Don't Doctor your Data

That's an adage given to me by my excellent high school physics teacher, Mr. Bradford. It is highly relevant to a recent study concerning Linux and Windows. I cite this study simply because it was recent and had this nice rebuttle to cite as well. Today's rant applies more generally to market research.

I've participated in a few surveys myself at the local research place. I've done a few phone questionairres about video games and such. Some of these things were just clearance to see if I fit into a particular group or if I was of a different background than from people they already had. In any case, while not having researched for the purpose of marketing (Dr. Weis would disapprove of such public displays of research) I've been involved.

Somehow, I think that somewhere between the average Joe such as I and the end result the Hermit Clown of Crazy Magoo™ grabs hold of the researchers and stupify them. That or there's an evil overlord supervillain pulling the strings of market research. I suppose we could believe the truth that people are either inherently stupid, biased or easily bribable, but I prefer my own insanity.

In any case, I must stare down the long, winding trail of publicity and see what a treacherous road it is I must travel. If I'm ever to make video games, I must walk down this road and have ideas thrown at me, good and bad, and choose amoung them for something I think will appeal to the hordes awaiting to feast upon my game, either by enjoying it or enjoying making fun of me for it.

Given the biased nature of research, I don't know what I'll do. It certainly won't keep me tethered to the path. Studies such as the one I cited always cause me to shake my head. I feel like I can not ever cite a study in my life because someone will be able to find something wrong with it. That or, should the study actually be reliable, have to fight a battle against a contrary study.

Generally, a headache.

I'd prefer if these studies showed me their data rather than analyzing it for me. I think that would be far more satisfactory to me. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not generally enjoy analysis as I do.

It is a disrespect to research and those who honestly do a darn good job of it that there are companies that shamelessly bias themselves.

A general blargh out to all you researchers who lack shame.



The Lag Monster

With Halo 2, Microsoft brought console shooting games into a realm previously reserved for their desktop counterparts. Xbox Live allows players to play with all sorts of people everywhere at anytime. It is not without its issues.

I can deal with the poorly designed Xbox Live interface Halo 2 has, it's workable. I can especially deal with the immature ten year olds, I'm familiar enough with that. What I am not able to deal with is the idea of paying money for a service that lags.

That's right, Live is under the evil influence of the ever frustrating Lag Monster. I've played Halo 2 on Live at all hours of the day, on many different days. Some hours I'm sure all three thousand Messiah residents were using the internet in one way or another. Other times I'm certain it was probably me a one hundred others using Messiah's partial T3. Regardless, I've never had the precision experience achieved through pure LAN play.

As a gamer, I rely on precision. When I point my rocket launcher in a specific direction, I need to be able to know that it will fire in that direction at the specific time I fire it. When I throw a grenade, I'd like it to throw at the moment I watch myself throw. When I jump, I'd rather like to jump when I think I'm jumping.

Now, a typical game on Live is not wholly destroyed by the Lag Monster. You can see pretty clearly what's going on and whatnot. However, I've had games where players instantaneously teleport from where I saw them to somewhere else because of lag, and on a slightly smaller scale games where my radar simply doesn't work because of lag. These happen often enough to be an issue, but are not typical.

What is typical is a minor loss of precision in everything I do. Honestly, this loss is minor enough to not be noticable to most casual gamers. The fact that I have my look sensitivity up at its maximum probably doesn't help. However, I find it highly frustrating that my shots do not necessarily fire in the direction I'm facing. In many games my accuracy is shot not because I have no ability to aim, but because the lag between where I'm shooting, and where Live thinks I'm shooting is just enough to screw me up.

Now, were this a free service, I'd probably be fine with it. Unfortunately, people spend money on this monthy for what ends up being lag. Paying for a service is generally supposed to make it supirior.

I've had plenty of experience with computer games online, and I've used free services with less lag. While the architecture for computer online gaming may be different than Live, it has set up my expectations for games in general online.

I suppose that World of WarCraft has been having server problems as well, so this isn't exactly a unique phenomena.

Regardless, I'll stick to LAN games.


Life at Three

Sometimes, I look backward. It's my favorite pastime rivaled only by speculating on what is to come.

Somehow, my life has been getting more complicated without me noticing. Every month or so I realise that I'm concerned with something new. Now and again I realise I'm not who I once was.

Within me there is a deep seated wish to be three years old again. This has been with me since I reached twelve and true complication began to creep into life. There had been complications before then, new responsibilities and expectations, but these had come slowly and in small doses. At twelve, there was an illumination as to all that had snuck into my life, and all that was to come.

Life is simple at three. You're too young to be moral, but old enough to have wishes, desires, and dreams. To a three year old, the ideas of obstacles on the path of life consist of colds, flus, and the occaisional punishment from a parent (or maybe more than occaisional). Aside from those trivialities, the only thing seperating you from whatever world you wish to craft and mold to your liking is your imagination.

Now I sit here, concerned with getting a job, finishing my college projects, worried about family, and wishing for a significant other. When did all this complication come into things?

At three, everything is awe inspiring. Daddy's incredible strength, the fact that the TV could possibly display me as opposed to a cartoon, the fresh green grass, the frigid snow, that Mario can jump on mushrooms and turtles and get points... all of it inspired awe. The only thing not awe inspiring at age three was Mommy's cooking.

The irony of that now that I sit here at college desperately scrounging up food is painful. Cooking for myself, what a crazy notion that was at three. Sure, I'd cooked scrambled eggs, but that was for fun and the eating was secondary. Mommy always made dinner, and while the hamburgers were great I wasn't so fond of anything green.

Now the sight of well made peas or green beans is mouth watering on a level I could never have understood pre-college.

The age of three is a golden age unto itself, an age of true innocence. After four a downhill spiral ensues. Pre-school and school start, and responsibility begins. Worry sets itself into motion, and before you notice it has set up a nice mafiaesque regime within your mind. Before all of that, you have the age of three. There isn't much difference between girls and boys then, no cooties to speak of or reasons to shy away from the other. The culture of age three is a true picture of the minds of children, only blurred by whatever TV show they are currently obsessed with.

Magic existed at age three. Every tree, bush, and rock could magically become whatever it needed to be. A fortress, a castle, an ogre, a spaceship, an alien menace, anything. The world around was so full of magic you too could become anything, a baseball star, a knight, an astronaut, a dragon, or the alien menace your friends had to fight.

I miss those days, maybe because I miss innocence, or maybe because I miss the days when my friends and my greatest problem revolved around whether we could convince our parents to take us to the park. Regardless, there is something about the little me I remember from all those years ago, almost twenty now, that I cherish.

I still remember when I was only ten reminiscing about those day with my best friend. His mother swore we sounded like a pair of old men. Now, were I to go back in time to meet myself at three, I wouldn't even recognize myself. I, as a child, would write me off as another adult, wholly incapable of the levels of hyperactivity and imagination necessary to be a child.

This is not to say I am without energy or imagination, but those have long since fallen into the realms of work (I spend so much of my days sitting in class, in computer labs, and just in general it's rather sad) and order. My imagination is far more ordered and lawful than it once was.

The imagination of a child has a law unto itself. Everything makes sense, to the child, but were any adult to look upon it they would write it off as nonsense. To a child, nonsense is sense, and common sense is a hinderance to living.

Perhaps what I miss most is simply the ability to take anything mundane and turn it into adventure. The number of adventures I had in my own backyard were countless, and yet it was always the same backyard. Any adult would get bored of trying to come up with new adventures in an unchanging landscape.

I could fake being three again, force myself to imagine my keyboard is the control panel for the spaceship of my apartment, and pretend I'm blasting off into the fifth quardrant of the gamma sector. But yet, that would all be a lie. Not a lie in the sense that the imagined world I would be creating isn't true, but in the sense that what I would be doing wouldn't even be a shadow of what I did as a child.

As it is, I must simply accept that I am twenty-one. Nineteen years have passed since my first memory of thanking my grandmother for a present she gave me on my second birthday (as ordered by my mother). That memory grows foggy, as do so many others. What once were images and sounds and feelings become words. I can reforge approximations, but eventually all I'll have are forged replacements for the truth of those long past times. Some are strong enough to endure, but many like that first memory will not.

In the end, I am twenty-one. I'm older than I've ever been, and now I'm even older. If I actually had the chance to be three again, I'd decline. For all the compication that is life for me now, to think about giving up the concerns I have for all that is important to me is unthinkable. To lose all of the spiritual gain I have made in eighteen years just for the sake of innocence is too silly to actually do. The past is useful as a roadmap to show us who we were, and nice to gaze at occaisionally. As it stands, we are in the present and must act accordingly.

Besides, one day I'll have a son who'll be in awe of Daddy's strength.

When is a Video Game not a Video Game?

The answer, when it is Everquest II's Station Exchange auction system.

For those of you uninformed, RPGs that are playable online, whether massively or otherwise, have been plagued by the "black market" selling of items, characters and more on sites such as eBay. One can barely enter a Diablo II chatroom without being assaulted by automated messages from dummy accounts advertising websites selling the most powerful sword in the game.

Up until this point, any and all respectable game companies disavowed the "black market", and most took actions against players found to be participating in it. Sadly, they had to tell their players that being swindled from use of the "black market" could not be recompensed. This was not a sanctioned arena for item trade.

There is one very good reason not listed in the article for fighting the selling of what amounts to 1s and 0s on the internet for real cash. It destroys the game. For a player such as I who can invest a multitude of hours into a game, it is wholly frustrating to fight monsters for hours, barter carefully with other players, and work hard to get one of a few elite items for my avatar when, with a few clicks and fifty dollars, some idiot twelve year old can get the whole set of powerful magical equipment I seek.

Auctioning and selling of the equipment and characters in RPGs online destroys the fundamental gameplay and setting. By being able to buy the items straight, it destroys any feeling of accomplishment a player gets from actually working within the game world for hard to get items (which are no longer hard to get so long as you usurp the process and buy them with cash). Also, the setting and world of the game are compromised when one spends actual money to equip your character. The real world becomes juxtapositioned on the imaginary. It's the equivalent of Frodo buying Sting from Bilbo with three hundred dollars US currency. Tolkien's masterwork would suddenly lose some epicness every time Legolas used fifteen dollars to magically refill his quiver of special arrows. Not to mention that Smeagol or Sauron could have simply forked over the ten thousand dollars for "the Precious".

The president of SOE, the company in charge of EverQuest and Station Exchange, responded to the general attack by noting that "innovation will always have its critics" and that "Unsanctioned virtual property auctions are now rampant, and will continue to grow whether or not publishers implement their own auction sites."

I have some words to say to that.

1. It's not innovation if someone was already doing it before you. If any innovating has been done, it was the who were the first to auction virtual property without sanction. The idea of auctioning virtual property is theirs. You've just stolen the idea and sanctioned it.

2. The whole idea that "rampant" virtual property auctions will grow no matter what is the same kind of argument people make in defense of abandoning ventures such as fighting poverty, drugs and violence. There's a reason why the US government hasn't made their own alternative to drug smuggling, it's morally abhorable, it destroys people. In the same way, you're just destroying your own game by allowing players to bypass what makes your game a game, not having to even play to have practically a deity of a character without playing a minute.

3. It is noted that the Station Exchange is an "optional" supplement to the game. The problem is that this "optional" supplement favors the rich over the motivated. Players who actually want to play the game the way it was meant to be played will be marginalized. Why should they want to bother to work hours or even days for Ergomir's Earthshaking War Axe of Bone Crushing +37 when after having achieved this goal, some newbie waves the one he bought at you in five minutes.

This is the same sour taste I got when I climbed Mount Washington. There's a reason why I feel Katahdin is the superior mountain. That one year when I sped ahead and reached the top of Mount Washington first in our sizable group, I sat down on the top weary, yet exuberant at my accomplishment. There, resting next to the sign denoting the top and stating the grandeur of this mountain, I was accosted by an older man in a Hawaiian shirt, a pair of sunglasses, some shorts and an odd hat with his wife in sandals, a short skirt and a revealing tank top chewing gum. I was asked to move so they could have their picture taken.

It's probably a good thing I hadn't gotten to college at that point and acquired the spirit of rebelliousness instilled by the kind men of Miller Dorm, 3rd floor. Not I'm all that rebellious, but I'd probably have said what crossed my mind as opposed to, "Sure, just give me a sec."

What I wanted to say was, "What audacity makes you think you have the right to drive your filthy vehicle up to this hallowed place? What arrogance is this that mountains are to be conquered by the four wheels of a soulless creation? You have bypassed the very point of a mountain for a sham of an ideal! You have forsaking the mountain stream and brook, the tree and moss, the bird and song for a worthless picture of how you wasted your gas and taxed your car's engines to bring your fitless form to this sign! I will not move from this spot until you drive back down this mountain and walk here."

I was not so bold then, and that was probably a good thing. Regardless, I was left with the sour feeling of a pointless venture. Not to slight Mount Washington, but something is lost from the final feeling of achievement when one reaches the top of a great mountain when someone else took fifteen minutes to drive there. I felt like I climbed for hours to reach a strip mall with a view.

Katahdin is infinitely better.

Unfortunately, the truth is that more money is made by having Mount Washington as it is. This is the apparent flaw in the analogy, but in the end it is not a flaw at all. Like mountains, games have a climax one reaches. Some say that it is all downhill from there, but with mountains the downhill itself has a climax of finally being able to return home. Yet even having climbed a mountain, people will return to climb it again, and again. Why? Because climbing a mountain again can be fun. You'll see things you missed before, travel paths you hadn't before and the view is always changing. When you shortcut to the top, all of that is lost.

EverQuest II will die quickly, because players will hop in, get to the top, and leave. There's no reason to play a game again when one didn't play it in the first place. Especially if you have to pay money per month to do so.

Let's play Monopoly!

Today I was hit by the devastating news that GameStop was merging with Electronics Boutique. While I haven't ever shopped anywhere but the West Coast, what I've seen of Texas and other states doesn't give me any hope that the situation there will be any different.

Where I'm from and at college, there used to be Babbages, Funcoland, GameStop, and Electronics Boutique(EBX). More recently, it was down to GameStop and EBX. With this final blow, the only beacon of light will be CD Warehouse. Still, even CD Warehouse is but a pale candle, due to their not specializing in video games. I can't expect to chat up about the latest and greatest video game news with them, and I certainly won't find old NES games there.

I'm not a common mall shopper, but barring Christmas and the occaisional birthday (and even on those occaisions) my mall visits are always for one thing. If you can't guess what it is you need to seriously reevaluate your capabilities of deduction. Like most shoppers, I love to browse. I am one of those patient people that will sift through every game in racks upon racks of old playstation games looking for one, only to go onto the next store and do the same thing when I don't find the gem I seek. I love to go back and forth between stores and see which I'll get better prices for individual games, or even to just find a better copy when one store is lacking in supply.

With this merger, there will be only one store left to go to. When once I could walk between a myriad of stores, spend hours just browsing, and end up buying the games I was looking from several different locations I now will have only one option.

GameStop has always had excellent service, and I'm not complaining because I suspect them of harboring the wishes of a monopoly despite what the title of this post says. What I am lamenting is that now I lack options. I guess I could try Sears, Sam Goody, or several other stores. Yet, these stores are not there for my sake, or the sake of video gamers everywhere. They carry whatever games are new and "interesting", or that they weren't able to sell some odd years ago. When I'm looking for a classic game that is years old, I won't find it there.

I say farewell to EBX, and hope that only good things happen to GameStop because of it.



"Today my team suffered a staggering loss."

How often that is said, but not true in a physical sense. However, I know my emotional gut that sleeps around my stomach awoke today and stumbled about after my team competing in a video game tournament (specifically Halo 2) lost in a two out of three game match (our record now stands at 2-2).

I started thinking about why competition sometimes leaves this empty, sickening feeling in one's stomach when you've lost. I've lost some competitions of all types by varying margins, close and dead terrible. I've won competitions by such margins as well. What bothered me tonight as we lost the third and pivotal game by one point (a photo finish per se) was the question, "Why do I sometimes feel excited even in loss, and empty even in victory?"

It is said that it isn't whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. What exactly is the how that makes one happy or sad when all is said and done? I might initially think, "If I play really well and shine, I'll feel good." Yet, I can remember times I've been the dominating player and felt irked at my teammates failures, win or lose. A thought could come such as, "If I play for fun, I'll be happy." Yet again, there have been times when we've won spectacularly, and I didn't fell happy at all, and we've lost horribly, and the same applies.

Are we humans, or me in particular, such fickle beings that we can't even consistantly know what satisfies our thirst for competition? I could cite any number of things that happened tonight that might have contributed to my feelings, one teammate doing his own thing instead of helping out, the inability of us to coordinate to achieve a goal, or the loss by one point, but such things have happened before and I've not felt this way at the end of the day.

It's a feeling that passes the same way a lingering sourness in the mouth does. It sticks around if not tended to, but doesn't go away if you try to wash it down with anything.

I think perhaps in the case of video games in particular, the problem may lie with detachment. In my case, I have a tendency to zone out as a play. Both in the sense of losing sense of everything and ending up walking against a wall (typically when I'm tired) but especially in the sense of losing attachment to what is going on. I no longer feel what is happening, it just is.

I wonder perhaps if this is what happens to some soldiers on the battlefield, and I do not think it a good thing. Perhaps I'm a romantic concerning some aspects of war, perhaps especially so because of the anime I watch, but I believe that it is emotion as much as cold logic which allows someone to excel, whether in battle or in life. To become detached from something is to lose half of what helps you conquer it.

In sports such as soccer, badmington, ultimate frisbee, raquetball, and others that require physical prowess of various kinds, detachment is not as easy to achieve for me, and perhaps that's why I enjoy a good game of soccer or badmington more often than some competitive games I've played. One's limits are more potently and obviously felt.

I excel at video games by nature, and with certainty I believe that were I to devote myself to any one game in particular my prowess would be sickening skillful. Yet I think I see now why that isn't where God wants me to be. I could certainly do it, but with my detachment I could neve achieve true happiness from it, or true and full skill.

May that I keep stumbling down the path God has shown me. I may not finish this marathon of life and purpose in record time, with panache, gusto and flare, but I will finish it. It may be that my time is a record for suck, but it will be a time.


Today was service day at Messiah, and having shed off the silly Freshmen assumption that it is to be taken as vacation, I joined up with a group of computer science majors seeking to serve.

As as result, I left at nine this (well, yesterday now) morning for Mission Central, a Methodist (I think) organization that has acquires and distributes goods to various mission fields. Our particular reason for being there was to help the computer division.

Basically, Mission central gets a lot of old computers donated to them. Rather than waste these artifacts (and I tell you, I saw some computers there that must have been older than me), Mission central gives them to missionaries and organizations that need anything better than paper and dried up pen. I'm probably not doing them much justice, these aren't junk heaps, just not capable of playing most video games, running Windows XP or anything made within a few years.

Our task was to take apart computers, replace their network cards, install a CD-ROM drive, and then clone them. Cloning means to copy the exact contents of one hard drive to another, overwriting whatever was there.

I was randomly chosen to (after having finished one computer myself) help the man in charge deal with the server they were setting up for all of these computers (30 in all, Guatemala bound). After a couple of machines that didn't understand their own innards, we got one in working order and ready to go (save for printer drivers).

I managed to construct another computer before we needed to leave, but much of my time had been spent monkeying around with one server while the man in charge was off finding another one to try.

I'm planning on writing a letter thanking Mission Central for allowing us to volunteer, and maybe even inquiring if they could use some summer help. Who knows? There may even be a branch in Massachusetts. I do know that they have an order for two-hundred and fifty more computers for a destination I'm not aware of.

I have decided that managing the hardware aspects of computers would be something I could easily do and enjoy as a means of living. It's just the same as coding, except instead of screwed up code, you just have screwed up drivers, video cards, CD-ROM drives and weird network glitches. It's really just the same taxing problems in a different form.

Today's service was a great experience, I hope to have more such adventures in the future.


Samurai Something

With the advent of a PS2, recieved broken and repaired by me, some new options in terms of video games presented themselves for me. Namely, all those PS2 games I wished I could get years ago. Oddly enough, it was not any of these that I found in a CD Warehouse but a few much more recent games for only ten bucks each. Seeing as how I'd seen them each for at least thirty apiece at a local Gamestop, I went for them.

I'll only deal with the one for now, since the other has not yet been played. The one to be dealth with is Samurai Warriors.

For anyone familiar with the Dynasty Warriors series, it's basically the same thing set in Japan during its unification period. For the rest of you, it's a game involving a superhuman person slaughtering vast amounts of enemy forces single handedly while watching your own forces fail to do the simplest of tasks.

The first major difference between the games is that instead of leveling up character attributes (attack, defense, life, and for all intents and purposes magic) by collecting items from defeated enemies, you gain them (and a lot more of them) through your performance throughout the stages. By beating levels quickly, fulfilling objectives, killing a lot of foes through magic and picking up special items, you get better ranking in each category and thus, more stats.

The next major difference is that of a skill system. Based on the same rankings, you'll get skill points to spend on various abilities. These generally help your character in all sorts of neat ways that really only make sense if you've played Dynasty Warriors games.

Most everything else is the same, except for one thing. As your stats go up, the enemies are scaled to be more powerful.

This has long been a concept that never, ever made sense to me in a game world where most of the point of playing was to level up characters. What is the point of leveling up a character if the enemies only get stronger to match? Samurai Warriors takes it a step further, wherein the ratio of your strength to enemy strength as you get stronger actually tips heavily against you.

For every FAQ I've read on how to get through difficult points of the game or complete difficult tasks, there have always been two answers. One is a complicated character setup and strategy that requires precision, luck and hope. The other is always, "reset the character" meaning utilize a nifty option you're given whereby you can reset a character statistics and skills to default.

While I applaud Koei, the makers of Samurai Warriors, for trying something different than an exact cookie cutter copy of a Dynasty Warriors game, the scaling of enemy strength is a big negative. If I wanted a challenge as I got excessively strong, I could always just use your Chaos difficulty mode (Chaos is harder than very hard). Sometimes I'm a glutton for punishment, but most people I know are far more casual in their gaming. The great thing about Dynasty Warriors was that you could just run around on easy mode killing things easily regardless of character strength, or set the difficulty up and have a truly difficult challenge. This is lost from Samurai Warriors.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the skill system was set up differently. From what I've read, a character maxed out on skills can do much better with high stats and be quite fun. Unfortunately what it takes to max out the skills on a character is beyond what any casual gamer would enjoy.

The problem lies in that, after a point, you can't gain any more skill points. Every character has experience points they gain every level, and once that maxes out at 99999 no more skill points can be gained. For a casual player, this can occur before a single skill is maxed out (as happened to me my first time through). The are multiple ways to manage to max out all skills, but they involve long, repetitive, and time consuming activities.

If maxing out skills really makes all the difference, it would have been nice if a player could continue playing stages to get more skill points after maxing out experience points. Then the whole scaling thing wouldn't be a problem.

As it is, meh.

It's still a good game, just not really as fun as it could have been.


Franklin: Be my guest

Hai guys, Franklin here with another monologue on the many misadventures I have in the mainstream.

I've been traveling around looking for a university suitable to my needs. I intend on studying the fine art of public speech. I tell you the truth, my abilities of oration will be such that none shall surpass my charisma and annuciation.

As a part of my travels, I needed to find lodgings for myself. This of course meant that I would be someone else's guest. Unfortunately, around other people I tend to be very shy. For my venture to succeed, I was going to need a plan.

Unfortunately for me, I sometimes have trouble coming up with a plan when under pressure. The blueprint for success I crafted was satisfactory to my disturbed mind, but in hindsight could have been better.

Instead of being someone else's guest, I invited random people from the phonebook to come to my place! I made sure everything was pristine for when whoever decided to come arrived.

Unfortunately, I was so thorough in my cleaning that I had used rubbing alcohol on many of the kitchen surfaces to make sure it was clean as could conceivably be. Turning the stove on at this point proved to be disasterous.

In a way, my plan succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I now have no choice but to find for myself a room to let, or live on the streets. How pitiable a sight I must be, clutching my lucky toaster while waiting for a taxi.



Gateway to Idiocy

Sometimes, a game looks fun at first. Then you play the game and you ascribe any lack of fun to your lack of skill. Then you realise that to continue to play will simply mean a frustration of biblical proportions.

Such a game, is Gate 88.

For those of you who know me, I don't get angry easily. I'm also a glutton for punishment, as evidenced by the time I played Alex in some uncountable number of Super Smash Bros games (n64 version) just to get one victory. However, for the first time in my life, today I lost patience with a game within an hour.

Such a game, is Gate 88.

To summarize the game, you have a space ship. Your ship builds a command post and various other buildings. These buildings give resources, grant research, and do other miscellaneous things. Some make fighters, others are turrents that shoot missiles, bullets, and push things away. The game is retro-like, and definately goes for that kind of feel in the music and whatnot.

However, the game suffers from so many problems I can't even begin to describe how not fun it is. I'll try anyway.

Firstly, there really isn't a limit on resources. Because of what normally would be a nifty design quirk wherein you get resources from destroying the enemy's ships and buildings, they are never in short supply once the game is going. Even if fighting was minimal, you can just build up to a certain number of resource producing buildings and everything is fine. There is a cap on how much resource one can have, but it barely matters since everything is cheap.

Secondly, there isn't build time. Maybe I'm used to Blizzardesque RTS games, but it would have helped this game a lot. Because buildings are built instantly, many problems ensue. It becomes suprisingly easy to destroy even a well defended enemy base with what can even be shoddy turret placement and a few pot shots.

Thirdly, dying sucks, big time. When you die you can respawn and replace your command post. At first, this seems nice. The problem is that there is nothing preventing the person who just wiped you out from just crushing you again, and again, and again. While they're crushing you and you desperately try to respawn, they can be researching all sorts of nifty upgrades.

In the end it becomes a lesson in futility. You can't research without the buildings, but you can't build because you haven't be able to research anything that would help you against the person who has been free to research whatever they want. You can try a myriad of things, even their own tricks against them, but even if it works, they can respawn and having already gained the advantage use it to great effect.

As an example, my brother and I both teamed up against one player who was killing us both. After dying a dozen times apiece we killed him once, and then proceded to be crushed a dozen times more before we got fed up with it.

After analysis, I came to this conclusion about why this game that was terrible got on my nerves in a way other terrible games didn't. Built-in unfairness bites. If a game doesn't force fair play, there won't be fair play (at least over the internet). Without fair play the victor feels empty and the loser feels crushed and hopeless. I had a game where I continually crushed a guy. It was so easy I really felt uninvolved and unsatisfied. Later, when I was crushed, I was simply frustrated and angry.

I have no problem with being out fought by someone. If someone is a better player than I, they have every right to win. What I dislike is when, having been beaten in an instance, the next instance is weighted towards the favor of the person who one the last instance. It's like if in Deep Blue's historic battles with Kasparov, for every time a player won they could choose to remove a piece of the opponent's at the start of the next game. By game seven someone would probably not want to bother playing without a queen, two rooks, and two bishops.

What makes games like Halo 2, Soul Caliber 2 and StarCraft fun is that after each instance of battle ends, the new one can start relatively fresh. When I die in Halo 2, I spawn with two grenades and a sub-machine gun. While my opponent who killed me still has a rocket launcher, it is not even unlikely that I could kill him with just what I spawn with. While not entirely level, the playing field is close enough that a person who died does not have a huge disadvantage. In fighting games each successive round renews both players fully. The fun comes from an even competition wherein the loser does not lessen his chances of later victory through defeat.

Gate 88 is not such a game.



An epilogue to the previous post, Words.

Words can heal as well as hurt. Apologies are never stupid if they are truly meant.

The cause of my irritation before apologized, and before I even had the chance to make it clear I'd be hurt. That was a noble action and was very much appreciated. I in kind apologized for dropping the ball on a few things.

Enjoy the good weather.


So there's a minefield awareness initiative thingy happining in the college commons today. They've got a setup for students to try and walk across to see if they'll survive. You know you're dead when the speakers make an explosion.

I survived.

Anyway, I began talking about this with my roommate. The conversation went as follows.

Roommate: What's that white thing on your arm?
Me: I survived the minefield.
Roommate: Oh?
Me: Yeah, it's in the commons. Some sort of minefield awareness thing.
Roommate: Ah. How'd you survive?
Me: I walked haphazardly straight across.
Roommate: I see. So what is it about?
Me: I guess it's about all those minefields in third world countries or something.
Roommate: So why are they here?
Me: Probably trying to raise funds by making people aware of minefields.
Roommate: Raising awareness of something they can't see?
Me: Yeah.
Roommate: Do they frequently need new recruits?

And we broke out laughing. If you don't understand why, ponder that last sentence a bit.



Reminder to all: Guard your words.

No, there is no threat of terrorists robbing you of language. However, I am reminded of how continually the Bible reminds us to guard our mouth, our tongue, and our words. I'd quote some of the verses I looked up for this occaision, but there are to many and I'm lazy (which is another thing the Bible covers but that's something else entirely).

Anyways, through several recents events involving misconceptions derived from language, and generally ill chosen words, the opening message was spawned. There was a major catalyst, unfortunately.

Obviously there is some value in meaning what one says, and carefully choosing one's language. It avoids confusion, prevents many needless arguments, and garners respect. I've had a fair share of stupid discussions with friends wherein both sides missed the point of the other (or assumed the other side was missing the point) simply because of poorly chosen wording. Not that any of these were terribly serious.

There is a second value to guarding your words. Sometimes, when one is mad at someone, bad things come off our lips that are in open defiance of the childhood rule, "If you have nothing good to say, don't say it." The worst thing about these words is that sometimes we mean them. Regardless, they can hurt a lot.

Personally, I've come a long way in preventing angry words from exiting my mouth. I have different problems involving speech. However, sometimes you know a person who grates upon your ability to maintain a level head. Strong as one may be, time has an ability to wear one down.

That said, there's little quite as painful as having someone you consider a good friend tell you they hate you. There are greater pains in this world, but this one ranks up there.

Whether meant or said in a flush of anger, such words hurt. When the person who says such words has been grating upon one for a significant amount of time, it's extremely difficult not to say, "Is there any good reason why I should give a kind response to such words?" except it comes out in one's mind more like, "What the crap is that? What did I do to deserve that?" When one hasn't killed people, hasn't stolen people's belongings, started wars and international crisis, or done anything that fits reprehensible it can be very painful to be hated, especially by someone close to you.

Just some words to the wise.

How Instant Messenging Killed English

I don't know about you, but how many instant messenger conversations do you have that looks something like this?

You: Hey there.
Them: yo
You: What's up?
Them: nm
Them: u?
You: nm
You: Just playing a few video games.
Them: u played ninja gaiden yet
You: All too much.
You: My soul is consumed by that game.
Them: lol
You: :D

I am not against the use of such abbreviations as nm, brb, lol, rofl etc. I also don't mind missing capitalization when the whole response is one word such as yo, hi, cool etc. These things are understandable to me. In fact, I enjoy talking to people who even use the crazy and somewhat reprehensible abbrieviations of u, r, ur, etc.

However, I am continually convinced that the internet is slowly destroying the literacy of all those who touch it. Upon beginning my sprint across an article I had to read for a class, I initially found myself confused by its rich vocabulary and large words. After shaking off the mentality I typically have when reading what is posted on the internet, I rediscovered much of my knowledge of English and read it with ease.

While being able to switch into a mindset with greater vocabulary is useful, it disturbs me that my natural tendency is to lapse into what is typical for the internet.

I'll admit that when I was a boy of twelve, my English was imperfect. Ask my mom sometime about my difficulty with all of the handwriting and grammar lessons she gave me. However, I'm pretty sure my English was better than examples such as this.

"itneresting, but i disgree wit u"

Having had various bouts with typos, I understand that they happen to the best of us. My worry about the future of English stems from the fact that I've seen everyone from twelve year olds to people who have graduated from college sending email that is horrendous.

I'm not pushing for a return to Old English or anything, despite my fancy with it. What I show here is merely my intense dismay that the basic rules of capitalization and punctuation are commonly thrown out the window unnecessarily, and that people often don't look twice at what they've already typed.

I'll admit openly that I'm not perfect myself. I've had at least three people point out numerous typos I've made just in this blog (some of the ones recently were due to a lack of sleep), and even some downright stupid spelling mistakes. However, I'll have to steal a thought from an internet pirate known as Maddox when he points out to a to an angry emailer that him (Maddox) making a few typos and the odd grammar/spelling mistake on a long, ranting webpage is nothing compared to someone who manages a slew of them in a small paragraph alone.

Certainly, someone is bound to find typos within this very entry in which I am crying out against them. I don't think that they are a sin, and I don't condemn people for the odd mistake. It is only when someone types like a three year old plays a piano that I start to wonder.

There are excusable cases. For people who don't do it often, typing can be quite difficult. A three year old can hardly be expected to write like Shakespeare. But people who sit in front of a computer and type away to friends over instant messenger, or craft emails daily really don't have an excuse. If you use a keyboard every day you should be proficient enough with it to understand the nature of the shift and capslock keys as well as where the . , ? ! and other are located.

I know from personal experience that without instruction a person can be perfectly proficient in typing. Back in my day, I had my two finger method of typing. My pointer fingers from both left and right hands could type at an incredible forty words per minute at their prime. This was capitals and all. As I grew older, my dad showed me the benefits of a system that made use of more of my digits, but the point is made.

Even now, I use what a typing tutor would only be able to call a bastard child of piano playing and good typing protocol. I certainly don't adhere to the basic rules of typing, both hands continually riding over into each others territory. It's not even better than the proper method, its just what I'm used to. Yet this entire rant is made by it, despite its unorthodoxy. I'll tell you now I do often have to slam the delete key when I miss a key or hit things out of order, but at least I notice and change it.

Maybe I'm obsessed, but I honestly don't think it very difficult to accomplish. Given the number of people I know who still manage to type in good English even on the internet, I know it isn't impossible.

Here's hoping.

Mr. Smee: Yammering

Hallo sonny!

I've been resting my eyes for some time now, and it has me thinking. There really isn't much else to do when resting one's eyes than think. Crashing into unseen objects was never a favorite pastime of mine.

It wasn't always that way. Back in my day, we didn't have Physics, we had Yammering. Now, Yammering was a science in those days, and it determined all sorts of phenomena. Lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes (not that any of them were as they are today) all came about when someone didn't cut their Yammering.

Cutting Yammering was a very difficult task. The Yammering bush grew with great vitality and strength. One needed a very skilled hand to properly cut their Yammering. We didn't have any of your fancy schmancy attributes like "sharp" and "keen". We had yellow, and I tell you that my stick was as yellow as the best of them.

For many long years my occupation was "Yammering Cutter". I still hold the honorary title of Cutterhood for my many deeds in cutting Yammerings for people who were unable to do so themselves. Not that titles were then as they are now. It was more like a strange color on one's otherwise white shirt.

I eventually tired and retired. Yet the populace had become dependent on my ability to cut Yammerings, and still they called upon my services! I said to them, "Cut your Yammering yourself!" This exclamation was so threatening that it is used, in a derived form, even to this day.

So cut your Yammering. I'm going to go rest my eyes.

The Indefinite Article

To begin this rant, I appreciate the new Doctor Who series. However, I have the same fundamental problem with it I have with the Star Wars Prequels. Those aren't bad movies, in fact they're good. This isn't a bad series and it is in fact good (incredible even compared to everything else on TV). However, good movies and series as they are, they aren't good Star Wars movies and this isn't a good Doctor Who series. Were it not for the lack of essence that made the originals excellent, these would be much more enjoyable. Anyway...

Through the expenditure of a fortune worth more than Bill Gates, the blackmail of several world leaders, and the torture of a retarded monkey with a gammy leg named Herman I was able to obtain for myself a bootleg copy of the second episode of the new Doctor Who series.

I'm not impressed.

Through discussion with my panel of Doctor Who experts, various conclusions were reached. We decided that a retarded monkey with a gammy leg named Herman could probably have done a better job than the Ninth Doctor during certain parts of the episode.

I'm not kidding.

Along with the same problems I listed in my last rant on this subject, more surface. While the episode is better than the previous I can't help but feel as though the series is not going to improve much this season. This is partly due to the fact that the Doctor is halted by a set of giant fan blades rotating at a speed similar to the velocity at which a college student gets up in the morning. To be specific, something on the order of a mile every few hours.

I'm not lying.

In the past, it was the Doctor's companions who stood gaping at the simplest of obstacles. They were the ones who simple mindedly adhered to a principle I call "Heroic Sacrifice Interrupt Principle". Sometimes a minor or major character does something that may/will kill them in order to save others or allow others to escape. Instead of understanding the situation and honoring the noble deed, idiotic characters have a tendency to argue with the person attempting the sacrifice which usually leads to someone dying, the enemy catching up and capturing them all, or any number of similarly bad things.

For the computer science inclined, the Java code looks something like this.

if ((passageBlocked == true) && (leverUnblocks == true))
else if (enemyChase == true)
else if (situationDire == true)
catch(InterruptedException arguingFriend)
this.action.atRandom.get(killed, captured, enslaved, brainwashed, tortured);

In any case, the Doctor has long been immune to this problem himself. He would be fully prepared to go onwards, were it not for one companion complaining about the other being left behind, or concerning some random episode specific other who was just handsome/pretty enough to attract them.

Not anymore.

The following reveals various important plot elements that might otherwise spoil a perfectly decent episode of a sci fi series. If you don't want a couple things so revealed, just take my word for the pathetic showing the Doctor gave and skip the next few paragraphs.

On a space station thingy, the shields are down and a nearby planet is about to explode. The nearby star is super heating things and without the shields the heat resistant glass is crumbling and threatening to fry people. The doctor and an episode specific character rush to where a switch to fix things exists. Across a small walkway blocked by three barely rotating blades the switch sits. The character, incidentally made of wood, holds down a switch on this side of things that slows the fans down even more. At this point a sloth with arthritis could cross no problem, not to mention that to begin with anyone could hang off the side of the walkway and simply avoid the fans that way.

Faced with this challenge of three "rotating" fans, the Doctor stops and takes a good minute or two in passing each one, spending most of each minute looking back at his wood friend who will shortly spontaneously combust if he doesn't get the shields up fast enough, not to mention the slew of other characters bumbling about elsewhere about to be friend alive. Seriously, there was nothing stopping him from just barreling through. The worst that could have happened was he could have been pushed gently off the side, which would have required him to take a step forwards and stop.

Unfortunately, he takes so long about it his wood friend bursts into flame and dies a horrible, horrible death. Various other characters are fried alive, and his own companion nearly suffers the same fate. Worst yet is there's still one fan blade left. Finally, it's actually moving fast enough to warrant danger. The Doctor's mental focus that allows him to pass this would have been impressive if he hadn't freaked out at a fan traveling at the speed of a dead snail. So he saves the day and all, but only after taking his sweet time and allowing the deaths of half the cast.

Good job Doc. (No more spoilers for the concerned)

That alone wasn't the problem with this episode. The Doctor abuses the sonic screwdriver like a Swiss army knife. Where he once might have actually messed with the circuitry by hand, he uses what has become the universal key to solving any problem. This is the exact reason why they got rid of it around the time of the Fifth.

Additionally is a problem with the Doctor himself. He's not the definite article. He lacks the authority the other Doctors had. Whenever any of the previous Doctors including the Eighth said, "I am the Doctor" there was a sense of importance. Whenever it was said it was clear that this title set him apart and above (at least in his mind) everyone else. The Ninth imparts no such importance.

I will continue watching the series, but I have lost faith in this seasons ability to be as excellent as the old. Good as this series is, it suffers as so many continuations of old classics from the expectations inherent to its title.


A Lesson in Depression

I do not post every anime experience I have here, but occaisionally one that I feel is important to share appears. That said, recently I finished watching Neon Genesis Evangelion including the special movie End of Evangelion.

The best word to describe my reaction is "meh".

Don't misunderstand me, the series itself was quite enjoyable. It isn't even the fact that the culmination of the series is a guy getting a little self esteem that bothers me. After some analyzation, the nature of my lack of appreciation of the ending of the series became evident.

I don't understand depression, I am close to my father, and I'm not a woman.

Those three facts distance me from all of the major characters and the vast majority of the pertinent minor characters. In fact, only one character in the entire series is understandable to me. Kensuke, the nerdy warfare buff who probably knows more about war and the technologies thereof than the Pentagon, was the only person I truly understood. The rest of the characters in this movie were either women, clinically depressed, undeveloped or distant father figures.

The distant father figures and women are rather self evident in how I might not be able to understand them. However, depression is something else altogether. How can I not understand depression? It seems rather absurd to a lot of people, trust me on that one.

To sum it up, I've never been depressed. There was one time I came close, but it wasn't anything near serious compared to what my friends have told me of their bouts with depression. My experience lacked anything resembling self-loathing, hatred towards anything or thoughts of suicide. It was more along the lines of just a very bad day, misery, and a little bit of being miffed at the actions of a few people.

Certainly, there are numerous times where I have no desire to accomplish anything important, but aside from the time I mentioned that feeling has never been accompanied by anything and has simply been me being lazy.

Because of my lack of experience being depressed, I have a hard time understanding depression. While I don't necessarily escape the "lack of will to accomplish anything" facet, everything else rarely pins me down. Thus, the desire to end it all, the feelings of self loathing, etc. are all foreign concepts. Quite simply having never been depressed, I can not understand depression on any truly useful level.

I can, on a very limited level, understand aspects of depression. Depressed people often have trouble coming out of depression, they demean themselves, sometimes they lash out at the world, they are often hostile to attempts to help them, etc. Unfortunately for me this basically equates to the same thing as understanding the general behavior patterns of a cat. Knowing how the cat acts does little but help me avoid, and only for the most part, getting clawed across the face.

It is this lack of empathy and sympathy stemming from my lack of understanding of the continually depressed main character Shinji that brings out the "meh". While through the first 3/5ths - 2/3rds of the series it was bearable for me, right when things get trippy (and when I'd usually be getting really into things) Shinji's depression just becomes too overwhelming for someone who is simply watching things from the outside. As a form of entertainment, watching a person sit in the bottom of the hellhole of depression for twenty-six episodes doesn't really click with me.

Again, the big climax of the series is that this guy finally gets some self-esteem. Even watching the special movie doesn't change that, and simply exacerbates my particular problem by finishing up bits of the plot when Shinji was still depressed, and since the point at which he gains some self-esteem doesn't come until the end of the movie anyway...


I recognize the series as being excellently done and definately entertaining, but unfortunately because of my background I can't appreciate it fully. I was entertained, and the series is one I would even suggest to others. I just don't know whether to count myself fortunate for not having battled depression seriously, or to wonder at my misfortune that I can't fully relate to a very real problem many people face.


Franklin: A Dream I had.

Hallo there my friends. Your friendly neighborhood Franklin here to give you an update on my goings on.

I've been having a good time here in Pennsylvania. The move was tough, but I finally was able to accept reality that I was no longer in my parent's broom closet back at home, but in a broom closet somewhere else.

Homesick is a bit of vocabulary that comes to mind. I dearly miss my friends, Broomy, Dusty, and Vacunator. Oh the times we had. When all the other children were out playing games like Soccer, Tag and the recently outlawed Cops and Robbers, I was scoffing at them as I played "Clean House" with my special friends.

It just isn't the same with my new friends. While Moppy and Raggy are kind and all, I just can't help but feel as though I'm an alien in a foreign land. The closet I now stay in just doesn't have that same, sweet moldy smell my old one did. Plywood just isn't the same as good oak.

Mayb that explains this dream I had. I was walking down the street when a strange and unpleasent sight caught my eyes. I saw the most cruel of acts being done to a fire hydrant! A celestial force of miniscule proportion with herculean effot was continually beating upon this fire hydrant with a wooden axe. Working against my baser instincts, I rose to the occaision and fended out the force to save the hydrant. The hydrant proceeded to heap affections upon me by slowly consuming my flesh happily.

I think the celestial force said something like, "The radishes will triumph over the dawn of numbers." That or, "Fine, be that way."

Were I to try to play Freud and analyze this strange dream, I'd guess that maybe I should avoid fire hydrants for a while. That or not have midnight snacks of straight horseradish.

Research of Dr. Weis: Proper Care for Pants

Greetings from Dr. Weis!

Recent research has been most interesting. As part of better lab safety procedures following lawsuit of Dr. Weis for chemical burns, Dr. Weis spend long time researching safer lab attire.

Before Dr. Weis could research pants, Dr. Weis researched desirable characteristic of pants. Like glowing 8-Ball of fortune, Dr. Weis read many fashion magazines and lab manuals. Dr. Weis discover the following.

1. Pants must be as uncomfortable as possible. All most fashionable and all most lab safe attire has no comfort whatsoever.

2. Pants must be as comfortable as possible. No worker can function properly if pants chafe and scratch.

3. Every worker must choose own pants. Individual choice is paramount for happy worker and happy workplace.

4. Every worker should wear same pants type. Bad for morale if one worker have better, more expensive pants than rest.

5. Flaming pants not suitable for wearing.

Like snow globe in burning furnace, Dr. Weis conclude more research necessary.