny!

On Twitter I found a link to a developer talking about the new Lara Croft.  She's more realistically proportioned and the developer kept going on about how she'll be in these terrible situations and we'll want to protect her because she'll be so vulnerable and helpless.  This confused me.  How does her being less ridiculous in appearance make me want to protect her more?  I'm just not seeing any link at all unless they made her a child and triggered the "save the children" instinct.  Even stranger, unless I misunderstood, we're still playing her.  We're not heroes leaping in to save the damsel in distress (which is its own problem), but are the damsel in distress, who despite being "helpless" is, I'm guessing, still going to survive and successfully taking things from tombs or other scary places.  Why would I even want to see or play as a helpless female character?  I much prefer female characters who can hold their own, as in Half Life 2 or Fallout: New Vegas.  Not that they're unemotional, but that "being female" doesn't mean "being crippled by emotion and utterly helpless until a male hero or at least male player saves them."

I also don't get the "get back in the kitchen" nonsense.  It might just be the family I grew up in, but cooking wasn't a woman's job (though due to various circumstances they did tend to do the majority).  Why shouldn't a man be able to cook and if a man is able to cook, why wouldn't he?  Of course there's the Barbeque Loophole, but that's not what I'm referring to either.  We'd use actual stoves and ovens.  Except me, I don't use ovens because I can never seem to time anything properly for it.  My brother frequently has my family and his in-laws over for dinner and often, he's the one scurrying back to the kitchen to check on food while my sister-in-law can keep chatting (because she'd done the baking earlier in the day).  It's not gender roles, but family roles: people doing what they are best at and what needs to be done.  Maybe certain chromosomes give some innate tendency toward particular activities (they do), but that's more of a tendency and not a natural order of the universe.  It's too bad more people can't recognize that.

Watch me ruin my blog IN REAL TIME!

| Monday, June 11, 2012
If anything goes wrong, blame Syl.  If anything goes right, it's because I'm a genius.  In the meantime, entertain yourself by watching random elements change and periodically, break.

Or watch paint dry.

[edit] I've changed the columns a bit so the posts are wider.  Now the lines that used to divide the columns are in the middle of nowhere and I have no clue where they even come from. If anyone has any suggestions on that, I'd be grateful to see them.

If 2 > 1, then I can play Civ V


It's like a backstab, but right in their face!

| Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Now and then there is the hullabaloo about stories and narratives and the player's story and the developer's story and how these don't go together and how lame it is to have the developers making paths that we have to follow.  And so on and so forth.

Well call me a middling middler because I want both, a bit!  I like having overall narratives: background and events that are set up to happen.  I don't mind that a game inevitably takes me toward the standoff with the Big Bad.  It's good, actually, helps wrap things up and push me out the door to go play another game.  It also gives some sense of purpose, of a plan, that these game worlds we inhabit are not mere chaos given form by pixels.

I must first talk about Minecraft.  That is a game with no story, no plan, no given goals.  That's great!  I can't imagine Minecraft would be any fun at all if it instead consisted of a series of Building Challenges in which you were told to go dig up sand and bake it to make a glass castle.  The player story vs. developer story seems to me to be a matter of genre, of which type of game best fits each narrative type.

A game could put those together a bit: bring in developer stories, but let players have some flexibility when working out what to do.  Maybe they'd side with the other group.  Maybe they'd sneak in rather than shoot in.  Maybe they'd convince the enemy that violence is not the answer, leading them to disappear into the mountains and form a monastic order of peace.

And so there is Fallout: New Vegas, my latest world in which I wander around killing people who dress funny.  Some of them are drug addicts.  Some of them are thieves.  The worst of them all speak Latin.

Thanks to the open-ended design, I can follow along with the stories of the developers, but in my own way.  With my own alignment, which I like to call Chaotic Lawful Good.  Essentially I am aligned with the Lawful Good faction/government, but I do things in the less lawful way.  I run off on my own and kill the bad guys without orders.  Though I'll gladly follow orders too.

It all came together wonderfully in Cottonwood Cove.  It was there that the Big Bad of the game was offering me a second chance at evil.  All my crimes against evil were forgiven and I could take the raft up to his Fortification and even join his Army of Evil.  How nice of him.  I was planning to work with the good guys, but hey, this was quite the honor!  So up the river I went.

Of course they exhibited some minor degree of intelligence, in that they were letting me in, but confiscating my weapons, but missing the silenced pistol I'd stashed away... somewhere.  Things were looking good.  I'd finally found a way to the Fortification, which as you can tell from the capitalization, is a very important Place.  And I had a weak gun.  And sneaking skills.  So I snuck away a little, shot a guy in the head, stole his weapon, killed a couple more people, stole their weapons, and finally got the key to the boxes hold my good guns, good armor, and invisibility devices.

I proceeded to go through the entire Fortification, killing everyone with the help of my cybernetic dog and girl voiced by Felicia Day who likes to punch things.  This included the Big Bad Caesar himself, because why not?  I mean, he went to all the effort to allow me into his Fortification; it would be rude to not stop by and kill him.  I am Good aligned, after all, with a bit of Lawful as well, so I have good manners.  Not that I'm stuck up or anything.  I can't stand stuck up people.  I found an entire casino full of them.  So I killed them.  They wore stupid masks too.  That was reason enough.  Also they were cannibals, but that was just icing on the cake of me hating them.

I don't recall any quests telling me to slaughter the casino of elitist mask-wearers, but that's the great thing about the semi-sandbox game: you get to do your own thing when it really matters.  There also didn't appear to be a quest directing me to kill the Big Bad, but that sort of thing seemed self-evident.  I blew up a robot army too.  I don't think I was supposed to do that, but again, I was in the area.  It's important to see all the sights and blow up all the sights before the trip is over.

See, all Lawful Good.  Sort of.  And that's just the way I like it.

Quit if it's so bad

| Monday, June 4, 2012
Something in a game is bad.  Maybe your class was nerfed.  Maybe the new raid is too easy.  Maybe there is a strange ad campaign which has resulted in Family Guy doing the development for a month and consequently, every quest is interrupted with fart jokes and understated yet still highly disturbing mother-son incest love triangle given a third vertex by a dog that is in love with the mother.

Are you going to quit?  The ever-present trollosphere says you should.  If you don't like something, quit.  If you're unhappy about anything, quit.  If you don't quit, that just means you don't actually care.

Or it means that there are gradients of dislike between "annoying" and "game-breaking disaster".  The first example is probably of the first sort.  The last example seems like something worth quitting over.

There is also the thinksitsreasonablesphere, of people who think they are being reasonable and serious by responding to all complaints with troll message with a new spin: "put your money where your mouth is."  Of course that makes perfect sense.  5% reduction in voidwalker health?  Quit.  Show Blizzard that you're not bluffing, that you're the Most Serious Warlock and a Very Reasonable Person.

Or maybe these are actually the exact same people and they really just have one goal: to make stop expressing negative opinions about things they like by using ridiculous reasoning to demand extreme reactions.  You didn't follow their rules on how to react to anything bad, so clearly you don't actually think its bad, so you should shut up, useless whiner.

Perhaps the great irony is that I'm writing this after years of pent-up frustration with people saying this about WoW, that any complaint about any change (and I've had plenty) means someone should quit, and I'm canceling my sub again.  I have no specific complaints, no single game-breaking change; I just don't care anymore, which is what happened last time I quit.  There are things to do, it's not as if I've run out of quests and raids, but none of them interest me much.  Though maybe I should finish up the goblin area, just so I can write about it.  If I do, I'll try to remove the effect of my lack of interest, so it won't be "this quest was boring and that quest was boring."

No Double-Negatives! (unless you're using them usefully)

| Friday, June 1, 2012
My thoughts on language generally follow this rule: I'm saying it correctly.  Everyone else is either failing to get with the times or rushing off pointlessly to destroy language.

However there is more philosophy to it than that.  More analysis perhaps.  I believe that language is mostly arbitrary (not to suggest that it is purely accidental, but that the particular rules don't matter much), with a few stable rules.  Words we use often should be short.  Words should add meaning (so for example, only describe something as fucking-something if that is different than just something, such as if you're really mad, in which case, take full advantage of the ability to make any profanity into a noun, verb, adjective, or one-word soliloquy). And finally, when in doubt, steal the word from another language rather than making our own.

That last one is why I think English is superior to every other language, especially French, where they have the ridiculous notion that words have to be approved.  This from the people who the Romans found to be barbarians barely capable of speaking Latin.  We don't call them the Romance languages because they're romantic, but because they're what happens when you try to say "Roman" but slur and trip over the words and add syllables that aren't supposed to be there.

In light of all this, I want to propose one applied rule (the others were more like guidelines subject to interpretation): Don't use double negatives unless the added negative adds meaning.  For example, "I haven't got nothing."  Contrast that with, "I haven't got anything", and "I have got nothing."  And contrast that last one with "I haven't gotten anything."  The first one (the double negative) indicates that the person doesn't have anything, but might be putting emphasis on it, or is just talking wrong, since adding "at all" after anything would achieve the same purpose, or if we're using spoken words, putting emphasis on anything would emphasis the total lack of it.  The last sentence is clearly indicating a different situation: Not only does it say whether they have anything, but also indicates a lack of receiving anything, such as if they'd just come from a Soviet breadline.

However, if someone were to say "I haven't go nothing" and we were in a world in which double-negatives were not used frivolously, then we could interpret it as "I have something" but the speaker is being defensive: they may have been accused on having nothing or it has been implied and rather than merely trying to make a positive statement about having something, they must also refute the claim of nothingness.  Alternatively, they could be acting sly, as if their boss told them they are out of inventory but since they've been skimming they still have some extra to sell on the side, so the store might be out, but that doesn't mean that the speaker has nothing.

By now you're probably thinking something like "Klepsacovic, your complete disregard for grammatical convention makes you unqualified to propose any rules" to which I say "fuck you!"  Or maybe you're thinking "Why did you keep using have got when merely saying have is sufficient?"  I did that because we don't usually say "I have not anything", despite that seeming to make sense.  Maybe I'll start saying that and drop the gots.

Before I leave you all to argue with me, I want to add one last rule: Oxford commas should be strictly enforced, under penalty of removal of the offending body part, whether tongue, fingers or brain in the case of new telepathic computers.  Oops.
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