Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So Long Suckers! AKA: The Vacation Post

Well it's definitely Autumn here but we are being very, very spoiled with 30 C weather as the season changes over. I guess Mother Nature is still feeling bad for all the flooding and crap weather that characterized the beginning of 'Summer'. Our last frost was mid-May so we deserve this little respite- especially considering what's to come.

I almost wish I was sticking around to enjoy it..... almost. I am off today for my first trip to Hawaii, and the first real holiday since my honeymoon over 5 years ago. Oh, I've been traveling alright. Ireland to Scotland, Scotland to Canada, and four moves in the last two years here. But traveling is hardly holidaying, so finally, after years of being uprooted and mired in poverty brought on by chronic unemployment (thank you Global Banking Crisis), we can take a few weeks to ourselves. It's strange, really, to be back on ones feet after such a crushing economic defeat. It seems God (if you believe in him, and I myself am on the fence on that one) has seen fit to instill within me some unique, marketable skills which have landed a generous vacation package.

I really love the tropics. I worked and lived in Belize, Central America for three months a year for three years, and though not 'tropical' per se, the southern US which was hot, humid, and filled with things that could kill you (both the locals and the wildlife). It's strange to be going somewhere tropical that's going to be so familiar. Good old America- you've thought of everything- and thanks for letting your economy slide a bit so my dollar is close to even with yours!

That used to be the great worry of any Canadian traveling abroad: "God, what's the exchange rate? How much are we going to lose?" Britain has been, and still is, the worst. I remember when it took 2.5 Canadian dollars to make a pound. Those were expensive trips. Of course when I returned to Canada two years ago with a UK bank account to cash in that had slid to 1.3 dollars to the pound. Doh!

I also really miss the sea, which is weird for me to say. I grew up land-locked and can't swim all that well. I also have a healthy fear of sharks and other unseen dangers of the deep blue so a bit of splash from shore is good for me. I guess I got used to it while living abroad and now I can't wait to get back in. My only regret is my faithful, furry companion (who has always loved the sea but can't quite figure out why he can't drink it) won't get to come with me. Unless you consider She Who Will Be Named Later my faithful, furry companion, and if so she may have a word or two for you regarding the furry part.

Quit looking at my bum.

Is there anything like the love between a man and his dog? I actually don't think so. If you were to ask me, in the event of a fire, which one would you save, the answer would be easy. My wife, of course, who would soon become my widow as I dashed back in to save my dog.

Right, where was this going? Ah, yes, Hawaii. I'm off so do some extra gaming for me!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Reflections on Redefinitions

This post has really been bugging me, and is one of the (many) reasons I haven't posted anything of substance in a while. Stupid Tim and is good post... making me think. How very dare he!

It is a good post and one that I thought about for quite some time. A lot of my blogging and gaming falls into that category of complaining (of which he speaks). I do think it's important to look at what your doing, or writing, and ask if it is, indeed, fun. Tim says if you have to ask, then you're not having fun and that's a fair point.

There is a lot of complaining that goes on in the blogosphere and a lot of it I don't think we can get away from. It's human nature, really. Look at the news...anything happy going on in the world? Who knows, right, because all they report is the negative stuff. It's been that way for as long as I can remember and will continue to be for a long time to come.

I asked myself, after reading that post, are you too negative? In real life, yes, definitely, but what about here on my blog? Inevitably my pessimistic (or negative) side will come out in my writing (or as I like to call it, my realistic side) but is it falling into the whinging category?

The other important question is why do I continue to play games that annoy me? If I'm writing critical posts about World of Tanks, for instance, then it stands to reason that I'm not actually having fun.

I do have fun playing the games that I write about otherwise I wouldn't continue to play them Ultima Online, A Tale in the Desert, an Civ 5 being good examples of games that I just didn't stick with. When I write critically about a game I am playing I do it for three reasons:

  1. To vent my frustration about game-elements that are annoying me.
  2. To provide a review (good and bad) of the game so anyone unfamiliar with it could decide if they may want to play it.
  3. In the hopes that if enough of us say the same thing the game may change in a favorable direction.

The last one is particularly important in online gaming, I think, where patches and downloadable content can alter the game-play. I think, or hope in any case, that I manage to strike a balance among the three. I tend to stay out of the 'meta-blogging-game' and not discuss the hot topics of the day (such as the newish "old school games were better" debate). I find some if them interesting, but, like Tim, after a while I just think 'move on already, who cares...go play something fun'. That's just me, however, and for those who partake and enjoy, knock yourself out. To each their own.

I have been posting a lot about World of Tanks lately and though I stated a few posts ago I was quitting for a while I am, in fact, still playing. I do note a lot of really positive changes going on and many of the things I complained about (or noted if you will) are being changed. Little things like the special events. I commented on Overlords blog after the last event to say thank-you, but also asked if they could consider extending the events through the weekend so those of us with jobs could partake. Lo-and-behold the latest event was all weekend long.

I'm not going to take sole credit for this change, of course, but obviously enough people suggested it that the developers decided to implement it. Score one for the outspoken!

I'm also quite grateful to Tim for kicking me in the virtual backside with regards to my gaming. I am guilty of continuing to play long after I've stopped having fun for a variety of reasons. In WoT it's usually after a losing streak where I keep thinking 'just one win and then I'll quit'. When that win doesn't come I only get more frustrated which results in even less fun and so it goes. Now when I reach that point I hear this voice saying.... 'is this fun..... do you want to stop...' and most times I do stop and move to something else. That both lessens my frustration with any given game, and increases my fun.

So there we have it....a long, philosophical post on the eve of my departure. I'm off on Wednesday to Hawaii (ya, take that suckers!) so tomorrow will likely be a mini-post and then silence for a week or so....and ya, I'll be having loads of fun!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nothing But Music

Nothing but a great tune I was happy to see up on You Tube today. I've had this whole mix for some time (since 2006) but it's nice to be able to hear this track at any time now thanks to the interwebs.

The song is Life's a !@#$%^&* (Nas)- DJ Yoda Cure Remix from this set here. Get it if you can, its still great.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quoting You

This Pack of Lies is from Syp, at Bio Break:

"Techno/dance/electronica sometimes gets played, but only for short durations as these can give me a headache after an hour or so (there’s only so many thudding synthetic beats you can listen to before your brain starts to bleed a little)."
How dare you sir! Thudding, synthetic beats are the only thing I can listen to for hours and the bleeding of the brain? That's an added bonus, under the right circumstances ;)

Unless of course you're referring to House music and then I agree. Two minutes, in that case, is more than enough to make my head hurt.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do You Know What Time It Is? Where Have You Been!

I guess missing a few days isn't a big deal in the blogging world but I feel bad that I missed my Fortuitous Friday post. Was I busy? Nope. Out of town? Nope. Internet down? No again. Lazy? You're getting warmer.

It wasn't so much a case of being lazy, really. I was just plain tired.

So its a fresh week, and I'll warn you now, my last week until I take off for a holiday to Hawaii. I'll be gone for a couple weeks and the blog will be mothballed for that time. I doubt I'm popular enough to host a series of guest bloggers in that time (though if anyone's interested I'd be keen) so you'll have to suffer along without me.

Saturday was a turning point for me in World of Tanks. I've pushed past the frustration with PUG's and moved into boredom (though my drunken antics in the chat channel may have leaned toward the frustrated side of things). Since leaving my clan I've clocked up around 1500 battles in solo mode and now it's just getting boring. Same maps, same strategy (or lack thereof), same crappy matchmaking system.

The new patch promised for November which will introduce the tier-capped company battles is coming just in time. My premium account runs out in a day or so and I'm not going to renew. I will jump on the test server again next month (which is free of course) and likely be back to the game proper when the new patch hits. I enjoyed the test server and had a lot of fun with the EU and RU players. It was a different approach to the game with greater communication in chat, and players who camped a lot less. It was also nice to try out a variety of tanks and max them out quickly 'just to see'.

Overall, the boredom with the sameness, combined with a skewed matchmaking system designed to see you fail at least 50% of the time has finally taken its toll. A 20-in-a-row losing streak with my fully upgraded Tiger II last week really got me thinking about the 'balance' in the game. Even if I was the worst Heavy Tank driver in the world (and I may be) how can I get 20-losing teams in a row? Matchmaker, thy name is bullshit. In an effort to ensure that good players don't dominate the less talented the matchmaker throws you into matches that you don't have a chance in. Great for overall balance, maybe, but very discouraging for those taking the game a bit more seriously.

In the meantime I've turned my attention to Red Orchestra 2 (more on that this week), Civilization 5 (even on sale at  $12.50 this was a waste of my money) and Total War: Shogun 2 along with something strange and unfamiliar which I used to do a lot of....reading actual books. To my great shame I haven't read anything in months so with my computer-free holiday (except of course for the mandatory logging in to Wurm to feed my animals, of which I've convinced She Who Will Be Named Later to go along with while we are in Hawaii) around the corner I thought I'd get my brain ready for all that text once again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cruel is Cruel

Like Blaq, I'm tired of people being cruel to one another weather in real life, or on the internet. I read this over my morning tea:

"A man has been jailed for 18 weeks for sending abusive messages on social networking sites."
I would encourage you all to read it. It's an interesting article and one that many of us can relate to as we will encounter, at least a few times in our lives, on-line bullies, or 'trolls'. I've run into a lot of anti-social behaviors on line, including quite a bit of scatologia. For most of you that word won't mean much, but it is a type of sex offender who receives their gratification via sexually explicit/obscene talk. This is most commonly known as a 'prank caller' but it extends to written/texted situations as well. It is a DSMV diagnosable sexual deviancy and one that is against the law in most countries.

The BBC case may be an extreme example but we don't have to let it get that far. If we remain silent while someone bullies others online, then aren't we actually encouraging it? Tell them their behavior is unacceptable before you add them to the ignore list and then report them in-game. I have spent more than a few hours of my Saturdays uploading screen shots of idiots to send into World Of Tanks.

I have no idea what happens but it makes me feel, at the very least, that I'm not putting up with these low-life, bullying, or sexually offending idiots. I have noticed a decrease in the casual use of the word 'rape' which I talked about here. I certainly can't take credit for it but I can continue to tell people that it's unacceptable. So too with 'trolling' or 'cyber bullying'. I wouldn't put up with it my neighborhood, so why would I put up with it in my cyber-community?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quoting You.

From Alas, at Kiss My Alas. I'm impressed she managed to keep the list so small as I could add about 100 to it myself, but in any case:

Things that have annoyed me recently: people who think they know everything. Shut your gobs. Spare me the lectures.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wurm, Revisited

I've been threatening for ages to post again about Wurm. With the tank-centric feel of the blog you'd be forgiven for thinking I've given up on everything else. I am still playing Wurm daily but what can I say about it that would be interesting for you to read? I mentioned previously that I subbed my alt so I could lay down another settlement which includes a huge mine. It's the only thing I felt I was missing from my settlement so I jumped at the opportunity to expand.

I love my caves.

Wurm is a lovely game and it is very cheap in comparison to others. It is a one-of-a-kind that I'm happy to support even if I'm only playing a half-hour or so per day. I log in to check my animals, re-plant my crops, and feed my dogs, and when the mood takes me, I do some terraforming. I have a definite plan (both on paper and in my head) of how I want things to look so when I have the time, or inclination, I just get to work on one of the projects on the list.

To date I have no completed the 'southern' project which includes two distinct animal pens, one for my horses, and one for my new herd of cows (milk makes cheese...mmmmm cheese). I also built a 'work house' as I felt it was important to have in my mock-Irish village (I named my settlement Lios An Oir). I saw my first real work house in the village of Lismore, Co. Waterford- well, the empty shell of one as it was not in use of course.

A real work house in Lismore, Co. Waterford

There are days I don't really feel like playing, but with animals to tend I have to log in.... or at least I feel I have to. I always hated seeing pens of 'starving' animals when I was exploring so I'm trying not to be an absentee landlord. I have no tenants, or villagers, so that's not a very good comparison, but you know what I mean. Once I get logged on and stuck in I'm happy to be back. Despite the obvious fact that farming, in reality, is bloody hard work, virtual farming is relaxing and Wurm still remains a nice place to drop in and chill out. Now that I'm not starving to death, being chased by bears, and living in a cave that is :)

I'll leave you with some before, during, and after shots of the southern portion of the deed- now complete (mostly).

In the beginning I had little land, but lots of water.

Long days working through the night until sunrise......

Being Canadian I felt it necessary to put in a row of Maple Trees. The wooden structure is the Work House.

The oven is a left-over from previous occupants. Soon to be destroyed.

The Northern project is delayed but the Olive Grove was Phase I.

Village center .

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Civilization V

I am a die-hard Civ fan who was massively disappointed with Civ 5. I played an early release which was riddled with bugs and just couldn't decide if I liked the new format. I wanted to give it another try, but was hesitant to spend the $50+ dollars to do so.

Then came the weekend. Direct to Drive and Steam are offering Civ 5 at a %75 discount: $12.50. I can't actually say no to it at this price and the download is about to ensue.....

For the record, Civ III holds my all-time game-athon record at 26 hours straight. I wish I was kidding.

Get in!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: Pie-based Blog War

I was struggling to come up with something for my Fortuitous Friday post. I was mulling over various (hopefully) witty things to say....topics that interested me. News from the world I felt compelled to comment on.

And then I saw it.

Here. In the comments section of a wonderfully written, and funny blog post from Adam at the Noisy Rogue (now back on my blogroll of course).

Blueberry pie. Therivs has finally gone too far.

How very dare you sir! To even suggest that the mere blueberry could, in any way, surpass the pecan is tantamount to a declaration of war. A pie war.

If I had a pecan pie I most certainly would not throw it in your face, as I would be eating it, but I would easily toss that blueberry pie directly in your face to show you the error of your ways.

Blueberry indeed.

But your taste in women is spot on, I have to say, so maybe all is not lost. Mmmmmmm Mila Kunis pie....oh wait, that may have come out wrong....or not.

And in other news, it's Friday, and I've got a bottle of Laphroaig waiting at home (which would, given its peaty, smoky taste, go great with Pecan, but NOT blueberry pie), so Happy Friday Everyone!

Hmmmmm......I'm guessing that only 2 out of the following 3 will actually be attainable, but if you happen to be reading this She Who Will Be Named Later, any chance we bust out that wig and role play some That 70's Show later tonight? Nice one.

Waiting at home.

Attainable if baked.

Likely NOT attainable but we all need to have goals.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quoting You.

This comes from one of my favorite bloggers- Blaq, at Don't Mention Ze WAR!- whose sense of humour, outlook on gaming, and music tastes, I find so similar to my own, I sometimes think we may be twins....or perhaps the same person....oooh, wouldn't that be scandalous!

"This post isn’t supposed to be that long. But if it turns into a wall of text, well, there’s not much I can do about that."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Testing, Testing...World of Tanks Public Test 6.7 Review

As previously mentioned I am currently embroiled in a love-hate-love-like-can't stop playing-will never play again- relationship with World of Tanks. It's not actually all that bad- I am exaggerating for dramatic effect (actually it is that bad but I want you to keep reading so I thought I'd soften the blow). I am still playing and would like to say I am not raging, but that would be a bold-faced, outright lie. If any of you have had the misfortune to be on any of my teams which are, em, shall we say, sucking, you'll have seen some fair, but firm, criticism in the local chat.

Well I certainly think it's fair in any case. I mean, isn't asking why 4....that's four.....platoons of clanned tankers (that's 12 supposedly organized tankers) at tier 7+ decided to rush off down one side of the map and leave the other flank open (predictably resulting in a humiliating loss) fair? Once past tier 6 I believe most people would have a clue, but it seems I was a bit optimistic in thinking that.

In any case this isn't a WoT flame or rant (though don't get too comfortable as I'm sure more are to come). In an effort to keep the game fun I have jumped onto the public test server where I get the chance to try out various tanks (thanks to the 10X experience and credits and the 10k gold gift) and where I don't give a crap how bad the teams are.

The server is merged so there are a mix of EU, and NA players, but predominantly the players are Russian. Unless you tweak a few settings in the directory the whole thing is in Russian. Neither the tweak, nor the Russian is a big deal. At this stage I know the game well enough that I can navigate the menu in any language. I have found this experience to be refreshing with different players, play-styles, and languages coming together nicely......except, of course, for the obligatory idiots from America making fun of the 'commies', their language, and their women.

I know the one or two jerks I've run in to don't represent America as a whole, and to be fair every Russian player there could be making fun of me and I wouldn't know. I can't be bothered to cut and paste into translator so what do I know? I have also lived in America and know it to be a diverse, wonderful place full of lovely people- and jerks- as is anywhere in the world. I simply point out that these players are acting like idiots and move on.

The test server is a breath of fresh air and has allowed me to try out a variety of tanks I was interested in without the pain of grinding for the experience or credits. The test has also introduced the new Chinese Medium Type 59 premium which is an underwhelming Tier 8 tank I spent 10,000 gold on. Even though the gold was free I'm regretting buying it as I could have converted a lot of my experience over and tried some upper tier tanks I've had my eye on. If they are thinking of charging 10k for this thing on the live server there is going to be a lot of broke, disappointed tankers out there.

The decals aren't pictured as I have tweaked my settings and they have been removed.

It's okay, don't get me wrong. It's armored to the teeth, but the speed suffers and the gun is underpowered. It pays well in terms of experience and credits, of course, but I don't think it's any better than other tier 8 mediums. It will, as with the Lowe, allow people with less experience to jump straight into the higher tier matches (as did the Lowe) which will, of course, decrease the fun for those of us with a bit more experience (as tactics can go out the window quick with inexperienced players).

Low profile, high-armor turret = hull down tactics

I'm all for 'Wallet Warriors'. We are keeping this game free for the rest of the players (I've spent $150 in total so far). There is no denying, however, that those who buy tanks may not be as experienced (ie good) as others and the team could suffer. I have also seen very good Lowe drivers who have made a real difference to the outcome.... but not often. When a tank pays off weather you win or lose, what's the incentive to do well? It's also a sniper tank so it's most often used as a 'camper' which increases the frustration of teammates dying on the front.

But I digress......

The test server has also introduced the new light tanks. The German tree has seen the addition of a tier 5 (one more past the Leopard) and the Russian tree has new tier 4's and 5's. The new Russian lights (T-50's) are ridiculously over powered (OP!) to the point where they are going to completely alter the game. Really. I'm not kidding.

The new face of evil

They are so fast, so tough, and so hard to kill that most of the game is spent in your own base trying to kill them (unsuccessfully) before they kill your artillery. I have completely given up playing arty on the test server as I've been killed a few times before I've even loaded.....they are that quick.

On the plus side all the people complaining about arty will soon shut up when a pack of these things annihilates them. I saw a Tiger II get killed by a T-50 (Russian light Tier 5) and the Tiger wasn't a bad player. Go ahead and laugh if you'll soon be your turn. If they don't nerf them I'm certainly going to start driving one. It's a great griefing tank. Drive around at 72 km/h weaving and darting, tagging tanks, killing arty, and generally being a nuissance? Yes please!

On the plus side they won't last long. I've seen a few of the drivers immediately exit a battle when there is no arty claiming it's 'no fun'. I can boldly say that if these things hit the live server most arty players will soon stop playing arty which will make those light scouts pointless. It will also increase the boldness of the heavy tank drivers who, not fearing arty, will plow forward killing all the non-heavies in their path. It will, in short, further cement this game as Heavy vs Heavy only which is currently prevalent in the 'end game'.

There! And you thought there would be no proper analysis and just a bunch of complaining today! Ha! I Can Has Brains?

Not mentioned, but the Jumbo Sherman is a beast. Note the stock 152 armor turret which is lost upon upgrading. I'm never upgrading! A lot of fun.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why Don't I Care?

GW2 hype has been bombarding the blogo-sphere for ages. A lot of people are excited. I should be one of them.

It doesn't take a genius in truth detection to note the 'should' I added there. I loved Guild Wars PVP. The PVE held me for a while but eventually I was swept up in a storm of player-vs-player action. I still think it has the best PVP I have ever played. Balanced, fair, easy to get in to with ready-roll pvp toons. It was great. So great I had to give it up when it started to take over up to 16 hours of my day....nearly every day.

So why can't I get excited for GW2. From what I hear it's going to be groundbreaking, fun, and player-focused. It seems like they are asking the player to- gosh- have fun, and designing a game that lets them do so. They must be confident, by now, that they are going to sell a building-sized bucket load of games. It likely gives them a smug confidence to try new things.

But here we are, or me rather, not giving a you-know-what (rhymes with 'hit'). A lot of it has to do with the fact that it is, at the moment, design hype and I'm a big believer in caring when it's put in front of me. I don't get excited about holidays until a few days before, for instance, so part of it is just my personality. The other bit is that the fantasy setting doesn't have the same hold over me that it once did. I've been working on a post about this for ages, so I'll save my ranting for another day.

I'm sure when it's out and the blog-s-sphere is alive with the sounds of everyone having fun in GW2 I'll perk up. It's going to be one of those games I have to buy, just to see for the fact that I did like GW, and all the cool kids will be doing it!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: Gone Fishing

Or more accurately, I was going fishing....

With all the kids now back in school and their respective adult guardians forced back into the city after a summer of fun and hanging out at the lake it's now my time. I avoid large gatherings of people, or indeed, anywhere I think may have large gatherings of people and that includes lakes in the summer.

With Autumn now firmly in place (I had to wear my fleece and hat for the first time this morning while walking the dogs) I am ready for the lake. I took the day off from my toils at the Bread Mill to take the dogs and She Who Will Be Named Later to one of the nearby lakes which are the only bonus to living on the Prairie. In fairness, its the only anything on the Prairie which is dominated by soul-crushing, heart-breaking flatness as far as the eye can see. Oddly enough when I lived in Ireland I missed the big, open skies, and now I'd kill (literally) for a nice, enclosed village made mostly of stone to wander through. Why are we so fickle as humans?

In any case today was the day. My new-ish puppy has yet to really get a chance to run off lead thanks to the fact that this god-forsaken, repressed, hick-filled, hell-hole has the most uptight, repressive dog laws known to man. I would know as I worked for some time as a Animal Control Officer (true story) or a Dog Catcher, or Dog Warden as its called in various bits of the world. In the end it seems I was too liberal in my attitude toward the city's animal control bylaws and found myself surplus to requirements. Or, as a scene from Good Will Hunting explains:

Hey Will, how'd you lose your job?
The company was restructuring.
Ya, restructuring themselves out of assholes most likely.

Where was I? Oh right, fishing. Today is the day! And by that I mean it is the day it decided to rain for the first time in weeks. I'm still going, of course, because that means there will be even less likelihood of the place being busy which is my silver lining in a grey, rainy cloud. The dogs can run free! My Lurcher is well-used to water as we used to go swimming in the Irish sea and any river we could find...well, he swam and I waded as a lifetime of living land-locked had ill-prepared me for swimming. The Lab will likely be terrified, as she is of everything it seems, but a bit of rough love (I'll throw her in) will see us through these stressful times and when we get back it will be mugs of hot chocolate, laughter, and a roaring fire.....

Well, no. No roaring fire because in a place which sees temperatures plummet to -40 C in the winter, who needs a nice, roaring fire? Are you feeling my bitterness towards this place yet? Good, I'd hate to think it's being wasted. Don't mind me, I'm in a funny mood.... it's not all bad here but it's more fun to complain, isn't it?

Love is funny. I've always said you don't always choose who you fall in love with, and I guess its the same for places. I fell in love with Ireland and really do miss it sometimes. It always seems worse on days that are rainy, grey and a bit cool (for obvious reasons). It's the same for She Who Will Be Named Later who always seems to perk up on the grey days because they remind her of frolicking through sheep-filled pastures back home in Wales. As a matter of fact, the BBC is currently blaring from the kitchen as she packs us a picnic for our rainy day lake trip. See? Not all bad is it!

Happy Friday everyone!

Ballymacoda, Co. Cork

Killeagh Woods, Co. Cork

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quoting You

Optimism on a scale I can never, ever hope to replicate, but what if..................

"...wouldn’t it be great if all PUGs were friendly, successful and fun? It has to start somewhere… why not with us?" Tim @ How To Murder Time

The answer to this question is, in my humble opinion, a complex one that involves understanding a dynamic theory of human behavior which can be explained thusly:

1. People are idiots.

2. See above.