Signifying Nothing

This is a rant…

Recently it came to my attention that I was probably paying too much for my car insurance. Not because I saw a Geico commercial or anything, but because I was randomly musing about the fact that we have two cars, one a 1997 Volkswagen Cabrio and the other a 1998 Jeep Cherokee, and they are both (obviously) old, 15 and 14 years old respectively, and that they probably aren’t worth very much, each is worth – in theory – about $2,000 for private sale or maybe $1,500 trade-in value. We currently are sporting a policy with a $1,000 deductible. Given the worth of the cars, any accident which is going to cost more than the deductible to fix is going to be 50% or more of the value of the car, thus the insurance company is likely to just “total” the car and cut us a check instead of paying for repairs. So, it seemed silly to me to pay them what I was paying them for them to not really cover anything.

So, I called them up and cut my insurance payment in half, maintaining the medical coverage and the liability (damage to other people). They were very happy to do it and thanked me for my continued business and all was right with the world. Until…

Money to Burn

Like any average American, I have so much, I can do this. Not.

A couple hours later, I’m sitting there smiling about the money I’m going to be saving when it occurs to me that the value of my cars hasn’t changed much in the last couple of years. They’ve hit a sort of “value plateau” where the fact that they are running in good condition is the bulk of the value. Which means that I’ve been overpaying on my insurance for a couple of years. It’s going to total out to probably around $600 a year that I save, which means I’ve probably paid $1,200 to $1,800 for coverage I didn’t need.

Being a software developer, I know that it would be painfully simple to have a program that compares the coverage on a vehicle to the vehicle’s reported value (using something like the Kelley Blue Book as source) and this would generate a list of people to whom you could contact, by mail or email, and make them happy by offering to adjust their rates.

Of course, I know why they don’t do this. Something like auto insurance is seen by people as being required but interchangeable. They have to have it, and they pay more attention to the ads the companies run than to their actual policies. Most people will go to another company, get a quote and switch insurers before ever considering calling their current insurer to see if they can get a better rate. As such, companies focus more effort on signing new customer than on retaining existing ones.

For a non-insurance example, look at your local cable company. When was the last time they called to say they were running a special for all existing customers? Never, that’s when. The half price deals are for new or returning customers. Or for people who call to cancel. If you don’t leave and don’t complain, they’ll happily charge you twice what they charge new people, returning people, or people who threaten to leave.

Lesson: call your cable company every six months or so and threaten to cancel. Tell them you are switching to satellite, and then accept the new rate they offer to keep you.

You can probably do this with your garbage collection too, if you have to pay for it yourself and there is competition in your area. I’ve had the same company for a couple years, but where I was originally paying $30 a month, I’m down to $10 because they’ll “price match” any competitor’s offer, I just have to prove it’s a real offer. But they know who their competitors are, and they know what they charge. Why aren’t they sending out a letter to all their customers saying, “Hey! In appreciation for using us, we’ve reduced our rates!”

The other main reason they don’t randomly call existing happy customers to offer new lower rates is because those customer are, apparently, happy overpaying. Why would they throw away that money? Sure, being awesome for your customers might breed some loyalty, but loyalty is nothing in the face of cold hard cash.

Where am I going with this?

I have no idea. It all folds into that idea of “enough” I suppose. Some of these companies are making lots of money in profits, and they don’t reinvest that money into making the company better, nor do they reinvest it in reduced prices, they take it out of the system. Maybe they spend it back into the system somewhere else, but not at the rate it would get spent back into the system in the form of a few dollars into the pockets of thousands, tens or hundreds of thousands. Despite what the self proclaimed “job creators” tell you, a person, or small group of people, earning $5 million a month aren’t going to spend $5 million a month, but a million consumers saving $5 each on their bills are incredibly likely to spend that $5.

It just seems logical, for the better health of the entire economy… which is probably why I’ll never run a company or be in politics.

Gamer Girl, Country Boy

True Creation of Character

Dig through this blog and you will find a number of posts where I talk about the things that I think would make for a better MMO. These days I’m not playing (m)any MMOs, so I don’t pontificate about them anymore. But recently I got to thinking of an idea that just won’t get out of my head, so I’m going to put it down here in hopes to solidify it and keep it from nagging me.

City of Heroes - Character Creator

Kung-Fu Super Hero

One of my favorite parts of MMOs is character creation. Right now, most of you, probably nearly all of you, have an image in your mind that matches this screen shot. Selecting skin tones and body part shapes and clothing options. Admittedly, this stuff can be very cool. I absolutely adored the City of Heroes character creator. I probably built a hundred characters that I never actually played, because the idea of them was more grande than playing them would be, especially since I already had a few characters to play – and ultimately, once you start playing and you’ve picked your class, primary and secondary powers, characters play the same no matter what they look like. Still, a robust creator is a lot of fun and can ignite further character developments.

Which leads me to the other half of character creation, and the part that I end up liking more, when it works. As a role player, I love filling out the nooks and crannies of my character. Their back story, their hopes and dreams, and their personality. It is one of the reasons that I still hold the original EverQuest in just high regard. That game rarely ever tried to tell me who my character was, it was always left up to me. Since leveling was kill based and not quest based, I got to pick and choose which quests to do because they are what my character would do. This is completely opposite of what many people seem to desire in games: a constant barrage of “things to do”.

In EverQuest, I got to decide if I wanted to help the citizens of Qeynos with their problems. In World of Warcraft and other games, if I choose not to help the locals, not to do quests, I might as well stop playing because leveling my character without those quests is painfully slow.

Of course, dig through the posts here and you’ll see I actually advocate doing away with levels. Another thing I advocate is the design of EVE Online, because of the dichotomy of its character/skill system. In theory, it is a classless, skill based system. You get books to learn new skills, any skill you have the prerequisites for, and then you choose to learn it. (If you don’t know, EVE is a time based advancement system. You tell the game you want to learn a skill and it tells you how long. When it’s done, you pick another skill. You can do anything you want while training happens, nothing you do effects the speed.) However, in practice, EVE is a class based game. While any character can have any skill, once you leave port in a ship the only skills that matter are the ones that apply to the ship you are flying and the modules you have loaded in it. If you have level 5 in cannons and level 1 in missiles, when flying a ship with only missiles on it your cannons skill is unimportant.

The thing I like most about this design, and why I would like to see it implemented in a fantasy setting, is that it takes class choice out of the initial character creation. At the point you are making your first character, you don’t know anything about the class you are picking beyond the couple of paragraphs that the developers give you. Well, if you’ve played other MMOs, you probably can pick up on the tank/damage/healer elements of classes, which give you a leg up on the new players. And of course, the truth is, most classes play much differently at level 1 than they do at level 50 and beyond. I like skill based equipment limited design because it allows me to choose my role in the game as late as possible, and if I decide I don’t like being a tanking warrior, I can just switch and become a damage dealing light healer without having to abandon my whole character. I just get new skills and put on new gear. (And in a design without level based power curves, I could be useful in my new role immediately rather than having to power-level back up to join my friends.)

This got me to thinking. I want freedom, as much as I can get. But in my evolving design I still had new players making choices from limited sets before getting into game.

So, imagine this…

You log into the game and you hit “Create New Character”. You are then given a map of the world with the starting cities highlighted. Selecting a city takes you to a page (or pages) of the history of that city, a description of the land, the typical lives of the NPCs there (common professions, etc). You pick a story you like, this takes you to a more detailed description of the city, largely focusing on the factions within it. These descriptions leave out words like “good” and “evil” but instead rely on giving descriptions of the beliefs of these factions and their role in the history of this city. You have to choose a faction to align yourself with. Once you do, you are taken to the “character creator” where you get to pick the look of your character. On this screen is your character, in silhouette to start. Behind it is a representative selection of NPCs in the city you have chosen. Directly behind you and surrounding you are members of your chosen faction, and at the edges are members of the other factions. You aren’t limited in color palettes or textures based on any of your decisions so far, but the crowd around you gives you an idea of the world you will start in. You can choose to make yourself look like your chosen faction, or perhaps like one of the opposing factions – maybe you are a traitor! Or you can make yourself look entirely different from anything shown to you, a true outsider.

Now we get to the crux of my latest brain bothering idea. On this screen, there are a series of checkboxes and dropdowns and sliders and color selectors, all the familiar tools from every other character creator you’ve seen, but there are some differences. For instance, there is a dropdown called “Pronoun” from which you can choose “he”, “she” or “it” (or any additional pronouns we can come up with). This dropdown selects your character’s gender identity – notice, it doesn’t choose gender – and determines how NPCs and canned emotes will address you. Other checkboxes exist for “Breasts” and “External Genitals” (or something, it needs a better term). Checking those boxes will enable your character to have those items, no restrictions. Yes, you can have a penis, or breasts, or both, or neither! And all of them will have the appropriate sliding adjusters for shapes and sizes. There could even be an option for having only one breast, left or right – your choice. Are there other options? Any “normal” option that exists, like facial hair or tattoos or scars, would be available to everyone without limit.

Despite knowing that in such a system I would pretty much always choose to create standard built males, but that’s largely because I tend to create myself in games (No joke. Meet up with me in any game and if there is the ability to make a bald white goatee-wearing male that’s what I’ll look like. Meet up with me in real life and you’ll see I’m a bald white goatee-wearing male. I like to project me into other worlds rather than to become someone else. I want to meet other people, not be other people.), this idea that enables people to make any combination they want just seems awesome to me. Oddly enough, it’s because of, not in spite of, my predilection for making myself in games, because I want everyone to be able to do that, even if in real life they are a bearded man with breasts who identifies as asexual.

After building the look of the character, they would finally be taken to the skills area, where they would choose their initial skills. I wouldn’t want there to be classes, but I would want there to be sets of templates illustrating skills that would work well together and why, probably encompassing the traditional game roles for MMOs, with, of course, a Custom option where the player could pick their own initial skills from a list of all skills.

Essentially, I want to put as many decisions as possible into the hands of the players. And I want, as much as can be, those decisions to be informed decisions, and anywhere a player has to make a choices that may be considered less than properly informed I want them to be able to easily change them later without having to start all over again from scratch. I want them to choose what they play and how they play it.

Alright, I guess that’s enough out of me for today. Hopefully this all made sense.

Rebuild: Kingston Falls – Day 4

Rebuild LogoJason’s eyes snapped open. It was dark. Not just because it was night, but he had closed himself up in one of the offices of the police station. It probably had belonged to someone nobody liked since it had no windows, but it was where he spent his nights inside the wall.

He put his hand to his chest. His heart was pounding. He could feel his whole body jitter like he was rushing on adrenaline. Jason waited in the dark and listened.

Nothing.

Jason took a couple of deep breaths and was just beginning to relax when he heard something. It was a thump, like something had fallen over. It was followed by a scream and by gunshots.

He pulled open to door to let some light in and then quickly found his gun on the floor. Jason pulled his baseball cap onto his head and stepped out into the police station.

“They’re inside,” he heard someone yelling. It was Candy, up on the roof.

“From where?” Superman was up there with her. So was Walker.

Tom and Eric were pressed up against the glass of a window on the West side of the building, looking out.

“The wall is down,” Eric said.

“Fuck this!” Tom turned from the window. He locked eyes with Jason for a moment. “Come on, E. Let’s get.”

Jason held up a hand. “Where are you going?”

“The fuck away from here.”

“We can fight them back.”

Tom walked out of the room toward where he and Eric kept their stuff. “The wall is down,” Eric repeated.

“So we put it back up.”

Eric turned to face Jason. His eyes were hollow. “No. You don’t get it.” He said everything very slowly. “The wall is down. Not just part of it, but lots of parts of it.”

“Where is everyone?”

“Some of them are fighting.” Gunshots sounded to back up the words. “Some of them have run.”

“And you?”

Eric bit his lip. Tom ran out of the other room with two backpacks and threw one at Eric. It landed at his feet. “We are leaving, Eric.”

Eric glanced back and forth between Tom and Jason a couple of times.

“Fine. Stay.” Tom left the police station through the front door.

Jason watched Eric as he watched Tom leave, then slowly rotated his head back to Jason. “Get on the roof. It’s safer up there.”

The two of them quickly made their way to the ladder that lead up to the roof access. As he climbed Jason thought to himself, “This is good. Ladder, not stairs, those things can’t get up a ladder.” They scrambled out onto the roof where Candy, Walker and Superman all had rifles and were taking shots at the zombies milling about on the grounds below.

They all watched as Tom, backpack on his back, threaded between the shamblers, reached a section of wall that was fairly clear, then climbed over it.

Jason waited a minute, but no one made any attempt to fill him in. Finally he asked, “What the hell is going on?”

Superman spoke up first. “Gray dropped the south wall.”

“What?!”

“He signaled over something about checking the wall for weakness, and about an hour later, the whole damn thing fell over.”

“Crazy sonofabitch did it on purpose,” Walker barked.

“We don’t know that.”

“Supes, you are an optimist to the end, huh?”

Jason waved them both off. “Where is everyone else?”

Candy put down her rifle. She hadn’t been firing it, so Jason assumed it was empty anyway. “Bruce, Johnny and the new girl, they got an early start and went over the wall.”

“Which way?”

She pointed South, toward the down wall and horde beginning to pour through the opening.

“Shit. Kane?”

“He was with Gray.”

Jason paced along the perimeter of the roof.

Eric said, “What do we do now?”

“I’m partial to getting back on the road.” Walker was nodding agreement with Superman.

Jason took off his cap and ran his fingers over his scalp. “I guess we don’t have much choice. The five of us aren’t going to clear this and fix the wall.” Candy picked her rifle back up and put on a brave face. Eric burst into tears. “We go downstairs, gather what food we can, and then we leave.”

Superman looked out over the field of fire in front of him. “I suggest we follow Tom’s trail. Looks the most clear.”

The five of them filed down the ladder and quickly gathered a few supplies. Jason went back to his room for his jacket and a few other personal items, a folding knife, an ax handle, and a picture of his wife. He lingered on the photo for a moment, running his fingers over the creases, before slipping it into the front pocket of his jeans.

He headed back out to the front doors of the police station where everyone else was waiting. There was a backpack on the floor at Candy’s feet. Jason picked it up and slung it across his back. “What am I carrying?”

“Some canned goods, a little jerky, some other odds and ends.”

Jason nodded and then looked around at the others. “We ready to go?”

Everyone looked at him but no one gave any answer, but only because they didn’t want to say it. They had only secured this place for four days, but it had been a wonderful change from the constant moving. No one wanted to lose this, but Jason looked out the front doors and could see human shapes swaying with slow steps and knew it was already gone.

“Let’s go.”

Superman and Walker pushed the doors open with their rifles up. “Don’t fire unless you have to,” Walker cautioned. “We need to conserve bullets, plus avoid the sound.”

Jason stepped out between them and headed toward the section of wall that Tom had scaled. Superman followed a step behind, then Eric, then Candy, with Walker bringing up the rear. The line of them walked quickly but kept from breaking into a jog, keeping their distance from the zombies, winding around them and toward the wall.

One by one they went over the wall. Everyone waited in silence on the other side. Jason looked around for signs of Tom but didn’t see any. He saw a scattering of zombies, most of them now shambling toward them. As quick as he could, Jason evaluated the streets. “We’ll go North, around the apartment building I checked out and then head West out of the city.”

Candy looked off to the West. “Back the way we came in?”

“I figured we know those streets a little better.” He didn’t wait for people to agree and started for the apartment building. Before, he had approached the building in the day and been inside it through the night. At night, it loomed ominously. It was probably still largely empty, but the shadow it cast in the moonlight was unsettling.

Jason rounded the corner of the building and bumped into a zombie. It fell to the ground and immediately started trying to get up. Another hand grasped for him and he stepped out of its reach. A chorus of groans rose up. His vision was filled with a crowd of undead that spanned the four lane street.

It happened faster than he expected. The crowd began to surge toward him, toward the corner of the building. He kept taking steps back, though back was now North, and before he could do anything about it, the horde of zombies was between him and the rest of the group.

Walker rushed forward, he and Superman began firing off shots. Candy had her own rifle in hand using it like a club. Eric turned and ran back for the wall.

Jason started swinging his ax handle, but he kept having to give up more ground. The others were backing up too. The gap between them was getting wider.

“Run,” he shouted. “Head West! Get out of the town! I’ll try to circle around and meet you!”

“Meet at the station,” Candy yelled.

“The station,” Jason confirmed. At the edge of town, before it gave way to farmland, there was a radio station the group had spent a night in on their way in. He watched as the other three turned and broke into a run, around the other side of the apartment building to head West.

Another zombie shuffled close to Jason and he cracked it between the eyes with his ax handle. It staggered backwards but didn’t fall. He turned and ran North.

At every intersection and alley, he tried to make his way West but the path was always blocked by more of the undead. Eventually he gave up trying, settled into a comfortable jogging pace, and just headed North out of town. He spent a night in a farmhouse, and as he made a longer loop around the outskirts of the town another night in the back room of a gas station. It took three days for him to get to the radio station on foot. He stood a hundred yards away and watched as zombies shambled in and out of its wide open doors.

Kingston Falls had failed. The number of undead there seemed to be multiplying and Jason had lost the entire group. He hung his head and started walking the road away from the town. Jason’s hand went to his front pocket and felt that the photo was still there.

“I know. I promised. I’m not going to give up. I’ll find them. I’ll find more. I’ll find somewhere else and start again. I’ll survive. I promise.”

Rebuild - Day 4


So, why the abrupt end? Well, it turns out that even though Rebuild says it’s connecting to a server and saving your game, it’s apparently saving the game in your browser cache. Sometimes, websites, like gmail, do updates and because of stuff in your cache the sites crash, so you have to clear out your cache. Had I known my game was saved there, I’d have tried to figure out a way to clear the rest of the cache and preserve it, but I didn’t know, so I wiped the cache clean and with it Kingston Falls.

I hoped that perhaps the generation of your town at the start was based on the name of your town and the name of your leader, and that I could recreate the game by using the same in both, but it doesn’t work like that. Every attempt to recreate the game resulted in a new town and new people. Of course, I could have created a new town and just lied, kept playing and you, the readers, would have never known. But I would have known. I was left with only one option: wipe the slate clean. But, I didn’t want it to be a bloodbath. In the world of random name generation, it’s possible when I start my next town – and I will be starting another town once my anger has subsided – that the same names might just pop up. This might not be the last we see of everyone.

Anyway, I’ll probably take a couple of weeks off from this and then come back to it. I really want to finish a Nightmare play-through of Rebuild, because I’m itching to play Rebuild 2.

Spoiler

The zombie apocalypse happened — and we won.

But though society has recovered, the threat of infection is always there — and Los Angeles coroner Tommy Rossman is the man they call when things go wrong.

Less of Me

Once again, I’m attempting to lose weight. It seems like I’m always trying to do that, but I suppose that will be the case until I finally get down to the weight I would like to be.

I bought a new scale. The old one, it seems, may have been broken. I weigh myself fairly often and noticed that I appeared stuck at 210 or there about. A little up, a little down, but not much. On a whim, I decided that I wanted a digital scale instead of the old non-digital one we had, plus it was only $12. Anyway, first time I step on – 217. My other scale had been lying to me. Oddly enough, the previous couple weeks I’d been doing the light eating again, so I suspect that I was at 220 or so. I’m down to 216 and trending downwards.

Trending… that’s another key this time around. I’ve got a Google Doc spreadsheet I’m using to track my weight. I’m weighing myself 3 times a day – morning, after work, before bed – and recording the lowest weight for the day (because it makes me feel better), but that weight is less important than the moving average. The average will give me a better picture of where my weight really is by smoothing out the fluctuations that occur from retaining water, the occasional big (heavy) meal, and more. Also, by adding “Science!” to my daily routine it feels more like a real project and not just “eat less, exercise more”.

Speaking of exercise, I have a 10k to run in under a month, so, you know, I should probably get to training a bit. The past year has been fairly shitty for me in regards to exercise and diet so I expect to do worse than I have in the previous two years. I did, however, download a Couch-to-5k program for the old Zune that I plan on beginning, maybe this weekend. Also, you know, Rule #1 of the Zombie Apocalypse: Cardio.

Another common element of my “I’m going to start a diet” plan is cutting out sodas, which I’m doing again. Consistently, I’m drinking less sodas now that I used to – there was a time where I was drinking a 6-pack of can sodas a day plus whatever I got out at meals. Now I drink mainly on the weekends and sometimes after hosting a party at our house I’ll have some left over hanging around, and I have little to no willpower, and I refuse to let things go to waste. Oddly enough, as I was thinking about cutting out sodas again, I ran across this wonderful little infographic.

CDC: The New (Ab)Normal

It really makes me not want to eat fast food anymore. Or at the very least, order the smalls and from the value menus. It would help my ego if they stopped calling them “junior” or “kid’s” sizes, but I think I’m just going to have to get over it. I may also start ordering food from the kid’s menu at other restaurants or trying to split a meal with the wife or something. Portions are really out of control.

Also, the CDC has some really awesome stuff about diet. Which makes sense, now that over-eating and obesity are being considered diseases. You can start with the source of that infographic here.

Anyway… enough about me being fat. I return you to your regularly scheduled Friday.

Rebuild: Kingston Falls – Day 3

Rebuild LogoTom and Eric were repacking the bags again. After the sun had come up, the two of them had gone down to the basement again and found another cache of canned goods. The haul back to camp would be heavy and slow, but the food was worth it. John Walker could hear them discussing the placement of items on the bags and how best to pack them as he passed by the open front door on his path around the house.

John looked behind him just in time to see the dog they’d found disappear around the corner of the house in the opposite direction. He was tired. Sleeping outside the wall had put him back into the alert mode he’d hoped he was done with when they settled down. Four hours sleep just wasn’t enough, but it was all he could manage. He stopped his patrol and leaned up against the porch of the house.

His canteen was nearly empty, and he finished it off in just a couple swallows. Just as he was beginning to relax he heard barking coming from the back of the house. John dropped the empty canteen and pulled his weapon to the ready. He started careful steps around the building.

The barking continued, mixed in with a few snarls and just as he stepped into view of the back yard it was replaced with yelping. Training and instinct took over as he saw the dog being pulled apart by two zombies, John fired a single shot into the dog, ending its suffering. He put another two rounds into the zombies, one in the chest and one in the arm.

“Get your shit together now,” he yelled. “We are leaving!” John fired another two rounds and the zombies dropped to the ground from the impact, but now he could see several others shambling in from the neighboring street and the two he’d shot were moving again.

He glanced at the motionless form of the dog and then turned back to the front of the house. Tom and Eric were coming out the front door with their backpacks on. John slung his M-16 over his shoulder and held out his hands. Eric tossed a duffel bag to him.

“What’s up? Where’s the dog?”

“Dead.” Tom and Eric exchanged glances. “Move. Now.” John was already heading back toward the wall and the other two men had to jog to catch up. Their pace would easily keep them ahead of the zeds.

The three of them got back to the wall and scrambled over it. Tom started removing his pack. “Keep it on,” John told him. “We should get this stuff over to the station right away.”

John could see everyone else was already back from their duties from the crowd gathered around the rear of the police station. He did a quick head count, adding in Gray who they’d seen where they’d come over the wall and would stay there until he was relieved, and came up with one extra. Jason must have found a new addition.

Eric walked right into the center of the group and dumped his pack. People began to grab things from it. “Don’t take more than you need,” he cautioned them. “This stuff has to last.”

Jason was already handing out new orders. Most of them had been following him so long that they didn’t question he was in change anymore.

“Everyone, this is Chastity. She’ll be with us from here on out.” There was a mumbling of introductions, some waving and a couple of handshakes. “Bruce, I’d like her to work with you and Johnny Ng. We need to know more about what’s around here, and I’m going to leave it to you to run the scouting team.”

“Aye aye.” Bruce nodded to Johnny and motioned to Chastity and the three of them moved out of the circle and off to the side to discuss amongst themselves.

“Walker,” Jason continued. John snapped to attention. “I know you just got back, but we need you and Tom and Eric to head to the building we found Chastity in. She didn’t have much of her own, but she admitted to hunkering down and now searching the building.”

John nodded. Eric and Tom walked back over to join him.

“I’d also like you to check the church next door to the building. We can see if well from the wall, and it’s empty and safe, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.”

John nodded again.

“Everyone else is on the walls,” Jason finished. The group broke up and people began to wander off toward rest and eating. Jason headed straight to John and called out for Mr. Kane to join them.

Kane wasn’t a soldier anymore. He’d been Army once, but retired. Now he wore a cowboy hat and a six-gun on his hip.

“John, how was the situation at the,” Jason seemed lost for a word, and finally stammered out, “farm?”

“It’s clear of food, but it has a zombie problem.”

“That’s what Gray said too. Well, that’s what he signaled to Candy anyway.” He turned to Mr. Kane. “I think if we could secure that, we could use it, but we need to clear it first. You up for a hunt?”

Kane tipped his hat back and spit tobacco out the side of his mouth, really playing up the cowboy. “I reckon I could do that.” He smiled.

“Well, alright,” Jason said. “Thanks, John.” Then he and Kane walked off toward the south end of camp.

Everyone was gone except for John and Tom and Eric. Tom knelt down to the duffel at John’s feet and began going through it. Eric and John headed for a nearby picnic table.

“I guess,” Eric started, “I can take the church. You and Tom can take the apartment building?” John nodded. They sat together silently for a moment, Eric staring at the table while John watched the clouds float by in the air.

Tom joined them and placed a six-pack of beer on the table. “Drink up, gents. Tomorrow we go back outside the wall.”

The three of them cracked open a beer each and shared uneasy smiles. ”I hope Kane kills all those motherfuckers,” John said between sips. “Motherfuckers killed my dog.”

“Without whom,” Eric added, “those zombies might have gotten us surrounded.”

“To the dog,” Tom toasted. “Whose name we didn’t know, but is in a better place than this.”

The three of them finished the toast. Then they finished the beers.

Rebuild - Day 3

Show them your O face

I’ve been turning it over in my mind since I heard about it. SOE is adding a new thing to EverQuest 2 that allows you to have your facial expressions – as in the face you are making as you are playing – implanted onto your character, in real-time.

First off, I cannot recall the last time I ever really looked at the face of a character in an MMO while I was playing. Largely this is because every game has gone third person, and with the camera pulled back to get a tactical view of the game the opportunity to even see faces, much less the expression on them, is extremely small.

Second, while I think facial expressions might have a place in role play, most MMOs have forsaken role play for game play so much that you have to essentially stop playing the game to talk to other players. The only people doing any serious role play are the ones sitting in town, not playing the game.

The SOE O FaceAnd that second point brings me to the one subset of players who will likely make the most use of a technology like this: ERP. If you don’t know what that is, it’s Erotic Role Play. Perhaps you’ve stumbled across it before, maybe wandering into a random empty building in town or through some little played alley (for WoW players, Iron Forge is full of “empty” buildings, and the tunnel the tram uses to go back and forth to Stormwind is one of those “alleys”). Or maybe you’ve been slapped in the face with it (for WoW players, go onto pretty much any of the RP servers, create a human character in Stormwind, and then run down the road to Goldshire – or as some people call it: Pornshire). The simple fact is that beyond a person taking screenshots of themselves in various poses to post on Facebook and other places, the people who will get the most use from facial expressions are the people who sit really really close to each other talking in hushed tones.

Does EQ2 really need this? No, not really. It’s a neat toy, but isn’t going to add very much to the game. But now that it exists and can be in the design of a future MMO in the early stages (for example, EverQuest Next, coming from SOE), perhaps it could be very cool.

That said, the guys over at Second Life are probably already looking into licensing this technology. Now there is a game that would get a ton of use out of the ability to show the world your O face.

Elder Sign

If you enjoyed that, then take a look at this one too…

More Reviews on Shakefire

Shakefire.comYet another round-up of things I’ve written for Shakefire.

As always, some good, some bad, but in all cases I didn’t pay a dime for it.

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