General

History is Important

I appreciate learning the history of things. Often, I think this comes with age. It’s not enough to just live in moment amongst the new – a lot of amazing things have happened in our world. Learning about them is important. I travel quite a bit for work and pleasure and when I get an opportunity to learn about the origin of things I do. This sometimes runs contrary to my normal likes and dislikes. For example, on a recent trip to Nashville I did the Grand Ol Opry tour. I don’t even like country music. What I did like was learning about the history, joy, and importance of a single building that has been very important to country music. It was a couple hours very well spent. Hee Haw.

I find every time I open my mind to learning about the origins of something (anything really – from Steamwhistle to Tobasco Sauce to Mayan civilizations) I appreciate that thing more. Everything has an origin story and some capture and record it better than others. In the example above of Tobasco, they have a full time PHD historian tracking the efforts and actions of the founders of the brand and historical artifacts – of a hot sauce. It is actually a very cool story. Many do not have such care for the past and doing so  is a good thing in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society.

So naturally, when Zubon posted about Dr. Bartle’s post I felt it important for me to also repost and link to it. I don’t normally repost a post linking another post but as menioned in the prior paragraphs history is important. History about something you genuinely have passion for feels even moreso. The passion I have for gaming is pretty much the main reason why I blog in the first place.

All of this is history that needs to be recorded. It’s just not right for pioneers to be forgotten merely because they didn’t make millions from it. There are games historians today who think that virtual worlds began with Ultima Online or (for bonus points!) Meridian 59. A hundred years from now, there may be young researchers who are arguing in their PhDs that World of Warcraft had something to do with it. I won’t care myself, of course, as I’ll be dead; I care right now that few people care right now, though.

Hopefully by sharing this other people will care.

I do, sir.

Goalie Equipment and Mask Design

I am not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but I am a hockey goaltender. I spent my life playing the position and even now that I cracked the big four oh, I still play two to three times a week (in the winter). It’s fun exercise, allows me to still draw on my competitive nature, and overall, sit and have a beer with the guys a few times a week. Being a hockey goalie tends to come with certain expectations – one being that we are all crazy because we like vulcanized rubber hurdled in our direction at 100+ MPH (and we try to get in the way with it). I’ve had my own superstitions over the years and still dress left side first, every game. Heck, even my warm up stretches haven’t changed since I was sixteen years old. I can’t argue about there being screws loose. I mean, you have read some of my articles, haven’t you?

I have worn NHL pro level gear my entire hockey life. I was fortunate to have access to it. The gear that I have worn for the last eight years smells like it has been worn for eight years. Part of it is held together with duct and hockey tape. I have far outworn the lifetime of the gear but at the same time it just worked for me and of course had a lot of magic in it. Still, it’s time this year, with my 50/50 winnings from my fabled Les Habitants, I am replacing ALL of my gear. Although I am not playing pro level hockey I am still in two competitive leagues and I figured I will try to play for the rest of my life – so I am buying pro level gear, one more time. Part of me is really excited because the technology has changed so much – cross crease slides should be quicker and pucks should sting less (yes, the do hurt when hitting certain parts). So that is exciting. One change that will be REALLY weird for me is that in order to help increase scoring in the NHL a few years ago they made the maximum pad width 11″ – down from 12″. I am still using 12″ pads. From what I heard from my goalie brethren it actually increases agility by decreasing weight so it is a net benefit. Sorry for my ramble, I am guessing this isn’t nearly as exciting for you as it is for me.

Most of my gear (pads, glove, blocker) will be predominantly white. An optomistrist did a study and sorted out that white pads are harder to tell where the edges are for a shooter making a decision, and as such more pucks hit the pads. The stats on Marc Andre Fleury in white pads versus his yellow pads is astonishing! Still, I wanted a bit of color. My team colors are yellow, white and black so I opted for a simple white pad with black accent. Of course, to make it match, I did the same color pattern with glove and blocker. Below is what has been ordered.

Maybe you will recognize the design. Never a bad idea to duplicate the best goalie in the world, right?

It’s simple and fits my style. I am looking forward to stopping pucks with them. This leads to the big, fun question! My current mask is a custom 1999 Ed Cubberly. Ed used to make masks for such NHL greats as Mike Richter and Kirk McClean, but he has retired. My mask is heavy compared to the composite kevlar styles made today and with my mask needing repairs just to be safe, I decided it is time to upgrade that as well. To stick with my theme, I went with CCM.

The huge problem is, it’s all white. I need to get it painted. My last mask was actually worn in the NHL by a Carolina Hurricane and so I had those colors and styles. For this one I get to be creative! The thing is, I am not a very creative person by nature. Goalie masks are very personal and usually you have the graphics represent you (or the team you are playing for). I play for three separate teams, so the team angle doesn’t work. I could pick my favorite hockey team (the Habs) but they are red and blue as colors and that would clash pretty bad with my yellow and black gear and jerseys. So I am looking to BlogNation for inspiration and ideas! Here are some I would tack onto my idea board:

One of my favourite comic book characters, and as a solid piece of metal and strength could also easily represent “shutting the door” in net and stopping pucks. The yellow and X Men symbol would also fit nicely. Sticking with the superhero theme:

Gambit is another of my favorites, is pretty agile, and also can integrate the X-Men logo and theme. Not so sure about the pink though. Last but not least on the X-Men:

Yellow and dark blue/black, is an iconic Canadian superhero, and who doesn’t love wolverine? He is ranked third behind the two above however in terms of my superhero preference.

Other, non-superhero inspirations:

I love Calvin and Hobbes. My tatto is of Hobbes leaping accross my leg (as if he was to pounce on Calvin). I kind of like this face for the side of the mask as it is almost like a taunt to a player after a big save. My son thinks the following could look pretty cool:

The colors definitely fit the theme, but I was never a big transformers fan. Those are just color and theme inspirations, they wouldn’t be things decal’ed directly on. Here are some goalie masks in action to show the type of creativity that is done in this regard.

It’s pretty much an art form now.

So – do you have any ideas? Any preferences on the style board items I have shown? I would love to get some community opinions and thoughts!

Talkback Challenge #1 : How GamerGate Affected Me

I have mostly avoided participating in the major discussion threads surrounding #Gamergate for the sole reason that I find the internet a terrible place to have meaningful, open discussion on serious and important topics. I realize how silly that is as someone who blogs quite regularly and participates in a lot of blogs – perhaps I should rephrase. I find people intolerant of differences of opinions. Rightly or wrongly – it feels like when people are debating in written form it is for the sole purpose of proving they are right, or winning, versus learning, being open minded, moving the discussion forward in a positive and constructive manner, and sharing healthy discourse. I find pubs and beer is a much  better avenue for open, honest, and engaging debate. Still, I did touch upon my thoughts on it in two posts. One, captured it all quite perfectly through comedy on the Colbert Report:

My personal favourite moment is when Colbert compares the worry about what would happen to serious journalistic outlets such as Hollywood reporting (8:45) – TMZ, Entertainment tonight (etc.) if they too had ethics issues like Gaming journalism. I have missed that argument around all of the Gamergate “controversy” – most news sources we consume are pretty clear on their biases. It seems as though they are trying less to hide it, and at bare minimum the educated parts of society know the influences behind news reporting.

I love how comedy can often make more sense out of tough topics than serious discussion. I did write a more serious post about sensationalism in writing and shared what I feel the most simplest form of it all was – how it was trying to label me.

On that note on everything related to Gamergate I need to share a small part of what is important to me about it. And that is that I won’t be defined by labels. period. Being a gamer isn’t negative or positive anymore than being a man, or being black, or being a lesbian is negative or positive. Equating the word “gamer” to “misogynist” or “racist” or any negative connotation is entirely irresponsible. A gamer is someone who games, nothing more, nothing less. The label doesn’t mean who you are. Your actions – how you treat people and what you personally represent – does.

I have been very consistent with the viewpoint that the world doesn’t need big heroes, it really needs a lot (like, millions) of regular people just being a bit nicer to each other. That is how the human race can truly change the world. Celebrities have a fraction of the power as a community working together. Holding doors open, saying ‘Thank You’ to strangers, helping out locally, and being open minded and understanding that we are not going to agree on everything and be tolerant of other viewpoints. Especially when they aren’t harmful or endangering.

Izlain’s talkback challenge was to share how #Gamergate affected me, not how I wrote about it. And, the  truth is it did very little to nothing.  I followed it closely and read a lot of posts but I felt that a paragraph here or there on the topic couldn’t do it justice, or wouldn’t be complete enough, easily counter argued and/or picked apart. I also do not write essay style posts here as it is a very relaxed and conversational blog and I did not feel like having to defend myself or worry about “winning” the argument. All that being said it does not mean I am not sensitive to the issues and problems  and I do believe change is good in this industry – I constantly argue here that the gaming industry is incredibly immature – and that is scary for a multi-billion dollar business. What I worry about is gaming hasn’t even sorted out how to reward and support long term employment and stability for the industry, let alone tackle serious gender representation issues. I believe it will all come in time and people are right to fight to speed that up when they are really passionate about it. People are also right to fight to ensure freedom of speech is safe even if it isn’t the popular opinion.

Now, at this point, you could try and argue that by me not taking a big stand (either way) that I am making the problem worse, not better. And to that I say stop trying to win an argument on the internet. I live my life with a mind and heart on equality. I learned this when I went to a liberal arts university in Canada in the 90s – and the university was ‘famous’ for it’s gay and lesbian population. Not that percentage wise it was any higher than any other Canadian campus, but that they were more free to be open about their sexuality. It was common to see same sex couples holding hands around campus – and in the 90s, this wasn’t as common as it is today.  I learned a lot there as a young adult growing into manhood and one of the defining moments that I recall strongly was a “Take Back the Night” rally – where hundreds of women would march down the streets of the city to show they weren’t afraid – and wanted the freedom and safety to walk at night. Something so simple that many men take for granted. Being a young idealist at the time, I wanted to help out! I wanted to support this movement and show solidarity with my sisters. The only thing I was allowed to do to support?  Help clean up the next day. They didn’t want male participation. Men where the ones causing fear for women to walk at night for fear of sexual assault (or worse). This was a women only march. I was pretty mad at first. I am not the problem. I didn’t assault women – I was the help and support walking my female friends home so they were safe. I supported their cause and understood their fear – not from experience, but because I had a lot of women friends who would share their feelings with me. Even though I was the one walking them home at night to be safe, the fact that they needed a man to do that at all to feel safe was the core of the problem to begin with. I was disappointed in what I was being told but in the end I did what they asked of me and grabbed a broom. I learned that day that even though I personally wasn’t the problem I still represented it, and that if I pushed the issue and walked the streets with them I was still taking away the empowerment they so badly wanted (and deserved). So I did the next best thing I could. I helped clean up.

Ever since then I have lived my life trying to learn and be open and do the right thing. I didn’t fight for or against #Gamergate online because the battle was crazy and both sides often being completely intolerant and silly to each other. The signal to noise ratio of meaningful or constructive discussion was near impossible to find. So I hit “like” on the posts I read that I liked, and ignored the troll bait, stunts and senseless arguments that was also abundant. And throughout all of that reading continued to live my life as the best person I could to the human beings I came in contact with in my everyday life.

#Gamergate didn’t affect me, but it reminded me of how far we have to go as human beings to be good to one another.

The Day the Music Died

I HAS RETURNED!

I left on a two week vacation and the several posts I had lined up to keep the traffic hits a coming (including the “I am leaving on vacation but have some posts queued up” post) didn’t pan out. If you stick around here until April 2016 you may find them. The past two weeks I have been on an epic, cross USA journey to a music festival. Perhaps you have heard of it?

Or perhaps you haven’t. Truth be told, I am not a very big “music” person – I hadn’t really heard of it until last year. I knew of festivals such as Lollapalooza which stood out, but not this one. Still, the trip sounded fun and our company lets us drive the branded RV anywhere if you book it. It’s handy. yup, an RV! A 2001 35′ Winnebago. Complete with the floral pattern couches and everything. Here is the route we drove.

The highlighted cities are the cities we spent a night in. With four drivers you can pretty much drive constantly on shifts, especially when you have full food and washroom services on board. We did all of that on 10 days (the first 4 days was a weekend in Niagara Falls). We did the bottom loop first through Nashville and finished up in Chicago. I had an additional 4.5 hour drive from Niagara Falls afterwards but that is where we dropped the RV off.

Back to the title – I am not really a musical person. I have some bands and songs that really resonate with me from specific, formative times in my life (University, childhood, etc.) but for the most part music doesn’t fire me up. I don’t feel music like my wife does. Sometimes I think I am broken because of that – or at the very least, am missing out on things. You may think I am crazy for driving across the country for a music festival when music isn’t really my thing but while music is meh for me, the experience of getting there and being a part of it was still incredible.  Plus the hike in Jemez Springs was good for the soul.

I want to explore the music thing for a moment because it actually bothered me that I couldn’t get into it while I was there, surrounded by people who could. I remember times where music was important to me and even 20 years ago when I was part of the underground rave scene I would dance until the sun rose and really loved it. I think I started tuning music out because I worked for so long in bars, restaurants and night clubs and music would distract you from service or the sale. I think that is where it started. I also play almost all of my games with sound off. I don’t even know what I am missing half of the time. Quiet gaming stemmed from my wife getting frustrated when I had headsets on, ignoring her completely, laughing with strangers from all over the world while we slayed digital dragons. I quickly learned to play with one ear out so when she talked to me I could respond. This is also why I now favour single player games, or single player MMOs (which most are now anyway). Funny that is finally starting to understand my love of video games when I explain it to her in music terms. See there, when Nero dropped that sick beat? That is like getting a new level!

Ok, it sounded way cooler with an EDM track in the background.

She’ll never really understand.

Coachella was all that it was billed as – concerts day and night, a lot of drinking, some dancing, tons of bands and crowds and live art – I have some nice pics over at my Instagram feed which I don’t think I have listed here anywhere because it is more life than interweb related – if you are interested my Instagram feed is founts_ca (and I’ll see if there is an widget for that).  They had corporate hippos in suits and an office environment that were absolutely captivating to watch. My main frustration was lack of internet. Being Canadian, roaming rates are disgustingly expensive and I thought I was smart hitting the first Wal-Mart when I crossed the border and grabbing a contract free WIFI hub from T-Mobile. It worked “ok” in cities (received 4G) but pretty much everywhere in between was only 2G service and wouldn’t let you download emails or surf basic information. And most of our trip we were “everywhere in between”. Still, that forced me to unplug a bit but I fell so far behind on keeping up with games and blogging, and I am happy to have returned.

The best part of the trip for me was just driving across the USA. I have spent a lot of years in many USA cities but I didn’t fully appreciate the beauty of the roads and parts between. The drive from New Mexico to California was stunning. The beauty around Flagstaff was amazing. There were stretches of just pavement and forest and I had never experienced the USA that way before. I definitely appreciate it a lot more. Also, RV’ing is an amazing way to travel. I thought the novelty would wear off but I can totally see myself taking another trip like that. I would definitely make it with longer stops in between drives but it’s a comfortable way to travel. I’d just have to solve the internet problem better.

So, I am back. And much like my lack of music I am not much of a picture person either, so besides the dozen on my Instagram feed the rest is in my head. Very safe place to be.

Pay Beta/Alpha

I often review old posts – it is a fun way to see what I was jabbering about back over half a decade (sounds so much longer when put that way). I was reviewing some old posts when I randomly came across this one:

Introduce a New Phase in the Development Cycle

The premise of the post was to encourage a new production phase, the Commercial Beta, because that was essentially the state we were getting games in anyway. I had less issue with it for being honest and reduced in price. While it has been debated to death as of late I was just curious to found I supported the idea before it was a “thing”.

This could be a big win/win. Developers win because they can acknowledge their product is still in beta phase (albeit Commercial Beta) and it will give a little more lax room for player expectations as it is properly termed. They also will start getting a revenue stream to continue making changes. Players win because they receive a fairer value for their dollar for buying an incomplete product and pay less while changes are done, and also give a hand in shaping a game (that they obviously like, paying to beta and all) to be better positioned in the market to attract and retain a good player base after official launch. It also benefits the players because developers will have to make noteworthy changes and fixes to keep the player base after they go to “Official Launch”.

So listen, I’m not saying that the slew of pay for alpha/beta state games (and/or early access) is my fault or anything, but I did call it back in 2009. And I didn’t call it to say that this step would fix the way games are made (or even improve the current system) all it was was a call for honesty from developers. These are the fun posts when  you throw out an idea like that and it ends up coming to fruition for whatever reasons (not related to actually reading my blog posts). And while I know some people think that paying for these early game states is bad for the industry I am loving the two early access games I am currently in (and playing the most) and eyeing up a third that really suits my style.

With all the current chatter around monetization (again) for me it comes down to the personal value I get from any particular title, paid for in a way I feel comfortable with, based on the return enjoyment I am investing in. That isn’t anything a marketing department can come to easy grips with – but it works for me. And that may be in a pre-commercial release state.

Technology Creep

When gamers talk about “creep” they are often discussing things such as “Power Creep”. I don’t want the title of this short piece to be confused with that. I am talking about pure creep-y, which is a much different kind.

I consider myself very tech friendly and tend to early adopt and welcome technology into all parts of my personal life. My house has a Nest thermostat and 3 Nest smoke/carbon dioxide detectors. Onenote has replaced my pen and paper list obsession. I start far too many sentences with “OK GOOGLE” while holding my phone close to my mouth. I haven’t bought a paper based magazine in three years since my first The Economist digital only subscription. 90% of the books I consume are in audible or digital format. As soon as Nest let’s me do it, I’ll replace my door locks with Keyfobs. I am very comfortable with technology – even at my old age of 40. I can’t wait for my car to be able to drive itself.

I do find ignorance is a bit blissful when it comes to what our devices and services are actually tracking. This became a full realization when I got home last night from our two weeks in Denmark, and Google greeted me with this.

That is my trip in Denmark with key places, cities and timelines through the photos I took with my cell phone. Those weren’t the only photos I took, but were most through my Android based Samsung Galaxy s5. My wife thought it was really cool. I was a bit creeped out.

I didn’t ask Google to do that.

Google figured out I was back home because it knows where I live. It tells me everyday when I am commuting home from work how much longer until I get home – even when I don’t ask. Hell, I don’t remember telling Google where I live. It does know I sleep there every night though, or at least, that is where my phone charges all night (which means people are sleeping for the most part).

I have vendors trying to sell customers near my businesses geo-fenced coupons or ads to phones as they near retail outlets but I find that way to creepy. I figure that in all of my comfort if I have unease then surely others will.

I used to post with my real first name and last initial on this site while most others used their gaming names. I ended up getting a bit uncomfortable when I overheard some colleagues making fun of adult gamers. That’s when I switched it – although I felt a bit silly of it afterwards. I wonder how much of me should be here versus how much of what I think should be and the two are one in the same at the end of the day.

All that being said I am still pro-Google (and also not an Apple fan, although I think they can co-exist) but just want to pay a bit more attention to how my technology is in and around my life with a mind of its own.

Hell, after that whole article I still posted it up for the world to see. Although that is a bit presumptuous. My readers and Blognation to see at the least.

Do you have any examples of creepy tech – or maybe amazing tech? Am I over thinking this and should just be glad Google was nice enough to make me a digital photo album for free?

Pronouns

This post was originally started about 10 months ago – I found it deep in my “drafts” list (it is actually the oldest draft I have left). I sometimes resurrect these posts under my “Draft Necro” series because hey, not all posts deserve to rot away in draft folder hell. I typically preamble them in italics like this to explain why I started the post, and what happened. On this one, I read a developer interview and he used the word “I” so much I was pulling my hair out. That is what inspired the post! It sat in draft hell for so long because I couldn’t recall who I was reading about and lost the link to the article (normally I would email myself the link). So at the end of the day, I had a premise I wanted to share but no supporting material. In this final incantation of the post, I used myself getting a business award as the example, but it completely lost it’s video game slant. I really wanted to find that article because those who have read me for a long time know how I feel about “rockstar” developers and this smelled of that. Anyhow, the post ended up a lot weaker than I had wanted without the video game tie in so it sat… and sat. Now I am freeing it in all of it’s mediocrity!

I have a friend who is a consultant, and I recently saw him spoke at a convention. It was a smaller one, and a pretty “warm and cozy” environment. As he was talking about his past achievements to the group there was one word that kept coming up that I heard over and over, and it is the one word that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me whenever a business person uses it. That word, is of course, “I”. Now, unless you are working in a true company of one and not enlisting the help of any individual or organization, then “I” is okay. But that is the only time it is okay. When he asked how his presentation came across I told him that he used “I” far too often and that leaders don’t use that word when talking about accomplishments. Business leaders only should use “I” when taking personal responsibility for an accountability or a mistake. It is also okay to use the word “I” when taking accountability for a mistake the team made that the leader was ultimately responsible for – that is also good leadership, showing that they will take the heat for a team member.

He understood and appreciated the sentiment. Nothing is more disappointing than hearing a business leader speak about his accomplishments when he has a team of 10s, 100s, or 1000s. Those people typically never use the better word, the truth, “we”.  “We” should be common tongue for people in business, things are never done on their own or in their own petri dish. It’s a big, interconnected world out there. They also tend to use the other “worse” word business people can use, “they”. I did my job, “they” didn’t do theirs. “I” and “they” are two words any aspiring entrepreneur should lose fast, or at least find the right and proper spaces to use.

The one problem  with all of this pronoun discussion is how genuine the leader is. Some corporate leaders are well trained and say “we” all the time, when deep down inside the honestly believe that the success of their 50 year old brand that has 10,000 employees is the decisions they personally make at breakfast. It is neat to try and read through the lines and see the egos behind companies and their successes. (Good to Great, by Jim Collins, talks a lot about “rockstar” CEOs and their effect on the companies they parachute into).  I was also curious if one could find patterns in people based on successes and outlooks. For example, before a launch, are the bigwigs saying “I, I, I” and during launch saying “we, we we,” and after things didn’t launch so smoothly say “they, they, they?” – I did a bunch of google fu and didn’t find that so was very happy. Either way, I spend a lot of team reading how people say things, not just what they say.

Moral of the post? Share the wins, be humble, be good to people. Everyone works hard – the “leader” always gets too much of the credit when things go well. This tends to be true in any type of group setting.

The Year That Was 2014

I normally don’t do these posts, but it was a very good year and I feel like sharing. I am going away to Europe for Christmas for two weeks and as I tie up my professional and family life here in Canada before next week there probably won’t be a lot of blogging or gaming for me for two weeks. Looking back is always fun before moving forward. I have really enjoyed the posts from other blogs I visit who revisit their guesses on things that would happen throughout the year – since I didn’t do that in 2013 I can only look back on the year I had at I has PC.

Non essential but fun things (stats) is that I had my second busiest year blogging in terms of visitors, and best since 2009. “Best” is a bad word there, because it doesn’t count for quality by any means, so a better word is probably “most” for terms of numbers. “Best” counts for the quality of visitors, as I have made a lot of new blogging friends this year and  a lot of links added, and regular new reads.

My 5 most viewed posts:

WildStar Pre-Order Sales Slump?
How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways
WildStar’s Fast and Dramatic Decline
WildStar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline
EQN Landmark – 4 Extra Closed Beta Keys

Which I found a bit odd because I didn’t play or blog a lot about WildStar – although I had high hopes for it. So I must have hit a google SEO word sweet spot or something. All that being said, there are another 20 posts within 10% of those top posts in terms of views so I have a good “general” viewership for most topics.

I published 135 posts this year (including this one) which is a post every 2.70 days, also a high for me. A lot of those were through Blaugust but that also helped me find my blogging sweet spot and stride that I have been able to maintain since. I have been doing this a long time and with all the ups and downs, I really enjoyed being a part of the community extra this year.

My country viewership (in order) is:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • UK
  • Australia
  • France

Always fun to see the sprinkling of other countries in there as well, but good to see the motherland high on the list with a bunch of ex-colonies.

Going back over the posts by month, here is a quick synopsis:

January – I finally gave Turbine more of my money (I hadn’t since it was a subscription game!) and bought the Warden class. The one class I always wanted to play (something about fighters that use shields..) and many posts that month were about LOTRO and the fresh start. Favourite Post: A Dark Room. It was my favourite only because it was a really fun little game to play and captured my imagination.

February – LOTRO was short lived and February was all about Landmark. This game captured my Minecraft (I was an early adopter there) love with fancier graphics. I haven’t been back in a while, but I think I will dabble there again soon. Favourite post: I Still Can’t Build. I loved landmark for the exploration, but am a bad builder. I made a decent (by my standards) dragon head house and was proud to show it off. It is very amateur compared to what the community is pumping out though.

March – Nostalgia month as I tinkered back in Everquest since they had a birthday. I also mixed in Diablo III and more Landmark. I also started noticing Wildstar. Favourite March Post: My Influential 15. This was a fun trip looking back at the games that shaped what and how I play(ed) games. It was a great exercise and a lot of people ended up doing it. TAGN inspired!

April – April was all about revisiting and enjoying Everquest, while looking ahead to WildStar. The MMO itch was happening again! Highlight Post: WildStar Pre-Order Sales Slump. I knew something was up and my fears were founded at the launch and rapid playerbase decline of the game. I am still waiting to play it again once they drop they sub (or find a better payment method).

May – I was in beta for WildStar, dabbling a bit in Landmark. Highlight Post: Star Citizen – Seriously. I liked the post because I semi called out this project as a fundraising first project, not an actual game making project. In hindsight, as they continue to push to new fundraising heights without actually coding much, this could end up being the most expensive vaporware project in crowd-funded history. It could also cripple the system.

June – Chris “River” Cavelle, a fellow blogger, died in June. I still pop by his site sparingly out of habit. River – High Latency Life gets my post of the month for obvious reasons. Rest in peace my friend. Someone else has already bought his domain (that expired) but his page lives on at highlatencylife.wordpress.com – but of course it is just a reminder of the words he shared with the world. It’s the only piece left his internet friends have of him.

July – Wow, I do not post much in the summer. I need to work on that! I was still playing WildStar but just about unsubbed at this point. Summer is for outside! And non-sub fee games. Anyway, post of the month is Dragon Age : The Birdcage as DA announced a fully gay (male) companion character. Good for Bioware for leading the charge on diversity in AAA gaming.

August was Blaugust month and the most posts I have done in this blog’s history. 32 posts in 31 days! I also won games and prizes (luck of the draw) but I found my blogging style and habits rejuvenated from the exercise. I know it burned out some bloggers as well, but everyone reacts differently. It was really hard to pick a highlight post for August but I ended deciding on selecting I HAS PC’s birthday post. I shared a lot of personal things there about my health and marriage, but also it was to celebrate still blogging after six years. I also quit playing WildStar this month, to no one’s surprise who read the blog.

September had me posting every other day and I was still in groove of things from Blaugust and Destiny had launched with much fanfare and an absolutely stupid and waste of a story, storyline. I coined the term Dinkelaged (to mean something bad) but really I was too hard on the fellow. He was just chasing the cash, and not even Ian McKellan could have done a good voiceover in such a bad story environment. It’s too bad as well, because Destiny was close to being something really, really special – a merge of MMO and FPS. Instead, they took the worst parts of the MMO (needless grinds) and put it into an otherwise solid FPS game. My favourite post of the month was making fun of that story by explaining exactly how it unfolds while you play in The Destiny Story.

October had me experiencing (and thoroughly enjoying) The Wolf Among Us. I am really looking forward to part two. My thirst for story is mostly quenched through TellTale Games, and I wish SWTOR had a story only option (I would pay for that.) My favourite October post was AAA Blog in which I question the self anointed AAA title – it shouldn’t exist unless there are parameters and an independent body. It’s an oft overused meaningless label. Unfortunately it is now part of our everyday vocabulary when it comes to gaming. It shouldn’t be.

November had me talking a bit about Warlords of Draenor but I was actually playing The Secret World. B2P is a great model for dipping toes in and such. I know I will be sucked back into Wow, but holding out for the new year. A lot of future posts to talk about there. My favourite post in November was A Sign the Apocalypse is Upon Us in which I lament that technology has even ruined the team sports photo. I know that is a pretty foreboding title for a team photo, but it’s perfectly true.

December is still going of course so not much to report here. I am going to Europe for the Christmas Holidays (not National Lampooning it) so I am not expecting a busy posting schedule. My favourite post of December is Not Threatening to Kill You About in which I threaten give Murf some love. A Merry Holiday post about death and internet dumbery, what could be better?

All in all I feel like I had a good blogging year. I made a point of frequently visiting other sites (and finding new ones!) and building my blogroll and making comments on other’s blogs. I like the interaction, its a nice break from work. I didn’t play nearly enough games or hours into games that I wanted to, but I plan on making some life changes in the New Year and making that happen. I currently work too much evenings and/or have mindless TV on. That time is much better spent on less-mindless vidya games.

Thanks for being a part of my 2014 journey, and looking forward to a healthy and fun 2015!

Freeedom!

I realized today I am completely insulated from the video game hype cycle. I am free! Normally by now I would be really deep in Dragon Age: Inquisition (I am a huge fan of Origins, and got through the second one for the sake of it) or I would be levelling in Warlords of Draenor for my regular “back for the expansion” trip.

This William Wallace isn’t nearly as exciting as the Mel Gibson version

I am not doing either. I know I will do both (eventually) but I am free from the need to get the game at the time the developer wants me too. At full price. I have argued in the past that the cycle of huge hype then huge discounts is hurting the industry and I believe where I am right now is proof of that. I was always a launch day buyer (even pre order) for big, major AAA titles. Now that has changed.

All that has changed is that I realize if you wait you get the same game (sometimes more, if DLC is out), that works better (patched) and is less crowded (if online). In short, you get a better game. You don’t even have to wait to that long, typically the hype train has left a new game 30 to 60 days after launch (since new games are on the hype train) and you can get a discount. Hell, if you wait a year, you can get that $60 game for $5 now. Depends if you have that patience.

The humble bundle and steam sale phenomenon has given gamers huge libraries of games that they can’t even get through, let alone think about paying full price for a new one. This, and the F2P landscape, gives so many options that the need and desire to buy on launch day is dwindling. It’s a race to the bottom on price and all new games have now is launch week. Once they lose that (and they will) the industry will need to have a correction.

We have seen this in the food industry where most major QSR brands raced to dollar menus to get people buying and looking for frequency and volume purchases. They have spent the last few years trying to undo this as the move has trained customers to expect a full meal for a couple of dollars. Initially they were hoping to (and often successfully) translated those dollar menus as lost leaders to the big items but consumers are pretty smart. And we are getting smarter. Games hurt a bit less on cheap “menus” because once they are done there are no more hard costs. To sell a Bic Mac you still have to pay for the ingredients and the labour to build it. To sell a game you just need a website and an internet connection. Regardless, the industry is training consumers the things it doesn’t want to.

I have a lot of disposable income for gaming and love gaming, and normally I would happily pay full price and support game makers – but now I know I don’t have to, and if I look at their actions they are telling me they don’t want me at full price either if I can resist the hype. I am the same guy who gladly pays $5 for a Starbucks because I like how friendly they are and how they treat me as a return customer, not because they have the best coffee. Most industries out there focus on building customers and loyalty and studies show time and time again people will pay more for a better experience. So why is the gaming industry sending a message that their efforts aren’t worth what they have been telling us all along?

Hell, games are being discounted BEFORE launch day now, because developers are realizing if they don’t sell before launch, they are going to lose boxes. I could have bought Civ: Beyond Earth for 25% off before launch day. (Thankfully, it will be 90%+ off soon..). All of this is very confusing. To everyone. Customers, developers, digital distributors – no one really understands what is going on and what the long term effects will be. It just feels like a gong show!

Gaming as an industry is very young, and they are making a lot of mistakes that more mature industries have already learned. There will be a correction at some point (there needs to be) and it will be very interesting to see what that looks like when it happens. In the meantime, I have a catalog to play and sales to wait for.

(test)

Worth Not Threatening to Kill You About

I don’t normally write about serious things but if this is the kind of things “free speech” is supposed to protect then the NRA is the most sensible organization in the USA.

Sorry to my USA friends who are NRA members. I just find them inflexible and not open minded for discussion, and that was the best comparison on ludicracy I could think of after reading the link. I grew up hunting with my Grandpa and am pro gun, for full disclosure, but also for sensible gun control. See, free speech in action!

This post has nothing to do with guns at all, either.  I have derailed my own thread.

For those who don’t want to click and read, the gist of the article is that the courts are discussing if death threats via social media are actually a crime, or if they are protected by free speech.

Not kidding. I get these kinds of discussions and debates aren’t as simple as I am trying to make it right now, but what happened to just being nice to one another?

Do we really need protection so people can cause fear in others, during a time where what is a real threat, and what is satire/perceived, may not be clear? We all know emails / texts are notorious for not conveying the message properly, but death threats in most forms are pretty clear on intent.

But if I said I want to Kill Murf *smiley face* because he is just a silly lil’ bugger than one can pretty much tell that I am kidding. Of course, if I were ever to say that I’d make sure there was no mistaking that no, I don’t really want to kill Murf (unless it is with kindness). (Editors note: I absolutely do not want to kill Murf)

If I were to make what seemed to be apparent and legitimate threats that made Murf fear for his well being, well, that should be illegal. And like most crimes with victims the tolerance of the victim should be taken into consideration. Murf could probably take a lot of twitter jabs from me knowing he is pretty safe since he is in Alabama and I in Canada – but a 20 year old female who didn’t know me may not feel so safe after a single death threat. Imagine, we have to measure the number and severity of death threats and whether they need to be enshrined okay under ‘Freedom of Speech’. The burden should lie with the person being stupid, not the person worried about the stupid person.

This will be interesting to follow. Yes there is probably a much deeper debate here to have, and probably not best done on a gaming blog, but I am going to end this piece with this:

Please, don’t threaten to kill one another, even if you are joking. There is no upside.

A Sign the Apocalypse is Upon Us

I just got back from my 10 day trip down under – 7 days in NZ and 3 in AUS. I love traveling and very fortunate that I get to travel for work – and my company is a fan of the Work-cation. The work-cation is a great concept – since the company is paying to fly you somewhere already, might as well take a couple extra days and experience where you are instead of rushing in and out. Glad to be back and not to be a sap, but I missed you.

I felt naked down under because Wifi is not free, not fast, and entirely inconvenient. Even my $250 a night hotel only had 15 minutes free and in the lobby only. Oh, you can pay for internet in your room but only if you have an Ethernet cable connection (direct only). Computers still have those?

Thankfully Starbucks is there but even then you only get an hour and when it runs out you have to buy another coffee or they won’t top you up.

We are spoiled in North America with free, unadulterated WiFi all over the place. My CITY has free wifi. In fact, I am writing this post at a city owned arena on my phone.

Life is rough.

I felt like I was in a third world WiFi country that was under attack by the Russians. I even started asking around if anyone knew J3w3l but was afraid she would think me an extraordinary stalker for traveling so far to borrow her Wifi.

And none of this has to do with the purpose of this blog post. The title of which I borrowed from Gregg Easterbrook at Tuesday Morning Quarterback who in many of his articles (not the one I linked) shares societal insights on why the Apocalypse truly must be coming. (He’s a fun read if you like smart people and fantasy football. He’s the Zubon of ESPN.com)

So here is what happened this morning that makes me think it is indeed on its way. It’s picture day for my son’s hockey team. Usually that means getting to the rink an hour early, getting in full equipment (except helmets), lining the team up for a group photo, getting some individual shots (faux action, normally) then ordering a package with the team shot to remember the season it was, and also a bunch of actual hockey cards that are cool to hand out to friends and family. As you can imagine, it can sometimes be tough to get all the kids on time and lined up well in full gear. It takes some time and coordination. No fear, they have a new solution.

Photoshop.

There was no team photo this year. Instead, They are going to build one from the individual shots. I am sure that will look perfectly natural.

Next, instead of playing real hockey they will just all login together and play NHL 15 three times a week. Driving to the rink is so inconvenient.

A Moment of Pride from Tragedy

I do not write much non gaming here, but due to recent events in my country am going to break from that mold.

I am a very proud Canuck. So proud, in fact, that I actually tell you that – it’s a bit rude to be over nationalistic so typically I just wear my Captain Canuck t-shirt and give invisible toque-tips to other maple leaf wearing, hockey watching, (insert other Canadian stereotypes here) Canadian brethren. At some point in my opening sentence I need to say sorry, because that’s just what we do.

Posts with the word Canadian in it make me smile, because it’s a rarely used selling point.

Canada is not a very violent society. Sure, I was shooting guns at 9 years old (hunting with Grandpa) and our Special Forces (JTF2) are one of the few that can do missions with the tier 1 USA special forces. Our law enforcement officers have only shot and killed 52 people since the 1930s to date. We tend to be polite and friendly – those sterotypes are true. We care for our sick, accept that people are (and should be) different, and overall is a society that is one of the best in the world to live in. Yes, we can always be better – as can all of the socities and countries  of the world – but we are definitely on the right path.

So, when this happens, its weird for us. Foreign. That kind of hate, and senseless killing, is rare. We still don’t fully understand why, but it has gripped our country. Leo talks about it here very well and he is an Ottawa native. I live an hour and a half away in Kingston, but we go to Ottawa often. I am not here to report on the event itself, but rather share something that is the result of it.

I was in San Diego all last week for a conference and I was surprised to see how well this event was covered in the USA media (we tend to see very little Canadian news when visiting the USA) so I was thankful for the reporting.

The most important link is this one – the soldiers body was transported to his home town from Ottawa along Ontario’s longest highway, the 401, otherwise known as Highway of Heroes. That link is a published list of the route for the transport, and estimate times that the body will be passing by overpasses and towns as it goes.

The reason why the route is published in advanced, is that Canadians will line the highway, especially the overpasses, to pay tribute. This has happened a lot over the past few years with Canadian supporting peace efforts all over the world, and it is a common route to transport the fallen due to the Trenton base along the highway. I live in between Ottawa and Trenton so have witnessed this. Here is a link to some nice photos, some good ones I am going to cut and paste outright. It really drives a lot of emotion to witness Canadian citizens lining the overpasses of the highway, thousands of them just there to show respect.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

This is common when our soldiers die. The fact this happens often is a point of pride and sadness at the same time, because you need one terrible event to have the good one.

Here is a picture of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

nathan cirillo photos

May he rest in peace.

AAA Blog

I was finishing up the Contains Moderate Murf podcast while driving and for some puzzling reason a thought struck me on how much I dislike the term “AAA game”.

What exactly does that mean? How does the rating work? We rarely hear about ‘A’ games, or ‘C’ games, or even ‘AA’ games (although all of those are battery types). So what does a AAA game constitute? How is that measured? Is it production quality, spend, or marketing budget? How can you have such a universally used designation that has no independent body measuring to ensure it fits the qualification?

AAA Canadian Beef is very clear how it constitutes what fits in each A/AA/AAA category. Even AAA Bond Credit Ratings give an indication on what that means.

Google fu tells me that AAA can be all sorts of abbreviations and the ever vigilant Wikipedia says that AAA as a designation  for video games was created by the private companies themselves. Bonkers, I tell you. That’s like McDonald’s saying they are a AAA restaurant because they said so. Whatever the hell that could mean. Sounds like it’s good though, doesn’t it?

It’s a sham! Fight the Power! I’m taking the Alphabet back in the names of all gamers. All former ‘AAA’ games will now need to be called something new. I am suggesting “Not AAA” for starters, but also open to suggestions.

Sensationalism

I have stayed pretty uninvolved with the whole Gamergate discussion – my blog is shorter, off the cuff discussion pieces that don’t really lend well to the necessary thoroughness, research and thought level on such a challenging topic. I would be better sitting around a table drinking beer and discussing it then trying to put it into words (don’t worry – I am buying!). I am not even going to dig in deep here on it except to say the level of coverage and often intelligent discussion around the whole situation has been fascinating and educating to follow. Outside of major game releases and typical gaming news, has anything brought more attention or discussion forward? It has ignited passion, debate, taking a look at gaming “labels” and caused us to look internally at what the “Gamer” tag meant to us all, and if it was worth defending or not.

This article I really liked reading about it. It isn’t even about what was reported but the way it was reported. It is a well written piece about sensationalism and how things are reporting impact what is being reported in the first place. Sensationalism and profit motives to report in such a way.

To understand the impact of sensationalism one must examine examples of biased coverage that attempts to push a cultural agenda for moral advocacy, the nature of controversies in the media, the exploitative nature of trading objective journalism for a “profit motive”, and how sensational content can damage and ruin the reputation of those involved in a scandal.

The article goes on with those examples. It’s worth a read. I love news and understanding what is going on in the world is important – I think everyone needs to have an understanding of what is happening in the world beyond their own cities, provinces, or countries. I think it lends perspective that we live in a global society. There are wars waging around us while we worry about the price of a Starbucks Latte. I really believe in community and while important that you start with local, to truly believe in community I believe you have to go bigger than that. News reporting in general is profit driven. My favorite news source, The Economist, does a good job of being upfront and honest as a “liberal news source” and the reporting style rarely has a catchy headline – they are more concerned with reporting facts, providing solutions and commentary. It feels very honest and I turn to it weekly to get my dose of the world. I don’t take their articles or opinions word for word mind you – just that I have come to trust that they are pretty factual about the facts. Many aren’t.

Other sources, such as CNN (blue) and Fox (red) are political and social agenda platforms in their own rights. Fox says it is “fair and balanced” but everyone (with half a brain) knows it is fair to Republicans and balanced to the Christian right. CNN is clearly a democrat news source, but tend to be less obvious about their leanings than Fox. Both are dangerous as your only source. I have a friend who only does BBC news, because it’s not profit driven. They don’t cover enough North American sports for me to be a true source. (/grin).

Reporting on scandals is a lucrative enterprise that’s encouraged simply for its gains in profit. For many online-based mediums, more hits means more ad revenue, and that means more cash flow for the company or publication. This kind of ruthless take on generating views has some very real consequences, and is often a dual-edged sword.

Where I am going with all of this is asking you to be careful. There is a lot of information out there and it is easy to get caught up in. A lot of that information is meant to mislead you, is meant to persuade you, is meant to call you to action that may not be entirely based on truth. Just be aware – and be aware of your own biases and how that influences how and what you read from news sources. Hell, I struggle a lot with my initial opinion formed versus the one I get from solid debate amongst trusted sources. I never actually change my opinion – on anything. I afford myself the right to make a new opinion with provided with more – or better – information. I can be stubborn that way.

I have several posts not going to see the light of day (this week) but I did want to share the above part of all of this Gamergate – yes, there are issues. Yes, there is a discussion and meaningful debate to be had. No, don’t read one article from a particular source and quote it as right. There is too much at stake for the author who wrote it, the company that pays them and what you personally represent and stand for. Spread around the sources, try to find something balanced and fair, and then go for it.

On that note on everything related to Gamergate I need to share a small part of what is important to me about it. And that is that I won’t be defined by labels. period. Being a gamer isn’t negative or positive anymore than being a man, or being black, or being a lesbian is negative or positive. Equating the word “gamer” to “misogynist” or “racist” or any negative connotation is entirely irresponsible. A gamer is someone who games, nothing more, nothing less. The label doesn’t mean who you are. Your actions – how you treat people and what you personally represent – does.

On that note, I am supporting Bragtoberfest.

I game because it’s a hobby that I have made lifelong friendships with. I game, because there is an amazing, supportive community surrounding our games. I game because I have friends who write and talk about gaming. I game, and I support equal rights, I game, and I support several charity and community initiatives throughout the year (both with my time and money) and I game because it is fun. So I am a gamer, and proud of it. You should be too.

bragtoberfest_spooky

New Look – Temporary and Accidental

I don’t hate it but also don’t love it. In my quest to fix my pingback issue I started messing around with PhP (something I am not entirely qualified for) based off of some Google-fu work on other people who have had similar issues. I ended up breaking my theme.

Turns out, that old theme hasn’t been updated in a couple of years and of course I didn’t back up a thing – so I did a quick change out until I can sort out one I really want. I just got back from a 3 day business trip so way behind schedule (and I still can’t sort out the pingbacks).

So over the next week or so I will be messing with themes and maybe hosting and other items – apologizing in advance if I make a mess of things. Don’t be surprised if a lot changes this week, much of it visible.

Going For a Scholarship

I like news. I am sure I have also mentioned prior my love for The Economist as a news source – it seems to be as neutral as it gets and that is very refreshing considering how polar opposite the same story is reported on Blue news (CNN) and Red news (Fox) in North America. That probably stems from The Economist being a UK based publication. Sure, the subtle tendencies are there, they just aren’t so in your face about it. It is more intelligent and nuanced than Fox saying the President is a terrorist or CNN announcing that the President solved terrorism all on his own. See how silly those sound? The Economist would write something like: “The President impacts terrorism” and then provide all sorts of stats and studies indicating how terrorism was affected. Anyway, it’s a lot drier than most news but really – news doesn’t need to be dramatized. It tends to be people’s real lives which is drama enough.

I also enjoy news aggregators. I have a couple that I use, Flipboard and Zite – of the two I use Flipboard far more often. I like the interface. The great thing about news aggregators is that you pick your general interests and it sweeps articles from the wider internet into what it thinks you may enjoy. What this allows is differing sources of news which can share greater and/or different knowledge and ideas. When you have a primary news source you tend to see the world through that lens – and it is a big, crazy world out there. It’s not a bad idea to read other people and thoughts. Hell, why we read blogs, no?

Through the aggregator I found this great snippet from Forbes – a blog post of their own on a Wall Street Journal article – both of which are discussing the decision of Robert Morris, a small liberal arts University in Chicago, to give scholarships to a school funded League of Legends team.

Gamer’s dream, right?

That’s right, how does $6000 sound to help out your education – doing something you are probably already doing in between classes anyway? Not too shabby! The Forbes article goes on to not-so-subtly make fun of the idea (or seething sarcasm – hard to tell!) with this snippet:

However, if these low cost nerdy sports were to replace the expensive sports, we could see some real cost cutting happening.
If any schools are looking for the next great sport to pique student interest, might we suggest beer pong? College students are drinking beer anyway. Let’s stop the alcohol inquisition on campuses and capitalize on the inevitable.  Why not formalize it into a sport, and have major beer distributors like Anheuser Busch or the Miller Brewing Company sponsor the final four hops challenge?  If we designate drivers to and from the competitions and have teams of 21 year olds and above what’s the worst that could happen? Students are already financing their bar tabs with student loans, we might as well rile up some school spirit in the process.

The truth of the matter is that big, NCAA sports is in real trouble and gaming scholarships are more on point with the future in so many ways. The big sports take advantage of student athletes for the benefit of the institution and OTHER student athletes. A lot of fringe / less popular sports and scholarships are funded through the big Basketball and Football programs. However, this gaming idea has some legs and let’s look at some of the differences and benefits compared to the big athletic programs, shall we?

Imagine you are smart and like video games and you could get a scholarship for being good at raiding WoW or EQ for example. Wouldn’t that be just as fair or just as awesome in a higher education setting? Shouldn’t we be celebrating excellence in anything for education, not just who is the biggest and strongest physically? Gaming as E-sports is really getting legs and higher education should reflect that.

The future of the dumb jock just may happen to be a smart kid who ends up with a degree and changes the world with something more tangible than landing a 100 million dollar contract for being good at a sport, while being terrible at about everything else.

(full disclosure: I love sports. I play hockey. I play fantasy football. I watch baseball. I am not anti-sport in any way. I also just happen to love gaming and think it is a better investment in schools than the current athletic programs. I also know this is a huge topic and this is a short piece.)

Happy Birthday to I Has PC! 6 Years Old!

Belated. It was yesterday. This is a nice reminder that I am terrible at birthdays!

August 27, 2008 was my first blog post ever. I can’t fully recall why I started blogging – I was spending a lot of time on various blogging sites and my comments kept getting longer and longer. I think I finally decided that it would be easier to write my own posts and link back instead of annoying the author of various sites with my incessant rambling and observations.

I didn’t think much on a style or theme and I just picked one and ran with it. Some of the old posts are fun to read through and I often link back to my old posts – mostly when there is an “I told you so” (WoW needing to link armor stats to role type – 2008! – which they are finally doing in Warlords of Draenor) or revisiting a viewpoint I had stated previously that I still felt relevant.

Sometimes when I go back and read posts I think there have been some really great ideas that would translate well into modern MMO land and other times I felt like I was just another blogger with the same feelings on the same old topics. I quickly found some circles of blogging friends and while many are gone now (Writers Resting In Paradise Blogroll to the right) many persist today. And as I find new sites and read new blogs, or people discover mine, I expand my blogroll. With my sports background and slant I call us BlogNation much like the Red Sox Nation or other groups that align around commonality. It hasn’t stuck anywhere else that I can tell, but I figure if I keep writing it maybe it will someday.

My style hasn’t changed too much. I am a pretty “conversational” blogger – I write as if we are having a pint at a bar. Throw out an idea or opinion and welcome a counter discussion. This is a fun way to blog because I always keep my mind open. Some would argue I write as if I had already had 10 pints at a bar. That has been known to happen as well.

I had two extended “vacations” from blogging – six months starting January 2011 in which I became very, very sick (lost over 60 pounds, night sweats, swollen glands, couldn’t stay awake for longer than a couple hours at a time) and had every symptom of lymphoma from a textbook. They spent months testing and digging (lymphadenectomy, bone marrow, you name it) and I was actually checked into a Cancer centre for weeks – except they didn’t find cancer. I was at infectious disease specialists, all sorts of specialists, no one found it out. And one day I just started feeling better again. They kept wanting to cut me open to dig around to find out what happened but I stopped letting them. That time was pretty scary, caused me to withdrawl a lot, but also to celebrate life a lot more in the end of it all. Nothing quite like being certain you are fighting for your life – even scarier when you don’t what you are fighting against. I found it hard to justify spending hours blogging when I didn’t know how much time I had left.

Could be why I have a soft spot for charity and people raising money for diseases and causes. Hell, a month ago, my entire team and partner network raised thousands of dollars at 1am in a bar (in 30 minutes) if I would shave my head – in the bar – so yes, of course I did. It is only hair and will grow back.

For the record, it is growing back terribly. Still worth it though.

My second vacation was when I was battling divorce. Gaming was an addiction for me in many ways – not that I couldn’t stop, but being unhappy in my marriage drove me to game more. She loves TV (I hate TV) I love games (she hates games) – so never common ground. We ended up finding common ground (pretty easy when you have an amazing kid) and our marriage has been great ever since. Something about the first 5 years that is the challenge, as there are curiosities if people can (and will) change. In the end letting people be who they are is critical to loving and understanding each other. I am not suggesting my advice to marriage counselors still though. It works for us!

My three personal favorite  posts:

1) Greatest Fantasy Movie Ever (2009)

In this one I attack the silly idea of healing by describing what the typical raid encounter would look like if it was a blockbuster movie. You don’t see Gandalf sitting in the back row during the battle casting heals on Legolas, do you? In it I suggest a better way (slower paced combat, blocking and dodging graphics) – its dumb that a 10′ sword goes through characters entire bodies. Hits should cause REAL damage, and instead of inflating numbers, having glances, misses, and dodges should make up the difference. I like to be immersed – swords and axes cutting through immobile toons doesn’t cut it. I want MMO combat to be more like MOVIE combat. When your sword goes through someone, that’s when the blood comes.

I linked back with a GREAT example from Batman: Arkham in a more recent post. The tech and will is there. This should be the next innovation in MMO combat. In that game you rarely get hit and when you do you feel the impact. It shows that with 10 mobs around you you can still have contact combat. Besides, in this hyper-world of ADD and circle strafing, slowing it down and having combat meaningful and impactful would be a great innovation.

2) Can the End Game be the Game? (2009)

I tackled how silly leveling is and how Wow is wasting resources on planned obsolescence content, and that if more resources were created for “max level”, repeatable content instead of one and done quests – there would be better, and more content, for all. I see a lot more agreement on this type of idea today – if your content doesn’t really start until the “end game”, why not start there in the first place?

3) The 6 Wheeled Car (2008)

This was my PVP slanted point about relative power. DAOC and WAR showed me the biggest fundamental flaw in PVP games – you have such ridiculously giant disparities in power between levels. A level 1 can’t even HIT a level 40 – that makes no sense (again, immersion.). So my idea here is to have levels multiplicative. So 40 level 1s could indeed be an EVEN match for a level 40 character. Or 4 level 10s or 2 level 20s. A level 40 is “god mode” in comparison to level 1s and that just feeds into my #2 post above – if your PVP character has to level 40 levels before being able to enjoy the game, why have levels so multiplicative? This alone ruins open world PVP. If you had relative power levels it could make open world PVP thrive.

Funny looking at that they are all old posts. I haven’t seen these concepts used in my modern day gaming yet but I still hold that they would be a welcome offering for gamers who like immersion and could enhance a current day MMO offering.

So 6 years. 325 posts (12 drafts) and 1144 user comments.

My blog isn’t that popular and I am fine with that. It has been a journey and I believe the journey is the destination and I never stressabout who is reading and how many comments there are. That part is is important for anyone who blogs or who wants to blog. I know I’ll be around for another 4 years (at least) doing this so I will have a 10 year anniversary. Health and life willing.

Looking  forward to more of this journey with you – and thank you for stopping by. I do enjoy the company.

YAR!

YAR! is a nostalgic MMO word for me. YAR! Was the rallying cry of my EQ test server guild, The Grove. Anytime anyone logged in there was a /gu of YAR! And usually the same number of responses per number of guildies on. I carried YAR! to DAOC and again to WoW in the guilds I was a part of and kept it a tradition. I’m not sure if any of the guilds I was a part of still use it, but I can still be found “shouting” it out when I log in to various games if I’m in any sort of guild or clan.

Funny too – not sure who, or why, it started and the last time I tried pulling it out in a new guild I was in they asked if I was a Pirate. Silly kids, Pirate speak is YARRR! And although Pirates are way cooler than Ninjas YAR is not the YARRRR you are looking for. This is a scary thought to me as I also need to replace my Tragically Hip slide in my PowerPoint with a Justin Bieber slide to remain relevant. I am getting old.

Joking aside (inside?), what does YAR mean, and where did it come from? Google-fu time (they need a Google-fu exclamation equivalent for Pirates. Sounds too Ninja-y)

Word Origin and History for yar
growling sound, imitative, attested from c.1300.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Growling sound makes sense. Imitative? c.1300. What was going on in the 1300s?

According to Wikipedia, lots.

As a means of recording the passage of time, the 14th century was the century which lasted from January 1, 1301, to December 31, 1400. Political and natural disaster and black death ravaged 4 khanates of the Mongolian Empire. Consequently, the Mongol court was driven out of China and retreated to Mongolia, the Ilkhanate collapsed in Persia, the Chaghatayid dissolved into two parts, and the Golden Horde lost its position as great power in Eastern Europe.

I knew the word was always super cool. I mean, not black death ravaging Mongolian Empire cool, but cool nonetheless.

YAR! Was, and is, more than that. It was our rallying cry – our call, our sign. Our secret handshake! Our “Nanoo Nano”. Our kicking of the jukebox. Our “D’oh” (only much less stupefying). It was something we all did and it made our guild who we were.  A symbol, if you will.

So, if you ever see some old guy running around saying YAR! In a MMO it is probably me. Feel free to /kick, but that won’t stop me. I’ll be YAR! (ing) for as long as I play MMOs.

Start With Why

I try to read a book a month. These books are mostly non-fiction and are business or personal growth related. I love thinking in general (its a gift, I tell you) and as such picking up books and reading and learning feels like I am developing both personally and professionally. Someone once told me that the person you will be in 5 years depends on the people you meet and the books you read. I find some truth and comfort in that statement.

I recently read “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek and I’d categorize it as a pretty simple premise but a game changer if you could execute it in life, work, relationships, and elsewhere. The basic premise of the book (and I am keeping this very simple) is that if you drew a circle that had three layers, it could look like this.

golden-circle

What Mr. Sinek argues is that most companies focus on WHAT they do. Dell builds computers, for examples. They then tell you HOW they do it – the have a great processing facility and it allows for personalization and you can change features, chips, memory, hard drives (etc.) and get it built just for you – for a cheap price. They never tell you why though, do they? The book argues that a company like Apple always starts with why, then explains how, and then shows a product that is the outcome of the why and how – not the other way around. Profit is never a “why” either. In very generalized thoughts and terms he demonstrates the companies that start with why  has made them industry leaders – in some cases changing complete industries and in even more extreme cases the world. He also argues that if you don’t start with why you can’t achieve the same results, and that starting with why creates an inspiration that team members, co-workers and customers can all rally behind – which creates that success.

A simple example of how to apply this is personal health. If you focus on the WHAT and HOW of personal health it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. I need to go to the gym 4x a week and work out. I need to drink less beer. I need to eat better, less bread, less deep fried foods. I need to take the stairs instead of the elevators. The WHAT and HOW of personal health doesn’t actually sound that great.

If you started with WHY, you may look at those things a bit differently. I want to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to be able to work and provide for my family. I want to be around long enough to play with my grandkids. If you start with those whys suddenly less beer, and more time at the gym, and taking those stairs don’t seem that bad after all.

Its a must read. Please do. It’s on Audible if you like books that way, can even be your free trial book.

Can the golden circle be used in Personal gaming? Of course it can. Clearly developers are starting with WHAT and HOW and not WHY. WildStar started with we are going to create a game that WoW would have been if they didn’t get off course. (WHAT).

We will do this by not making the same mistakes as Blizzard and keeping the game catered to the 1%, with attunments and a tougher levelling and raiding experience. We’ll reintroduce 40 man raids. (HOW)

They never really explained WHY.

I want a gaming company to think with WHY first, instead of “how much profits can we make if we do yet another twist on a theme park”. I bet if a gaming company really started with WHY, we would get that inspiring and engaging MMO we are all waiting for.

 

Diffusions in MMO Gaming

I just read an amazing book and while I am saving that for another entire post one part stuck out to me. That part was in regards to the explanation behind how, and what rate, new technologies spread throughout societies. That explanation is called the “Diffusion of Innovations” and was written back in 1962. It was recently updated in the 2000s and it is popularized by a Professor of Communications, Everett Rogers. It’s a pretty cool theory in our tech driven world and it makes sense.

The author used it to prove a point for a business argument. I immediately thought of paid beta/alpha tests.   The theory goes like this (basic format) for adopting new technologies.

The theory goes that new technologies are best picked up by Innovators, who evangelize to Early Adopters (who purchase on their recommendation) – and then it gets a bit of steam for the Early Majority to pick up, and the Late Majority now sees a lot of people using it and they don’t want to be left out. The Laggards never buy but only adopt when it’s been standardized, cheaper than their current option (etc.).  I may have bastardized the whole Theory – but that is the way it was explained in the book I read.

The argument goes that for new tech its best to solely target the Innovators and the rest sorts itself out. If you target the Majorities (Early, Late) they don’t understand why they need the tech as they would if it had gone through Innovators and Early Adopters. It makes sense – who knew we needed DVRs until TIVO? Now they are a standard cable box. (for the record, TIVO is an example of a failed new tech – they went straight to the mass market and people weren’t ready / didn’t understand)

Of course, with my love of gaming, after reading this theory in a business book I wanted to try and apply it to what we see in gaming.

Applying the theory makes sense with the “pay for betas” trend we have been seeing – and in which I have participated. This makes sense – if you get the early innovators and they start blogging, podcasting, and sharing their experiences with others you may be able to get Early Adopters involved. This has actually created a revenue stream for SOE. This has been working really well for Archeage as well – I have been reading great blogs and stories around blognation. While that particular one isn’t my cup of tea (I’ll be a Late Majority for AA – if at all) I’m still reading and thinking about it.

For early Betas the theory doesn’t work as cleanly for two reasons – one is because characters get wiped because its software and not new tech – this causes people (like me) to not invest as much time or evangelize as much to other people. I spent more time in Landmark than I did in WildStar and if I knew my efforts would exist, I would still be playing. If I was still playing, I’d still be blogging and posting pictures about it. It’s fun, it’s a grown up Minecraft. If it can be as commercially successful and trendy as Minecraft remains to be seen. The second way the theory is a stretch for gaming is that MMOs in themselves aren’t really new anymore and the curve is meant to represent the adoption of new tech.

Despite that I still think it makes sense that gaming companies reach out and engage their best players and potential players as early as possible and get them talking about it – good or bad. Conversations and top of mind – the buzz – is always important.

The other way to look at that curve and apply to gaming is possibly the population curve of a MMO.

  • Innovators = Alpha
  • Early Adopter = Beta
  • Early Majority = Pre-orders
  • Late Majority = Launch
  • Laggards = Post-launch purchasers

Looking at it that way  works with the overplayed market share % as well – and isn’t it true that at launch most new games peak anyway? This doesn’t replace the Gartner Hype Curve but fits along with it. For all NEW MMO launches (post-Wow) it seems that every game except for WoW, and EVE, had peak subscriber base at launch. That is a sobering thought to the importance of launch to developers. SWTOR, AOC, WAR – are there any that ended up with more subscribers than boxes they sold at launch?

If that is indeed the case and we can apply it directly then a MMO has ~90% of it’s maximum player base at launch.

Since I read about the theory through a second hand source I am going to get to the source material and read the actual applications. I have a habit of looking at a lot of my experiences through a gaming lens (service, loyalty, math, experiences, heck, even family!) and I suppose that in itself could be a measuring stick of my passion for this pastime.

Rally Caps

Murf and I chatted about baseball not too  long ago, and I was recently treated to a 19 inning, walk off win marathon from my home team Toronto Blue Jays, against our dreaded rivals, the Detroit Tigers. It had a lot. A lot of intentional walks (the Jays lineup is down 3 starters so once you get past Cabrera and Bautista your pitcher is generally safe.) a  lot of bases loaded let downs (Jays had them loaded 3 times (often thanks to the walks – intentional or not)) and still couldn’t win until the 19th frame. Spectacular defensive saves (looking at you, Rasmus in centre field. you and your .219 average!) and all in all, a great way to spend 6 and a half hours.

Yup, you heard me. 6 glorious hours of baseball. And 37 minutes. Glorious. or something. On Baseball Canada Day.

That’s long.

After 17 innings the Tigers were out of pitchers and had to put in their starter for the NEXT day. How did the game end? What lead to the victory? Was it a clutch hit, or defensive error – what was it?

Rally Caps.

Embedded image permalink

Don’t mess with the Rally Cap!

The game was dragging, and then the camera pans and we see journeyman and underground fan favourite Steve Tolleson walking around the dugout physically turning around everyone’s caps. He’s doing it all by himself. That is the stuff of legends! He walks around, spinning caps, a tried and true baseball tradition. The Rally Cap. Not asking, not suggesting, just doing. The straight-back rally cap – a veteran move, compared to the less fashionable inside out rally cap.

And then they win.

Sometimes superstition works.

I know players put on their rally caps (save Vanguard petition) often when games are going to be shuttered and while and I pulled my pitcher (metaphorically) with my yesterday cancel of WildStar sub – I do wish it well, and hope to enjoy it again someday. I think it will be just fine with the subs they do keep and hopefully that is enough for NCSOFT to keep the F2P calls at bay.

Gender Stereotyping My Dogs

Blaugust has been fun and I am surprised I made it this long. I already have made more posts in August than all of July. I find myself writing a bit quicker, and leaving it all on the page. My old style was write most of it, leave it, revisit, edit edit edit… now It’s just write, re-read, feel good, publish. Kind of liberating.

I have 16 drafts already done. Some of those are older drafts but most are things that I have sorted out in my daily routines – I find little inspirations and start a draft post so I have the seeds to revisit and post away. Most have still been in and around gaming but this one is not. A little social experiment, shall we?

I have two dogs. One is a boy and one is a girl. Which is which? I’m going to describe some traits, personalities and things about them and want you to guess which is the boy and which is the girl. For each descriptor, the one dog is the first description, the second description is about the second.

A is black and white, B is red and white

A is smaller (half the size), B is bigger.

Both are crate changed – A keeps its blankets rolled and organized, B’s are scattered and strewn about.

Actual beds. Correct order

A  prances, B struts

A is smarter than B

A is older, B younger.

A is obedient, B is a rebel

Both are loving companions.

So, which do you think is which?

The reason why I even wrote this post was because when I was observing them I thought “wow, that’s crazy”. There are two ways to look at this – one, the obvious one, that A is a girl and B is a boy because the traditional traits and descriptions provided tend to lean that way. That a smaller, tidy, prancing, smarter, polite and obedient dog is the female. The pink blanket in for good measure.

The second way to look at it is because it is so obvious perhaps I am writing this to “throw you off”. To show that while certain things are obvious and “typical”, that I am sharing them in that way so start to get you to think the obvious and its a twist of some sort – because we have preconceived notions.

If this was a chapter in a Malcolm Gladwell book (it would be a bad chapter, to be fair…) he would quote a psychological study that would explain how people’s brains absorb that information and their preconceived notions come into play. That given only specific – and limited – information, people tend to think a certain way. This isn’t a well written Malcolm Gladwell book (unfortunately) and you are left with my thoughts.

The truth?

A is a girl, B is the boy. I caught myself remarking how their personalities (the first is 5 years older than the second) were so perfectly suited to their sex. He’s the goofy, clumsy, “dumb” but loveable pup and she is the pretty princess – both the same breed with different pedigrees. I wasn’t messing around. My own self check after thinking that was that none of those traits are actually suited to specific genders and it was something for me to be mindful of in the future.

Tech Support

Brief programming note: this doesn’t count as my Blaugust post (obviously) but I am having a tech problem.

Pingbacks stopped working. My last pingback was May 21, 2o13 (when sorting through comments on the menu).

I don’t recall what (if anything) I changed then. I did notice that a few people HAVE tried to ping me back, but there is no notification for me and it just doesn’t work. I had always just assumed no one was tracking back, or pinging back.

This is a self-hosted WordPress blog with JetPack installed.

I am not good at these things, and I do have a friend who hosted this for me but I also figured I’d reach out to the community to see if anyone had any ideas. I tried everything I could (right boxes are checked on my end) for my non-technical expertise. My Google-fu wasn’t very helpful either.

If you have any suggestions or ideas would love to hear them!

Thanks!

Isey