Chat Boundaries

EverQuest was, as I’ve described before, really just a bunch of chat rooms with this mini-game of fighting monsters strapped to it.  In each room, or zone, there were several chat channels.  Local or say was distance limited, get too far from someone, twenty or thirty virtual feet, and you wouldn’t see their chat messages.  Then you had shout which was zone wide, and ooc (out of character) which was also zone wide, and auction which again was zone wide.  You might wonder why they had three channels that were essentially functionally the same.  The answer is in the second channel, out of character.  Shout was intended to be for things you wanted to say to the whole zone which was in character, or role playing.  OOC was for talking about min/maxing and last night’s baseball game.  Auction was for trade chat, selling items or offering to buy items.

The best thing about EQ was that the players did a fairly good job (on my server anyway) of policing that.  People talking about baseball in shout were asked to move to ooc, and they usually did.  This let players have control over how they interacted with the game.  If you wanted to role play, you simply turned off ooc and all the other players could chat about baseball and you’d never see it.

In recent years, as the MMO genre has grown, with millions of people playing games like WoW, and games dropping the in character/out of character conventions, the boundaries of chat are gone.  Every channel in most games is full of every kind of chat (except role play, which is getting pretty well crushed under the boot of “fun” which an ever growing segment of game populations appear to equate entirely with playing whack-a-mole and collecting loot).  Take Fallen Earth for example.  I love playing the game, but only after I filtered out both the New Player and Region chats to tabs I could hide because it was non-stop streams of spoilers and data and whining.

Of course, I’m not just lamenting lack of channel etiquette, but the loss of the RP in the MMORPG.  Many people these days appear to approach MMORPGs like they are just another way to spend some time.  They log in, they fight some monsters, they complete some quests, they level, and they log out.  Somewhere in there, perhaps, they chat with some other people.  Though with the increasing emphasis on solo game play in modern MMOs, playing or chatting with other people isn’t something most people are doing.  For me, at least, I’d love to see the return of the “out of character” channel, if only as an acknowledgment by the developers that there is a dividing line between in and out of character.

No More Kings

I was first introduced to the band No More Kings because of a funny video for a song of theirs.  The song was “Sweep The Leg” and the video is…

The infectious groove of that song immediately had me hooked.  Shortly after discovering the song, I found out the band was coming through Atlanta and playing a gig down at Smith’s Olde Bar.  We went, and there I heard more of Pete Mitchell’s music.  I bought the CD and it has remained a staple of my changer.

Not too long ago, No More Kings put out a second album, which I pre-ordered and it has joined the first in remaining a staple of my CD changer.  One of the best parts of Pete and company’s style is that while many of their songs are littered with and about pop culture (or specifically 80′s pop culture) like the song in the video above they never really come out and beat you over the head with it.  The song is called “Sweep The Leg” and not “The Karate Kid song”.  For another example, take the following lyrics:

there’s no reason to look under the hood
a slight malfunction, doesn’t mean i’m no good
i won’t be shut down, i’m not ready to die
i said that i was sorry, but robots don’t cry

hold on
the very thought of losing out now is making me tremble
hold on
i am alive, i am alive, i am alive
hold on
please just gimme a chance now, no disassemble
hold on
i am alive, i am alive

there’s no reason to take me apart
extension cords and circuit boards don’t mean there’s no heart
i can tell somehow you relate
we’re indifferent to the difference between program and fate

now i know i’m alive
can’t you see i’m alive

i finally know i’m alive
i wanna show i’ve arrived
i wanna stay up all night
set all circuits to jive
i wanna prove i’m alive
do so much more than survive
i’m gonna reach for the sky
and give the world a hi-five
i wanna shout it out, i know what life is about
i wanna laugh wanna scream wanna cry out loud

You might need to read through it a couple of times if it doesn’t jump out at you, but this song is called “Robots Don’t Cry” and is about Johnny 5, the star of the film Short Circuit.  Many of their songs are like this, although they also do a number of fully original tunes that are not about movies and TV shows.

One cut off the second album called “Obey The Groove” is available for free from the band’s website. And you can go to Amazon and listen to samples of everything on both albums, No More Kings and And The Flying Boombox.  I highly recommend checking them out, but then, I’m a fan.  No More Kings has made my list of must buys.


Welcome to the Apocalypse!

So, you’ve decided to sign up and play Fallen Earth.  Allow me to impart to you my tips for making your life there enjoyable.

1) The only forum you should bother going to is the Technical Support forum on the Fallen Earth website, and only if you are having a problem with running the game.  Pretty much every other forum on the Internet, even on the Fallen Earth site, is posting spoiler information about build trees and maximizing advancement and lists of which quests are “worth doing” and so on and so on.  Look, unless you are the type of person who only enjoys a game when they reach the max level and go grind end game content, unless you are the type of person who spends their time running their EVE Online galactic empire, you need to stay away from all that information because it is going to do nothing but spoil the game.  You’ll end up racing through with the “perfect” build and you’ll get to the end and wonder why you bothered…  Just ignore all that and play the game.  You might be saying to yourself that you want to read up on those builds so you don’t “gimp” yourself, and I understand that.  But remember that this month’s perfect builds won’t be next month’s perfect builds, you should just feel out the game and play it the way you want to play it.

2) One of the cool things you can do in Fallen Earth is make tabs on your chat window.  So, right after you get in to game, even before you take one step out of the pod in the tutorial, click the small tab right next to the tab labeled “All” to create a new tab, check the “New Players” box, uncheck the “Local” and “Flash on New Message” boxes, name the tab “New Players” and save it.  Now right click the original “All” tab, choose Edit, uncheck the “New Players” box and save.  What you have just done is to move the “New Players” channel to its own tab where it can be largely ignored.  The reason you have done this is because, while that channel is good for asking a question when you get stuck, 99% of the time it is nothing but people spamming questions and spoiler info.  Have you played WoW?  Did you play on the Horde side?  Remember Barrens chat?  Its like that, only every question is “Where is Mankirk’s wife?” and it is always followed by complete directions to her and people giving their opinions on if you should even bother to find her.  If you do find yourself in need of help, you just click that tab, make sure your chat is set to go to that channel, ask, get your answer, then go back to your other tab.  You might find yourself needing to do this for the “Region” channel also as people tend to treat it the same.  (In fact, people pretty much treat every channel in game like a Q&A spoiler channel because people don’t even try to play games for themselves anymore, but that is a rant for another post.)

3) Down in the bottom left corner of your screen is the menu bar, all the way at the right end of this bar is an icon that expands and contracts this bar, just to the left of that is one called “Filter”.  Click “Filter” and then check all the items on this list, then click “Filter” again to make the list go away.  One thing Fallen Earth’s tutorial is not good at is teaching you anything beyond moving and fighting and navigating dialog boxes.  Take a few minutes and click each and every icon on the menu bar and learn what it opens and play around with each window.  Of great importance is the “Actions” item as this is where the game hides all your abilities you need to put on your hotkey bar.  By the way, while the hotkey bar appears to have only 12 buttons (“1″ through “=” on the top of your keyboard), if you resize the window you’ll find that there are actually 36 buttons, the regular, shift+ and alt+.

Once you’ve done these three things, follow your quests, through the tutorial and in your first town, they really will explain how most of the game works.  And have fun, because, I hope, that’s why you are there.  Feel free to look me up, Jhaer Buegren.

Movie Round-Up: September 18th, 2009

Love Happens:

So I’m looking at the list of this week’s releases and I say to myself, “What is Love Happens?”  I hadn’t heard of it. No commercials, no previews. And it’s not like it is some low budget thing starring no names. Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart are in there.  Anyway, it looks like a nice romantic comedy drama thing. I’ll probably see it, but maybe not at the theater.

Jennifer’s Body:

I love horror films, and I dig Diablo Cody’s writing style, so I want to see this. But it does have Megan Fox in it, who I think is one of the worst actors in the biz today who gets parts purely on her looks, and I’m on the fence.  Sorry Diablo, I’ll probably be waiting for DVD on this one.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs:

This movie looks like a lot of fun for the whole family.  But not being a Pixar film means I won’t be rushing to see it.  DVD.

The Informant!:

I got to see this film at a free screening.  It is… interesting.  More a character study than an actual story, it stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, an executive at ADM in the early 90′s who blows the whistle on lysine price fixing.  But its not about the price fixing as much as it is how Mark goes about the whistle blowing.  It turns out that he’s bipolar and an embezzler and a fairly compulsive lier.  The unfolding of his actions and deeds and the performance by Damon is the reason to see this film.  It is, as I said, interesting, but not a particularly good film.  You won’t be on the edge of your seat, you won’t be howling with laughter, but you’ll be raising an eyebrow and snickering as you watch the whole situation spiral out of control.  I’m not sure I’d want to pay full price for this, but its definitely worth a DVD rental, or even a matinee if you are into this sort of film.

Fitness Gaming

One of the hardest things for me about getting fit is just keeping at it.  Over the last year I forced myself into the habit of exercising every day, my push-ups and sit-ups plan has worked fairly well, but I know I need to incorporate more exercises in order to work the whole body and not leave things out.  Back when I bought a Wii, I was excited about Wii Sports and the coming Wii Fit.  Wii Fit turned out to be a disappointment because you couldn’t build a real workout, you had to do everything one exercise at a time and the constant stopping and starting was annoying.  That single feature is why I’ve pre-ordered and am eagerly awaiting Wii Fit Plus.

But as much as I like it, I do have to admit the Balance Board is kinda retarded.  I suppose that is why I saw Your Shape with its camera and was immediately intrigued.

I am tempted, but really want to see some honest reviews of the product before I buy in.  An exercise game without a board or hand held controllers would be awesome if it works.

Dead Witch Walking

My wallet rues the day I introduced the wife to paranormal romance and urban fantasy books, especially since the local library is in such horrible shape that it carries very little (and not just of these categories, my local library is pitiful, its barely bigger than my house).  But what’s done is done, and now we own dozens and dozens.  I’ve tried reading a few with varying results.  Some I enjoy, some are just alright, some are sappy and girly, and some are just down right awful.  There is one author who decided that in her world people who perform what we would call necromancy and we would refer to as necromancers she would instead call them simply “necromance” as in “I am a necromance.”  I only made it through about eighteen pages of the book when I had to ask, “Does she use ‘necromance’ like this through the entire book?”  To which my wife replied, “Through the whole series.”  I put the book down and will never go back to it.

But that is neither here nor there… this review is for Dead Witch Walking, the first of The Hallows series of books by Kim Harrison.  The simplest way to describe this book is “a female Dresden.”  Considering how much I like the Dresden books by Jim Butcher, that’s high praise indeed.  The book isn’t without flaws.  For one, there is no swearing.  Not real swearing anyway.  There is an event that happened years ago in this world called “The Turn” that has to do with wiping out a large portion of the human race (it has to do with genetics, viruses and tomatoes), and in this world people don’t tell you to “go f*** yourself” they instead say “go Turn yourself” which doesn’t really make sense contextually.  Go genetically engineer a virus that spreads through tomatoes yourself?  To say perhaps she means it to replace “go kill yourself” instead of the F-word, well, if you read the book you’ll see that doesn’t really fit either.  Also, what I’m guessing was an appeal to female romance readers, there are randomly thrown in lines about how some guy looks hot.  Many of them almost feel as if they were added after the fact, like the editor told the author to punch up the romance angles.  The wife tells me later books are not so jarring.

Overall, I look forward to reading more of these books.  The world, its myths and lore, is well crafted and this first book establishes a team of people that I think I will enjoy following.  Thumbs up.

DDOU: Missing the Point

Of all the IPs to be licensed, Dungeons & Dragons is actually the one where real money transactions (RMT, or microtransactions) make the most sense.  Why?  Because D&D has been doing microtransactions for decades.  In fact, of all the games on the market, Wizard101 is the game that currently mirrors the pen & paper D&D model the closest.

Think about it… to start playing D&D, you need to buy a couple of rule books, namely the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook.  With those two books and some dice, in theory, you never need to buy anything else to play.  You can make all your characters, make your own dungeons and monsters, you can even make your own loot.  Of course, not everyone is as skilled or as imaginative as everyone else, so D&D sells gaming modules which include a dungeon, monsters, loot, and perhaps even a city or town, story lines and quests and events.  You need to buy each module to play each module (or at least someone in your gaming group needs to).  This is pretty close to how Wizard101 functions, only the DMG and PH are free.  Create an account, download and log in.  You can play the first few areas of their world for free, and then you have to pay a small fee for additional areas.  Of course, there are other things you can buy in the game, items and houses and whatnot, but if you just want to play the game, I believe currently you can get everything for around $80.  For many MMOs you’ll pay $50 just for the game box and the first month, and at $15 a month, just three months in and you’ll have spent $80, and you can’t really finish all of most MMOs’ content in 90 days, so you’ll pay more.

Money amounts aside, however, DDO should have been built this way to start.  The base game with a small number of dungeons, the base classes and whatnot should have been a fixed price, or even free.  Then, much like games release expansions on Xbox Live, put out new dungeons, new modules, for a small fee every month or two.  New classes could even be released for a small fee, much like how D&D puts out expanded books to introduce new classes.  Perhaps they could have even run a hybrid model, charging players $1.99 or $2.99 a month for access to the game, and then $5-$20 per module (amount based on size of content).

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts.  If they’d started with that design, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to switch to their new Free-to-Play/Pay-to-Advance model.

A World Where That Can Happen

September 11th, 2001 was a tragic day for a great many people.  Myself, being unemployed at the time, I spent the entire day in front of the TV and talking to friends over the Internet.  For some random reason that morning, I’d turned on the TV and it was on CNN.  I think there had been some special news report or something I’d been watching before bed the night before.  I was actually watching when the first reports of something hitting the World Trade Center came in, and I stayed there all day.  I don’t think I even took a break for food until dinner that night.

As tragic as that day was, however, it was the next day, September 12th, when everything sunk in, when the ripples of the event started to be felt, when the world became a different place than it had been just two days before.  Terrorism, of course, was not new.  People had been dealing with attacks like that, though not in the same scope, for a very long time.  Suicide bombers in cafés and other public places were old hat in some parts of the world.  Even hijackings and blowing up planes was something that had, to some degree, become accepted as a possibility.  The largest ripple coming from the September 11th attack was simply that we now lived in a world where that could happen.  A world where someone can fly a plane into a building, not on accident, not a small plane as a personal act of suicide, but a large passenger flight turned in to a weapon that can bring down a building and kill thousands.  On September 10th, it was unthinkable by most people.  On the 11th, it happened.  On the 12th, it was added to the list of possibilities, or if it had already been there, its rank on the list of probabilities rose.  It went from being some 1-in-a-million things to an event that happened, and now proven effective an event that would be planned again.

One of the tracks at Dragon*Con is called Apocalypse Rising.  It is a very odd track compared to many of the other fandom based tracks like Star Wars and Star Trek and the Whedon Universe because it lives in two worlds.  On one side you have zombies and an array of Sci-Fi movies and books, and people talk about their favorite “end of the world” and they wear Mad Max costumes and pretend to hunt zombies.  On the other side, you have panels with people who are well versed in the practical procedures of surviving disasters talking about the things you can do, the things you should do.  It is in the second half where discussions about the inevitability of larger events happen.  We talk about how the September 11th event was a shock to the United States and most of the world, and about how technology advances, and arms caches of fallen regimes make their way into the market, and how once upon a time people used to discuss about the remote possibility that a nuclear weapon or other massively destructive thing might one day be unleashed on a city in the US or the UK, and how events like sarin gas being released on a Tokyo subway and September 11th and more have turned that remote possibility into an eventuality, about how we’ve stopped talking about “if” something will happen but “when” it will happen.  And it all reminds me of a line from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Somber thoughts for a sunny Saturday, I know, but I can’t help it.  Its on my mind and it had to come out somewhere.  On a brighter note, I’m alive, I’m in love, and while I may not have everything that I want, I want everything that I have, and that’s a pretty nice place to be.

It has been eight years since that day, and other lengths of time from other tragic days.  To those that we’ve lost, I wish them rest.  To those they’ve left behind, I wish them restoration.  And hopefully “when” will be a very long way off.

Movie Round-Up: September 11th, 2009

I skipped last week because A) I was at Dragon*Con, and B) I hadn’t seen any of the movies.  The funny part is, all three movies (All About Steve, Extract, and Gamer) are ones I wanted to see.  I’ll catch them on DVD for sure.  Anyway, on to this week…

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself:

I’m a big fan of Taraji P. Henson, but even she can’t get me excited about a Tyler Perry movie.  Nope.

Sorority Row:

A remake of sorts of The House on Sorority Row.  Now I love me some scary movies, but I do prefer them at home, where its quiet and I can have the lights off and cuddle under a blanket with the wife and help her hide from the really scary stuff.  I got a pass to see this one at a screening, but I had a work emergency and was unable to attend.  So I guess I’ll be waiting for the DVD.


Bring a jacket.  No, seriously.  For one, temperatures outside are dropping a tad, but it’ll be weeks before theaters adjust their air conditioning properly, and also this movie does a really fantastic job of showing you the coldest place on Earth.  If you are even mildly suggestible, the movie is bound to make you shiver.  The story here is about a US Marshal, played by Kate Beckinsale, who handles the law in the region and is just days away from leaving when someone finds a body.  Essentially, this movie is an action/mystery film following the Marshal as she tries to find out who did it and why, all under a deadline and the threat of an oncoming storm.  Overall, it was a good solid movie that I really enjoyed watching.


If I were to rate this movie on its visuals alone, I’d gladly give it an “A”.  However, once you include the bland, unsurprising and ultimately disappointing story, this movie can’t be given more than a “C” … or to go on a numeric scale, 9 is a 5 at best.  Most of this has to do with how it ends, which is fairly lame and mildly confounding.  It doesn’t make sense.  Two things people should know before going to see this film: 1) It is not for kids, really, it is not. Don’t take them, they probably won’t enjoy it.  2) Lots of advertising is tagging this movie as a Tim Burton film, and technically it is, however, he did not direct it and he didn’t write it, he only produced, and the result is that 9 is missing Burton’s touch.  If I hadn’t seen this for free, I’d be demanding my money back.

Dragon*Con 2009: The Aftermath

I don’t remember which year was the first time I went to Dragon*Con.  I’m not sure if it was before or after I got out of college.  I think before, so it was probably 1996 or 1997.  The first couple of times I went down it was for concerts and people watching and the dealers hall.  At some point, probably 5 years ago or so, I started actually going to panels.  Not just one or two, but spending pretty much all my time in them.  From year to year I would go to new tracks and see more stuff…

Before I go further, I want to say that everyone should take some time and see the panels.  They cover great topics and the people are very passionate.  Just think about the things you are interested in and track down a panel or two and go.

… that said, after five years, many of the panels are content stagnant.  Hey, if you’ve never been to the Star Trek author’s panel, go, but if you’ve been before, unless there has been some big shakeup in the publishing or some game changing new book released, they are more likely to just discuss the same things they discussed the last time.  Much like I wrote about in this year’s daily posts concerning the Art Show, Exhibitors and Dealers halls, once you’ve gone through a track’s panels in full once or twice, you can skim them in later years and just pick up the new stuff.  After five years, you are pretty much skimming all the tracks, and some tracks, while being full of awesome people and awesome content and perfect for people new to the track, there is so much less “must see” items on their schedule.

When you get to this point, you will find out which items you are really interested in by which tracks you continue to visit.  This year, I spent most of my time in the MMO Track, with a few trips off to the Writer’s Track and Apocalypse Rising, and those side trips were only to see those “skimmed” panels of content either new or deeply interesting to me.

So what do you do when attending the panels is winding down?  For me, it means I’m thinking about getting involved.  Why just go to Dragon*Con when you can help bring it to be?

Beyond that revelation, I also discovered that being in better shape physically makes for a better weekend all around.  Four nights in a row of getting 3 to 5 hours of sleep at best and I wasn’t exhausted.  Even now, in the aftermath, I’m more mentally tired than physically so (though I did get about 9 hours of sleep last night).  Getting healthier is having all sorts of cool benefits.  I even managed to go through the whole weekend without gaining weight.

All in all, Dragon*Con was as good as ever, and I’m really looking forward to next year.

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