Wonders are overpowered in Civilization V

| Monday, December 31, 2012
When I play Civilization IV there are wonders that I want.  Well of course I want all of them, but some are of particular interest to me.  Notre Dame is one of my favorites, since early on I tend to be limited by happiness.  The Hanging Gardens are oddly-placed, being of benefit in the late game when health is critical, but not as useful early on, particularly since the happiness limit means that the extra population is something between wasted and another lost soul for the whip of slavery.  But I've rambled on.  The point remains that as much as I like most of the wonders, never do I feel as if I am ruined by not having one, or hampered because my enemy does.

Contrast these with the wonders in Civilization V.

50% longer golden ages weren't such a bit deal in Civ IV, where golden ages were harder to generate, but are now able to be triggered at-will from the variety of great people, given as bonuses from social policies, and even built gradually from excess happiness.

The Great Wall, which was once a way to save a bit on early military costs and make defensive wars a little easier, is now a game-changer.  Attackers slow to a crawl, making ranged defenders even more powerful, able to dance around and still fire away.  Facing this wonder without longbowmen or artillery is a huge pain in the ass.  Even with them, you're still slowed, but at least can have some influence over the battlefield.

Sistine Chapel is still essential for a cultural victory, or just to keep up, since social policies are a tech tree of their own.

There are two wonders that give a free social policy.

The Porcelain Tower is notable as well, giving a great scientist (even more powerful now that they are a free tech rather than just a large amount of science) and a large boost to research agreements.  It is only the habit of the AI to declare war halfway into research agreements that keeps this wonder in check.

It might not be overpowered, but it does feel silly, the Hagia Sophia: rush it with an engineer and get it right back, and the next one a lot sooner.  It's either a free wonder itself or it's another wonder free.

Machu Picchu isn't overpowered, but it is rather annoying that it is based on the luck of having a city able to build it, in a location that could build it before the game ends.

I am more convinced than ever that the MoP trailer was awful

| Saturday, December 29, 2012
Now that I've actually played the expansion a bit, well the title says it.  Past trailers introduced the enemy, gave us something to aim for.  Illidan, Arthas, Deathwing, and night elf women.  I've said before that I don't think they were all good (Cata was bad), but they at least managed to give some notion of what we were doing or what was going on.

The Mists of Pandaria trailer did not do that.  It gave us some fun combat, which had some relation to the story, but was a step away from actually saying anything.  "There is a new land that the Horde and Alliance are fighting over" was all we could get out of the trailer.  Well, it's also a scenic land, but that's about the extent of it.

The actual game has an enemy: our own aggression, fear, and doubt: the Sha.  The actual interpretation can vary, of whether we are the problem or whether we merely released what was already there.  That could have made for an interesting trailer, to see the beauty of Pandaria, but to get a peek underground and behind the veils to see the negative energy building up.  The mogu, seemingly a central threat, are entirely left out.  I can understand why all the less-significant threats, such as vermin, ninju, and monkeys were left out, since there is only limited screen time.

I'm also curious about the bugs.  Are they another aspect of the silithid?  Is there an old god directing them?  Maybe I'll learn more as I play.  I'm certain that I'd have been more eager to buy the expansion if I'd been giving a hint of an old enemy returning.

Free ten days of WoW

| Thursday, December 27, 2012
If you've not upgraded to Mists of Pandaria yet, don't!  Instead, first get the trial.  That gives ten days of time, which are saved when you upgrade. Ten free days!  Yay!

I didn't know this when I started the trial.  At first I didn't realize it had the level cap, which should have been obvious, since otherwise it could make a character unplayable if the trial expired.  Then I thought the time was lost, so I was going to do side stuff for the ten days: getting other characters right up to 86, professions, Molten Core (afk next do a dead Ragnaros and a Jeees as I write this).  But then I wondered, does the time vanish?  Apparently not.

Off to the lost continent!  No, not Pandaria, silly.  I need more eternal air for my MOLL-E!  Northrend, ho!

MoP: First Impressions

| Wednesday, December 26, 2012
I don't like the login music.  It fills my ears with whining hurt.

The second quest sends me to the airship, which is not marked on the map unless you pick Azshara.

After that things were generally uphill.  I was still mixed up by my new everything and did not remember inquisition.  I'm also unsure of why I am notified of Art of War procs (resets exorcism) when the cooldown isn't up anyway.  That just confused me.  On one hand, it is nice to be able to get inquisition up quickly, but generating holy power from strong sneezes is tricky to deal with.  It was smart of them to have the pool of five; I don't think it would have been much fun with only three slots to store it, too much would get wasted.

Gyrocopter attack!  Let's just try the gyrocopter attack again!  I'm out of ideas.  Gyrocopter attack?
(I'm trying to say that I was amused by the gnomes, then I killed them)

It seemed as if the Alliance was set up as the bad guys.  But the commander we kept hunting, he seemed to have the best of intentions, trying to keep the land free of the taint of the Horde.  And then he turned into scary stuff that means he's a bad guy.  That was followed up with more yelling about not bringing a war, which of course the Horde ignored.  I'm curious to see how this turns out.  I don't have high hopes for the presentation, but we'll see.

All in all, it appears to be more of the same, which is exactly what I expected, and hoped for.

Now to fix those addons...

Of customer service: a bad poem

It's the day after Christmas and I have time to spare.Let's go see some pandas dance through the air
Log in and play
Yet I must complain
Because a simple request
Cannot be processed

Locked and suspicious
On account of location?
I am back home, on Christmas vacation.

No problem at all, just send me the mail
And this is when begins the fail

That's shady too, so as some proof
Answer a question
from back years more than two

Failed and failed, blocked for 12 hours!
This is the help that customer service offers
Not a mention those years
Of a question so dear
That they'd kick me out
If I ever forgot

No worries, I said, Blizzard is here
I'll just explain that my account's secure
Here's a phrase and here's a key
Don't you know that it's me?

Verification!  Aunthentication!
To the email...
But there lies the fail.
My account is not hacked and my computer secure
I just forgot my email password
May I change that bit?
It's not a topic
Maybe a ticket?
but I must log in (fuck it)

Let's try the phone.
I'll wait on hold.

This better not be a daily.

 End of poem.  I called and didn't have a very long wait.  And they play WoW music during it.

The non-existent argument

| Tuesday, December 25, 2012
A bad combination:

My aunt isn't particularly good at abstract thought or accepting the assumptions given in an argument (not to agree with them, but to accept them as the basis of the current discussion).  This leads her to say stupid things or misunderstand things into a non-existent disagreement.  Meanwhile my brother and other aunt and uncle love to discuss things and challenge ideas.  The result is something that isn't heart-shaped butterflies, but is not a screaming match and will not turn into one.

My mom hates arguing.  According to the second aunt (the one who likes discussion and is her sister), when they were younger family arguments were a less cordial affair, tending to involve real political disagreement and hard feelings.  With that in mind, it is understandable that my mom would be wary of arguments.

But it's been quite a long while.  Surely by now it is not unreasonable to expect that she'd have figured out that she's not at her childhood home.  Surely it is not unreasonable to expect someone to have some stage between no indication of a problem and screaming about arguing.  Maybe ask nicely to stop 'arguing', but do so before she's borderline enraged, since the "I asked nicely" idea is complete bullshit when you're one word away from hysteria.

I might have some sympathy if there actually was an argument.  If someone came to our house saying Obama is from Kenya, it would be entirely justified to get angry at them, maybe more.  But this wasn't that and never is.

Merry Christmas...

The Hobbit

| Sunday, December 23, 2012
You might have seen a lot of negative reviews of The Hobbit.  Well, they have a point.  And should shit up, because I think we get the point, and it's a good movie anyway.

I went to see it Saturday night with my brother.  At that particular time they had the 3D version, we we saw that.  The only other movie I've seen in 3D was Avatar, which I thought worked perfectly, given that so much of the movie was scenery porn.  However I can't say I cared for it during The Hobbit.  I don't get disoriented by it, but it was too immersive.  Yep, too immersive is bad in my book.  For movies.  When I watch movies I don't want to feel like I'm there.  For me, that experience becomes too similar to a videogame, and then I want to join in.  I like the sense of disconnection.  I do of course want to feel that I am in the world, but not in a particular scene.

At the start I could see what critics meant when they said it seemed to drag on with filler.  The introduction of the dwarves needed to be done, though the overall thing took a bit long.  I didn't like Bilbo in the slightest early on, as he seemed not to have an actual personality, but was rather just a slightly mobile object that disagreed with anything happening.  It didn't help that they decided to give far too much time to establishing that it was a story being told and written, right before Bilbo's 111th birthday party.

On the subject of dwarves, they didn't work.  Without humans around to give a sense of perspective, they look like slightly-less-than-heroically-tall humans, rather than like dwarves.  Having a hobbit as the main character doesn't help.  Gandalf is of no help either, since he's so tall anyway.  I don't know what would have fixed this problem beside sneaking in some humans to give perspective.  Maybe they should have done that, added the occasional tag-a-long, since it's not as if the events were not altered for the movie already.  I'm looking at you, hungry trolls (which now makes Bilbo sound like an unnecessary liar when he's telling the story to the children in the Fellowship).

Once out of the initial dragging along bit, it got to be rather exciting.  There is adventure.

And also constant mentioning of the great dangers looming beyond.  Having read The Hobbit and seen and read the Lord of the Rings I have a different perspective than people who are starting with The Hobbit or who have seen the Lord of the Rings but not read the book.  So I may have a skewed perspective.  And maybe the creators did as well.  Maybe they couldn't decide if The Hobbit was a prequel, meant to say where things that we know already began, or if it was the start of a series, and in that case is meant to get things rolling.

For example, the Necromancer.  In the movie he sounds sinister, but not too sinister, maybe just a sorcerer who got a little too creative and just needs some pushing back into place.  And yet, if you know the Lord of the Rings, then it all seems like the wrong approach.  It did not help that the Necromancer story was wrapped up in a silly blanket of a slightly mad wizard, so that all the darkness is delivered by the comic relief.  Were this to have all been in a single movie, then maybe they could have gotten to the Necromancer, gotten his bits out there, said what we all know is coming, and let us all go on to rewatching the Lord of the Rings, again.

Overall, The Hobbit isn't as good as The Lord of the Rings.  This may be inevitable, since the story itself is not as much to my liking.  But it is still worth seeing.

Clearly I'm a superior being

| Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Hi.  I'm back.  Graduate school failed to kill me, despite putting in one hell of an effort.  It turns out that doing a cost-benefit analysis on fire department consolidation is very difficult.  Our master spreadsheet has a larger file size than some of the games I remember playing  in the 90s.  I've used terms like "flow of data" when describing it and did not mean it ironically, sarcastically, or even to make myself sound more impressive.  Except just now.

I'd like to talk about the rash of world conquests that have been plaguing the world lately.  These used to be rare events.  Hitler, Ghengis Khan, the United Nations, the list of attempted world conquerors is short.  Until recently.  It seems that we cant go a week or two without hearing that a young adult has gathered a tribe around himself and begun capturing territory, investing in technology, and bribing allies.  Just last week Nebraska was overrun.  Oregon the month before.  Did we forget two months ago when Dallas was temporarily turned into a city-state and sought the assistance of Oklahoma and Mexico in the conquest of Texas?

We could blame tribalism, the easy availability of libraries and beakers, or the way eating a lot of wheat makes babies magically appear.  But those are all symptoms.  The true problem is the psychology.  The true problem is that too many young people are playing too many games that glorify world conquest.  They pick up the habit.  They become desensitized to the methodical elimination of rival cultures through careful plotting of alliances and military force.  We're seeing the evidence every day.  As world conquest simulators have become more common and more advanced, so has the rate of attempted world conquest risen.

I seem to be immune to this problem.  While I grew up playing Command and Conquer, later moving on to the various iterations of the Civilization series, I have never planned, let alone attempted, to conquer the world.  Maybe I'm just a superior being that can recognize that games are reality are different and who does not learn how to interact with the world from clearly-fictional games.

Maybe I've just never acted because my parents always modeled good behavior, never using world conquest to solve their problems.  Maybe I just never had easy access to culturally-similar followers who blindly follow my orders.  Or maybe I'm just a superior being who is immune to the horrifying influence of these so-called games based on world conquest.
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