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Tourist

June 25, 2013

Whoa!  I haven’t written on this thing since December?  Crazy.  That can’t be right.

 

In my defense, this is the first extended time off I’ve had since October.  I love working from home but sometimes it’s hard to get away from it.

I’m in Colorado at the moment, on vacation.  The air is dry so I don’t sweat barely at all, even with the temp in the 90s.  And today I was on Pike’s Peak…42 degrees at the summit.  It was quite refreshing.

I’ve seen only one marijuana dispensary.  Figured they’d be like, every 50 feet.

This vacation coincides with me getting a smartphone, so I finally have a camera.  Not sure if that’s good or bad.  It seems like the excessive need for people to document everything really detracts from their enjoyment.  When I was standing up there on the mountain taking it all in (seriously, it’s amazing…you can see part of Kansas) everyone else was busy trying to take the perfect picture, families were barking at each other to frame shots and people were just generally fretting over whatever the “most interesting” or “best” view was.

Whoo…I’m exhausted.  Time for sleep.

Space Butts

December 18, 2012

I don’t even wanna sleep.  But I don’t wanna be a zombie tomorrow either.  Dr. Phil is on the TV telling me how not to talk to children about the Connecticut shooting.  Thinking about that shit makes me want to sleep even less.

 

I subbed for another month of SWTOR now that they supposedly fixed it and added some value to it for subscribers, and added a free to play option.

But man, is it crappy.  And I finally figured out why it bugs me so much.

Simply, it has the worst, most brazen implementation of MMO tropes.  Every time a new MMO or expansion to an existing MMO comes out, there’s got to be some reason to make you do repetitive tasks.  When the Lich King expansion for wow came out, my raider badass warrior went to Northrend but he wasn’t awesome enough to go kill the big baddie yet.

So after all his accomplishments, he goes to this starter zone where some random person says, go collect eight bear butts for me and you’ll become more awesome.  I have these new pants for you.  Yes, they’re better than what you were wearing when you banished the super powerful demon lord back to the nether.  Oh, they were just laying around.

MMOs (arguably) have to do this because they need to give people goals to keep them playing.  They have to make you put in some time and work before the newest bestest hurdle, and along the way they need you to experience many many short feedback loops of reward.  And to WoW’s credit, they disguise this progression very well, and when things do devolve into “collect x number of widgets and kill y generic monsters” they at least pace it well and dress it up well.  The process of becoming more powerful is fun, pretty much no matter how you do it.

This steady progression is the core of any massively multiplayer game that rewards you for time spent.  In SWTOR it is an absolute drag.  It has throwbacks to the KOTOR games in its main storyline, but in order to progress through it, you have to slog through a TON of the “collect eight generic objects that are totally super important now, and kill 12 generic space bad guys.”  Imagine KOTOR, a ~25 hour game, broken up by about 40 extra hours of that crap.  The fact that every inane, repetitive quest is voice acted starts to feel ridiculous.  I want varied writing.  I want my player character to have a personality.  I want interesting characters and story threads.  They gave all that up to get a bunch of pointless voice acting.  Which was more important?  This is supposedly KOTOR 3-9 right?  Every gaming hobbyist understands that the things that cost a bunch money are not necessarily the things that add a lot of value to a game.  That seems pretty basic, but good luck convincing a giant publisher of that fact.  I guess when you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.

And while you are doing these quests, stuff constantly respawns, it’s packed very densely, a lot of it is unskippable (getting hit while mounted almost always knocks you off your mount), and you don’t get a great deal of experience for killing random trash.

The world in SWTOR is pretty large and broken up into chunks by planet.  There’s normal areas for questing and non-instanced heroic areas for groups, which is pretty nice.  But the art style is not very Star Warsy.  Everything seems barren, and it has this sheen to it, like I’m playing a tech demo in some modern version of the quake 3 engine.  With better technology comes higher expectations, and they just didn’t put a lot of money into making it a great world to look at.  WoW is a crappy looking game by current standards, but they still make things look interesting.  Also, zones are very distinct and easy to get around in.

The combat is really similar to wow, a mix of spammable abilities, abilities with cooldowns, crowd control abilities, varying resources, and it seems like it *should* be fun, especially in groups.  Fights seem to take a while though, which makes the general MMO grind seem even worse.  When things are quick, fun, and rewarding, people don’t mind doing them repeatedly.  But especially when soloing, when everything is together in little packs with one strong bad guy and two or three weak ones, your skill with your character doesn’t really come into play.  One of the hidden joys of any good MMO is becoming very skilled with a character, and starting over with another one, equipped with everything you’ve learned.  There’s not much of that here.  Just fight after fight with static packs of bad guys that get their hits in no matter what precautions you take, meaning you have to stop after every fight or every few fights to recover.  Which wouldn’t be a huge deal, except you have to do probably thousands of these little fights.

That might be it in a nutshell.  They’ve chosen to go with the frustrating MMO grind, punctuated by a good helping of mandatory stopping, instead of high mobility, high skill, fun things that you want to do over and over again.

 
And just to be clear, I make all these comparisons to wow because that’s what they were going for: a wow clone.  But it seems like they went for a 2005 wow clone, instead of a 2011 wow clone.  MMOs have changed since then.  As much as wow changed things when it came out, it has changed itself constantly, and changed the landscape with it.  And it’s not the only game to take lessons from.  In Guild Wars 2 there’s TONS of stuff to do.  It’s a $50 or $60 game with no subscription fee so there’s no compulsion to play it for a zillion hours a month, but when you do log on there’s people in all parts of the world, exploring and doing dungeons, because there’s rewards for exploring, there’s jumping puzzles, there’s random world events everywhere, you get downleveled so you can’t steamroll everything, but your gear still helps quite a bit and you have all your abilities, so you still get to be your badass self.

I’m just saying, there’s more niches than trying to be the new wow.  There’s already a new wow, it’s called wow, and even though I don’t play anymore, it’s probably going to be around a long time.  SWTOR just stinks of being some heartless cash grab, done by talented game designers and artists who were exploited by others who don’t play games and don’t care about them, except for the fact that they’re a tool to generate revenue.  So they said, let’s make our game exactly like the most popular game out there, and get a piece of that pie.  But they lacked vision, and it shows.

So anyways, I tried it for a few days as a subscriber and I already have buyer’s remorse.  You will find tons of arguments about the free-to-play model that they’ve implemented and whether it’s worth playing or whatever, but the bigger issue is, it’s just not a fun enough game to play, let alone justify a subscription fee.  And, which is worse for me, I love the KOTOR franchise so much that it pains me to keep coming back to this game hoping it will get better.

My two cents: the ONLY free-to-play model that will work is one that gives you the whole entire game before max level, with no restrictions, and the subscription/optional store purchases will be for removing the timesinks.  pay three bucks a month to gain triple experience.  pay two bucks a month for extra health regen, two bucks for 30 days of extra damage so you can get to max level quick and either start subscribing and do competitive endgame, or make a new character and keep buying the practically mandatory powerups.  Wow succeeded because it was fun enough that people would play the same few characters and fight the same few bosses for months and years.  Levelling was fun enough that people would delete characters just to level them again.

If they are gonna give me this SWTOR MMO instead of the sequel I wanted, they could at least make it fun above all.  At this point, what do they have to lose?

Even better

December 16, 2012

Or instead of words, how about this:

The galactic core.

Zoom in.  One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  He made that!

He loves us!

Gone

December 16, 2012

When I was younger I would watch the news and not really feel anything when there was a tragic story being covered.  One of the first big media frenzies I remember was the Waco siege, in ’93, I was 7 at the time.  It was an awful thing.  It ended pretty much as badly as possible.  But I still watched it only with curiosity, like it was a TV series or something.  I was convinced there was something wrong with me, or maybe something I needed to grow out of.

Mass murder of children is hard to even comprehend.  I don’t know, maybe that was the problem when I was little–I wanted to understand. Why did those people have so many weapons?  Why did they think they needed them?  Why did the government surround them?  Are they prisoners?  What happens to people after they die?

Yesterday was pretty much the same, only I had different questions.  What good are we?  Really.  All of our attempts at love and good deeds, all our striving, and we can’t take away someone else’s pain, no matter how much we want to.  What good are we?  Why are we so small?  Why are we so weak?  Why are we so full violent and cruel and selfish?  Does God really allow such intolerable things to happen?

And it’s a fair question, how can you believe in God when grown men are shooting children?

Usually when people ask why I believe that Jesus is God’s son, I say, because it’s true.  It’s apparent that it’s true, based on things that we can see and learn.  It’s a fact like any other.  The sky is blue, Jesus is alive.  But that can only lead us to him.  Next is an invitation to know him, and a command to follow him.

You know that man who killed 20 children and eight adults?  Jesus loves him with a perfect, true love, that will never end.  He loves that man so much, he was willing to be punished for those murders.  Imagine such a thing.  Perfect justice, God’s wrath poured out–on his son, to save a murderer.

He loves us all this way, individually.  Jesus died for a hateful, selfish, lustful, cruel, cowardly liar–me.  He did the same for us all.

 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10

 

Tragedy can’t even diminish his love.  It drives away fear, it banishes guilt.  His love is so powerful that we get to say, death has no power!  Those children that died yesterday, they’re alive!
We can’t blame him for what happened.  One man killed 28 others, and himself.  That’s how humans treat one another.  We’ve proven it time and again.  If you go looking for justice there, you won’t find it.

He is my hope today, more than ever.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” -Revelation 22:17

Eerie

August 28, 2012

This free time is crazy.  I’ve been called a cat on a hot tin roof these last few days.  I can’t stop getting up before 6 AM.  The sun’s peeking through the window and I’m watching Rachael Ray on CBS’s morning show.

 

I got a call from a company that needs on-site technicians.  They said it would be up to 75% travel.  I really wanna travel on my own terms though.  They’d send me to everywhere and nowhere inparticular, when there’s only a few places I wanna go, then come back home.

I mean, at least this company would pay my expenses and I’d get a stipend for food and such.  That was such a pain at my last traveling job, having to fight for every cent.

Before starting a new job I gotta learn to relax though.  I’m always worrying, even though I’ve got barely anything to worry about.  I should just swim and go to Buffalo Wild Wings and play videogames and take naps.  It’s weird, but that’s just not me right now.

 

I watched this really shitty movie last night that had George Clooney as a guy who travels around firing people for a living.  It was bull because no one in the world who gets a decent severance package would actually do anything crazy like in the movie.  Plus it would be a fairly easy job.  “Hey, your company is firing you anyways, they brought us in as a courtesy to help you find something new, and by the way, here’s your 6 months or a year of severance.”

I mean I can’t relax right now, but I’m not freaking out.  I’m not angry at my employer. It was a good time in my life, they employed me for a few years and I learned a lot and enjoyed it.  The most important thing is, I left there in a better position than when I came in.  And if I got a job then, why not now?  And that was 2010 after the economy bottomed out.  Now companies are sitting on huge piles of cash, waiting until after the election year to snatch people up like hotcakes.

So, I guess I can see the light on the other side.  I hope everything works out.

Eet mor Chikin…or don’t, I don’t care

July 31, 2012

Hopefully I’ve made clear in this blog that I’m all for allowing gay marriage.  I take America’s spirit and political philosophy very seriously.  I think it coincides quite well with God’s plan for human beings.  We are free to do as we wish, and God will deal with us individually, as we were made by him and he places a high value on us.

It is the place of a government to protect the rights of people, all the way up to the point where they use their freedom to limit the rights of others.  It really is that simple.  How we choose to use that freedom is up to us.  We can do awful things, we can waste our life, we can choose to believe different things.

To that end, I’m going to eat the exact same amount of Chik-Fil-A that I always have.  (which is not that much…their sandwiches are fairly expensive)

I really just don’t understand the controversy surrounding this whole thing.  The owner of Chik-fil-A wasn’t preaching hate, he wasn’t singling out homosexuals (he’s also against no-fault divorce), he was consistent, and his business has never discriminated.  If a gay person walks in to a Chik-Fil-A and asks for a chicken sandwich, they’ll sell him one.  To do otherwise would be hateful, it would be un-Christ-like, and it would be bad business.  All the guy said was, he supports the traditional model of the family.  He didn’t ask anyone to agree with him, he didn’t try to make it an us-vs.-them sort of thing, he just stated his opinion when asked.

And you know I realize they did use some of their profits to fund anti-gay (or as they say, pro-family) groups, and if an individual or private group wants to boycott them based on that, then that’s absolutely fine, and I heartily encourage that.  You go down the line though, and it’s the exact same issue…the groups they donate to aren’t violent or hateful, they just have an opinion that many (myself included) disagree with.  They can try to influence the political process, just like we can, but they can’t actually keep gays from getting married any more than we can keep them from selling chicken in Chicago.

I like the fact that public servants are starting to understand, in the instance of gay marriage, that people ought to be free to do as they like.  But this shows that they are doing it for all the wrong reasons.  They aren’t doing it to uphold the rights of people that have been held down and denied.  They aren’t doing it because it’s the right thing.  They’re doing it because this is their pet cause right now.  Gay people have the right to get a marriage license, but sheesh, the owner of Chik-Fil-A certainly has a right to not like it.  You can’t force people to have a particular ideology; to even try to, even with the mildest coercion, is monstrous.

If a person claims to champion civil rights, it doesn’t make any sense for them to support the government-sponsored exile of a private business.  The mayor of Boston wrote this disgusting letter that basically amounts to “This is the Boston Freedom Trail…where you are free to believe what we tell you, or else.”

Sense

July 22, 2012

There’s an interesting scene in Jesus’ life where he was asked about some Galilean rebels who were killed by the Romans.  I guess they were probing for a particular answer–namely, they wanted Jesus to say that they were killed as punishment for their behavior.  It’s the same deal when we hear about someone dying in a car crash and we ask, ‘were they wearing seatbelts?’

Such a thing is human nature.  When confronted with a fate we are afraid of, we want an assurance that it will never happen to us.  We want Jesus to say, “oh they died because they were the biggest jerks in the world.” or “they died because they made this or that mistake, or failed to take this or that precaution.”  But instead he says, “they were normal in every way.  They were no worse than the rest of you.  What happened to them, could happen to you at any time, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  So repent and be forgiven, or it will be the end of you.”

And you know, it’s true.  No one lives forever.  Even if we happen to avoid car crashes and cancer and war, we all get old and die.  We want control, but we’ll never have it.  We want balance, but it doesn’t exist in this world.  If there is an uniquely appalling crime, we want it to be committed by a unique criminal but it doesn’t always happen that way.  An otherwise unremarkable 24 year old man can murder 14 people.  That is the world we live in.

Jesus wants us to confront this reality so we can make the right decision.  Ironically, this is what I would show those Westboro guys if I ever met them.  When Jesus calls for repentance, he does it plainly and with great love, and offers forgiveness for anyone who wants it.

Just so we are clear: this is Jesus speaking.  It’s not one man’s opinion on the matter.  This is the master of the universe.  We want assurances in this world–assurances that everything will be perfect, that as long as we do x and y then bad things won’t happen, assurances that we won’t sit down to a movie and get killed by a crazy man with a shotgun.  This is the ruler of all creation, the one being in the universe who could give such assurances to us.  And he refuses.

People talk about the attributes of God as if they are opposed, but they’re not.  God is love and God is just.  He is both of those things.  His plan for the world has been the same from the very beginning.  Old Testament God is the same God that sent Jesus to be a sacrifice for us, the same God that is slow to anger and delights in showing mercy and giving us good things.

And here he is in the flesh, telling us that bad things may happen to us, and that we need to come back to him.  He is telling us that nothing is certain in life, except the promises God has made.  He loves us!  He wants us to know him, and knowing him is so important and so wonderful that it’s worth giving up our illusions of safety and our striving for wealth and comfort.

It’s worth living in a world where we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.