Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday's Tune: Podge And Rodge Christmas

I find that when I'm drinking I especially miss Ireland and since today I may (or may not) have had a drink or two (or three) in anticipation of the New Year I've had the 'ole Emerald Isle on my mind. Combine this with Christmas and the result? Podge and Rodge of course!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: It's a Girl!

Ahhh the New Year. Another calender-based milestone gone and in it's place...... the same thing  with a different name. I'm not a huge 'New Year, Fresh Start' kinda guy. Same shit, different pile would be more like it. I don't do resolutions and it's been years since I went out and really got smashed to bring in the new year (I do it quietly at home now). I'll still go the gym as much (or as little as the case may be) as I ever did and all my annoying habits? They'll carry on.

This year, I have to say, is a little different because in the 'new year' there will be some major changes. After over a year of trying, She Who Will Be Named Later has informed me that we will soon have a New Mouth To Feed. Huzzah?

After 40+ years of avoiding the dreaded 'father-hood' I am officially going to be a father. Just looking at that statement seems ridiculous. I've put it off for so long for a very good reason: I don't like kids. That's not to say I hate kids, but if it was a choice between getting punched in the face and hanging with some kids, well, bring me some ice. Of course it will be different with my own (we can only hope) and I did enter into this willingly (I wasn't raped, honest) so hold off on those calls to Child Welfare! It'll all work out (I'm sure).

My Christmas treat, this year, then, was the ultrasound which showed us our healthy baby girl bouncing about inside She Who Will Be Named Later. Pictures? Sure, but who wants to see other peoples kids? I know I sure don't, so I've spared you that particular torture. I have to admit that while I was very interested in finding out the sex of New Mouth To Feed (and yes, I was hoping for a girl), I did drift in-and-out mentally and spent a great deal of time thinking about some new Clown Loaches I had just got to replace the ones who were ravaged by the Ich infestation. Maybe it was all that swimming about New Mouth To Feed was doing, or maybe I'm not 100% invested in the idea of being a father yet. We have to accept that fish, games, and other distractions may actually be more interesting for me than kids (even my own), in which case maybe we should get that number for Child Welfare after all. At least I am not alone.

Time will tell, and you just never know, and whatever other cheesy saying you'd like to insert. I am going to suggest to She Who Will Be Named Later that rather than saving for university for her, we should look at setting up a Counseling Fund so she can sort herself out once she reaches adult-hood. It may take a professional team of psychiatrists to help her understand why her 'quality' time with Dad consisted of being strapped to the dog and chucked out in the yard to play rodeo while he played World Of Tanks..... but only on the 5X experience weekends. I'm not a monster, after all.

Happy Friday Everyone, and Happy New Year! Stay safe and look out for one another.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do You Feel Safer Now?

I love this one. I noticed this posted for sale:

Yes, I did actually consider buying it.
 For my European readers this may seem a bit shocking in itself, but out here on the frontier (North America) we can pick these little babies up in Wal Mart, so no big deal seeing one for sale on a local bulletin board. What I really liked was the pamplet that came with it:

For maximum security in an insecure world........ And the guy's wearing a balaclava! Is he supposed to be the bad guy whom we're afraid of, or is that meant to be us with our cool new shotgun? Either way I found it amusing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spending Time With An Old Friend

Well not so much a friend as a game series. I pried myself away from World of Tanks for a bit to give some love to the "Games" folder in my new (massive) hardrive. I have to admit there are so many neglected games sitting there that if there was a Social Services Protection Agency for games I'd be hauled in for sure.

The target of my gaming affections this time: Shogun Total War II.

You can't accuse me of being 'with the times' as this one is already dated in terms of 'what's hot'. I spent a bit of time with it already so I jumped in and continued my campaign of terror/domination of the Japanese islands. Now, as then, I just can't seem to stick with it and if there ever was a case of 'its not you, its me' then this is it.

I love the atmosphere of the game and think the game-play is spectacular. The graphics are great and the music perfect. It is engrossing and fulfilling and I highly recommend it. I just can't seem to get into it. Part of the problem is that Japan is on my 'Don't Care' list. You see I have a list of countries that I just don't care about. Don't read about them, don't want to visit them- not interested. Australia tops the list, but Japan is definitely on it (and don't get me started on Southeast Asia).

In gaming terms, then, there isn't a lot to pull me into this one. I don't identify with the individual choices of clan and can't see why I would want to play different ones. In Rome, or Medieval, playing a new faction was strategically challenging. New units, new setting, new enemies. In Shogun..... same thing really- conquer Japan but this time from a slightly different starting point with maybe a a few new units. I'm also very interested in medieval history, and ancient Rome so those games are a natural draw. I worked on Archaeology sites from both those time periods (but never on an actual Roman site) and did a lot of reading on them: therefor I feel connected.

There was a special thrill, for me, taking over the world as the Turks, or unleashing my hoard of blue-skinned Celtic warriors that just seems to be lacking in Shogun. I'll go back to it, I think, and see how it goes but for now I remain: Meh. I do like the diplomatic system which, at the moment, is proving to be a challenge. My two nearest 'allies' have got to go. I need their territories, but they are strong and if I attack one, the other comes in to help (yes, I tried and then used the good ole 'load save game feature' to get out of it). There are some subtleties to this game I am hoping I can find.... if I can put in the time.

Meanwhile rumors of Total War: Rome II have me twitching with excitement and saving my holiday time in anticipation. Oh, and I made up those rumors, so no link :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas- Wherever You Are

As I said in my Friday post- Happy Holidays, and a reminder that there are some who aren't in the comfort of their homes deciding which drink/food/game they should try next! Take care, wherever you are.

Taken from The Chieftain's Hatch

And a reminder, that no one is above the law ;)

The RCMP always get their man. This guy had warrants for multiple Break and Enters, and was suspected of mass Cookie Theft.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Twas The Night Before Christmas: World Of Tanks Edition

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a Maus;

The Jagdtigers were hung by the Chokepoints with care,

In hopes that The Enemy soon would be there;

The Arty were nestled all snug in the beds,

While visions of One-Shots danced in their heads;

And mamma in her Valentine, and I in my Chaffe,

Had just settled down for a long Malinovka's nap,

When out on the Fjords there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from Spawn Circle to see what was the matter.

Away to the Low Road I flew like a flash,

Tore open the Speed Governor and threw up the sash.

The Matilda on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Bounced off the Mantlet of the Object 704 below,

When, what to my Sniping Reticule should appear,

But a Miniature Sturmpanzer, and eight tiny Leichttractor,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Wespe

More rapid than eagles his Panthers they came,

And he Honked, and Pinged, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of

Prokhorovka! to the top of the Hill!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the T-95 fly,

When they meet with an E-100, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the Panthers they flew,

With the sleigh full of Tanks, and St. Wespe too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the Rack

The prancing and pawing of each little Track.

As I Camped the Corner, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Wespe came with a bound.

He was dressed all in Armor, from his head to his foot,

And his Cannons were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Tanks he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a Camper just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his Hit Box how merry!

His AP were like roses, his HE like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the New Camo Scheme was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a Wet Ammo Rack and a little round belly,

That shook, And Exploded like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A Traverse of this Turret and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And Shot the Enemy; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his IS-7, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the T-50 of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: So THIS Is Christmas?

I never much liked Christmas. I didn't have what you would call an 'idylic' childhood, and though it wasn't all doom and gloom, the holiday season became infused with bad feeling and something I would avoid at all costs. My claim to Christmas fame was that I once worked 8 Christmas' in a row to avoid having to deal with it. Yes, that's 8-years of Humbug-ism. Scrooge would be proud.

My feelings toward the holiday season didn't change until I re-invented myself (ie: got married) and began to change the way I looked at, and particiapted in, Christmas.

I have joked a lot about how I hate people, and it's mostly not a joke. Along the way in this game called 'life' I am forced to play daily, I have become increasingly numb to my fellow man, society, and the suffering contained therein. As I am not a bad person I found that the kind, caring streak that is within me had to be directed somewhere and so I focus on animals. Each year She Who Will Be Named Later and I (twice if we can afford it) give money to one or two animal shelters. Without fail we always send Heathlawn Animal Shelter in Co. Galway, Ireland a Christmas donation.

They are a wonderful charity who do excellent work. I got my Lurcher (Collie/Greyhound cross) from them lo so many years ago, and to sound like a sappy pet owner- he changed my life. I won't bore you with the story but I've hauled that furry bastard across the globe (at great expense) so my committment to him is, to say the least, strong.

I was going to simply use this post to ask that you remember whatever charity/cause you belive in, and give a little. It isnt' hard. Buy your family a few less gifts. Even a small amount can make a big difference to some of these charities but in the process of writing this post, I tabbed over to the Galway SPCA website to get the link.... and this. Just when I thought that my hatred of mankind couldn't get any stronger. Heathlawn Animal Sanctuary was broken into and 5 dogs were stolen. The place was trashed.

Really? For fuck sake- really? Some of the dogs had just had surgery and needed medical care.

These are animals that were thrown away to begin with. Left for dead. Beaten. Abused. Now someone breaks in to steal them? They are up for adoption for fuck sake. You don't actually have to steal them. If I believed in God I'd pray you, and your fucking caravans burn in hell (small bit of guesswork on my part on who might have stole them, and possibly a reference only the Irish will get).

Trying to apply logic to the actions of people who do these (and worse) things is futile. They don't think like us, they don't act like us, and they aren't, essentially, human like us. Most of us will never truly understand them. And that is a good thing, trust me.

So this is Chirstmas, and what have you done? Cheesy Lennon song lyrics, or valid point? Don't forget that there are all sorts of creatures, great and small, human and not, who could use a hand all year long, but if you do forget, then try to remember them at Christmas. Heathlawn Animal Sanctuary takes paypal donations and the transaction is safe and secure (I've done it a few times and have just made my own Christmas donation of 100.00 Euro)....... for anyone who may be interested.

It is important to not focus on the negative- though that can be hard. The news, in general, sells stories that aren't happy but there are kind people, people who care, and people who make a difference every day. Let's think about that and end on a happy note, shall we?

Have a safe, fun holiday, everyone, and for those who are working throughout the season in our hospitals, prisons, police cars, ships, tanks, planes, or on the ground in a foreign land take care, and thank you.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

@ Stormtrail

Hello Stormtrail!

Thanks for passing on that WoT promo code. I did give it a go, but unfortunately it didn't work. I appreciate the try though!

...And does anyone know if the code I posted last week has been taken? I note a lot of hits on my blog off of "World of Tanks Promo Code" but no one has said if they've taken it. If you've tried it, and it's gone, do let me know. I have another one I could post, but not until I know that ones gone....or I could start a European account and play with my distant relatives from 'across the pond'....and by that I mean Europe, not Africa, where I realize we all have distant relatives... yes, members of the BNP and/or White Supremisist groups (same thing, no?), it is true. Deal with it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is Fun? Revisited.

"Game companies are using the same techniques as the gambling industry."
I felt this was a nice, catchy quote to continue this topic with. This 15-minute video helped me to articulate, in my head, what I've been thinking (and blogging about) over the last little while. It puts the pieces together on my various rants about fun, as well as my discussions on the pricing model of World of Tanks, and how I find certain aspects of the game unsatisfying.

I'm not naive enough to believe the mechanics designed to keep us playing games are haphazardly put in. I think most of us know that game designers will design games to make money and this is best acieved by keeping us interested and therefor playing. It sounds like a fair exchange, doesn't it? One of the suggestions made in the video is that if game companies know about behavioral addiction (because they have psychologists on staff helping them to create games we want/need to play) then the addicting hooks they use to keep us playing are, in fact, unethical.

I had the opportunity to attend a conference here in my home-town several weeks ago. The setting was the downtown casino......which was reasonably full of people 9 am.....on a weekday. You could argue that they are just there for a bit of fun, but 9 am...really? That sounds like an addiction to me. I say that, yet I happily jump on the computer to play games as early as I possibly can on the weekends, and when I was unemployed, or working evenings, I was on shortly after walking the dog in the early am. Who's the addict now?

It's a fine line, I think, between healthy, engrossing hobby, and hard-to-stop compulsion. Addiction is a tricky area and one that I would say doesn't really come in to play on a large scale with video games (thinking about and using the medical professions criteria/terminology of addiction) but obsession/compulsion certainly is a term that fits (for me in any case).

And they know this.

"The ability to be exploited is built into our brains"

I especially like the point the video makes about there being two possible paths of gaming: one that satisfies our natural tendency to be compulsive, and one that manipulates it. The examples of Mario Brothers games (which are immediately satisfying) and MMO's (which manipulate and delay our statisfaction) are highlighted.

I danced around this earlier, but put into this framework I can say that the World of Tanks test server satisfies my compulsions. I can try any tank almost any time (with the 10X experience and credits, and the free gold) and I have fun doing it. If I get bored, or frustrated, I jump on another tank because credits aren't an issue and it won't hurt my stats in the long run. This doesn't mean I play poorly, or without care, but I certainly feel it's a bit more fun.

World of Tanks, the game, frustrates and manipulates my obsessions. It incorporates a 'grind' which delays the reward for my actions. This isn't something new. It's an element of almost every MMO currently on the market. As the video explains, the human brain is conditioned much like a rat in a lab. In the beginning of the game there is a quick succession of rewards such as level-ups which is often accompanied by dings, whistles, and flashy lights- just like a slot machine. The reward-for-action is quick but then it begins to slow down. Enter the grind. By this time, however, our brains (being fast, complex machines) have already associated the reward with this boring, monotonous acivity and this is what keeps us going (as talked about in the video).

Don't belive it? Okay, how about you click your mouse for me, right now, 5,000 times. Sounds boring, huh? Without the flashy lights, the level ups, the gear drops, or the next tank to drive, it is. No reward, no action is my motto.

Bartel's model of the gamer types is well known (I'm assuming) and used by developers (again, I'm assuming...they'd be fools not to know and use it) to hook us. Bartel, incidentally, has a good personal blog which I have been following for some time and recommend.

Taken from Hi. I'm Frank.

I'm not the only one to notice and comment on this issue:

"To be honest, after Ultima Online it has been a long and slow rush downhill to where players are akin to lab rats pushing buttons to get rewards and an emotional hit. The achievement system is the ultimate expression of a game without soul and players with no mind of their own." The Noisy Rogue

This whole topic is a deep, complex one, and it could easily be argued that I'm reading too much into it. Games should be designed to keep us interested, shouldn't they? Who wants to play a boring game? No one. The point is, that other non-MMO games are made for profit, and they incorporate more satisfying elements in terms of obsession-gratification. These games will only recieve your money once (maybe a bit more with Dowloadable Content being incorporated into major titels now) so they don't have to use hooks to keep us subbed, or to get us to the micro-transaction store.

Why can't MMO-designers do this as well?

I'll be continuing this topic in later posts. I think it is interesting, but want to avoid a 'wall of text' and see what you might have to say.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quoting You

A return to (stealing) quoting other blogs I read. This from 32nd Law who continues to make me lol while making me jealous that I haven't bought this one yet (Saints Row III that is). Words never more true:

"You know how these parties go, the longer it goes on the happier you get and the less your shirt seems to cover."

I'm still waiting to revive my Saint's Row II character in the III'd installment.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Guild Wars Commeth......Eventually

I'm assuming this will make a lot of people happy, or at least a bit more excited about GW2. Guild Wars was my first (MMO), and they say you never forget your first...or does that refer to something else? Hmmm...

In any case, like Star Wars, Guild Wars is another game I just don't care about. Maybe it's time to admit that the shiny pull of MMO's is wearing off. (World of Tanks is hardly an MMO like Guild Wars so that doesn't count).

Closed beta is a heck of a long way away from launch, but hey, it's something!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday's Tune: Minimal (Lady Waks)

I hooked on to this track on the Fabriclive 34 album (an essential series produced and distributed by Fabric) by Krafty Kuts years ago. As I'm sometimes wont to do (even years later), I was following up on individual tracks and found the original by Lady Waks. Female D.J.'s are pretty rare (as are great tunes) but 3.7 million You Tube viewers can't be wrong....and neither am I ;)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: They Say It's Your Birthday!

Ever missed someone's birthday? It's perfectly reasonable in my opinion. How about your own though? Doh!

It seems my 1-year blog-aversary has come and gone and I didn't even notice. I'm going to give myself dirty looks all day until I make it up to myself by sending me a lovely bouquet of flowers. And chocolate, because I know how much I love chocolate. And scotch, for later, to soothe my jangled nerves.

So here I am, one-year old. I started out as a Warhammer Online blogger and quickly moved to gaming in general (though lately you wouldn't be wrong in thinking this was a World Of Tanks only blog). I added Fortuitous Friday as a weekly non-gaming feature where I've continued to subject you to various thoughts, and stories from aspects of my non-gaming life. I look forward to my Friday posts and I'm glad you've decided to stop by. I've seen my daily page-views go from an average of 8 to around 30, with a spike in the last few weeks of 50-80. I've noticed a lot of that is spam-url's hitting me up (and the reason for moderated commenting which I've only just added) but I figure there are around 30 or so people who check in on me daily. And that's kind of nice. Why I've even had some 'Heavy Weight' bloggers like Tobold pop by, and made Syp's /AFK once.

If you remember my original post (and of course, you must) I mentioned that I don't have a lot of real-life friends who are into gaming so this is still a great place for me to come and flex my gaming muscles. I appreciate everyone who pops by, and enjoy the many blog's I've discovered in my travels.

Some stats (because you care):

I've made 233 posts, and had 327 comments- mostly my own as love to see my own words in print :)

I've had 13261 page views, again mosly my own checking if anyone has commented or viewed my blog!

Groupies (er, I mean the top referring URL's): (Go on lads, give us another Podcast!) (I should have taken you up on the opportunity of a blog war to increase my traffic damnit... rookie mistake) (Are you ever coming back?) (I like Manatees too, but not basketball, sadly). (Glad you came back after a short break)

Searches that have brought the unbelievers:

Gankalicious (yes, it is a cool name).

Lookout Mountain (no idea..reference to a WoW thing I think).

Kang and Kodos (Simpsons reference to a picture I posted).

Sexy babes (World of Tanks pics I posted).

Well there it is... a pretty boring Friday post full of stats, but to reward you, if you've bothered to come this far, I have another promo code for World Of Tanks. Same as the last, a free T-127 and 24 hours premium. If you take it, please comment so others won't waste their precious time! Thanks, and Happy Friday!


EDIT: This code has been used!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Like Free

I stumbled upon a World Of Tanks promotional offer which gives you a Premium T-127 Russian Tier III light tank, and 24 hours of premium time. Being a greedy bugger with an eye to a shameless giveaway to promote my blog (and reward any of my long-suffering readers) I of course grabbed an extra one and am giving it away.

My own worked fine, but as the site was in German I'm not sure if there is a time limitation on them. You go to your accounts page and there is a spot for 'enter promotion code' there.

If you take it (and it works), please post in the comment section so others will know. Thanks!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Do You Mean I'm Addicted?

So while waiting for the World of Tanks server to boot up after the 7.0 patch, I've decided to give the 7.1 test a go. The only catch? It's only available to the Russian players as 7.0 was rolled out there already. What's a WoT player to do? Why, download, install, then patch over, the Russian World of Tanks client of course!


Monday, December 12, 2011

What Is Fun?

I still think a lot about Tim's post, and what I said a few months back about it. What brings this to the surface, today, is the discussion around the World Of Tanks pricing model (commented on here). I'm not going to expand on that discussion (yet) but I've been asking myself over the last few days: what is fun?

What is it that is fun about gaming, and specifically World Of Tanks? Obviously I like tanks. That should be pretty obvious, so a game about tanks will be fun. I also like PVP, so again, WoT hits the mark. It's also pretty casual and anti-social friendly so, again, ding-ding-ding. Beyond this, however, I'm wondering about the mechanics of the game.

If I like tanks, and casual, lobby-based PVP why do I worry about credits, gold, or tech trees? I have numerous lower-tiered tanks I absolutely love (Su-26, Ram II, M4, KV-13) and win with on a consistent basis. Over that last few days I've been complaining that WoT makes it hard to run higher tier tanks so the question I ask, is why do I bother? If the game-play is fun, why do I stress about the upper tier tanks and their lack of income?  I could easily play (for free) with my elite, lower tier tanks and that, in itself, should be enough.... shouldn't it?

Is it then, not the game-play itself, that is fun, but the progression/collection element of the game? I like to think the 'grind' is a pain-in-the-butt but I not only participate in this, I focus on it. Regardless of the many fun , self-sustaining (credit wise) tanks I have elited (and therefor no reason to 'grind' experience) I keep working on new, higher tier tanks which I know will 'cost' me more money, credits, and time. I have unlocked the top Russian TD tier, and am pursuing both the IS-4 (tier 9) heavy tank, and the E50 (tier 9) medium tank.

These tanks may be 'more powerful', but so too will the competitors I face, so in reality, the lower tier tanks should fulfill my PVP-cravings....but still I look ahead. I'm not involved in Clan Wars, so the end-game for me is simply more of the same (random battles). It must be, then, that the game-play itself is not the only draw. The thrill of earning a new achievement, or driving a new tank, must also be a strong element of what keeps me interested. This really bothers me as I am among the first to argue that people should have fun with a game, and not worry about 'grinding' as fast as possible to the end. What's going to happen when I have all the tanks I want, then? Will I still want to play?

Games are like gambling. They play on the brain's desire to be rewarded, and our drives to collect and achieve. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (unless you're a horrible gambling addict and then it will cause some problems) but it bothers me that my stated reasons for playing, and my actual playing behavior are so very different. Perhaps a little too introspective, but hey, I'm a blogger and without that, what the heck would I talk about? I'm also coming down with the flu as I write this, so perhaps it's all just a fevered rant......

Do you have any collections which are (mostly) irrelevant to game-play in your current games? What is it you find 'fun' about games?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday's Tune: The Dog Days Are Over (Breakage Remix)

A brilliant re-mix that I am re-discovering after having this in my collection for over a year. I had no idea who Florence and the Machine were when I heard this as a closer to a BBC Essential Mix by Breakage. I still don't, to be honest, but this dub-step remix kicks some almighty ass as does Breakage. Check him out as well as the official remix here.

Dog Days (Breakage) by Gankalicious

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stupid Bloggers and Their Stupid (Good) Points

This is frustrating as hell. Today is Fortuitous Friday, the day I usually take off from gaming-related posts and wax lyrical.... or something like that anyway. I've been in a crap mood all week, however, so anything non-gaming related would be tainted with my bad mood. I've also been mulling over a post by Syncaine which is annoying the hell out of me.

I like Syncaine. His strong support of sandbox-type games and forthright posts have always been of interest to me. I'm not alone, obviously, as he is likely one of the most read bloggers in the 'o-sphere. My approval, or not, of him and his posts means very little. One of the areas we had previously parted ways on (I lol at that as it's not like we had a dialogue on it or anything, me being a blogging noob beneath this radar) was the 'Buy to win' format of World Of Tanks.

It was in the comment section of a post by Tobold (sorry, can't remember which one) some time ago where I pointed out that WoT wasn't really 'pay to win'. Other than gold bullets which aren't used very often, the payment structure is more like 'pay to get some convenience and save some time'. Syncaine's post yesterday changed the way in which I look at the game and I find that frustrating.

My frustration comes from the fact that I realize he is right about the pricing model, but I still have a lot of fun playing the game. I stopped playing Warhammer Online on principle- the game was stale and the customer service sucked. My dilema with World of Tanks is similar in that the company, despite doing some really nice things, and making some improvements, has made some changes in the past couple days that have left me feeling less than enthusiastic about the future.

I still don't see the game as 'pay to win' as the gold-bullet discussion doesn't interest me and premium tanks aren't "op" to the point where they are a sure win. I play 4 of them and my win-loss ratio isn't any better than other tanks in the same class. On that, Sycaine and I will disagree.

The point he makes which is correct, and has me brooding, is that the game is designed around it's payment model, and that model doesn't allow you to play the game as you choose. You are beholden to the payment model in that you are forced to buy premium (subs), or premium tanks, in order to play the higher tier tanks. It's a fact (as he says) that the higher tier tanks lose money on a loss, and often with a win- even if you are a premium-account holder. This is what really pisses me off. A paying customer (subscriber even, if you will) should never, ever lose money after winning a battle. Ever.

I understand they aren't a charity. They need to encourage free users to pay. I agree, and maintain a premium-account for about $9 per month. I've also bought a few premium tanks over the last year and have had fun playing them. The T-59 I bought because I was told it was a lot like the T-44/54 medium tanks and wanted to try them.  I like the game-play of the T-59 (in-your-face-brawler) but a lot of people view using premiums as 'grinding' for credits. I did, of course, know the T-59 'made good credits' so that factored into my decision.....which bothers me.

I would happily pay $15 per month for this game, but that's not what the developers are after, and not how the game was designed. It is designed in the same way in which a Casino is designed: the house always wins. Why would they want $15 per month when they can get much more? While it is true that many users are free users and never pay a dime, it's not them the designers care about. The paying players are, quite literally, paying the way. My $15 per month (hypothetically) would have netted them $180 over the year since release. Add, say, $50 on top of that for the game (had they done this) and I'm in for $230. Instead I've pumped in around $370 and I know I'm at the mid-range of the average (daily) paying-player.

All's fair in love and gaming, though, and that's alright. Or it would be if Syncaine hadn't opened his big, blogging mouth. It does bother me that I can't play the game the way I want without paying extra, or, worse yet in my opinion, 'grinding'. I hate grinding anything in a game. The very world implies "this isn't fun" and it's not. I don't want to, nor should I have to, 'grind' with a premium tank to make credits to play other tanks at a loss: NOT when I pay for a premium account.

I enjoy the test-server a lot because of the fact I can quickly get to the top tiers, try a variety of tanks, and play the ones I like without worrying about making, or losing, credits. It's...oh my gosh, wait for Fun. The entire point of playing anything- or it should be. I want to worry about winning, or losing, killing, or being killed, not 'how much money will I lose this match'? The game is World of Tanks, after all, not World of Accountants. It's a game designed around a pricing model which ultimately holds the player back and that, as Syncaine has pointed out, is not good.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Never Much Liked Star Wars And I Agree.... It Should Die

I was thinking about this the other day, and Sara's post prodded me along to get it done. I've been silent on the new Star Wars MMO and the primary reason for this is that I just don't care. Star Wars bores the shit out of me to be honest, and after my Rift fiasco I'm not really up to another MMO based on the same formula of quest this, raid that.

Let's get something straight. I liked Star Wars..... when I was seven. For all you 'young uns' out there I want to emphasize that this was in 1977 when it was released. Yes, I am that old, and yes I saw it first so I have every right to talk shit about it. I didn't line up for days (I was too young) and I didn't go to the theater 110 times. Over the years I have seen it multiple times on various movie channels, and while at mates places while hanging out. I watched all the sequels (the original of course, upon release) and half of the epic fail that was The Phantom Menace before I walked out of the theater in disgust never to set eyes on a Star Wars film again.

I'm going to say something that you may not want to hear....... it's not that good. Really. It's not. It was innovative and wonderful at the time, but that's it. How it has managed to maintain its cult status is beyond me. I suppose the new films appeal to a new generation. I know many original Star Wars fans liked the new stuff, but in fairness it was utter crap, and they're all wrong. Like the first series the acting sucked, the story was weak, and the effects carried it through. The cult of 'Star Wars' made it something it was not: successful.

After that, then, you can well imagine I could care less about the new Star Wars MMO. The voice acting, the plot, the character classes..... don't care. I agree with Sara: Star Wars kills ingenuity and Lucas is a horrible, horrible force for evil in the world. His vision is dated, and boring. It's time for something new. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Shane Williams: A Tribute

I've been looking for an excuses to bust this video out for quite some time. I find the occasion to be sad, however, as Wales Rugby superstar Shane Williams has played his last match. As a 'man' I find these moments emotional, mostly because as 'men' we are conditioned to be made of tougher stuff. One of the universally acceptable situations for grown men to cry in, however, is the death/retirement of a sports hero. And so I did.

I came to Rubgy late in life. My first introduction was in Ireland watching Wales win the Six-Nations tournament in 2005 and what a series that was. Shane Williams shone brightly and even though I was a total noob to rugby I could tell he was a superstar. I enjoyed watching him play, and cried along with him in his emotional good-bye. The fact that Wales lost was overshadowed by his game-ending score in typical Williams fashion. What a way to finish a career.

If you gotta go, do it in style.

The following video is the most exciting final 5-minutes of a rugby match I have ever seen. It is the dramatic end to a Wales-Scotland match in the 2010 Six Nations which saw Wales come from behind to absolutely rob Scotland of the victory. If you follow rugby and haven't seen this you will be astounded. If you don't know rugby, it may be hard to realize how utterly impossible this should have been. Either way, Wales pulled off the victory, and I'll give you just one guess as to who scores the final, over-time try to seal the come-from-behind victory.

Thank you Shane Williams, and good luck!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: The Saga Of Robert The Ragged

Wait a minute.... you didn't actually post this on Friday, you may be thinking. Quiet you! If I have to send Will Smith over there to blank your memory I certainly will, so if I was you, I'd just pretend it's Friday, okay? Nice one.

Not, of course, implying you're the scum.
The saga of the fish continue and though I know many of you gamer types who are loyal, avid readers of my blog (don't laugh, there must be some) must be thinking: Enough already with the fish. If it's not a game about fish, or a stop at the chippy on the way home from the pub to play games, who the hell cares? Good point, but it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to....

I'm finishing this saga in case anyone who, like me, ends up with sick fish and in a desperate attempt to help them starts googling everything imaginable in an effort to save them. If this is you, then I hope something I've written has helped. I've finally, finally, finally (is that enough finallys I wonder....) have come down to the end. After six weeks, and 5 dead fish, I think it may be over (knock on wood).

I switched my Ich medication to a brand called Kordon Rid Ich Plus as I read on some fishy-forums that it was safe for Clown Loaches at a normal dosage. It is, so don't worry. I followed the instructions to the letter with a 25% water change and a full dose every 24 hours (yes, it's true) for three days (this is exclusive of the 5 weeks I was dosing the tank with another medication so I've been at it a while). After three days I realized, finally, that I wasn't actually facing Ich. Well, maybe initially I was, but Robert was getting skinnier and skinnier (no, not Skinny Disease) and I finally noticed a thin, white parasite attached to his head, trailing behind him.

Yes, I too wonder how I could have missed the '...and other external parasites'

External parasite alright, but too big to be Ich, and even though I watched him eat daily, he was staying dangerously thin. There were several expletives uttered, and I hustled off to the fish shop to get some new meds. Once I got home (with the new, all-purpose parasite medication) I double checked the Kordon bottle and noted that it treated several parasites besides Ich. Stupidly, I hadn't noticed this, just like I hadn't noticed the signs that would suggest it wasn't an Ich infestation (none of the other fish have been sick in all the time I've had them, for instance....other than the dead ones of course). The main clue was the 'ich' just wasn't falling off the fish. (Ich has a definite life cycle and will drop off the fish after a few days to breed in the substrate).

I decided to stick with Kordon's and dosed them again yesterday (with the requisite water change). So, to add up, that's 4 doses over 5 days (yes I skipped a day when I was despairing that it wasn't Ich and didn't know the Kordon treatment was for other parasites as well, and yes I'm dumb...or illiterate). Shortly after dosing the tank yesterday I thought Robert was dead. He was slumped in the corner of the aquarium, partially on the sand, partially on the glass, and his breathing was shallow. I was sad, but a part of me was thinking, thank god... once he's dead I can get on with re-building a healthy tank.

I left the room to get a drink so I could sit with him until he was gone (yes, terribly corny and sappy, and yes I know he's only a fish but I'm a big softie at heart). When I came back it was like a scene out of Pulp Fiction. Someone had plunged him with adrenaline and he was zooming around the tank. Not dead after all, and not, I was happy to note, a zombie intent on eating the brains of his tank mates (in case you are new to my blog I love zombies and always try and work them in when I can, so there's your explanation).

Today he is looking good. Not simply, 'not about to die', but actually looking good. He's put on a bit of weight (thanks to some strategically placed brine shrimp), the parasites are almost all gone, and he is swimming and exploring. Whew!

I'll still be treating the tank for a few days as I know he's not 100% yet. I note he is still flashing (rubbing against rocks and such) and did see the other loach (George) doing the same. After 6-weeks however I finally feel that the saga of Ich, or not Ich (whatever the hell it is) is coming to a close. I'm setting up my quarantine tank today (as the lack of one is how the fucking parasite got into my main tank in the first place) so I can, in a couple weeks, get some more loaches so my loach pack can once again be a pack.

The final damage (in Canadian dollars)? I dread to actually tally this up, but here goes:

4 Clown Loachs: 60.00
1 Bolivian Ram:  20.00
Rid Ich Med:        10.00
Kordon Rid Ich:   15.00
Other Meds:         25.00
New Loaches:      60.00-100.00 (depends on size)
Bolivian Ram:      Hard to find and unable to replace at my location :(

Total:                  $190.00 - $230.00

Considering I have a spare tank that can easily be used for quarantine, this can either be considered a costly lesson in fish-keeping, or a fair fine for being stupid. You can decide.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You've Come a Long Way, Nerdy

Yes I know I'm probably insulting a load of feminists by taking the 'You've come a long way, baby' slogan and twisting it for my own needs. Ahh well.

The mystery has been solved. Sort of. This code, which appeared very mysteriously, is the effort of the UK's intelligence agency to recruit top-notch computer nerds for the defence of the nations cyberspace. The BBC explains it better that I can (poxy BBC and their quality journalism) but the gist is that the agency is in need of qualified individuals and are using alternative methods to recruit them. I note they have also used the X-box Live Network, and in-game advertising as recruitment methods as well.

If you can you might have a great job waiting.....

Gamers have come a long way. In the last 5 years I have noticed a real difference in both the attitudes of gamers and perceptions of them by the world at large. Go back, say, 20 years, and we were mostly perceived as weirdo-teenagers huddled in dank basements feverishly rolling dice in an effort to slay dragons (mostly because that's what we were doing). I still remember when dungeons and dragons was blamed as the reason for some high-profile murders (which we mostly were NOT doing).

Gaming today is more mainstream- maybe because of social gaming- and, for the most part no-one has to be ashamed to talk about it anymore. I see public postings at my own work place looking for gamers for Modern Warfare, for instance, and I have had more conversations about what games I play in the last two years than I have in the twenty-five previous (yes, I've been playing games that long). In the 80's you would have took a beating for being a 'nerd' for asking out loud if anyone wanted to game with you, and now top secret agencies are specifically targeting gamers. How far we have come indeed.