Happy Pre-Sequel Day! Sorry I won’t be joining you…

14 Oct

A Bandit floating upside in space, fingers to head like a gun, floating over a planet that has an orbit space-station that is space like the letter H

And lo, the Pre-Sequel was upon us. At this point, I can’t even remember how I got introduced to the whole Borderlands world. I think I was looking for something co-op and cheap, browsing Best Buy’s bargain bin. Say what you want, but Borderlands cover art was definitely attention grabbing with the bandit blowing his brains out with his fingers pointed to his temple. And I came into it at a good time, the lull between Borderlands GOTY and Borderlands 2.

Borderlands was different. Different from the Call of Duties, Battlefields and Halo. The concept of FPS/RPG was like mixing chocolate and peanut butter for the first time. Why didn’t I know about this before? And while I didn’t fully embrace the cel shading, after a while, it grew on me. Hell, I watched The Simpsons and Family Guy; this was just interactive animation for all I cared. And Borderlands was story driven, well written and voice acted. I was a fan. Mordecai and Bloodwing sniping all the way to the vault FTW!

Borderlands 2… Borderlands 2 and I have a love/hate relationship. I never pre-order a game. I will never again pre-order a game. Borderlands 2 was the exception. The whole concept of co-op works great when your friends are excited to play first day with you and you all get it day 1. But then, reality sets in and play time gets interrupted by life. By week 2, I was solo running BL2.

Wait, stop right there. I can hearing you saying, “Well, why didn’t you go out and make new online friends.” Simply put: my tolerance for whiny, swearing squeaky preteens is low. Super low. And yeah, I ‘m sure there are plenty of awesome people out there to play with, but I just don’t care.

So back to BL2. I rolled Axton all the way to the end. I even built a death strategy to toss up my turret right before I died and toss my grenades. I tried to explore every corner, run every mission. But while I battled toward the next level, I noticed something. I was spending an inordinate about of time managing my inventory. Way too much time. “Hm… should I take the SMG that has fire damage even though I run out of ammo really fast or the sniper rifle that has a long reload time and small clip or the rapid fire pistol or the acid rockets or… or… or… or…” BL2 became a micromanagement sim. While that may be the beauty in standard RPGs, RPGs don’t have that many variables to worry about. Normally it’s just, “Does this weapon have a bigger damage number than this weapon.” Easy. But BL2 was about live situational adjustments. Take a fire weapon for flesh guys, acid for robots, shock for shields, slag for more damage, explosives for general use, rockets for groups, snipers for long range, assault for med long, pistol for med, smg for med short, shotguns for short. It all detracted from actual play. It’s weird to say, but it’s too much loot.

Even after getting most of the BL2 DLC on Xbox and then repurchasing the game and all canon DLC on the computer, I don’t think I’ll get Pre-sequel today. I think the monotony of BL2 got to me. I think there is an OCD part of me trying to optimize my inventory in BL2 and never really succeeding. I’ve groundlevels in MMOs. I have the patience to ding. But I can’t abide a messy inventory.

Will I get the Pre-sequel? Eventually. Once they come out with GOTY edition and it hits $20-$30. *Sigh* Even BL2 GOTY isn’t a complete edition since they are still milking headhunters and character skins. But… that’s for a different gripe.

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Bioshock Infinite Review (Spoiler: I didn’t like it)

18 Aug

Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful game; its textures and sound effects are quite attractive. At any point, I could pause the game, take a screenshot, and use it for wallpaper. But as for gaming depth, what you see on the surface is all you get.

To be fair, Bioshock Infinite as a standalone game would get higher marks from me if it wasn’t in a series. But trying to compare Infinite to the original is painful. I was expecting dark and creepy nuances. And while there are disturbing undertones, it doesn’t carry the same tension and horror as the original. The atmosphere of Columbia is so Technicolor that what should be shocking isn’t.

The story could be weightier too, if the characters were more endearing. Booker, the main character, is a generic noir gun for hire with a dark past and nothing to lose. Even the gritty voice reeks of ex-cop and Max Payne. Elizabeth and the twins are more compelling characters, but the range of emotions they convey come off flat. Songbird, despite being a gigantic bird that only crows, really has the best emotional depth. Even the interactions between characters, aside from Songbird’s bond with Elizabeth,  feel too scripted. And, simply put, the plot twist at the end feels hallow. The only reason the game has stuck in my head is because I have a morality question – “So, I was playing as a racist?” In the end, the whole story feels too linear and forced, dragging you by the nose to the climax where none of your choices mattered anyway.

Gameplay mechanics are letdown. Yes, at its core, Infinite is an FPS with superpowers thrown into the mix. However, the number of weapons and powers get a little overwhelming. The shotgun is still a shotgun; it doesn’t matter if it’s a Heater or a Sweeper. Or the Repeater a Machine Gun. There are some minor differences, but not pronounced enough to matter. Even the distinctive melee weapon/transportation Sky-Hook isn’t used enough throughout the game. Your superpowers can be pared down to a select few; Bronco/Raven against humans, Electricity/Possession against robots. And while Elizabeth does provide you with useful items throughout the game, spinning around to look at her every single time is jarring.

Overall, Bioshock Infinite just isn’t that engaging. Using the multiverse theory and time travel as core story elements sounds great but it’s just not executed well in Infinite. There is almost no replayability once the story is done.

Play it for the beauty. Just expect more interactive story than game.

Never have a Zero day

3 Apr

I’m sure I saw this concept floating around on lifehacker or similar ilk, but I love the concept. The problem that I constantly have to overcome is the thought that when I do something, I need to do something huge, lengthy, with measurable results right away. 

It’s not true.

You don’t get six pack abs overnight. You don’t build a house overnight. You don’t write a best selling overnight.

I just need to calm down. Yes, I am getting older, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be done today. It’s weird, it’s the same message I tell my wife, but now I see myself doing the same exact thing, trying to both control the world and change it every single moment.

I’m not sure why I am freaked; why I want everything fixed and settled. I’m not sure the exact timeline for a midlife crisis and I don’t like the title. I think anyone can freak out at any age. But there is still time. And even when you run out of it, I can take solace in the fact that there will always, always be things left to be done.

I’ll make me dent today. And then tomorrow. I will not let a day slip by and not at least try.

And with that, I depart Facebook

2 Apr

It’s been awhile coming. To me, the glory days of Facebook are numbered. I doubt I am the ghost of MySpace, but Facebook has become cumbersome to me. Bloated with casual games, ads and worse, permeated into our non-digital culture. Prime example: Marriage seminars that say, “”Like” your spouse”. Shouldn’t we “love” our spouse?

I’m sorry, but I don’t care that your kid threw up. I don’t care that your favorite band is coming to town and you want to go see them, but can’t for whatever reason. I don’t care what or where you are eating.

Note: I not saying that I am devoid of caring what happens in my friends’ lives. I’m happy that you got married. That you bought a house. That you are having a kid. I’m sorry that you mom/dad/brother/sister/aunt/cousin/puppy died. I’m sorry that you have the flu. But the instances of vapid shares overwhelming the important. It’s simply taking too much time to filter through them all.

I know this is contrarian and even a little self-serving, but as time as gone on, I’ve become more aware of my time or lack of it. While some people may find joy in rummaging through another person’s mementos, it’s just not for me. This is also why I don’t go to flea markets.

There may be an ounce of irony in me eschewing Facebook, since I use/used Twitter, Instagram, FourSquare, Yelp, G+, AIM, Messenger, etc. and being a proponent of  technology in general. But the utility of Facebook is simply lost. The other services I mentioned do one thing and rather well (okay, maybe not quite G+). They are simple, to the point and serve their function well. Facebook comes across as a bloated amalgamation of everyone’s life’s that we have come in contact with.

In a sense, this farewell letter is for my own edification, to explain to myself (or anyone who cares), why I chose to leave. Thanks for the memories Facebook, even though they weren’t so great. 

Blazing Blazek

28 Feb

Kelly Blazek. Yeah, I’m naming dropping, but really she is the topic of this post. She’s the International Association of Business Communicators Communicator of the year for 2013, building a viable contact list of more than 800 people. But the pinnacle of civility, not so much. Adweek story link

I think the biggest issue stems from how she engaged with strangers and potentials. Yeah, it’s great that she’s accumulated and cultivated a rather impress list of contacts, but even they started out as strangers. To be so dismissive of someone try to getting out there, not sitting on their ass, seems to be rather heartless. I’m sure getting hounded tirelessly isn’t easy, but the effort and energy that she took to retort to those inquiries could have been put to better use. Or at least it would have been more civil to have simply snubbed them by ignoring their requests.

I think the Internet would have been slightly more forgiving if this had just been one instance, but I believe Ms. Blazek became vilified because of her previous retorts. It’s not an off-hand chance, it’s a pattern. Or, to be fair, a few uncharacteristic slips; I don’t know. But the simple point is that one must always try to be civil and professional, especially when you are so well connected.

WIP edit: Doing a little of reading just to make sure I’m fresh on the details, looks like there is another job bank. Looks like the door has been opened wide for the competition after her snarky remark that there wasn’t another job bank in the area. @theOtherNEOJobBank

This leaves me to wonder how this will affect her contact list.

The education of wolves

19 Dec

From the offset, understand that I am/was an avid reader of webcomics, particularly the likes of Penny Arcade and CAD. I would consider myself a fan, even though I haven’t read in a while, but that particular fact has lead me to missing out on the whole Dickwolves debacle.

To the point, I think both sides took the issue to much greater lengths than they needed to. On Penny Arcade’s side, the dismissive nature of the author’s response to fan complaints is disturbing and the perpetuation of the dark joke makes the fan base believe that it’s their official position to support and perpetual rape culture, even if this isn’t really the crux of who they are. It simply would have been better to be apologetic about it, and leave the comic as is.

This next part is a little tricky, so I’ll tired to be mindful and clear.

On the other side of the issue, what things can we make fun of? It is a serious question. Would we classify the abuse that Meg takes on Family Guy to be of the same offensive caliber as Dickwolves? There are children out there that are abused daily. Would we take the racial self depreciation of Carlos Mencia and Dave Chapelle as being overly racist? I sure some people do. But never within my culture (I think this me claiming my long inherent geekdom), have I seen something this troubling. I am glad there are movements against injustice in our culture, but I am wondering, how sensitive should we be?

So for my benefit, could someone please enlighten me? Was it really the comic or more the dismissive nature of the author that set people off? I’m trying to figure how a comic, using a fictional world, with even more so fictionalized antagonists became a talking point of the geek culture.

Edit: Currently, I am watching the numbers of the latest Humble Weekly bundle sale featuring Penny Arcade. Currently they are sitting at a little over 20k in bundles sold. I feel that number is a little telling and has some correlation to the continued controversy. Of course, I could be completely wrong, as both the books and the games have been out long enough for most stalwart fans to have already picked them up.

Nanowrimo or how I came to hate myself even more as a writer

16 Dec

So another Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) has slipped by me yet again. I keep mulling over stories of workplace generational gaps and time travelling truck drivers, but I never get anywhere or even close to creating a title page, let alone the first line.

There are a couple of issues I have with Nanowrimo. Really? It has to be in November? There could not, for me as a University employee and a partaker of Thanksgiving, be a worse time. Second, I know that the goal is to get something, anything on paper, but it’s called National Novel Writing Month, not National Paragraph Writing Month. Every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I instantly become bored with what I am writing. I ask myself, “Would this be something that I would want to read?” While I think my concepts are strong, I get tied up in the minutia, the typos, the grammar, the tone. The designer/editor/A-type in me takes over and doesn’t let me proceed. And in a sense, I enjoy it more than the actual writing. My troubleshooter can’t be satiated, even at the end.

I know that good work takes time and refinement, but as I have gotten older, I find my time to be limited. And my patience for those saying, “Well, make time” wearing thin, even if it’s just me, yelling at myself.