I need some dream analysis, stat!

| Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The first one is pretty obvious: my brother was playing around and set an electrical box on fire, thereby knocking out power to everything nearby. Yesterday a breaker at his house tripped so he had to reset it and in the past he's had a habit of angering/worrying me with antics. Simple enough.

Second one was much stranger. Obama lost in 2012 to a total out-of-nowhere candidate: George W. Bush. Yes, the previous president who has already done the legal limit of two terms. Hence out of nowhere. We didn't even know he was in the race, so I'm not sure how anyone even knew to vote for him. All in all, quite the surprise. But the bigger surprise was that I didn't seem to care much. Now that one has me all confused.

Am I worried about Jeb Bush? That can't be, since as I remember he's said he's not considering running before 2016. Maybe it's something far more sinister. Maybe Obama is acting a lot like our previous president, to the point that 2012 would be a win for President Bush rather than Senator Obama. Sorta makes me miss the good old days before he was sworn in and had no record to criticize.

The sequel that is a different game

Remember earlier when I said that Shadow of Chernobyl is a pile of crap and Call of Pripyat is awesome with an awesome glaze and some nice candles on top? Well I stand by that, but...

In terms of, what for lack of a better word, I will call technology, Cataclysm is leagues better than vanilla or BC. By technology I mean the tools that the devs have and use: phasing, looking for group tool, even achievements, have added to the potential story-telling or game-play potential. Boss mechanics are more interesting and complex, for better or worse. Spells can do a lot more. All sorts of bits are better.

Cataclysm is a better game. But is it really an expansion? Players frequently claim that WoW expansions aren't really expansions, just sequels. They mean that they don't expand our content options, but merely move us onto a new set of content. This is literally false, since expansions until LK haven't actually removed any content, but since WoW is based on progression and the expansions let us leapfrog the content late in the earlier cap, in a practical sense they are replacing them. In this context the earlier content is like Warcraft II; sure we can still fire up a game, but all our friends are playing Warcraft III, or in my case, my friends are playing EVE and City of Villains (no one is perfect), but that's beside the point.

So fine, let's call the expansions sequels. Are they even sequels? Let's rewind.

I have a confession to make: I sometimes make a claim out of ignorance. Usually this is based on an unknown unknown, things which I didn't even know I didn't know. In the case of SoC, I realized that the combat system, perhaps due to a popular mod, is not as bad as I thought, but I am certain of this: a crappy AK is not a good way to evaluate the aiming system of a game, since it can't hit anything anyway. Now I have better guns, with scopes (!), and I can reliably hit my targets, even at moderately long ranges, without needing to 'cheat' by using the crosshairs.

Still, I maintain that CoP is a better game than SoC. Being able to sell weapons or ammo to other stalkers is an improvement. Navigating dialogue with number keys: improvement. Upgrading weapons rather than hoping to stumble across an upgraded version in the middle of nowhere: improvement. Reducing the number of loading screen-separated zones from a dozen or so to three (minus a one-time area): improvement. Assigning hotkeys to inventory items rather than trying to dig through my bags for a first aid kit while someone is shooting at me: improvement. Though that last one is debatable, since it sure makes things more interesting when fights frequently feature thoughts like, "oh shit bleeding, red, oh god I'm dead in about two seconds, where is the first aid... got it! Click, no not drop, use use! Okay I'm alive, good. Now where did that guy sneak off to while I was panicing?" Bang. "Behind me, got it."

On the other hand, as I've played through both, I'm not sure I can call CoP a sequel. Sure, it takes place in the same universe and it is chronologically after SoC, but the feel of the game is a bit different, and I'm not even referring to the mechanics. SoC is based on two goals: figure out who you are and get to Chernobyl. CoP doesn't go anywhere near Chernobyl. The character in CoP has an entirely different background and goal, being utterly alien to the first. Obviously it would be lame if CoP was a repeat: go to Chernobyl and marvel at the improved mechanics and graphics. But for most of the game CoP is like a tangent, feeling as if the stories are almost entirely unrelated.

Beside this there is a major atmospheric shift. I'm easily frightened, so going underground in CoP would make me nervous and jittery. SoC made it looks like a well-lit wonderland, because dammit, it's fucking dark! In CoP I developed a major fear of a mutant called a Burer and had a minor fear of Bloodsuckers, while Snorks just made me want to huddle in a corner. In contrast, in SoC Bloodsuckers are sorta sad to mow down with ease, there are no burers, and snorks remain the only enemy that really scares me. But the environment... It's darker, it's more cramped, it's louder, with shit clanking all over and what the hell was that sound why is there something crashing around in what is supposed to be an abandoned lab? Even outside was eerier.

In short form, Call of Pripat is definitely a fun game, but in terms of atmosphere and story, I'd barely call it a Stalker game, if we're saying that Shadow of Chernobyl defined the series. No comment on Clear Sky because I haven't played it.

I've seen a similar pattern in WoW. Burning Crusade dramatically changed the atmosphere of WoW. Necessary? Probably. Vanilla had a lot of dark undead places and burning orc and dragon places in the late game. Burning Crusade couldn't just add more of the same, so we had purple crystals, divine windchimes, and demons with green technology, by which I mean the technology turned stuff into a hellish evil green, which sorta makes Al Gore look bad. Wrath of the Lich King brought back undead, but added a twist: cold. Then Cataclysm switched it all over the place and made an entire zone based on scaring people who are afraid of water.

As for the stories, it's been similarly all over the place. The Scourge was left damaged, but nowhere near destroyed when we went off to Outland. Then we all got in ships and went to fight the Scourge. Problem solved! World blows up. In actuality LK and Cataclsym returned to old stories from vanilla: the Scourge and Twilight's Hammer (Old God cultists), respectively, but how long ago was that? Long ago. Returning to the central theme can still seem tangential if you've been away from it for long enough.

Of course this is highly subjective. For one person the mechanical improvements can seem like dramatic gameplay changes, while another player may see major changes as relatively minor and inconsequential in the overall theme or style of the game. Have you run across similar examples where a sequel, or expansion, so dramatically changed a game that it is barely recognizable as being from the same company in the same universe?

As a parting example: Knights of the Old Republic was awesome, however while Pazaak (same general idea as Blackjack, but with the skill-luck mix tipped more toward skill) was a neat game, the hardwired cheating by the computer (it always went second) made it a lot less fun than it could have been. Knights of the Old Republic II had a much improved Pazaak game (alternating starts!), but at times seemed slightly off, as if it were somehow unfinished or rushed. Big surprise, it was. So let's end with some appreciation of Blizzard's slow-as-frozen-molasses development speed.

Why the Goblin will be a Socialist

| Tuesday, March 29, 2011
What was the defining aspect of Stalin? Socialism? Wrong. Socialism is a system and for him, a tool. Instead the defining element is who he was, that is, a self-obsessed, heartless individual who regarded others as tools, means to ends, specifically, his ends.

Manipulating the system, any system, to gain for oneself regardless of how it harms others? Sound familiar? Yep, that's Applied Goblinism for you.

All systems can be abused and twisted, so we must not let down our guard, because that is when the sociopaths come out. The ecoterrorist, the Taliban, the goblin, none of them care about you, only their fanatical beliefs, and whether that is worship of nature, Allah, or their own egos, the unifying element is a belief that humanity has no value by itself.

What Happened On Whiny Post Day:

| Monday, March 28, 2011
There was whining, of course, but more shocking, some people didn't whine. Shame on them. SHAME.

You know who you are and if you're not bawling, screeching, obnoxiously, irritatingly whining next year, I'm going to... Uh. I'll whine about it some more.

Whiny Post Day: Confused Questgivers
You spelled my name wrong. But as for the actual content of the post: bad cooks are bad, but please be nice to us, we feel awful about it.

Murloc Parliament!
Whiny Post Day: It Should All Be Named After ME!
I do not approve of murloc domination. I prefer to be brutally oppressed by my own kind, thank you very much.
I think I missed last year's Terrestrial Ichthyological Discrimination

Specced for Drama!
Wine-y Post Day
Puns are not whiny, as much as we might all whine about them. Also, Klep is the sound of a one-legged horse and I am most certainly not the sound of a one-legged horse. Please refer to me by my full fake name.

Revive and Rejuvinate!
Whine Time
Six months of no raiding? Whatever. Back in my day we didn't raid for six months, or six months, no one raided because back in my day we all sucked too much to raid and dammit, did we whine about it? Well, yes, we did, constantly, and then it all kinda went downhill.

You Yank It, You Tank It!
I’ll Wipe to Prove a Point or Why I Probably Shouldn’t Heal
An elitist tank recognizing that healing could be trouble. I agree completely. Healing is scary.

Mysterious Buttons!
Whine, whinge, moan
"Why is it whiny post day when I’m in the middle of writing a “you’re all whining unnecessarily, everything’s lovely and shiny and the dungeon finder introduces me to wonderful people” post? Way to completely kill my flow." Now you're getting the idea.

If I missed your whine, please link it and I'll add it in. I'd hate to leave anyone out of this once-a-year glorious festival of unwarranted negativity.

And for the ones that I forgot because I'm bad.

Priest With A Cause
Whiny Post Day: Let me 'ave 'em!
Impatience (wah wah wah I have to run the instance all over again) poorly disguised as patience (I stayed for the whole run).

Re: There is no “Faeldray” in “Community”

| Friday, March 25, 2011
During a recent wandering I stumbled across this post. It felt a bit like something I'd have written, if I was capable of maintaining a point and not randomly and uncontrollably bouncing between sincerity and sarcasm. I don't feel like I even have much to add to it, but a few bits really stood out, feeling like they were somehow ripped off, telepathically.

I will admit to not being the most social person in the world. In fact, I will readily agree that I am rather shy and anti-social. Large crowds and new people make me slightly nervous and uncomfortable, so it should be unsurprising that I have few friends, but they are close ones. I’m picky with my friends and frankly, I like it that way.

I'm not really a people person. I'm friendly and polite if I remember to be, not that I'm intentionally rude, but all this people stuff, it's quite difficult.

In high school, I was one of those who stood outside most of the drama and cliques and simply watched this real-life soap opera unfold around me. I wasn’t popular but neither was I despised. I have come to realize that this is also my position within the WoW blogging “community”. I’m never someone who’s named when popular or long-timed bloggers are praised, but hey, at least I’m never caught in the crossfire of all the mud slinging.

Not quite true in my case, since I have wandered, and by wandered I mean intentionally run into, a few fights, but often I feel like I'm in my own little corner here where sometimes people wander over to see what I'm muttering about, usually Tesh, saying something to the effect of "how interesting", followed by what is obviously a strained smile and a nervous quick backtrack. I swear that was all meant to sound ironic rather than emo.

I’m certain that Eff the Ineffable is a great guild. Just as I am certain that not all bloggers belong to their own created factions that war with each other and look down their noses at “lesser” bloggers. There are bloggers who are kind and friendly, who always make you feel welcome and a part of something bigger than you are. Maybe one day I’ll even get to know some of them better and be able to call them my friends.

This did strike me as a bit ironic, since to me this describes Larisa, except the post overall is essentially saying "Larisa, you're wrong about the blogging community."

Maybe the problem is a failure to agree on the meaning of community.

Exceptional American Stupidity

| Thursday, March 24, 2011
Part one: You're hurting my feelings

Are we all familiar with the idea of American Exceptionalism? Yes? I'm not seeing everyone raising their hands. Okay quick tally, who here is an American? European? Politician? Got it, only the second two know what I'm talking about. Loosely speaking, it's the idea that America is somehow better or beyond the usual notions of how to interact with the world, that we can have unlimited military power and use it to spread peace and democracy, and everyone will love us because we're just so amazing.

I suspect it might be a myth.

But I also suspect that a whole lot of people have bought into it and those people aren't just politicians selling a war. I think an entirely different group has bought into it: people who laugh at Americans being stupid.

I have an idea for you: Americans might not be much more stupid or ignorant than the rest of the world, but instead the myth of American exceptionalism has morphed into the myth of Exceptional American Stupidity. The central element is still that America is special, except now it's 'special', the sort that we say sarcastically while imitating a mildly amusing but mostly offensive comedian.

So stop calling us stupid. I will, of course, not stop, because for some reason it's okay to stereotype, generalize, and broadly demonize one's own group. And of course, Europeans.

Part two: British people

Part of the American narrative is one of being a beacon of democracy, a "city on a hill", an example for the world of how you can all be so much better if only you were more like us. Also, make sure you vote for thinly veiled Christian laws, not thinly veiled Muslim laws. In other words, it's not the theocratic oppression that matters, it's the veils.

But are we really the shining beacon of democracy, the big power from which freedom sprung? I suggest: no.

Shouldn't that go to Britain? After all, our revolution was, among other things, based heavily on our rights as British citizens. It wasn't so much "fuck you England!" as "we hereby request the full recognition and implementation of our rights as Citizens of the Crown as guaranteed by the... oh gosh I appear to have been shot, I shall declare this a massacre and call for revolution, 'YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION WELL YOU KNOW*...' Freedom mother fucker! Which in this time 'fucker' is just a way of say 'strike', so it's still pretty bad because I'm saying you abuse women." My point is this: England invented freedom. Or maybe it was Greece, but let's face it, Greece was a bunch of whiny nothings. Their only significant contributions to the world were half-assed democracy, pointlessly long stories with half-assed philosophy (thereby beating Ayn Rand by a few thousand years), and naked Olympics. The only time they got serious about their conquests were when being led by a Macedonian. Where is Macedonia? Right yes, it's that place right by Greece, which makes sense. Anyway, my point is that England invented freedom that was applied to a significantly larger portion, but not the entirely, of the ruled population, excluding colonies, protectorates, and Ireland (we wouldn't want your damn Protestant freedom anyway!).

England just doesn't get enough credit. It's like we completely skip over their contribution to democracy, which was to deny democracy to Benjamin Franklin, thereby causing him to invent a device to spread it around the world, which we eventually misnamed as America.

Part three: But in Soviet Russia...

What if the King of England hadn't been a gigantic dick and had given the upstart colonies the rights they demanded? In this inverted world, would America have grown into a superpower still united with England? World War II might have turned out differently if England's declaration of war following Germany's invasion of Poland (or did they wait until Belgium?) had been backed up by Americans from the start, walking in and kicking some ass, with General Patton personally killing Hitler, of course at the request of the King. Could this pattern have been maintained, with Britain not oppressing, and therefore retaining control of, India? Pakistan too, since that split came after the war of independence. Imagine, if the King of England hadn't been a gigantic dick, the world might have been unified under England in eternal peace and accents which give the impression of legitimacy (I love the BBC and it's convenient that Al Jazeera English seems to use kidnapped BBC reporters).

On the other hand, if you're not using it to brutally exploit and oppress people, what is the point of power? This is, of course, what Marx got wrong with his theory of Communism as a historical inevitability. If you can't use it to randomly maim poor people, why even bother to build a factory? Wealth? Obviously that's out. Personal drive? A myth. Speaking of economic models: mercantilism, it failed, partly due to a moronic obsession with gold, does this have any relevance in modern times?

Part four: I spent five hours waiting for car repairs and what is left of my sanity is long gone, how the hell do people watch daytime TV?

I guess the bold title gave it away.

Part five: Making fun of Greece some more

Their version of democracy? Gone. Their philosophy? Retained only for the purpose of being an obnoxious twat who asks pointless questions. The sole positive effect was this recent xkcd. Their Olympics? Not naked anymore. Meanwhile the Arab World (wherever that is) gets overlooked, despite having given us great ideas like a system of numbers that works really well for all sorts of mathematics. Position-based value is awesome. Every tried doing calculus with Roman numerals? AWFUL.

* Is it just me or is this a rather anti-revolutionary song?

One Good Thing About Respawns

| Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Sometimes I wish I hadn't had such an effect on the world I'm in.

In Oblivion my thief-type guy developed a habit of killing just about anyone he came across and could get away with killing. Since named NPCs don't respawn, though quest-related ones will be merely knocked unconscious, this meant that by the time I was done, I'd killed off most of the wandering civilians and about half the shopkeepers. The streets were strangely empty, even before the demonic invasion.

When I made a caster-type to see how that would play, I was confused at the NPCs all over the place, talking and gathering here and there. The shops were even filled with goods. How odd!

Similarly, my guy in Stalker was curious about what would happen if I shot a Duty guy in the face. That's the big militant group that I mentioned before. Well, they called in a lot of help, including from sympathetic non-member. The result? Half the trade hub dead. They have ever so slowly been respawning with new randomly generated names, but it's still a bit more empty than it was.

This brings us to the strange problem of MMOs with factions: we want our enemies to die and stay dead, but it's not fun having our own cities emptied out. Since one faction's enemies are the other side's allies, everything respawns. Nothing stays dead, whether we want it to or not.

There Must Always Be a Lich King.

If Grommak the Ham Merchant dies, let Grimmok take his place. We might not notice the names changing, but it's at least a small acknowledgment that we did actually kill someone, without causing mass complaint over the sudden inability to purchase hams in Orgrimmar.

Worth learning to play

| Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This post isn't just about Stalker, so if you're sick of hearing about it, do a word search for "stalker" and then pretend the paragraphs are minesweeper to pick what to read. Fun for everyone!

While watching a documentary on the aftermath of Chernobyl I was surprised to learn that it is still being actively researched, though perhaps less than it should. Stupidly, I was also surprised to see that there are all sorts of paths around the plant to get near the reactor. I'd seen schematics of it, so I should have figured out that all the rooms around it, have doors. So of course after watching it, my first thought was "dear God, we're all totally fucked." Apparently the lid, or just about anything else, could suddenly fall in, releasing a huge cloud of radioactive dust. My theory is that Chernobyl is going to get jealous that Japan is getting so much attention and might, let's say, throw a tantrum. A giant radioactive tantrum.

Second thought: I want to go there too! However that would be expensive, unsafe, and time-consuming. So instead I booted up Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl again (the one that I said was awful) and decided that I'd push through the main story just for the chance to virtually visit a recreation of the plant, though obviously with a few more mutated and highly aggressive creatures, as well as religious fanatics, and something called a Brain Scorcher. Sounds fun.

So I pushed on and decided I'd figure this shit out and just get it done. Well next thing I knew I was starting a war with one of the militant groups in the area and I've greatly enjoyed the resulting violence and weapons I took from them. It's much more interesting when I have to kill at least three people just to get into the bar. Incidentally, this makes for really inconvenient travel when merely entering the otherwise safe trade hub means a brief shootout. The guys I started the fight with, Duty, are all pretty much wiped out, along with anyone else who followed their instructions to "eliminate the enemy." Makes the place a bit more lonely, but that's for another day.

The combat is still a bit odd, and the trading is still awkward, but I've managed to get used to it. I just have to be more careful. The actual gameplay and story is pretty decent past that. This is an example of a game that I'd call worth learning to play.

In contrast are shooters on the Wii. Now and then when my brother visits he brings up one of his games and I give it a shot. Pun not intended, but convenient. The latest one was CoD: Black Ops. The story was interesting and of course shooting is always pretty fun. But the controls. Ugh. I'm completely used to a keyboard and mouse. Point and click violence. I'm used to the desk moderating my movements, slowing them and providing friction, so I expect to use a certain amount of force to aim and steer. Using the mouse and keyboard has been taught to me ten times over, from FPSs, RPGs, and of course every single computer operation that I've ever done. Blogging? Mouse and keyboard, mostly keyboard, but some mouse work. I can pretty reliably and quickly move the mouse from the title field to the post field, and then down to the post options button, over to date and time, and so on. Bam bam bam.

It's worth learning how to use a computer. It's a somewhat universal, versatile skill. Gaming, work, long-distance communication, they all use this form of input.

But shooters on the Wii? No. So great, I can play a few more games, but at what cost? Time and frustration. I just get flat out frustrated trying to aim with the Wiimote. And move. None of the muscle memory is there. It's not even like sports which tend to use some minor variation of movements we have anyway: kicking, throwing, bouncing; these are pretty universal actions which are not restricted to a single game or even set of games.

Learn to play? Yea sure, oh wait, no. Why am I going to spend time to learn to play something that isn't any more fun than other, similar activities which don't have the learning curve?

Somewhere in the middle for me are the silly games, like Boomblox. The controls are much simpler and for the most part I'm in no rush, so I can take the time to gradually figure things out. The frustration factor isn't there. Except... oh except for that one stupid level where the sheep seem to commit suicide five seconds into the level and meanwhile the stupid remote isn't properly registering my obviously amazing throwing so the blocks aren't falling down right and... Okay so there's a little bit of frustration factor. I don't like losing and the Wii is a whole new way to lose.

More toward the worthwhile end are the plastic guitar games. Pretending to know how to play guitar, without needing to actually get a guitar and demonstrate that I don't know how to play, is pretty damn fun. Variable difficulty? Awesome! Though I have the backward problem that the lowest difficulty is harder than medium: it's so damn slow that I cannot get any sense of rhythm at all, so instead I'm stuck mashing when I think it's time, which it usually isn't. It helps that my brother has the Beatles game (are there more than one?) so I know the tune more or less, even if colored buttons aren't really playing it.

Speaking of worthwhile: World of Warcraft. Doesn't it suck when something goes wrong and your UI is entirely reset? Awful! Gotta remember all the bindings, UI placement, which addons are enabled on which character. Takes a whole lot of time. But at least in this case muscle memory helps. I want to cleanse myself... oh I keep mashing alt-1, that must be cleanse! I played for about five and a half years, made some new friends, and ended up here, with a small blog that manages to entertain more than just me. WoW was definitely worth the learn to play curve.

On the other hand: raiding. As nice as it is to get that kill after really fighting for it, the thrill has gradually worn off, to be replaced by frustration. The fight-specific dances mean that whatever I'd learned before is almost entirely wasted. The recent expansion throwing out all learned rotations and priorities didn't help. Learn to play? No thanks.

In closing: EVE, worth learning to play? Then again, I don't quite have the money to spare; I donated my monthly sub to public radio. Take that, Republicans!

Now Recruiting for a Whites-Only Guild

| Monday, March 21, 2011
This isn't racist. It's just that sometimes there is drama when black people are around. I'm not saying the black people cause it, but most players are white and if a minority causes drama, it's pretty clear what to do. They can start their own guilds. I'm not saying it's the fault of black people, I just think it's better to have a place where white people can play without worrying about racial tensions.

So if you're white, and have vent to prove it, and don't want drama from racial mixing, come join on the Thrall server.

Again, not racist, just trying to avoid drama from black people. I have lots of black friends, I just don't do anything with them because they cause drama, which isn't their fault, or the fault of anyone else.

This Week in Political Economics

| Saturday, March 19, 2011
If there's one thing everyone can agree on, it is that the economy is not doing well. In response, Obama has proposed another set of sweeping economic changes which have been decried by both left and right as "pandering to big business, deconstructing the social safety net, and slaughtering orphans for little economic gain" and/or "government overreach." The package of changes is constructed in an effort to gain bipartisan support and focuses on stimulating consumer demand without addressing any underlying issues.

First in the list is a ban on exchanging larger denominations of currency for smaller denominations or assisting in such exchanges. The stated purpose is to "make people stop asking if anyone can 'break a five' for the vending machine and instead buy something for change, for a change."

Take a Penny, Leave a Penny trays which economists have found to be critical to small-value purchases, will be scaled up. The Treasury will offer 0.01% interest loans to newspaper companies and charities in order to allow a transition to Take a Dollar, Leave a Dollar trays. President Obama has hailed this program as "the best idea since pretending there wasn't a partisan divide", citing a predicted 5% increase in consumer activity and a long-term $15 reduction in the federal deficit due to interest collection.

The proposed five thousand amendments include the following:
- Replacing heating subsidies with a reverse-flow, taking heating oil from the poor to act as a buffer to the strained Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
- Downsizing federally-supported public libraries and raising revenues with charged-entry book-burnings.
- Monthly limit of five minutes on how long Representative Weiner can shout at Congress.
- Ten billion dollars in additional tax breaks for weatherizing the entire Midwest.
- A ban on printing five thousand copies of five thousand pages of amendments that no one reads anyway and just reject on party-line votes.
- Comfier cots if we're going to have to keep staying up like this.

Exportable Services

BBC has what appear to be entirely random opinion pieces, which are usually pretty interesting, even if they don't have much relation to the headlines (not to suggest that they aren't relevant to the news, just not the single topic of the day chosen by the media). Recently there was one arguing that the decline of American manufacturing and its replacement with the service sector is fine, because a dollar of value is a dollar of value, whether from services or manufacturing.

That is true, but potentially deceptive. If we import a dollar of products, can we export a dollar of services? Yes, no, depends on the service. I won't pretend that all physical products are equally able to be exported. Mandarin books won't have a huge market in the US and regionalized DVDs have a different 'language' problem. But similarly, pizzas and software are not universally useful. We won't be doing delivery to China. Similarly, not all software (which I consider a form of manufacturing anyway) will be able to be exported. Can we export our restaurants? Geek Squad? Local journalism? No.

These are necessary, or at least in-demand services, and of course we should not ignore the importance of the internal economy, but we should remember that if we want to import, we still need something to export, so if we're going to surrender manufacturing, then we need exportable services.

The relative elevations of Stormwind and Ironforge

| Friday, March 18, 2011
Did you notice the change on the Deeprun Tram? Look again. The tunnel on the Ironforge side is the same, but Stormwind now has a ramp part. No, not a rampart. I mean it has those, but not as part of the tunnel to the tram.

What I'm saying is that as best as I can tell, the tram goes down, then up, ending at the same elevation as it started. Factor in the ramp and lack of ramp and bam, we know the exact relative elevations of Stormwind and Ironforge.

There is one problem: levelness. Since Azeroth is spherical, or close enough, some sort of rounded three-dimensional shape (based on evidence in Halls of Lightning), then level is a constantly changing meaning. Obviously the tram is not level at either entrance, or else it would be sticking out the world. It could be level at an exact distance between them, meaning that at either end the angle with the group would be the same. This would make elevation measurements possible and could be tested: measure the distance of the tram tunnel and if at the midpoint it is level, there you go.

But the tram exits are not titled. This leaves one last possibility: both ends are level. This is impossible with a straight line and a curved surface. A flat surface (flat Azeroth theory) has no evidence (then again, a round Azeroth has very little). But given a round Azeroth, the tram must be curved. Yet it appears straight. How can this be?

Obviously the tram isn't in the normal world in any usual sense. This explains the mystery of being tangential to the ground (parallel) at two points. And it explains why it goes through a large body of water when there is only dry land between the cities.

The tram is inter-dimensional and utterly nonsensical. This is perfectly consistent with gnomish construction.

And I have no clue of the relative elevations anymore. If we knew the curve we could figure it out, but how does one measure the extra-dimensional curving of something when inside the curved space? It would appear perfectly flat, as it does!

I may have just wasted your time. I'm sorry.

Whining about my many Pet Peeves

| Thursday, March 17, 2011
I don't like that I don't know the rules for capitalization in titles. I don't care enough to fix this.

I don't like starting every sentence with the same word or phrase, such as "I don't like", so let's pretend that I'm doing that.

Somehow people can simultaneous think that the unguided free market is perfect but unguided evolution? Impossible! On the flip side, people think the unguided market will be perfect, despite obviously not being so, especially when my previous evolution analogy points out that evolution isn't perfect either.

Intelligent design. Just call it what it is: Creationism. Or alternatively, admit that you are too damn stupid to figure out intermediate steps and quit pretending that "irreducible complexity" means something. There is only one piece of evidence for intelligent design and it is the banana, a nutritious and delicious fruit, individually wrapped in biodegradable packaging, which is not irreducibly complex, but it is statistically unlikely to be so convenient.

Typos when I'm calling people stupid.

Organic all natural food with no preservatives... packaged in absolutely non-biodegradable plastic which is probably giving off what we will eventually discover is a carcinogen.

Organic food nuts who oppose genetic engineering. Let's see... what's the best way to reduce the need for pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, while increasing yields so we don't need to plow over so much land? GM! We've been doing this for years, just indirectly, where we had LESS control over the result. Do you think corn was naturally a gigantic thing with huge seeds in convenient eating form? Do you think wheat, unlike any wild grass, somehow naturally evolved to not drop its seeds at the slightest wind? No! We made all of this. Cats, dogs, food crops, pigs, cattle, chickens, we made these. Of course we should make sure that GM foods are safe, just like we should do we anything that we're mass-producing.

"Kill them all and let God sort them out." Somehow people who say this always resist me murdering them. It's weird, almost as if it's some sort of double standard. Or not a standard at all, just stupidity.

Jobs. How long before jobs become an utterly meaningless word, just like freedom, terrorist, and America?

People who use socialist as a catch-all scary word. And then drive home on a public road, in a car with safety features mandated by government regulation, using gasoline which is only so freely available because of government action, at some point end up mentioning freedom which is only guaranteed by government, since it's pretty damn obvious that Mr. Gay Hater Bomb the Islams isn't going to be standing up for anyone's freedom, and will at some point tell someone to support the troops even though the military is one of the world's biggest socialist programs. Government-run, paid by taxes, with government equipment, technology, and land, to provide for a common benefit. And we built those public roads for the military too.

"Constitutionalists" who want to ban Sharia law. Two things. First, if people want to live by certain rules, that is their right. Second, it cannot be imposed by you thanks to the Constitution which despite your best effort to the contrary (We need the Ten Commandments in every courthouse! This is a Christian nation!), still establishes a separation of Church and State.

Elitists in video games. I get it, some players are better than others and no one wants to play with people worse than them. So what? It's a game, not life, not a job.

People who say "it's just a game" to justify being careless when playing with others or to attack gamers who care.

Gamers who don't want other people to call themselves gamers. Sorry, but your arbitrary standard doesn't trump their arbitrary standard.

People who think Gordon Gecko was the hero.

People who use "innovation" and "finances" in the same sentence. Ultimately it's all glorified spreadsheets and any attempt to argue otherwise is delusional, or intentional lying.

The Supreme Court. Corporations are not people. They do not deserve human rights of any sort. Not speech, not assembly, not unlimited political spending and lobbying. They do not even have the right to exist. They are not people and should not be extended human rights.

Ronald Reagan.

People who worship Ronald Reagan.

Jon Stewart. Admit it, you're doing news and you're doing journalism. I know it's useful to pretend you're doing nothing but comedy, helps to disarm guests and all that, but dammit, you know you're doing more than just comedy.

People who make pointlessly risky maneuvers in traffic. Such as racing around cars making left turns to make left turns in front of them. I pray that the baby on board sticker was not actually an indicator of there being a baby on board, not out of fear for the child's safety, but out of fear of them reproducing.

Prayer in schools. Excuse me, teacher, may I use my nap blanket as a prayer mat?

The changing of WoW from a game and world which I enjoyed, to a game which I don't enjoy much.

The obvious plot against Summer Glau. One season of Firefly? One movie? Ridiculous! I started watching the Sarah Conner Chronicles and there are not enough seasons of that either. This makes no sense.

The ultimate end of the universe as the very atoms lose integrity and decompose into a barely warmer than zero cloud of thinly dispersed particles and even our energy-based ancestors starve in the cold blackness, hugging the black holes for the last few bits of Hawking radiation before even they have evaporated and we're left with a thinly-spread little-more-than-nothing, until finally all life ends, only to be sent to Hell because ten million generations ago we got mixed up on the correct way to do the sign of the cross and have been pretty much fucked ever since.

Self-censorship. I fully recognize the need for it, since quite often when I re-read my writing I see that no sane person can respond to it. But it bugs me. It seems dishonest, as if I'm hiding. Then again, I doubt I'd want to fully know any of you and I'm certain that it is mutual, since people are such an awful mess once you dig a bit. Besides, a coating of peer pressure keeps the insanity in check.

Tamarind and Chastity's posts were always way too long, with the possible exception of Gerald posts.

If this reads like more of a rant than a whine, just imagine that a few topics in I've started shedding more than a few tears and my voice is getting high pitched and cracking now and then. After the postscript I go to weep in a corner.

P.S. Please send me a link to your whiny posts so I can post a link to all of them, since if there's one thing my readers really need, it's a gigantic assembly of whiny posts.

There are many ways to get high

| Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Addictive. I think we use that word too easily these days. Or alternatively, we use that property too easily these days. We make addictive games rather than good games. On the grand scale of learning, it's only relatively recently that we discovered that doing something again does not mean we enjoy it. I could make you stab yourself to death if I implanted a dopamine-giver tied to skin damage. Or I could sell you heroin and do it a bit less literally and a bit more figuratively.

Normally we look at destructive gaming addictions from the perspective of the player. We see the shocking stories of someone dying after playing for literal days on end, neglected children, lost jobs. But what if this virtual drug was too powerful? As much as we like to call drugs poisons, as far as poisons go they're not especially powerful. Sure, an overdose can kill a person, but strangely, that's often caused not by the dose, but by the location. It's an oddity of the mind and body, that a location primes behavior, and chemistry. So a bit of practical advice: if you're going to use a drug, use it in the same place, under the same conditions, or your expected resistance might be lacking. But I'm wandering...

Is Blizzard's drug too powerful? I think so. It grabbed and drained and killed. It is figuratively killing its subscribers. They're quitting, leaving, losing interest. The high was impressive, but we developed resistance to it, so they made it stronger and stronger. Finally we burn out. Not from raiding, not from guilds, not from trade spam, not from trolls or even remade troll raids. It's the drug itself. The cycle of loot, of more and more. And it works. Oh it does work indeed. And then it stops working. A subscriber dies.

I remember when WAR was coming some people called it a WoW killer. Others laughed. Some said something weird: only Blizzard can kill WoW. I usually thought that meant their next MMO replacing it. I think I might have been wrong (I often am). I think it is more direct: Blizzard is killing WoW. The drug is too strong. It draws in players and it spits them out. They have to keep tinkering with the formula.

Blizzard had its own addiction and its own pattern of resistance. Subscriber numbers. They always had to be higher. We can't blame the devs for this. The validation they needed as humans, the satisfaction of a job well done, is I believe a more steady number, a smaller number, which doesn't grow very quickly. But addicts make addicts and someone is addicted to money and that someone wants more subscribers. So Blizzard pushed for more and more, making it more popular, pushing it in the playground, marketing and advertising and tinkering. Finally everyone had taken it. And then it didn't work anymore.

Blizzard cannot get the high anymore, so it's filling the syringe and injecting and another and injecting and it's still not there. Shit.

I'm not sure how the analogies crossed and conflicted and quite possibly failed entirely. In the end it was just a long way of saying that WoW is the only WoW-killer and it is the sort of slow, sad suicide we'd see in a movie, or for some unfortunate few (but too many), in friends and family.

As for myself, I'm a bit high right now. No drugs, just that my brain think I'm supposed to be asleep by now, so it's working on the dreaming state a bit. It's sometimes a nice feeling, but I'm not often a fan of altered states. I get confused too easily. I have trouble grasping concepts, a problem since my brain refuses to stop until it has it figured out to some liking. Sometimes it's geometry or mathematical patterns, which I find utterly fascinating, until I finally break them down and realize the particular pattern was too simple to be much fun at all.

Earlier I gave 'advice' on drug use, which was not inaccurate, but I sincerely hope is never of any use to you.


| Tuesday, March 15, 2011
So funny story, I misread and started off playing the third Stalker game, not the first. Apparently Call of Pripyat (the one I've been playing) is last, with Shadow of Chernobyl and Clear Sky being the first and second, respectively. That story wasn't very funny.

Anyway, I downloaded the first one and started it. So far my impression is that the UI is pretty bad*. Also the combat system is just plain stupid. If you aren't aiming at the target, you will, of course, miss. If you are aiming at the target, you might also miss. You know attack rolls? Yea, it does those. So not only do you need aim, you also need RNG blessing. It's like the worst possible mix of FPS and RPG. Normally iron sights are more accurate than shooting from the hip with a crosshair, unless the iron sights aren't giving you the pixel-precision you need to even have a chance of hitting the target.

[edit] Upon further research, this appear to be an issue in the prequel (Clear Sky), not SoC. It turns out my aiming problem in SoC was due to having really awful weapons, not a game mechanics problem.

Back on the subject of the UI: at vendors the items you have equipped are not separated out, so there's a chance that you'll literally sell the shirt off your back. The same when looting corpses. The world is dynamic, with an active AI, which sounds great, until this happens: You are sent to save a camp from bandits, which you do, killing all bandits in sight and getting the completion message, but on the way back to get your reward, a new pack of bandits show up and kill the camp. FAILED! Oh sure, it makes sense in a way, that you didn't quite save the camp, but you did what you were hired to do, save the camp, an action which I think we can separate from eternally guarding the camp.

But my real point was this: I started over again. After beating it. Yes, started playing a new game in Call of Pripyat after having beaten it maybe a day or two before. I missed a few things, such as the previously posted failed gassing of the bloodsuckers, but I missed something else: the gameplay. It was just plain fun. Going through the tunnel to Pripyat (strangely I never got a call, perhaps they're not being literal), even when I knew when I would be attacked, it still made me jump.

It wasn't all trivialized. Bullets were still bullets. Oh but yes, my gear was better. I mean, I had a better idea of where to get some decent weapons, so I wasn't trying to use an AK variant as a sniper rifle and I didn't waste all my weight carrying around sausages (noobs are pretty funny in their stupidity). Maybe that's part of what I liked: doing it better. I knew where I had set up barriers to my progress and I more quickly removed them.

That's a process that I enjoy: learning and putting it to use to do things better. Not memorization (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't learn some scripted events), but learning methods to make my virtual life easier and less fear-inducing. Things like knowing that I don't actually need that stupid box at the bottom of a giant hole filled with snorks, so I can wait until I have a badass exoskeleton and a slightly less awesome shotgun with a nice 10 shot magazine. Or simpler things like not carrying heavily damaged weapons because no one wants to buy them and repair can cost more than the value of the weapon.

Then there was that good old exploration thing. I missed a few holes. Turns out one of them had zombies, zombie rats, and the legendary Oasis which can cure all my ills! Also, a psychic dog that induces nightmares and hallucinations.

I cannot imagine ever leveling through a starter zone in WoW and immediately thinking, "hey, I should delete this guy and do that again!" Yet it another game that's pretty much what I did. It's strange. Can a MMO never match the gameplay of a single-player game? Certainly lag will cause some limits, but even beyond that, there seems to be something lacking. Story-telling? Certainly not graphics, which aren't bad, but when they're turned down for older hardware, lots of the spectacular lighting and weather effects are lost, so it's not blowing away WoW, which beside that has good bad graphics anyway. Maybe it's just the satisfying element of guns, and no corpse runs.

P.S. Buy Call of Pripyat, it's an awesome game. Buy Shadow of Chernobyl if for some reason you like horribly unpolished games. Oh, on that subject, I forgot to mention that sometimes the translation (it's originally Russian) is bad, as in, opposite, as in, it says the stuff is in the basement when there is no basement and it is in fact in the attic.

Not a quitting post

| Monday, March 14, 2011
I didn't quit WoW. I stopped playing, but I didn't quit. Today my sub runs out.

To me quitting is some active decision: "Today I am no longer player" or "When my sub expires I'm done." Quitting results in those long ranting posts about dumbing down and how EQ/AC/SWG/somegamethatcamebeforewow were so much better. I just stopped caring. My bubble burst. After a couple weeks I thought to unsubscribe. Since I'd switched to a three-month sub, this still left a month. I had previously quit, but even when I had only a week or two left I was still back before it ended. This time feels different. I'm not temporarily bored or frustrated, I just don't care. I briefly considered logging on to sort out my mailbox and send some stuff off to friends, but I didn't care enough. So what if I lose whatever materials are floating around? If I return it will probably be for another expansion, at which time those will all be worthless anyway. I'd rather have the empty bags and not waste my time now.

I guess this is a "I stopped caring and playing" post. That seems close enough to a quitting post that it would call for a long ranting list of why I'm not playing. But that seems like a waste of time. There's nothing that I haven't said before, over and over, until people are probably sick of hearing it. Reading it. Beside that, I don't think any specific change is truly the tipping point. Accumulated they may set up discontent, but something in the person's life or mind shifts and that is what actually triggers quitting.

I'm not quitting (sorry, not not quitting (not not not?)) to play another game. I did try Rift and it was fun, but it runs poorly, so I don't think it makes sense to drop $50 and a recurring sub for sub-20 FPS with graphics turned down so far that I might as well play Minecraft. Maybe when I get a new computer. Then again, I've been saying that for a couple years.

I'll keep blogging, but I fear that with not playing a current MMO and not playing current games, I'm going to sooner or later have nothing left to say. I'd use the word irrelevant, but that assumes relevance. It's a silly thing to be afraid of, but I actually fear that. I like this community of bloggers. You're great people, mostly. With no gaming input, what do I say? I still have plenty to say, but about gaming? Perhaps not much. I've never lurked or been a pure commenter. Day one I was making lame jokes and offering useless commentary, a fate which I never escaped, even if from what I can tell, a handful of much better and more popular bloggers pulled me from total obscurity. Not to leave anyone out, but Larisa, Tobold, and Rohan are pretty much the only reasons anyone knows my blog exists. So blame them. Fading away to nothingness just isn't a great way to go. Then again, neither is the bang that some choose with ragequites, deletions, or parting flame wars. Okay maybe that one last could be fun.

As I said, I won't just stop blogging immediately. This isn't my last post. I want to at least tie up loose ends. Maybe develop some coherent statements from this huge volume of inanity.

So uh, I guess that's that.

It's time to end all unions

| Saturday, March 12, 2011
And I mean all. Not just labor unions. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know that while only a bit under 12% of workers are unionized, nearly 100% of jobs are? It's true. There are some job unions of hundreds, even thousands, hundreds of thousands!

It's time to end this.

I propose that first, all labor unions be banned, and criminalized. Why should people get to 'collectively bargain', also known as exploit and extort? Similarly, I propose that all job unions be banned and criminalized. One man, one job.

If workers want to 'organize', they can do it on their own. Let market forces dictate their wages and conditions. Similarly, let no person, whether real or corporation, control more than one job, excluding one's own. In other words, anyone can hire one other person and no more than that. To do so would give them a disproportionate and anti-market influence over the job market. Instead, let the market dictate wages, conditions, and employment levels.

At first glance this would seem to go against the first amendment right to assemble. But that's only because of liberal activist judges. Obviously having been written during a time of industrial expansion "right to assemble" refers to the right to assemble products. Far from being a "go ahead" to anti-market unions, it is in fact a right-to-work clause.

Given this new understanding, we can see a clear path ahead. With assemble no longer referring to groups of people, the Wisconsin legislature can be eliminated entirely in favor of the will of the governor. That means unions can be crippled and protesters ignored, perhaps arrested. Of course this could cause problems for his benefactors, the Koch brothers, since they have done quite well with their own job unions, but I'm sure they can pay bail. Since the collapsed right to assemble contradicts the notion of a jury of peers, they can simply be charged a small fine annually for their persistent violation of anti-union laws. That fine can of course be deducted from energy subsidies, so they'll be alright.

My point is this: cooperation is socialism and we must work together to end it.

Ants cannot comprehend the horror which is a boot

| Friday, March 11, 2011
Deathwing is lame. Okay? He's lame. More specifically, his "I set the zone on fire" move is lame.

"Things are red. I guess I'm going to have to run to my body soon."

That's it. That is the entire event. Okay there are also the flames, which lose their effect when a mob wanders through one.

It is pretty impressive to fly over and set an entire zone on fire, instantly killing all the otherwise brave and powerful adventurers. But we're ants and he's a boot. We can't quite comprehend it.

Frankly I find it impersonal. Which yes, that makes sense from Deathwing's perspective, since we are ants after all. But maybe the devs could have done it differently.

How about have him personally torch a town and let some minions handle the rest of the zone, so we can all get personally clawed and burned?

One of my professors liked to say "everyone is the hero of their own story", his idea being that everyone thinks they have something worth saying, so it's good for morale to listen (it was a leadership class), but he clearly had not every played WoW. We're not really the heroes. Oh we get cursory applause, but ultimately we know we're just generic unnamed people who cannot even be personally slaughtered by the evil madness of the Black Dragonflight.

Oh God it's the stupid Whiny Post Day again (not today)

| Thursday, March 10, 2011
Didn't we just do one of these? Ugh. Awful annoying things. I can't stand them! And don't even get me started on...

Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Whiny Post Day! Mark your calenders! One week from today, that is to say, March 17th if you're using the same calender system as I am, or 40592 long 5923 short if you're using the Quebok calender. Look it up, not to be confused with Quebec, which is much different.


Note to self: It takes fewer representatives to take rights than to work on a budget

| Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I guess we should hurry up and fix the first amendment to read something like "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, so long as they do not expect to accomplish anything whatsoever by assembly or petition."

That sounds about right.

P.S. If you didn't read the link, the WI senate passed the parts that have nothing to do with the budget (which requires a smaller number of senators present), which most notably involved stripping the public unions of the ability to have any point in existing. Even the way they pass the bill contradicts their claim that it is about the budget. More on this on Saturday.

What is Exploration Anyway?

One of the recent comments to Tobold caught my eye: "I do not agree that wow is remotely "exploration-driven". It's linear, it's streamlined it's candy coated."

Is linear the opposite, or at least incompatible, with exploration? To determine this, we need to define exploration. First, what is the actual physical act, how does one explore? Second, what does it cause, rewards, sense of pride, Dora the Explorer title?

What are you doing?
Initial exploration is often non-linear. We don't know where we're going, so we hit dead ends and loops and in general we can't follow some optimized pattern. At least we couldn't until we started flying everywhere. So in this initial phase of exploration, it does seem incompatible with a linear design. If it were linear, then it would be pre-optimized, essentially giving us information about the path, and therefore reducing the amount to find.

But that initial wandering doesn't cover ever single little bit. There's still that one area that we didn't have time to get into, what with being filled with elites, so we'd want a solid bit of time for fighting or sneaking in. At this point it may be semi-linear. We know approximately where we want to go, but we have to decide how we will get there. For example, before the Shattering, Grim Batol wasn't open yet, not even all the gates, but a player could run quite a ways up toward the entrance, dodging dragons along the way. It was literally linear (okay literally slightly curved, but alliteration is more fun). And yet it was also exploration.

What's in it for Me?
Ah that old problem of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. We meet again!

Exploration isn't purely intrinsically rewarding. My proof? Minecraft. It has a whole lot to find, to discover, to dig into and extract, and explore. But it's a terrible place for exploration. Why? It's meaningless. Exploration isn't the simple process of seeing something that you haven't seen before. It has to have some sort of meaning. Finding history, treasure, something. It may not be profitable in the strictest sense, but it has to be something. The next hill over, or the next half-dozen digs through a dozen blocks, will certainly be profitable, but they will be meaningless.

This is the strange strength of WoW has an exploration game. While it sticks us on rails and make everything inevitable, thereby discouraging the process, it also has something at every end of the path. There are no random areas of nothing. It is all crafted, created, meaningful. Oh of course there are little bits of nothing here and there, but the world overall has a whole lot in it.

But I suppose I just evaded the question. Is history an external reward? I'd say so. But I think we can differentiate between learning something and getting something. A scholarshop vs. a winning lotto ticket.

I wonder how much I have contradicted myself in that post. Hey, a challenge for you all. Have fun.

There will be no difficulty slider as long as...

| Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I'm not a very good gamer. There, I said it. I get disoriented easily. I get jumpy, trigger-happy, and my aim goes to shit. Alternatively, I am overly cautious, a sensible habit given my inability to walk into a crowd of enemies and score a dozen headshots in a second. But then if there is a timer of any sort, oh then that's trouble indeed.

I'm the reason games have difficulty sliders.

Why do online games so rarely have difficulty sliders?

There's an obvious case for not having them in PvP: that is, that they make it unbalanced. Skill falls out. That wouldn't be very good at all. It's the same as why no one likes playing against cheaters. Uh... pay no attention to the gear behind the curtain.

But why not raids? If I can't kill Lich King on normal, why not have an option to dial back the growth rate of defile? Lower the health or speed of valkyr? Why not?

Difficulty is only half the story

| Monday, March 7, 2011
Tobold asks if Rift proves that Cataclysm is too hard? He eventually comes to this claim: "Most players prefer a game in which they don't have to constantly justify their performance."

That sounds about right. I'd even go so far as to say that most players prefer a game in which they never have to justify their performance. Please don't take this as a "they have lives" argument, but when people have serious jobs full of their own challenges, family and social arenas to navigate, and at this moment, a whole lot of economic uncertainty, who the fuck wants a 'challenge' when they start a game?

Challenge is great and all, but when there's too much of it (a subjective measure) and when it's "not my job", it morphs into frustration. Top it off with an obnoxiously realistic preparation cost, gems, enchants, glyphs, pre-learning fights, and the raiding game in WoW could very quickly resemble a job, except unpaid and without even being able to pretend to contribute to society. Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with raiding, just that it's not a productive activity. Again: recreation is fine, good in fact, essential, but it is not and should not take on too much similarity to work.

But I don't think this is the entire situation. There is another aspect: consistency. Historically, WoW has been on a trend of anonymity and speed, even before LK, though that is when it mushroomed into the awful pile of awful that it is now (I mean the trend, not WoW; I'm not going to be a WoW-basher just because I left). Leveling got faster, grouping got faster, gear got faster, everything got faster, we overgeared faster, we zerged and rushed and zergrushed and merged adjectives into nouns into verbs with some adverbs generously scattered on top to complete the recipe, as if we were making German words.

Raiding went in the exact opposite direction. Fights became more complex. Smaller raids gave less room for error, and for carrying lower-performing players. We went from basic concepts like "stand here and kill that, but watch your aggro, run away if you're the bomb" to "kill the boss but when the slimes come you switch to them and you have to stay close to them unless it's the orange and it's chasing you, then you need to stay away from it, and now that you're back on the boss you need to watch out for the ooze puddles and also there are the orange vials that you cannot stand in, and now we're going to be in phase three where you're moving constantly so I hope you don't have a predisposition toward muscle craps because you're going to be twisting your hand a bit to keep up your rotation since this is a burn phase but keep moving and if you stand i the orange stuff we wipe because that will wreck your DPS and fucking fuck you god damn noob you killed us how hard is it to keep track of A, B, C, D, E, and F while also maintaining your rotation?"

And then we go back to dailies, facerolling a half-dozen mobs at once while we contemplate our next angry forum post about how X fight is too lag-dependent and how my class is so underpowered.

WoW used to be harder or less convenient and fast or some mix of the three. I'm not saying leveling wasn't always easy. It was. That was one of the selling points. But your average world elite wasn't a total joke. Your average instance wasn't going to be rolled over in your sleep. I'm not suggesting it was "hard", if theoretically there was an objective, quantifiable measure of it, but that the average play experience was a little bit more normalized. We waited around more, so when we found ourselves waiting around, that was normal, as opposed to an outrageous outrage. We wiped, so when it happened, well that's what happens.

WoW used to be more consistent. The loss of consistency, I believe, is part of what made hard heroics so undesirable, even if they aren't all that much harder than past hard 5-mans.

Dear Bloggers with Captchas

| Saturday, March 5, 2011
Please have the captcha in the same form as the comment, so that when I write a comment I can also see that I have a captcha to do along with it. Otherwise I often assume there isn't one, hit post, and come back hours later to see what happened since then, only to find a captcha request.


The Liberal Left-Wing Media Fundraising Hypocrisy Conspiracy Plot

The other day I was doing my usual viewing of The Rachel Maddow Show as part of my intelligence-gathering operation. She is the definitive source on liberal lesbian leftist plots, what with being a liberal lesbian leftist plotter. As is typical, she ended her show with an outrageous attack on the patriot Newt Gingrich, suggesting that he never actually runs for anything to avoid campaign fund-raising laws. I say outrageous because what she considers a bad thing is actually a principled stand against government interference in elections for public office.

Absurd, right? Well of course, she is after all, a liberal lesbian leftist plotter, out to destroy the American Way. Earlier in the show she even tried to pretend that the American Way includes taxing the wealthy by using 'math' to show that 81% of Americans are in favor of taxing millionaires. Of course in her absurd misuse of statistics she leaves out the fact that the 19% of people polled were possibly millionaires and failed to proportionally increase the weight of their opinions. Hasn't she ever heard of voting with your wallet?

But hypocrisy is in the title and hypocrisy I must show you: commenting on the mugs they have at the show, the apparently perfectly normal mugs exept for the liberal branding, quote: "we should sell them." Now who's ripping off mindless followers for blatant financial gain while pretending to be political? Rachel Maddow: hypocrite. Also Newsweek reports that she has "17 mostly female staffers", which in context means that most of the 17 are female, not that there are staffers who are best described as "mostly female". My point is that that is rather suspicious.

The Omniscient AI

| Friday, March 4, 2011
I don't like it when the AI knows everything, especially when that everything includes my exact location.

WoW has perhaps the most extreme example of this, with mobs able to know your exact location, no matter how many corners you go around, no matter how far you run, up until the leash distance at which point that run very very fast back to exactly where they started, regardless of how far or how confusing the route they took. Just to top it off, some don't even care about vanish, such as many undead, and more than a few bosses. Or that's just the perpetual AoE which seems to exist for the sole purpose of unifying two groups who would otherwise share nothing: healers and rogues.

Oblivion takes a more moderate route. If you're sneaky enough, enemies will have an idea that you're out there and possibly have the general area, but won't perfectly zoom in. There are, of course, exceptions. And by exceptions I mean every single pet/companion in the game, whether always there or summoned, which will make a beeline for the player, no matter how well hidden. Oh, and often times the summoning NPC will still be entirely clueless.

Stalker NPCs are not so informed, but much smarter. They don't know exactly where you are, but they will be able to figure out your general location, which is when cover becomes important. Then they start searching. They don't take a straight route. They might take different routes, making groups dangerous not just for their higher total health and damage output, but for their ability to attack from two directions. But in keeping with their ignorance, missed bullets, even without a silencer, cause no reaction at all. Maybe they think they are heroes in action movies who can never be hit by bullets, and so if they are flying past, it only confirms their theory.

I'm probably being too hard on WoW. It does seem harder to make an AI not know everything. It's simply a lot easier, and less error-prone, to allow a NPC to know your location than give it the intelligence to guess. Come to think of it, as far as I can recall, except for specific stealth/invisibility mechanics, it's only recently that I've run into many games with ignorant-but-smart AI. Though that comes with two qualifiers: my idea of recent is the past 5 years or so and I was in the gaming closet for a long time, meaning that I had a pretty small library until the past few years.

In an old classic, Escape Velocity, the ship AI not only followed your exact location, it would aim by this method, which unless it was using a beam attack, almost guaranteed a miss. On a side note, ship turning was almost perfectly linked to the graphics (technically no, but let's pretend), which were based on square grids of the ships pointing in the different directions, given a typical grid of 6x6 or 8x8, there were quite a lot of desired firing angles which were impossible. On the other hand there was Starcraft with it's ignorant-but-stupid AI which seemed to love nothing more than chasing lone, fast enemies into fun places like siege tank emplacements or fields of lurkers. Clear foreshadowing for the eventual development of World of Warcraft and tanks dragging mobs into a bunch of AoE-happy mages. And a decent bit of countering evidence for my theory that ignorant-but-smart AIs are a newish development. Still, they do seem to have spread. A welcome change. I definitely prefer an AI that has to figure things out. It's so hard to trick God.

I'm doing it wrong

I miss WoW. But I refuse to go back to it. The reason is that I can't play it correctly, by which I mean in whatever way is the most fun for me.

I would love to go back to explore a bit, run an instance here and there, maybe do a raid or two. But I've learned my lesson. I can't do that. I've tried. It doesn't work. I can't not get sucked into the rep grinds and loot grinds and the horrible spot between caring about my gems and not caring enough to fix them. I know it wouldn't be long before I'd be pissed off at some utterly insignificant shit like someone playing marginally less than ideally and oh my god how can he be so stupid!? I hate those people. Not the bad player. He's irritating, but it is just a game after all. No, it's the elitist raging douchebags that piss me off the most. The preachy "you're doing it wrong" ones.

But really, I would be doing it wrong. I'd want to raid, despite knowing that I no longer have the patience required. Maybe LK spoiled me, maybe raiding just doesn't do it for me anymore, maybe I stopped believing so much in the importance of repetitive failure for virtual rewards which serve only to trivialize the next round of repetitive failure. I'd want to PvP, despite knowing that I despise the gear grind, and it makes me swear an unusually high amount, an amount which ironically, makes me angry.

I know I'd sooner or later find myself sitting, staring at a Wildhammer dwarf, wondering if I really want to do the daily, but knowing for certain that I definitely do not want to do Theramore dailies, because for no apparent reason I don't like Deepholme much. So I stare, as if to ask him, "Why don't you just get the gnomes to nuke the Wildhammer base? It's right there? And for the love of god, if you didn't drink so much you'd be sober enough to get your own damn kegs!" Asking a dwarf to drink less. The utter futility is symbolic.

There is some ideal amount of time to play. I'm not good at that. It's stupid. But even stupider is failing to recognize and compensate for that. This is something I've learned, to recognize the selectively stupid aspects of myself or others and compensate. Too many people stop at the "you're stupid" part, failing to move ahead to the part where they figure out a fix or a second-best. For example, I am terrible at doing work at this computer. It has all the required software and hardware, but my mind considers it a gaming device. If I want to do work, I acknowledge this problem and go to a different computer. As stupid as stupid is, it would be more stupid to not practically deal with stupid.

As of yet I have found no good fix for my inability to write good closing paragraphs. My attempts at writing forever have not worked, resulting instead in long, tangent-strewn posts, which ultimately reach some sort of ill-conceived end.

So let's pretend this is a bad movie and at this point The Gods of Blogging intervene to save me.

End scene.

A small STALKER problem

| Thursday, March 3, 2011
The game likes to clean up the world at some times, I think during zone changes or some travel. By clean up I mean remove corpses and dropped items, basically anything that isn't in a box or inventory. Well, I need the canister of poison gas from the locked box in the car on the ruined bridge between the ranger station and the waste treatment plant. Slight problem: I found it long before I needed it, thanks to my tendency to explore, but I lacked the capacity to carry it (I needed space for my worthless broken weapons), so I dropped it. Somehow I didn't get around to going back for it until the world had been wiped a few times.

At this point I only see a few options.

I could use the console to spawn it, but none of the commands I've found seem to work.

I could edit the inventory of traders to cause them to sell it. This I don't know how to do, but of course with what I could scrape together from searching, I did managed to make the game crash on startup. Fortunately I had the good sense to have a backup copy of the file I changed. I'm not even sure it was the right one.

I could edit a save file, but they are a completely unintelligible mess that no one seems to know how to work with.

The second option has the added problem that of the advice I've found, it all seems geared toward people who install it normally, rather than it being from Steam, which seems to alter the file structure slightly, and maybe more than that, making it much harder to find what I need.

It's a long shot, but if anyone has any suggestions, beside skipping the mission, I'd be very grateful.

Stalking outside, inside, and in a frighteningly worldly world

I have a minor habit of buying games during Steam sales in anticipation of when I get a new computer that can run them. Then I noticed that surprisingly, Stalker (I am not going to bother with all caps and periods, they irritate me), runs on my computer. And pretty well. Settings are turned down of course, but it still looks good.

I only started recently, but already I am very jumpy and frightened. I learned to get inside by 1800 and not come out until at least 4, when the sun starts coming up. After a brief foray into a giant hole in the group to get a box, I actually had to load a save from before I jumped in, because I was too damn jumpy to keep going further through the narrow, narrow caves filled with the not-especially-deadly but startling snorks. What is a snork? It's a Russian soldier in a gas mask who was driven insane by a massive dose of radiation and who now enjoys hiding in holes and jumping out at me. At least they're not invisible and able to sneak up literally unseen and grab my head and drain all my blood, killing me while I struggle helplessly like the aptly-named bloodsucker can.


Earlier I talked about how Oblivion handles location, using teleports to discovered map areas, but within dungeons being essentially trapped, with limited bag space, consumables, and even item durability. Stalker follows this in a similar fashion, with the closest thing to teleports being the ability to hire a fellow Stalker to guide you to a location, without needing discovery, and getting you there with no running needed, though I haven't checked on whether time passes.

The world itself is 'bigger' than Oblivion, not due to land area (I think they're on the same scale of magnitude, but Oblivion is slighter larger), but because of non-instant travel and non-trivial travel. You can't sprint the whole way, needing rest, especially with over-full bags, and there are scattered packs of mutated dogs, pigs, and fully human but still not very nice hostile bandits. This leads to a strange behavior: planning. I fix up my bags as best I can, I check the clock, and then I pick a route, making my way along and watching carefully for enemies. Even at the lowest difficulty running into a few bad guys with guns will lead to a quick death.

To add to it, there is a tactical level to exploration: nearly invisible 'anomalies' which in short form: are small spots which can kill or injure you if you get too close. These are a minefield to navigate even once you reach a general location. They are usually fixed/move in a set pattern, but emissions can change their location, so good luck looking up a map online! Oh emissions? Those are the infrequent events which very quickly kill you if you are outside, with some warning, but not enough that you can loiter. This makes location pretty important, with some profitable areas being far away from decent shelter, you're going to have to keep your bags light to be able to run fast enough.

As with some many other things I like, I'm not sure this would work well in WoW. With the high value placed on goals, whether xp, loot, or reputation, anything which gets in the way, however interesting it is, will inevitably be perceived as irritation rather than challenge or immersion. I like a bit of "oh shit oh shit oh shit run run run shit shit shit run" when the world is meant to be explored rather than looted, but I don't think I'd like my random heroics or dailies being interrupted by the equivalent of random Sapphiron ice block-style mechanics. After all, those aren't meant to be fun an exciting; they're meant to give sweet epics. Alas, I am again left to sadly suggest that a loot-oriented game must sacrifice fun and immersion if they conflict, or even appear to conflict, with the acquisition of more loot.

P.S. The misuse of worldly is intentional.

Why did WoW PvP make me swear so much?

| Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I really can't explain it. In PvE I would of course swear constantly, but it was of a frustrated muttering sort. I would get annoyed but rarely truly angry. Somehow PvP always made me mad. Well, unless I won, then it was nice, but even then I'd find something to swear about.

I can't say it's the PvP aspect, since TF2 doesn't make me swear quite so much. Or when I'd play Mt:G against friends, almost no swearing at all.

I can't blame it on people being stupid either, since a stupid PUG can be just as stupid and probably more of a waste of time; at least when BG dummies zerg the farm-BS bridge I can get honor.

Based on analysis of my profanity, finding patterns in it, I can only conclude that most PvP is, quote, "fucking bullshit I mean what the fuck is this shit?" Let's break that down: I claim that it is fucking bullshit but then I question what the shit is. This leads me to conclude that I actually understand PvP perfectly and have nearly unlimited potential in it, but that some sort of mental barrier is holding me back and I am expressing frustration at this limit.

There are only two possible explanations.
1) The CIA knew that I would be dangerously dominant in PvP and used advanced brainwashing techniques to block my skills, but then to cover it up made me a softy leftist liberal, which also provides a convenient cover for them to kidnap and kill me.
2) I'm actually just really bad at PvP.

Obviously the second one is a useless oversimplification, leading to the only logical explanation: I am a chained PvP god.

P.S. Burn this post after reading it and oh my god they're right behind you.

Woo, Stupid Fight!

| Tuesday, March 1, 2011
As we all know, Tamarind is really dumb, so dumb in fact, that he pretends to be two people one of whom sounds like a girl but claims to not be, leading me to conclude that Tamarind/Chastity is in fact a hermaphrodite with dissociative personality disorder. But that's beside the point.

Adam, you don't expect to call someone out and not see your own post picked apart, do you? Of course not, that would be stupid, and as one of Gevlon's acolytes you cannot possibly be stupid.

Let's begin.

"I was a bit upset when Righteous Orbs shut up shop a while back. I mean, who would I be able to make fun of now?"

I'm always available.

"But then I remembered Tobold was still around, so I felt better."

Can't argue with this: those Europeans are just so ridiculous.

"that elicited his legion of delirious followers to dance around clapping their hands with joy and begging him to come back and start writing wall of texts again, which is funny as he is already doing that"

Hey that's cool, there's nothing wrong with blanket attacks on people for enjoying certain bloggers. Ten points if you can spot my hypocrisy here. Also, the sentiment would be better expressed as "continue to write walls of texts", since yes, obviously he just wrote one.

"His post consists of thousands of words of random thoughts and ideas that seem to follow the theme that bullying is bad but bigger bloggers are no different to smaller bloggers because they have no control over the actions of their dedicated frothing at the mouth readership, which then finishes with a nice summing up announcing that if you can’t take the heat then don’t step into the ring."

Randomly following a theme?

"He also slipped a bit in there calling out people who need to learn to write, not necessarily learn to read, which is supremely disingenuous when you consider his and Chastity’s own epic failure of learning to read on this very blog a little while ago."

Or perhaps in following his argument, you failed epically at learning to write. We've got something of an argument clinic scenario going on here, which should be, but is not, anything more than simple contradiction.

"I’ve always found it very strange, this soul searching hand wringing with regards to bullying when taken with some of the measures that Tam and Chastity take to get their own point across. Can you have a lofty moral ground and still think that the ends justify the means? They seem to think so. Particularly as the two of them always had a smug little conceit to hide behind, in that they are supposedly two separate writers who sometimes have wildly different viewpoints and approaches that happen to write on the same blog. Which means that they can play good cop/bad cop and then innocently claim that the others viewpoint is not their own when called out on it."

Yes you can, in fact it's often an excessive sense of moral high ground, or any other sort of superiority, which drives "ends justify the means" behavior.
Supposedly? Oh come on, now you're just making up paranoid shit. Is it so hard to believe that two bloggers might share a space, even if they disagree? To follow this conspiracy all the way, it would mean that TamaChas ran two blogs for a while, then staged a merger as cover for his duel* personalities.

"who really is going to go back and check if this is true or not?"

I suppose if people are too lazy to be informed that is his fault.
But for the record: Publicity, Responsibility and Petitio Principii – Chas’ Take on Frostgate
But it's an easy mistake to make, after all, my response post included the phrase "Tamarind, this was stupid and you know it."

"'It was a frivolous aside – I just thought it was a funny comment.'

Now that’s what I call standing behind what you write."

I agree, people should defend jokes to their deaths.

Let's go out on a low note.
The part that is weird is the subject pronoun he uses for Chastity. Because I was under the distinct impression that Tam had publicly stated that Chastity was a girl. There are only three possible explanations that can work here:

1. Tam is deliberately mixing up the pronouns so we are never sure what we are dealing with. It’s a tactic designed to keep people off balance and afraid of making a mistake.

2. Chastity is in fact a boy and I am mistaken.

3. Tam forgot that Chastity is supposed to be a girl because Chastity is in fact an imaginary person that Tam has made up so he can revert to being a frothing at the mouth maniac in public whenever it suits him.

I wonder which one it is.

It's number 2. But on the plus side, this does add some evidence to your "learn to read" side of the argument. So you win! By losing. Might I suggest shorting yourself?

*not a typo
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