High End Or Bust

Seriously,

What is up with game makers thinking they need to have a game that can only be run using the latest and greatest machines in existence?  My computer isn't exactly top notch, but it's not really a slouch either.  Computers are expensive.  If you have a game that can only be played on computers that were built using parts that were released in the past 6 months because you decided it was more important to have genuine waterfall dynamics than it was to have a game playable on a wide field of existing computers, you're limiting your audience too much.

I've lately been finding myself playing almost exclusively Indi PC games, not because they're the best (although they can be pretty fun), but just because they don't require a PC capable of super-computing.  I don't know what it is about these crazy people who don't get that "the highest end graphics" shouldn't be a ridiculous barrier to entry.  If your game requires a $5,000 PC to run it, then it might as well cost $5,050 instead of $50, because reasonable people don't upgrade that often.

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Three more days

Three more days before I move into my apartment for graduate school.  It feels like a world away, even though I was just there.  I'm very excited about the coming time and look forward to doing my best.

I'll make a vlog right after I move in (and hopefully really post it this time).  My aim is to keep it short, so I don't bore myself (or anyone else).

I'm also moving light, because moving is expensive.  I'll be taking as much as I can with me, but I don't know how much that will really be.  Here's hoping it'll be at least everything I need.

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Vlogging Skills

Seriously, I made a video for my "introduction" and it was so bad I didn't post it, lol.  I need more practice doing these things.  I can say that the stuff I've seen looks so much sharper and better since trying to make one myself.

I did get a video editing program, but I'm still working on figuring out how to use it.

Also, I've got a bunch of different little hobbies that I enjoy messing with.  I saw on the NASA channel how somebody used to make gliders out of old egg cartons, and thought it sounded fun.  I did really enjoy the project I had in class where we built a glider out of balsa wood, and I've been trying to find an excuse to make another one for a while.  I sometimes get hung up on finding cheap crap to make one out of (but I'm sure I'll find some way to work that out), but I'm sure I'll have fun when/if I finally get around to it.

Still packing for grad school.  I move out on the 4th-ish.  Whether I go then or the next day (or the day after that) will probably depend on weather.  I've signed up for classes (I think).  Come to think of it, I should go check my campus email...

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Graduate Vlog?

I was considering making a "graduate Vlog", to record my graduate academics while I'm a student at NC State.  Aside from somehow incriminating myself, it sounds like a fun thing to do.  I mean, the next-worst thing that could happen is just being painfully boring so that nobody watches it.  Also, writing about what a dull and boring person I am on here makes it less likely that I'll be completely dull and boring in video.  At least I can pretend it does, and that's what I'm going for.

I'm just concerned that perhaps grad school isn't all that exciting.  I also bitch a lot.  In fact, that's most of what I do (it's my favorite pass time).  So aside from being locked up for 10+ years due to non-proliferation of arms violations and/or being dull, I'm sure vlogging is for me!  Maybe it'll help me with my speaking skills.  Maybe I'll just be entertained.

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Grad School in the works

So I got into graduate school for Aerospace at NC State.  It seems like I'll be doing alright there.  Now it's just dealing with my family for about 25-35 more days until I can get there.  If I can manage not to be driven insane by them, I'll be alright.

Looking forward to getting back.

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Bargains!

It's bargain season, and I'm happy about that.  Online shopping for digital-direct games is everything I like about saving money with none of the trouble I hear goes into visiting a physical location.  I'm seeing "World of Goo" for $2.50 and seriously considering buying it.  (I actually just did, along with Cogs as part of some super-pack for $5, when it sells individually for $10).

I think it's a good time to talk about why I play games.  I play because it's generally a good value.  Compared to seeing a movie, the enjoyment I get out of an equally priced game ($5-$20, depending on location) is usually better.  Even the $5 Star Trek: D-A-C got me at least as much enjoyment as I generally get from seeing a movie.  A good game has a large solution space;  puzzles don't have that, which is why they tend to not carry the same value that games do (although I do enjoy them too).  If I can play StarCraft for several hundred hours and have fun doing it for the same price as a movie, then I've made out like a bandit.

Of course, that raises the question of "What about bad games?".  There certainly are bad games, and I've played a fair number of them.  Maybe part of the problem is that I so strongly dislike passive entertainment that I can't properly appreciate movies.  I'm not inclined to think that is the case, although a movie has to be pretty darned good for me to enjoy it.  Games are "the same thing over and over", as I've been told, but movies tend to be that way too once you understand them (which isn't all that hard).

Maybe what I'm enjoying is just bargain hunting.  Who doesn't like that?  I think it goes deeper than that, though.  I really think it's the value-to-cost ratio being as large as it is that's the biggest selling point for me.  Even an "expensive" game is usually a pretty good deal.  The only thing I think comes close is a used bookstore.  For half a dollar, you can have an evening or two of fun reading a book.  Building a personal library is also fun, although if the point is to have the books rather than read them you're more a collector rather than a reader.  Don't mistake what I'm saying: collecting objects of value like that is not a bad thing.  It just isn't aimed at having fun or anything.

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Quit mixing things that don't mix.

There's been a big problem recently with people mixing genres that don't mix.  Let's take the most common offender:  RPG and Strategy.

The rational seems to be "Similar people like these games, and often a single person likes both kinds of games, so putting the two together seems like a good idea."  The problem you run into is that the fundamental principles of each genre are competing with each other.  The fun of an RPG comes from accumulating more and more crap over time.  An RPG where you don't gain anything isn't really an RPG anymore.  Strategy titles want players to start as evenly as possible, so that some measure of player skill (multi-tasking, micromanagement, etc.) will let one player overcome the other.  If what makes the difference is "how long have you been playing", then you have a strategy RPG, but it's not very fun and tends to eat itself because whoever has been playing longer almost always wins (barring terrible, unwinnable matchups that are equally unsatisfying).

Sometimes it's some particular gameplay element driving me nuts.  I remembered a game named Savage that I played a demo for.  One of the problems was that you earned points for getting kills, which you then used to get better equipment when you respawn.  The problem with that was that you end up with somebody running around with bows and arrows shooting at each other, and one side tends to rack up a bunch of kills.  The game is effectively over at that point, because even if you (with nothing but bows) manage to kill your adversary, they come back with kick-assed flamethrowers or electric guns that tear you apart because you can't afford them when you respawn (to be able to afford those required multiple kills).  So you end up with the first skirmish deciding the match (at least at the time when I played it, which was early).

The "good" combinations of Strategy and RPG have been so-so.  Warcraft 3 is one of the better meshes of this water-and-oil combination.  For the single player experience, it leans on the RPG side more, with persistent characters that gain levels as you move further into the story.  For multiplayer, everyone starts with a level 1 hero and levels up from there.  The problem is that, especially on the competitive end, you run into the problems of RPGs, specifically that sometimes they can become a terrible grind.  In a normal RPG, you grind and grind but then it's done and you don't have to go back to level 1 unless you volunteer to.  Competitively, you have to grind repeatedly, every game, and that gets old.

Another "Strategy/RPG" title that put the two together successfully was Disgaea.  The trick here was to completely eliminate any real competition between the two.  It's more RPG than strategy.  The "strategy" part of this game is just lifting a basic combat interface from successful strategy titles and putting it into an RPG game -- because you never play against another person, you don't mind that you win or lose based on a combination of how long and how well you play it.  I'm not saying it's bad -- it's brilliant to take something from one genre and fit it into another.  But ultimately, Disgaea is more an RPG than a strategy title, and has very few elements of strategy in it, and I want it recognized for what it is.

I'm not saying that crossing the streams is always bad.  Hellgate: London had a lot of potential (which I don't think it reached), just using the FPS interface for an RPG.  There are other titles that worked well that I don't remember off the top of my head.  I just want a little more thought put into the decision making before blindly churning out another "Thing A + Thing B" game.  I'm tired of "strategy/RPG" and everything else crossed with RPG.  As a general rule, it seems like the RPG elements either dominate the game, or drag it down, with no happy medium.

I feel sure I'm missing some other mix-and-match that doesn't ever really work out for fundamental reasons.

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Fun stuff and buckle down

Haven't heard from State in a while;  I'm guessing that my application is held up by "missing paperwork".  I'll sort it out next week (I hope).  Fortunately for me, I'm applying to grad school, and I don't think those classes fill up.  The assistant I've been trying to contact hasn't been responding, so I think I'm gonna go straight to the big man next.  This can't continue.

I'm looking forward to the trip I'm planning to take this weekend.  It's to the Renn Faire, which is a fun place to go, and I'm going with some friends of mine that I know from forever ago.  I'm hoping to have a good time -- I'm pretty sure I will, but you never know what's going to happen with these two.

In gaming, I've been hitting up the Guild Wars quests lately, and trying to finish out my Hall of Monuments.  There's 50 unlockable bonuses that I can earn, and filling it out is pretty much the big thing to do.  I'm going to "work" on that some too, although for now I need to pack for my trip.  I've been taking advantage of the Halloween quests to make plat hand over fist.  I used some of the plat earned to buy a Luxon armor set (which is funny because I'm Kurzick).  It's about time I did it;  I wanted that set back during the Factions preview, and I finally got it now (four years later?  Or is it five?).

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Some minor progress

I spoke with an old friend today.  I've not had a lot of luck finding work on my own, and I'm living at home with family out in the middle of nowhere.  My friend lives in a bigger city (it's hard to be much smaller than this place) and says her job place is "constantly hiring".  It's about a fourth of what I could be earning per hour with my degree, but it's more than I'm earning now, so if I don't get into grad school and I don't find the kind of work I can do (that pays better) I might move in there.  I need some kind of income to pay for the additional training and/or certifications I'm going to need, and I can't exactly live without money.

In gaming, I spent money on the Magic computer game on Steam.  It's kinda hit-and-miss, but maybe I'll write a review of it.  I don't really recommend it, but I was hungry for some Magic and it was about my only real option.

What else am I up to?  Been doing alright lately;  I feel like I'm never accomplishing anything, but I had an argument with family yesterday and got something done today.  I should be going out to get my permit tomorrow; it's my goal to get a license by Christmas, and I think my family will finally cover the insurance cost for me.  Can't get a job because I can't get there without a license, and I can't get a driver's license without having money from a job.  I'll work through it eventually; it's good to finally have this Gordian Knot worked out.

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Killing babies is shocking?

I read a review of Dante's Inferno (the game, not the book), and saw many comparisons to God of War (which it reportedly draws from heavily for gameplay).  What surprised me most was the way so much of the game was described as "calculated to shock you".  Specifically, killing hordes of babies seemed to be what people remember most, after the use of sexualized parts of the body.  It was described as a cheap knock off and terribly derivative.

The fact that it doesn't deliver might be a problem, but being an imitation of the things that went before doesn't necessarily make it bad.  Most of the gaming world draws heavily on what went before it, with (if you're lucky) one or two new little things that makes the game unique.  I did like God of War (which I keep meaning to finish).  Maybe I've been in one too many classes where we're told that all the great works of literature are imitations of each other.

I do think originality does play a significant role, but the major segment where I expected originality from Dante's Inferno was in the world.  I'll have to pick up the game to actually see if it delivers or not, but I'll likely just be able to pick it up cheap and used, thus saving me the exorbitant purchase price.

But since when is killing babies shocking?  I guess long gone are the days where any baby who was deemed weak was culled, and this was praised as a wonderful thing, to manage the population and remove the excess.  Aristotle specifically was concerned about the problems caused when the weak and infirm consumed the majority of the resources, as often happens today.  I guess I just never thought of killing babies (or anyone else) as particularly shocking.

And now I get to the point, which is wondering if I'm really just that jaded, or if the rest of the people around me are that out of touch with reality.  I don't think killing babies is "shocking" in any particular way, although you don't see it much.  I thought it was just because babies are so darned useless/helpless it was hard to work them in as some kind of enemy, not because killing them was shocking.  I guess we learn something new every day.

In other news, I applied for about two dozen jobs this morning.  Hoping to hear back "soon".  Still waiting on word from grad school, but since these jobs were at places I'd be willing to make my career at, I'd skip the school to go straight to work.  I'm tired of being flat broke.

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