content top

Try Not; Do, Or Do Not


So, I have to write a bit of a retraction regarding yesterday’s post.

Every Monday, I get together with my friends either online or in person, and when it’s online we dedicate time away from the demands of the families and other responsibilities so we can play something together (or just shoot the shit on Discord). With Star Wars Battlefront having extended it’s preview period by a day, we agreed that this would be a good use of our time. Usually betas and previews only last until Sunday evening, so having this one available on Monday was quite a surprise.

Despite my prose-rage over the game, I reinstalled it on the PC so I could play with friends. This time around, something clicked, which is extremely weird considering I’m not the only one who felt this way after a second look.

We ran through the co-op mission again, and it was the same as it ever was. Then we hit up the Drop Pod scenario. After that, we hit up Hoth. Then back to the Drop Pods. Then back to Hoth. You know, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad this time as it had been the first time, although I can’t figure that there was anything really different about the situation. Having friends around was a plus, of course, but performance-wise, I did pretty damn good during the initial scenarios (although I slid significantly in the rankings as time went on). Overall, I think I enjoy the Drop Pod scenario more than the Hoth scenario because the map is smaller, and the objectives are easier to ascertain and track. Make no mistake: the Hoth battle is pretty spectacular, and nails the Star Wars aesthetics, but turns out the size of the map and the need to run everywhere was tiring, and in one match I just camped a cliff face and sniped at rebels who poured out of their base. I was That Guy.

Still, I don’t think I’m going to spend $60 on this game because at the end of the day, there are games that I consider far more enticing than the lobby-shooter aspects that Star Wars Battlefront brings. If it’s on sale, then yeah, I’ll absolutely pick it up because I suspect my friends will have bought it long before then, and it’s a pretty good Monday night game.

Read More

You Guys Fight It Out, I’m Going Home


Like approximately 11tybillion people this weekend, I tried the Star Wars Battlefront…I’ll call it a preview, because the tags “alpha” and “beta” have been worn down like a set of tires on I have no idea because I know nothing about cars. I downloaded for PC and Xbox, but not PS4, because I was lazy I guess.

I only got as far as the PC version before I opted to give up, though. Frustration is high with this one, and by this one I mean me because let’s face it: I am my own worst enemy. I tried the solo mission, a pathetic stub of a mode right now that I’m sure EA included just so they didn’t have to throw in a tutorial, or as a way to sour you on the idea of playing against the AI. In this solo mode, you have to fight off waves of Stormtroopers, and some AT-STs eventually, while you wait for Admiral Ackbar to break free of The Trap and rescue you from your own personal Brady Bunch Grand Canyon Adventure. Overall it is a good way to get a feel for the game without the pressure of team performance, but as I’m sure the full game will reinforce, you don’t get anything from playing alone (or with friends) against the AI. It’s practice, but you can’t use it for advancement. For that, you need to jump into multiplayer.

Here’s where it (I) get stupid: there’s two modes for multiplayer in this phase of availability. The first is capture and hold. The second is not capture and hold. The first mode has you running around in an 8v8 map, tagging drop-pods for you team and preventing the opposition from doing the same, or from taking your tagged pods. This leads to a crisis that I’m pretty sure is an immediate no-brainer for traditional players of this kind of game: do we hold this pod, or do we tag it and race off as fast as we can to the next one, leaving the previous pod totally open for the other team to capture? The second mode is actually the selling point and the one everyone seems to be talking about: the 20v20 battle royale on Hoth, complete with AT-AT’s, TIEs and X-Wings, and the snow speeders which of course allow you to tether the walker’s legs in fulfillment of your unrequited The Empire Strikes Back dreams. The goals here are a bit different, something about the Rebels having to take out the walkers before they reach a certain point, and the Imperials having to blah blah blah who cares we’re only here to shoot stuff whatever.

So, the stupid part. I played the “tutorial”, and then went straight for the Hoth mission because I figured that blending into a team of 20 would be a lot easier for regulating multiplayer stress than if I were one of eight with measurable goals. The Hoth mission is just like a water gun fight. You run around, shooting people on the other side, and you keep running so no one can get a bead on you. If you die, no worries, because there’s always someone there to pick up your slack while you’re getting your Hoth-legs under you. Well, the Hoth mission starts you off by basically blocking you with some text. “You should probably get a few levels under your belt before you jump in here, soldier,” it suggested. Screw that, I said to myself. I’m not here to mess around! I want what the videos have been pimpin’. I want that sweet, sweet 20v20 Hoth battle! So I ignored the suggestion and spawned in on the Rebel side. You know, the side without the heavy equipment?

BOOM! Dead. OK, no worries. This was to be expected even in a 20vBOOM! Dead. Sure, all right, let’s just get down behinBOOM! Dead. OK guys, very funny one sec while I geBOOM! DEAD! BOOM! DEAD! BOOM! DEAD DEAD DEAD. At this point, my mind drifted back to the limp-wrist suggestion of getting a few levels, and wondered if that was less of a “please consider it” and more like a “it’s your funeral, chump”. Of course, the only way to do that would be to play the drop-pod scenario, the thought of which didn’t even register on my Happy-O-Meter. My second thought was that the spawn points I was getting were just plain old abysmal. One video on the Hoth scenario I watched told about how the map was so huge that it took forever to run from the spawn point to the action. It didn’t say anything about the much shorter time it took for the action to find me after I spawned. Out in the open. In a crowd of other, confused players. It was like the old adage “shooting Mon Calamari in a barrel”.

That was my first and last introduction to Star Wars Battlefront, and that kind of makes me sad because I remember good times in Planetside 2 where I was just one of a mazillion players on a side, anonymous and in it for my personal feeling of self satisfaction that if I could take out just one enemy target, I would have contributed. In SWB, the only contribution I made was to take a bullet before a teammate in the hopes that the teammate could get to shelter before getting sniped. The best I could say about it, then, is that it was really, really pretty. The game, not my experience, obviously.

I quickly opted to skip buying this game because it wasn’t enjoyable, and it wasn’t enjoyable because I couldn’t bring myself to jump through the suggested hoops the game recommended just so I could get to the parts that I thought I might enjoy. That’s a pretty narrow corridor to travel, one which I guess people who are gung-ho about the game and all it entails will never see as being restrictive. The end result is that the game is what it is, and I don’t like what it is, so I won’t be buying Star Wars Battlefront, which at the 10,000 foot view isn’t such a loss considering how I’ll have more than enough other games that I do enjoy to pass the time with during this game’s release window.

Read More

A New Obsession – Smartwatch Faces

Wildstar Watch FaceI was fortunate enough to be able to buy an LG G Watch R from a friend who was changing carriers and phones. Smartwatches have been on my radar for a while because I like technology, especially if it’s got both form and function. I had actually stopped wearing watches back in the mid 90’s when I worked at a liquor store, because reaching between glass bottles with a bulky growth on my arm tended to sweep bottles of expensive booze onto the tile floor, and no one would have been happy about that.

The watch does what you’d expect it to: connects to your smartphone (Galaxy S6 in my case) and gives you weather updates, notifications, and can run some apps pushed from the phone. For example, I can use Google Maps to navigate with turn-by-turn instructions delivered to the watch face. Not great for driving, but it’s a godsend when navigating an unfamiliar city and not looking like a tourist. I’ve come to rely on the watch more than the phone (the fact that the phone is still in the loop notwithstanding) because it’s just more convienient than having to dig into my pocket to tell the time or to see who’s sending me messages.

Like any watch, though, there’s also an element of presentation. The G Watch R isn’t as bulky as I thought it would be, and since the body of the watch is basic black with white markings around the bezel, the best way to get your fashionable bang for your buck is to switch out the watch faces.

There’s a good amount of nice faces you can download for free or for a nominal fee from the Google Play store via the Android Wear application (which handles the interface between the watch and phone), but I came across an app on the Store called Watchmaker. This is an app that runs on your Android device and allows you to create your own watch faces. Basically, a watch face is just layers of elements that are built up to create the display. In my Wildstar example that I posted on Twitter last night, the face is made up of an image of the planet Nexus, the Wildstar logo, the band of numbers, the tick marks, and hour and minute hands, all in that order. Watchmaker really has no requirements for coding knowledge (although it does allow you to script features in Lua), nor does it require a lot of intense graphical work. All of the elements in the face above are stock, downloaded from the Internet or made available from the Watchmaker element repository. You can tweak the layers in different ways for different effects. The Wildstar logo has a lower opacity setting, for example, in an attempt to reduce the “busy-ness” of the face. The number font was an option within Watchmaker, and it looked pretty “Nexian” to me. The hour and minute hand colors are also customizable. Although I didn’t include an image to illustrate it, the watch has a dimming feature, and in this case it just shows the tick marks and the faded Wildstar logo with the watch hands on a black background. Stylish!

Since last night, I’ve been thinking about other watch faces I could make. I’m not entirely pleased with this one, since I actually slapped it together while I was waiting for dinner to cook. I’m planning on maybe creating some racial representations for Wildstar, and also factional faces for The Secret World.

If you’ve got an Android powered smartwatch, check out Watchmaker. There’s a free and a premium version; I believe the free version allows you to use Watchmaker faces, while the premium version allows you to build them. If you would like to use the Wildstar face above, you can download it from the WatchAware website and import it through Watchmaker. The wiki says that faces can be made into APKs, but that requires a lot of hoops to jump through that I don’t have the time for at the moment. Maybe once I get several faces done, and am happy with them, I’ll see about setting up a Google Developer account with all that it entails.

Read More



I have a habit of reading interesting things, but then a few days later wanting to touch on a specific point in whatever it was that I read, only to have forgotten where I read it. That leaves me having to recount the thrust of the post or article without the context that probably made me want to talk about it in the first place.

This time around, an article I had read mentioned something about being an expert. It was regarding how we don’t think we’re good at anything because we don’t feel like an expert, when in fact our interests are constantly forcing us ever deeper into the subject matter. Through osmosis, we absorb details and facts, and don’t even know we’re learning because we’re personally driven to consume more and more. Here in the West, the word “learning” usually equates to decades in our broken school system, sitting in uncomfortable chairs and being talked at while we memorize facts. If nothing else, we learn that learning is painful, an unhappy alternative to staying home and playing video games or hanging out with our friends. That’s why when we doggedly pursue our interests it doesn’t seem like learning; it seems like passion.

So there’s that setup and a bit of editorial exposition, but the point I’m after is that often times once someone translates something for you, you lose the blinders that prevented you from understanding that you’ve actually been improving yourself through what you’ve been doing. This is an opportunity to step back and assess your experience from a 10,000 foot vantage point and see the steps you’ve taken, to consider what knowledge you’ve gained, and to realize that while you may not know everything there is to know on a subject, you have actually become somewhat of an expert simply through sheer force of will.

I’ve often tried to think of where my expertise lies, and in all honesty I cannot put a finger on a single thing. I don’t mean that to say “I feel I’m an expert at many things”, but rather “I don’t believe I’m an expert at anything.” This is something I’ve understood for some time, actually, when I look around at my peers in this community. For example, I’ve been gaming for decades now, but my pattern is one of flight and indecision as I jump from game to game in search of a new experience. Meanwhile, others are able to stay put for longer, and as a result throw themselves more into the guts of their current experiences. I don’t bother learning the depths of any game I play; I learn enough to progress, but never enough to excel the way I see others doing. Maybe that’s because I know I won’t stay very long, or maybe I don’t stay very long because I treat every game as a shallow, moment-by-moment experience.

While I might blame my chase of the New, after reading whatever article I read that started me down this path, I thought about it from a different angle. Assuming I did stay with a game, how would I feel? And based on that feeling, what would be the outcome?

The answer I came up with was that I would feel bored, eventually. Past posts might lead you or me to believe that my predominantly solo gameplay experiences are to blame, whereas my group experiences were tethers that have kept my interest for far longer. Maybe that’s a part of it, sure, but digging deeper and deeper, this post is the key.

The Internet loves facts. Sorry, “facts”. Many folks believe they have the answers because having answers means having knowledge, and any PSA can tell you that knowledge is power. One opposing facet of facts, then, is opinion, which is a personal point of view designed around our own nature and nurture life experiences (which do include facts, at least as we believe that we understand them). Facts lead to expertise; opinion leads to…what, exactly?

That is where I fall in the spectrum: closer to the “opinion” side than the “fact” side. My posts here are 98% opinion. They’re not all closely related to fact either, just a lot of theories and philosophies applied to the geek community. The carry no weight and have no authority behind them. I’m just some guy on the Internet doing what the Internet can’t stop me from doing, but trying not to be an asshole about it.

I rarely think of anything in terms of “facts”, which I’m coming to realize, and I think that is preventing me from becoming an expert in anything. I’m an OK developer. I’m an OK gamer. I’m an OK blogger. I’m an OK parent, an OK husband, and an OK friend. But I’m not very good at any of those things, at least not to the point of being an “expert”. I’m sure someone would point out that, really, no one is an expert, but I disagree because thinking like that tends to assume that to be an expert implies that there’s nothing else to learn, or that someone knows so much more than everyone else that they have achieved a state of wisdom that transcends mere expertise.

To me, being an expert means that when presented with a situation, there’s no conflict when choosing which path to take. That decision is based on facts, numbers, rules, and experience. An expert has the right tools for almost any situation, and knows which tool to use for which job. An expert is a reliable source of information, and is willing to share his or her expertise with others.

This opens up a whole can of “expert versus Internet expert” topics that are just so far beyond the scope of this post that I can’t even, but thinking about what I know, and how I approach subjects, I realize that I tend to take more of a philosophical approach than a fact-gathering approach. That kind of bothers me for a few reasons. First, I’m limited in what I can achieve if I only learn the surface facts necessary to get the job done. Second, opinions don’t get us anywhere except possibly in trouble. Third, not pursuing expertise puts me way behind others in terms of participation, leaving me at the far back of the pack while others find ways to level more efficiently and consume more content because of it. Thinking of my posts in the past in light of these points, my tendency to put philosophical thinking ahead of good old fashioned know-how is very much a part of my feelings of disconnection from my peers.

So, what can we do? I’ve been trying to keep the nose to the grindstone with Project Universe, and my posts here reflect the kind of drive towards expertise that I am generally lacking. But it’s development, and while I’ve been developing for many, many years now, I’m entirely self taught. That leads to massive gaps in knowledge which force me to learn what I need to know to tackle the task at hand, but not necessarily the why behind it. Still, progress is progress. When it comes to gaming, I need to really find the strength to buckle down and investigate on my own. To take time to experiment and test theories to find the patterns in the outcomes. I could read guides, but that’s too close to the slippery edge of “Internet fact” for me; plus, learning through trial and error is a better way to learn, IMO.

Of course, knowing what to do is different from actually doing it, so I need to figure out a way to get on task and stay on task. That’s the difficult part, and might be the linchpin in my whole philosophical trauma.

Read More

I’m No Good At Guilding

I think I’ve come to the realization that I’m not very good at joining things. Over the years, I’ve kind of blamed my solo-gaming-nature on just enjoying solo gaming more than group gaming, and pound for pound I think that stands. But since I have decided to try and be more interactive, I found that I am apparently unable to be more interactive.

I have tried to join guilds in many games with grand plans to get involved, speak up, be noticed, get in good with the locals, be known…but it’s almost never happened. My personality is not one that allows me to be the kind of person that flings himself into someone else’s conversation. I don’t have insight to contribute, and a lot of the times I just don’t really care to interject myself into a conversation because why? Just to be noticed? To me, that makes me annoying, and that’s not the kind of “being noticed” that one is looking for when trying to make a new group of friends. Even when I do have something to say, it’s often passed over: just yesterday I announced to this guild that I joined that the servers would be going down soon (as seen on Twitter!). That knowledge was passed along a few minutes later by another member who said that “someone else said that…”. I didn’t even rank high enough for anyone to bother to remember who it was that said something quotable. #sadface

That does make me sad, and because I can’t really bring myself to get beyond this certain level of comfort injecting myself into other people’s established spaces, I feel that quitting the guild would be the best option for me, because it always hangs over my head that I’m a bad guild member whenever I’m playing. I’m not even playing right now and I’m thinking about it, that’s how much it bothers me.

I’ve said in the past (maybe not in this incarnation of the blog) that I think the best guilds always meet their members half way. I know that’s often really hard to do because it means that the guild members all have to make time to take care of other guild members and that can be a tall order. It also means that guild members need to step up and do their part to introduce themselves and get involved with the existing members. I just can’t seem to force myself to do that, and that’s really weird in some ways. I see a lot of people hand-wringing over how introverted they are and how they have multiple personas for different groups, while I’ve always taken the tack that fuck it…if I’m here as you read me, I’m me as you interact with me, no masks or anything like that, but this is the one aspect I just can’t get under control. I don’t expect people to just “awwww” over this revelation, but I guess it means I need to stop thinking that “finding the right guild” is actually something that’s possible.

Read More

Facial Recognition


It’s been a bit over 24 hours since Wildstar threw the switch to convert from subscription only to free to play with subscription option. This would be more newsworthy if the folks at Carbine had zero issues in the process, and were just waking up for another hum-drum day herding rowsdowers by the time you read this post, but history tells us that even the most prepared team is guaranteed to run into problems when enacting a change of such magnitude. Things rarely go “by the book”, “according to plan”, and almost never never never go as smoothly as the most vile mouth-breather on the forums insists it should.

We as a collective consumer base have gone through many F2P transitions over the years — DDO, LotRO, EQ2, TSW and a whole host more — so this is not our first rodeo. We know that things don’t “just work”, and that there’ll be problems during the transition. For Wildstar, this has amounted to frequent server bounces, lag, and probably a whole dump-truck worth of bug reports that we’re just not privy to. All in all, a “typical” conversion day scenario from the consumer perspective.

That doesn’t stop some people from whining and complaining and insulting and demanding and proclaiming. A lot of people blame anonymity for bad-behavior, but we should also blame the usual impersonal interactions that the Internet affords us as well. These are the official channels that are useful for ensuring that the flow of information reaches it’s intended targets, like bug logs and Twitter accounts which let us know what stage of progress we’re currently experiencing, but we rarely get actual insight into what wrangling these monumental processes look like.

Like this:

and this:

and this

Many folks at Carbine have been posting live updates from their offices while they worked the weekend and the launch day. It’s kind of a rare, live look into an industry that, despite the kind of interaction that social media has allowed producers and consumers to have, is still pretty much a black box to the majority of those outside of it. For many, game development and studio operation is just magic: an announcement is made, updates are teased, and one day the product shows up on shelves or auto-downloaded to our hard drives. It might as well be sorcery for all the rank and file gamer knows about how the industry operates on a day to day basis. Most of the time, it’s probably not that exciting, but such insight allows us to humanize the process.

Remembering that there are people working on these products — not just remembering, but understanding what that means — should bring us a sense of gratitude. I mean, we should have that sense anyway. These folks could be working in less stressful environments, but choose to work in an industry that they enjoy, that we enjoy and that many on this side of the screen would profess to wanting to be a part of, all despite the drive-by vitriol that they receive when things don’t go well for the consumer. In these linked Tweets and the Tweets of other Carbine employees, we see people preparing their office for the long haul with food and drinks, and how they’re setting up their conference room to facilitate communication for rapid response. We see them working, and not just “assumed to be working”…actually working on the problems that so many people are complaining about like there’s no consequence. And even though they’ve been at it for several days now, you can see that these Carbine folks mean business, and that they get great satisfaction from when things go well, and from making things that suck, suck less. I wish more studios had the kind of culture that allowed for the reality of their day-to-day operations to seep through to the consumer base, so we don’t end up thinking of them just as Twitter bots or specially colored names on the forums.

Thanks to you, Carbine folks, for being transparent and keeping us in the loop. We know that you don’t like problems any more than we do; all we can do on this side of the screen is wait helplessly, which for some translates into impatience and anger, but having a window into the world of an operations center in the middle of this difficult time makes me (at least) feel satisfied and in some ways in-touch with the real people who make our entertainment possible.

Read More


loppI am looking forward to Wildstar‘s switch-throwing F2P conversion, although not ‘staying up till midnight’ level of excited. I really do like WS, it’s in my top 10 MMOs of all time, but like most games these days I rarely get so hyped to the point where I feel actually affected by shifts of any size. I plan on continuing my sub to WS, at least until I see if the benefits are worthwhile. Right now, it’s the only sub game I have going on, and while I’ve grown uncomfortable with sub-based games, I like WS enough to pay for it.

There are no plans on my horizon to re-roll and start over. I haven’t even gotten to level 20 on my current main, and my highest character is only level 25; starting over is a longevity exercise for those who have a stable of capped alts, but for me it’s a horrible thing to contemplate.

Thus concludes the shortest post I have ever written.

Read More
content top