The Great Blaugust Flame-Out

I flamed out of Blaugust, so I guess I can now break my own self-imposed Blaugust rule, which was not to write about Blaugust.

There was this one day that I hadn’t scheduled a post, and it was a long, terrible day at work, and when I got home I had to decide whether to try to find enough energy to write a post real quick or play a game instead, and of course that was a no-brainer so I didn’t get a post out that day. I suppose I could have written a make-up post but then there was another day where I had to make the same decision and then another and another and now it’s a different month and oh well.

(Okay, it wasn't nearly as bad as the Hindenburg disaster.)
Okay, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Hindenburg disaster.

I got what I needed out of the event so I’m pretty happy about it anyway. I determined that writing is still hard, and posting daily is still hard, and, while I’m still capable of doing it, at this time in my life, the cost of posting every day outweighs the benefit. It’s not a relaxing diversion after a long draining day at work. I’d rather just play games and maybe post two or three times a week if I’m lucky. :)

Congratulations to everyone who stuck with it through to the end! And to those who didn’t, that’s okay too. Thanks for the event Belghast!

Dark Souls – Catching Up

Don’t really having time to write up every boss fight in Dark Souls right now, but here is a quick summary of the bosses and mini-bosses Sir Thomas the Knight has gotten through.

Havel The Rock

A mini-boss waiting at the bottom of the Watchtower right before the Taurus Demon. He hits really hard and takes a ton of damage, but is otherwise fairly straightforward. He drops Havel’s Ring, which boosts your carrying capacity (and typically increases your movement speed).

Iron Golem

Iron_Golem

This massive automaton lies at the end of Sen’s Fortress and guards the way to Anor Londo. The fight was mechanically not very difficult (basically don’t get hit), however the space is tight and one wrong move will send you plummeting to your death.

Undead Dragon

A hideous, rotting dragon mini-boss that clings to the side of a mountain path in the Valley of Drakes and spits poison at any who stray too close.

Stray Demon

Found back in the Undead Asylum, the very first area in the game. You need to find a pseudo-secret area in Firelink Shrine to get back there. I went back because I saw/read that there was a nice ring to find and I wanted to see how I fared against the boss. At first I didn’t think I would be able to withstand the punishing hits and magic explosions, but the attack patterns became apparent fairly quickly for me and then it became a straightforward fight. As always, your mileage may vary.

Darkroot Hydra

Another mini-boss, but still a terrifying spectacle found in the lake of Darkroot Basin near the crystal golems and Havel’s Watchtower. Fortunately its bark is bigger than its bite and it’s not hard to defeat after you get close enough. Once the Hydra is defeated, you can climb a ladder that leads to another forest area where Sif, the Great Grey Wolf awaits.

Sif, the Great Grey Wolf

Sif_Great_Grey_Wolf

An adorable husky that picks up a tremendously large sword in its mouth to fight you. You wouldn’t think a wolf would be able to pull that off but I saw it with my own eyes. Sif is fast and has at least one devastating one-shot kill attack. The fight required a lot of patience. I wasn’t expecting to face a boss but I stumbled on him while exploring Darkroot.

Pinwheel

A creepy spell-caster boss found at the end of the skeleton-filled Catacombs, which are down the steps down past the big black bird at Firelink Shrine. Pinwheel turned out to be a rather simple boss for me and I killed him/her/it on the first try. After killing Pinwheel you get to move on to the Tomb of the Giants, another bastard of an area that’s even more bastardly than Blighttown.

At this point, after wandering all over the place, I finally figured out how to progress in Anor Londo, so I headed back there to find the Lordvessel.

P.S. The horrifyingly bad images in this post were grabbed from video stills. I have failed to take any screenshots of Dark Souls bosses. (Mostly because in the time it takes to capture a screenshot, I’d probably get killed.)

Game Developers Aren’t Slaves

A while back I saw this pro-GamerGate post and had a flashback to my days in the political blogosphere. I’ll save you the time of reading it: It’s a long, very well-worded piece of propaganda disguised as anti-propaganda. (You know you’re reading propaganda when you come across the word “indoctrination.”)

Destroy this mad brute

The part that really made my jaw drop was this:

Never forget that you [developers] are here to please the gamers, they are not here to please you, validate your beliefs or prop up your ego.

That statement could not possibly be more wrong. Game developers are not prostitutes, servants, or slaves, as not just suggested there but stated outright. Game developers are artists, craftsmen, and businessmen. They create a product or service, and it is up to you the consumer to decide whether to purchase it or not, the same way you decide to buy a couch or a television. Or more accurately, the same way you decide to watch a movie or buy a book.

That sentence up there, in my opinion, is the very crux of the problem with a lot of crowd-funded game supporters (otherwise known as angry mobs). Most of them seem to feel that donating some money to support a game buys them ownership of the developers themselves, as if they have literally purchased slaves in some Mereen marketplace.

Full disclosure: I’m a software developer, so I have a very strong pro-developer bias. It absolutely infuriates me whenever a user feels that they own the developer as much as they do the software. “I bought your software so you have to do what I tell you or else!”

The other part of that post that I found pretty insulting was the implication that gamers are idiots who will instantly fall under the spell of whatever hidden message a game developer puts into their game. If that were true, then politicians would be right to ban violent video games because impressionable gamers will become violent after playing one, right? If you say gamers are so impressionable that they’ll turn into liberals after playing a game with a socially-conscious message, then there’s nothing stopping them from turning into serial murderers after playing Doom. Next up on the Gamergate agenda: Book-banning and record-burning!

I agree that it’s not a game developer’s job to teach morals, whatever they might be. Same for authors and movie-makers. But I strongly disagree that a game or a book or a movie can teach any morals. That teaching is much more effectively done by parents, social circles, and individual soul-searching, and those things will always trump whatever a game is trying to say.

Gah! This is why I stopped writing about politics. It’s too stressful.

Posted on Blaugust Day 11. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

The Elite: Dangerous Expansion And Value

Elite: Dangerous has an expansion coming out and you’ll never guess what happened after the announcement: People on Reddit got mad.

In a related story, the sun rose and set today.

I admit I’m just an average guy who doesn’t grasp all this new-fangled math the kids use, but I have never understood the “it’s not fair that if someone buys it today they’ll get a better price than someone who bought it before” logic when it comes to games. Of course now that I’m writing it out, I can’t think of the right words to explain why that doesn’t make sense to me. But here goes.

Time is money

I’m a firm believer in the concept that time has a monetary value. That if you spend X amount of time doing something, it’s equivalent to spending Y amount of dollars on that something. Or vice versa.

Let’s say you pay $50 for a game. You’re now out $50. But then let’s say you play that game for 100 hours. Now you’ve received 100 hours of entertainment in return for that $50 you spent. You’ve received “time” in exchange for your money. Time that, presumably, is valuable to you. How much is that time worth to you? I like to use movies as a basis to determine how much entertainment time is worth, so if a 1.5 hour movie costs $5 to rent on Amazon, that means you’ve received … oh god … I can’t do math in my head, so hold on …  $333 of entertainment value for 100 hours of game play. So you paid $50 of money and received $333 worth of entertainment time. I’d call that a solid investment.

Now let’s say an expansion comes along with a price of $50, and that expansion also includes the original content. Reddit blows up because they think the original buyers are getting screwed over while the new buyers are getting a crazy good deal. But are they really?

The original buyers are already ahead by … ugh not again … $283 in value. While the new buyer will be out $50. The original buyers already know that they are going to get a game they’ll want to play, and they only have to play it for … click click click … around 15 hours to break even again. Since they’ve already played for 100 hours it seems like a pretty safe bet that no value will be lost. (Especially since they’re still ahead by $233 if they don’t play a single moment of the expansion.)

The new buyer on the other hand has no idea if they’ll play more than 20 minutes of this game. They’re taking a huge risk spending their $50. (The same risk that the original buyer took, yes, but that risk already paid off for the original buyer.)

Besides, it’s not like you lose anything if someone else pays less for something. It’s not like some invisible hand is going to reach into your bank account and scoop out your money to give to that other person.

I’m not sure if any of that made sense. In any other month, I might stuff this into my Drafts until I was completely sure of my logic–or forever, in other words. But the show must go on.

Posted on Blaugust Day 9. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

The Wild Internet Frontier

The hubbub surrounding John Smedley stepping down from Daybreak has gotten me thinking once again about The Internet and its place in society.

I’m sort of a Libertarian at heart so the very idea of The Internet has always appealed to me. A place where everyone is free to make their own way, without any pesky government regulations. A place that breaks down political and social borders and treats everyone like an equal human being.

Grabill's Cow Boy
Change the horse to a cable modem and you’re looking at everyone on The Internet.

But the reality is that The Internet is nothing like the egalitarian Utopia it was supposed to be. It’s more like a new frontier–a wild, lawless country like the American West. It’s a virtual version of Deadwood.

There was a time when I never would have considered the idea that any government had any business being involved in The Internet. But when I see what has happened to Smedley, it’s hard not to feel like it’s way past time for a new sheriff to ride into town and bring some law and order to The Internet.

It’s one thing to verbally harass someone on the Internet using forums or Facebook or Twitter or whatever. It’s a completely different story to harass someone in real life, effectively using the Internet as a weapon. For human society as a whole to survive, there has to be real world consequences for that kind of behavior, and I don’t see how to enforce that without governments sitting down to write a whole bunch of laws specifically targeting Internet behavior. And not just “feel good” laws either.

It’s gotten to the point now that I think any of these hacker groups that launch coordinated DDoS attacks of any kind should be classified as terrorist organizations and pursued as such. But governments are so far behind the curve in terms of its laws keeping up with technology that there is probably no legal way to do that, let alone any way for law enforcement to actually track down the perpetrators.

And yes, I’m fully aware that we would have to give up some or all of our anonymity on The Internet to get to the place where we need to be. But these days I’m starting to think it’s worth it. There seem to be far more criminals benefiting from that anonymity than anyone else right now.

Of course it’s probably too late and the genie is not just out of the bottle but running amok in the streets. If that’s the case then, well, let’s hope we can survive a world run by criminals who can destroy everyone with the click of a button.

Posted on Blaugust Day 6. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

Dark Souls – Gaping Dragon Defeated

In an unprecedented spurt of Dark Souls excellence, I defeated the Gaping Dragon in a single evening after just thirteen attempts! (I kept count this time.)

The Depths
The sewers of The Depths. There is a vendor through those bars at the end of the room, because this is obviously where you’d expect to find a merchant.

It took some time to find the beast. My Knight wandered around the maze-like sewers of The Depths for days, falling through cleverly-hidden holes in the floor, stabbing rats of all sizes, dodging the cursed basilisks’ breath. Not always successfully. I had never been cursed before, and I hope I’m never cursed again, because halving one’s health is not pleasant. I spent a whole evening tracking down a Purging Stone to get myself back to normal. (Of course, being frugal, I had to run all the way back to the top of the church to buy the cheaper one–and of course because this is Dark Souls, you have to kill everything in your path no matter where you go.)

I picked up a Crystal Greatsword from a vendor who inexplicably chose a sewer as the best locale to ply his trade. It was pricey but worth it–until I realized I had no way to repair it. Still, it held out until the boss was dead at least.

Compared to the Capra Demon, the Gaping Dragon was surprisingly easy. You wouldn’t think so from the size of the thing, though. The introductory cut scene for this monstrosity is truly terrifying. It’s like … oh a cute little snake this shouldn’t be so bad and OH GOD WHAT IS THAT RUN AWAY RUN AWAY.

Two things made this fight straightforward: Being able to move around in a big space, and the Gaping Dragon’s fairly predictable attack patterns. You want to stay away from his legs when he’s walking around because he’ll stun you each time a foot hits you, and if you hang around his hands he’ll pick you up and devour you for effectively a one-shot kill. Sometimes he’ll “charge” toward a wall, leaving big puffs of dust (or mist or whatever) and if you get underfoot it does a ton of damage, too. And he smacks the ground with his … head … maw … mouth-part-thingy … but I don’t think I was ever underneath it to see how much damage it did. Of course he has a nasty tail swipe as well. Oh, and he jumps up in the air to turn around if he can’t reach you with his mouth–if you don’t run away he’ll land on your head and do a lot of damage.

I found my shield fairly useless, so I used the Crystal Greatsword two-handed for extra damage. Basically my strategy was to run away from him until he charged a wall, then run in to wack him on the back thigh while he stood still. He sort of stuns himself when he hits the wall, giving you time to get in a good three swings. Then he jumps up into the air (usually) and that’s your cue to run away and repeat the process. Seven minutes later victory was achieved.

Of course, that strategy does not allow you to cut off his tail, so if you want the Dragon King Greataxe you’ll have to do something different. (I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway.)

The Gaping Dragon drops the Blighttown Key, which leads to the next section. It took me an embarrassingly long time to find that door, but eventually I made my way into the next fresh hell of Dark Souls, the aptly-named Blighttown.

This post was for Blaugust Day 5.

YouTube Gaming Or Something Like It

I don’t stream a lot but I like YouTube Gaming so far. Twitch is okay, and Hitbox is okay, but I almost always see a lot of stuttering, lag, and painful dropouts, both when I stream and when I watch other streams. With YouTube Gaming I’m just going to go out on a limb here and guess that they’re going to have the best possible video streaming technology working behind the scenes. I had no difficulty uploading at 60fps, 1080p, 9000kbps. I could never get Twitch to work higher than 720p and around 3500kbps.

YouTube Gaming

(I don’t exactly know how I got YouTube Gaming… as of this writing, it still says “coming soon” on the landing page. I guess it’s one of those open beta kind of things that anyone can get into. I can assure you I did nothing special to activate it. I think I might have clicked on the “get notified” button at some point, but I don’t remember. I don’t see any evidence that I received any emails. I think I just stumbled upon it on my regular YouTube video page.)

(Come to think of it, I may not even being using YouTube Gaming at all. But somehow I’m able to stream directly to YouTube which I don’t remember ever being able to do before.)

I’m probably alone in this opinion, but I love that you can turn off chat. I’m not a “hey let’s hang out together and chit-chat” kind of a streamer. I’m more of a “hey I’m playing a game, and I tend to talk to myself when I’m playing anyway, so you can watch if you want, but I’m trying to concentrate on what I’m doing, so I can’t monitor a chat and try to think of witty responses and also get off my damn lawn you hippies” kind of a streamer. On Twitch and Hitbox I believe you’re stuck with chat whether you want it or not.

One thing I don’t like, though, is the length of time it takes for archived streams to publish to your channel. On Twitch, it’s very fast, but with YouTube Gaming it takes basically the same amount of time that it would take to upload a recording from your desktop. That is, a long time. I don’t care so much about my viewers (ha!) but sometimes I want to replay something I did during a stream and I have to wait like a half hour.

If nothing else, it’s a handy way to store my videos on the YouTube servers instead of my hard drive. Videos take up a lot of space, yo.

This post was for Blaugust Day 4.

A Dream About Enemy Base Infiltration

Blaugust Day 3

Besiege Dream Gizmo

It’s Sunday morning as I write this. I had the strangest dream last night. That’s not unusual because, honestly, a lot of my dreams are strange. I think the scientific explanation of dreaming* involves your subconscious re-processing things you’ve experienced, but that doesn’t explain a lot of my dreams. Quite often I see things in my dreams that I have no memory of ever seeing, hearing, or experiencing before. Sometimes I’ve heard complete songs with melodies and lyrics. Sometimes I’ve seen stories with plots and dialog. Of course the next morning they are completely gone, which makes me wonder if those songs really had melodies and lyrics, or if I just thought they had melodies and lyrics.

Anyway, last night’s dream was a story that would be completely gone too if I hadn’t spent some time writing it down as soon as I woke up. I thought it was interesting enough that I should try to record in case I ever need some material. (Not that I don’t have a backlog of 50,000 other stories already that I’ll never write.) The funny thing about dreams, though, is that when I go to start writing them down, I don’t seem to have words to describe anything. See, there was this thing, and it was doing something, and it was somewhere. During the dream, everything seemed perfectly clear, but writing it down is an exercise in frustration.

This dream took place in an enemy base or stronghold or deployment area or somewhere. It sort of vaguely reminded me of the Rebel Base on Yavin’s moon or perhaps the hangers from Hunger Games. The base was a staging area where things were deployed for greater purposes, probably nefarious purposes since they were “the enemy” after all. I don’t know who “the enemy” was or why there was a battle going on. Maybe it’s just my gaming background. Maybe I was just dreaming about a game. But it wasn’t like I was observing a game being played, it was like I was seeing actual events in some weird alternate world.

The enemy was in trouble because someone or something had infiltrated this enemy base with a tiny autonomous drone or robot or android or biomechanical device or thing. It was small and easily overlooked and could slip inside the enemy base unnoticed. It had its own form of locomotion like wheels. It reminded me of the contraptions you can build in Besiege. It had some form of ranged attack that was something like spitting acid or shooting water. It worked its way inside the base to a set of wall-mounted batteries or power cells or things and destroyed them one by one. Once it was finished attacking, it snuck** away and hid somewhere, because it had depleted all of its resources.

That is just scratching the surface of this dream, and that was only one part of it. There was also something like a protective sheet of aluminum foil but I can’t even begin to describe what that was about.

Happy work week everyone!

* I honestly have no idea where I learned that “scientific explanation of dreaming,” and indeed a quick look at Wikipedia shows that there doesn’t appear to be a scientific explanation of dreaming yet.

** I originally wrote “it snuck away” but the spellchecker didn’t think “snuck” was a word, so I changed it to “it sneaked away.” But “snuck” is a real word isn’t it? Or have I been wrong all these years? Turns out I’m not wrong. So I changed it back. Screw you, spellchecker.