A Week of Tweets on 2011-02-20

  • A website that I only go to every 45 days requires a new password every 30. I've never logged in with the same password twice. #
  • I've regenerated the world on my minecraft server nearly 2 dozen times, and each time there is no coal near the spawn point. #ithatesme #
  • "The Lady Hermit" DVD releases today, and I review it for @Shakefire http://bit.ly/eVNHps #
  • Every Tuesday I make a WoW post, and I always forget to get screenshots, and they always have the servers down. #damnmytiming #
  • @Critus I was just thinking the same thing. in reply to Critus #
  • Movie screening tonight, and I'm attending as a reviewer. #onlysuckerswaitinline #
  • @Critus Every morning, I seek your insight to assure myself that the world is, in fact, still here. in reply to Critus #
  • If you need to tell Donald or Daffy they should move downward to avoid being struck in the head, what do you yell? #duckmightconfusethem #
  • Regen'd the minecraft server this morning. Coal!! #aboutdamntime #
  • What? Since when did "enuf" become a real work AND valid in Scrabble?! #afterizoquoiliketoushnuu #
  • I figured it out @Critus, Facebook and Twitter broke up on Valentine's Day. #
  • Would you kindly… #
  • This is kinda awesome. http://irinawerning.com/back-to-the-fut/back-to-the-future/ #
  • I believe that Activision-Blizzard should merge their 2 hottest games: Call of Warcraft, a first person shooter set in Azeroth. #
  • You know what never gets old? Alignment jokes. #adnd4ever #

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Dragon*Con 2010: Lessons Learned

Each year at Dragon*Con, I like to think I notice things that can make the next year better.  So, here is what I got from this year.

  • Costumes do, in fact, make things more fun.
    I’ve been going to Dragon*Con, off and on, for … a lot of years.  I know the first year I went was after high school (graduated in 1992) but before leaving college (graduated 1998).  I’ve been about a dozen times and before this year the closest I’ve come to wearing a costume is to wear a t-shirt relating to something in fandom.  This year, however, I put on a tattoo shirt, one of those mesh things that makes it look like you have a full chest, back and sleeves of tattoos.  So simple, and yet it was the start of about a dozen dozen conversations.  That shirt will be making an appearance next year, and I’ve resolved that I will have a costume for every day next year.  I’ve said that before, but this time I mean it.
  • Food in the room doesn’t have to be crap.
    In previous years, the wife and I have brought down snacks and sandwich stuff (peanut butter & jelly, cold cuts and condiments), but this year we had a George Foreman Grill and hotdogs.  Next year we’ll probably expand that to burgers, both beef and veggie, and maybe more.  The biggest revelation, however, was that we didn’t have to actually bring down food.  There are two Publix stores within easy reach of the hotels that we could just hit up for supplies after getting downtown.  Next year, when we get down there on Thursday, we’ll just make a store run rather than haul all that stuff with us.
  • Bitter people are going to be bitter.
    Some folks apparently like to be angry. They’ve decided they hate something (even if it is entirely hypocritical) and not a thing you can say will change their mind. Once you have identified a bitter person who is entrenched in their bitterness, just walk away.  And if you can’t walk away, try to steer the conversation toward something that will make them walk away or at least to something they aren’t bitter about.
  • Working staff can be fun.
    I imagine that working registration and dealing with people who hate you because they blame you for the long line has got to suck.  But working a track can be an absolute blast if a) the rest of the staff is cool, b) the track is something you are interested in, and c) you don’t mind missing large chunks of the con.  Now, this may be my opinion and entirely biased, but the MMORPG Track staff is definitely cool.  And I love MMORPGs.  And I’ve been coming to con enough that I’m not really “missing” those chunks as much as I’ve seen them before.  Besides, the con is practically 24/7, so there is always time to see the sights.  Anyway, I had an absolute blast and look forward to working staff again next year.
  • Internet access is highway robbery unless you do something about it.
    Every year at con, I always want to be able to check email or browse the net, or even post my blog entries.  The host hotels typically charge around $12 to $15 per day for access.  This year, I was pointed toward Boingo.  If you happened to be staying in or spending lots of time in the Marriott Marquis, then signing up for Boingo’s $9.95 a month plan right before con and then cancelling it after is far far cheaper than paying the Marriott prices.  I don’t know if there are equivalents for the other hotels, but I tend to always stay in the Marriott.  I usually end up spending $60 on Internet access during con, so spending $10 instead was a nice savings.

And that appears to be all that I learned at this year’s con.

Dragon*Con 2010: Day Zero

It’s Thursday, where are you?  If you are local to Atlanta and pre-registered for Dragon*Con, your answer should be, “Reading this on my phone from the line.” because pre-registration badge pick-up just started.  Pre-regs get a nice solid 6 hour jump on everyone else this year, so hopefully that will help with the lines.

Preparation for con is always a big deal.  You have to make sure you pack everything.  Technically there are a few shops around, but mostly tiny stores with seriously jacked up prices.  There is a Publix about 8 or 10 blocks away, but since public transit in Altanta is pretty crappy, you’ll likely be hoofing it, in September.  “Hot and humid” just doesn’t really describe Atlanta well enough.  Long hikes in the city are uncomfortable at best.  But in addition to packing everything, you also need it to be manageable.  You don’t really want to be juggling a dozen suitcases.  You’re best bet is to pack one case (with wheels) of regular clothes (shorts, t-shirts, socks, underwear and toiletries – deodorant, toothpaste, even soap and shampoo if you prefer your own over the hotel stuff), a cooler (with wheels) packed with food and stuff (don’t bring ice, all the hotels have ice machines – and unless you specified in your reservations that you had to have a fridge for medical reasons, you won’t get one, so you’ll want a cooler if you want to keep anything cold), and then a case (with wheels if possible) for costumes and stuff that can’t be packed into the regular clothes.

Case and Cooler (with wheels)

You might have noticed a theme there.  Wheels.  Trust me, lugging around heavy cases just isn’t worth it.  Every year I see some poor schmuck hauling around a half dozen old no-wheel-having suitcases, or standing in line waiting for a bell hop, or leaving the cases at the front desk to have them delivered to the room at some point in the future.  Meanwhile, the wife and I roll on by and head to our room.  The cooler is even more awesome because of the extending handle means we can even stack a couple things on top of it (like sodas or a box of extra snacks) with ease.

And of course, if you plan to buy anything, make sure you have a way to take it home.  (If you aren’t local, there are, I believe, a FedEx and some other shipping store in the hotels or close to the con, and don’t worry about them being closed for the holiday, most of the time you can leave a package with your hotel with shipping instructions and a tip and they’ll send it off for you on Tuesday.)

Anyway… enough about packing… you might be wondering, “If the con begins on Friday, what is there to do on Thursday?”  Well, lots actually.  Plenty of fan groups will have unofficial gatherings on Thursday night (this is why you should find the sites/forums for the various tracks and fans groups, and keep up with them throughout the year), and there are a few bands playing.  Plus, the lobbies and hotel bars will be hopping with people, both out of costume and in.

What will I be doing on Thursday?  Well, for one, since I’m staff this year, the MMO Track is having a little party where the director lays down the law, people can swap shifts and we can let our hair down a little more than we’ll be allowed to during the con itself (not to say we won’t be enjoying the con, but staff is expect to not show up for shifts completely plastered).  Check out our schedule from this nice rundown provided by Krystalle over at Massively.  I’ll be wandering around the hotels pretty much all day, though when not with the MMO crew (or perhaps even with them) I tend to be in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, not only because it is the hotel I’m staying at, but, in my opinion, it is the best hotel for seeing and being seen.  Perhaps I’ll see you around…

Just as aside… in previous years, I posted at the end of the day with what I did.  This year I’ll be posting in the morning with my plans for the day and my reflections on the previous day.

Left 4 Mods

Lately, I’ve been down on PC games.  Playing stuff on my Xbox 360 is just easier.  I don’t have to worry about if my graphics card is going to be good enough or if I have enough RAM or a fast enough processor, I just put in the disc and play.  And when I get a job, or when Christmas rolls around, I’ll be getting Left 4 Dead for the 360.  However, the PC does have one advantage, and that is mods.

Being like every other First Person Shooter that has come before it, Left 4 Dead will allow people to make their own maps and their own custom modified rules.  And, just like every other First Person Shooter that has come before it, 99% of those maps and mods will be crappy.  For every awesome map that comes out, there will be at least a couple dozen that play for shit and cause the server to clear when it comes up in the rotation.  And for every incredible mod that comes out, there will be a couple dozen retarded super sniper invisible wall hack cheater mobs where the rules their designers came up with don’t make the game more fun they just allow you to more easily annoy other people.  However, eventually, like every game before it, the maps and mods will settle down.  The crap will get flushed and the best maps and mods will becomes standards.

Lets just hope that after having two games, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, which had a number of very nice maps and mods done for them, Valve thought ahead about how to deliver that sort of content to the console.  It would be nice if in a couple of months they had made deals with a number of map developers out there and put up a Community Map Pack in the Marketplace at 800 points, or something like that.  Or new mods for the game, available for 1600 points.  That would be something… especially when there is someone out there making the entire Crossroads Mall from the remake of Dawn of the Dead:

A man can dream…

One World

After watching the blogging storm over the problems and successes of Warhammer, I am again certain that one of the major advancements in traditional MMOs that can’t come too soon is that of getting every player on to one single world server.

If nothing else, I think games should have one single master account server and then run the entire game as instances of areas instead of separate world servers.  Warhammer, in my opinion, exemplifies exactly why this is needed.  The game, while maintaining a decent level of PvE style game play, is focused on PvP style game play.  When players are the content, you have to give the players every possible tool to solve their own problems.  And the biggest problem in PvP is population and imbalance.

When playing the game requires not only for you to have a dozen players on your team but also a dozen players on the other team, in the same place, at the same time, it is completely unfun to be on a server where you always have a dozen people and the other side never does.  Even more so when you hear that another server is having the exact same problem, but diametrically opposed: they always have a dozen on the side your server lacks, and never have anyone on your side.

I admit, the first time I logged in to City of Heroes on a stress test day in beta and saw 12 of the same city zone instance, I didn’t like it.  Grouping up and then trying to get everyone in the same instance was a pain in the ass.  Of course, I believe they have overcome much of that now.  It can’t really be that hard anyway… if you are in the same zone but a different instance that your group leader, all the players need is a “Join Leader” option that will zone them to the proper instance, or display a message if the action can’t be performed (like if the instance is already at the hard cap for player totals).  But seeing games that want PvP elements having to struggle because they have erected an iron wall between their players makes me realize that instancing can actually be a better solution.

I’m still against the idea of overly instancing PvE content, letting players go off into their own private areas and hide from the world, but I definitely think instancing in some overarching way is going to be the solution for PvP content.  Give the players the ability to solve their own problems… one that doesn’t include “start a new character on another server” and one that doesn’t require you, the developer, to write exception code to force some sort of cross server matching like WoW has done.  Sure, it fixed some of the queue issues, but you still end up playing against people that ultimately are not part of your server community.

One World.  I think its a design well worth pursuing, and in some cases is absolutely needed.

Directed Instancing

One of the things I find discussed quite often is the use of instancing in games.  Some people like it, some people hate it, and there is every shade of gray in between.  The problem with no instancing is that places can get crowded… you go out to kill orcs and find that all the orcs are being killed.  The problem with too much instancing is that it can seem like you are the only one there… messing around in Guild Wars with their version of instancing, in the city there are people, then I go outside and am usually alone.

Just spit balling here… but what about a “directed instancing”, where you have an area that is an instance designed for a few dozen people/groups each unit performing different tasks.  The idea would be that before leaving “town”, you or your group has to select a task.  Once you leave town, the task is locked and you zone out into an instance that all but guarantees that no one is performing the same task you are, but may be populated with people performing any one of the couple dozen tasks the area supports.  You might head into the forest to kill orcs and run across a player chopping lumber, another hunting bears for meat and skins, a group searching for a missing child, and a raid about to siege the wizard tower at the far end.

Would that work?


I’m introducing a new subcategory under gaming here and it is specifically for GameTap.  I have had a GameTap account for over a year, and in that time I’ve mainly used it to play a few dozen old Atari and arcade games, and the occasional DOS/Windows game, like The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions.  To be honest, I haven’t used the account to its full potential.

Last week while I was working on moving the website, I decided to go look for something to do on GameTap to fill some time and I found Uru Live, the Myst MMO.  I’d seen it before and had always wanted to play it, but had never made the time.  Just my luck, the day I decide to start playing was the day they announced they were planning to shut it down.  Oh well… I guess you can’t win ’em all.

Getting myself back inside the GameTap tool, however, reminded me of why I agreed to sign up for it in the first place.  With 990 games listed, its a huge library of past games with a few newer titles and some originals within which there has got to be some fun… or perhaps just some lessons to be learned.

So, I’m setting a goal for myself, every week I am going to play at least one game from GameTap and post a review about it.  It will probably be easiest to do on Sunday mornings, so that’s likely when I’ll play and post.  I’ve already downloaded a few old favorites and a few “I can’t believe I never played that” titles, and if I ever get stuck, GameTap provides a handy random wheel spinner that will select a game for me.

Ready.  Set.  Game!

RAD is not rad

Rapid Application Development is not a horrible idea. Of course, much like Communism, it is not a problem with the idea it is the implementation. When most companies get into a RAD style of work, the result more often than not is just flying by the seat of their pants. No project plans, minimal design documents… usually it is just a list of features and a deadline, or a dozen lists and a dozen deadlines, and the lists change daily.

Having worked for two years on one RAD project, and then two and half on another, I really would like to work on something with more structure, or at least be part of team that is doing RAD instead of people one guy trying to work on multiple phases on the same RAD project by myself. I go into one meeting about phase one in the morning, then in the afternoon I go to a meeting on phase two when I have to pretend that I am not aware that phase one is behind schedule… it really is quite maddening.


Thanks to the usual hookup, the wife and I went out to see a sneak preview of Zodiac last night. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, the movie is about the famous Zodiac serial killer of the late 1960’s. Read more about him here.

As for the movie, its a David Fincher film, so given how much I have loved his other movies (Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, Se7en… even Alien³), I had high expectations for this film. However, it is a telling of factual events with a little fiction thrown in to round out the edges, so I tried to go in with an open mind.

The movie is good. The direction and cinematography are great. The actors each play their roles extremely well, and they portray the frantic and frustration of the case to perfection. And that leads to the downside of this film… in truth, the Zodiac killed was never caught, never brought to justice, so if you are looking for satisfaction and closure, the story of the Zodiac is not where you want to look. This is a story about reporters and police officers desperately trying to figure out a series of crimes and to catch a killer who taunts them with letters where every pieces of evidence leads somewhere but proves nothing. At one point there is a scene of one of the characters frantically sifting through the half dozen or more boxes of files pertaining to just one of the killings illustrating the sheer volume of the mountain of interviews, clues, evidence and suspects.

It is a slow film, almost like watching a documentary with re-enactments, but it is interesting to see people’s lives come together and fall apart all around this case. It is not a great film, its not something I would watch a dozen times, but I enjoyed it, and certainly didn’t think it was a waste of my time. If the Zodiac interests you, go see it. If not… wait to rent it.

Welcome to 2007

So, how did you ring in the New Year?

Me? I went to my brother’s house because he and his wife were having a party. I was introduced to Dead Rising, which, honestly, was just plain mean since I don’t own an Xbox 360… now I’m going to have to go buy one. And I got to witness the Wii in person… now I’m going to have to go buy one of those too. There was food and drink, and there was karaoke. All I have to say is… I rock. We watched Dick Clark count in the last seconds of 2006, and mostly we were, as always, amazed by his recovery and saddened by the fact that he’s now a huge buzzkill for festivities.

Now that it is 2007, what does that mean?

Well, it used to mean putting the wrong date on my checks for a couple months, but I’ve switched over to electronic billing for everything but my garbage collection, and I only have to pay them every three months. As with every year, despite my loathing for New Year’s Resolutions, I’m still making a couple… mostly the same ones I always make. But I figure, if I have almost a dozen friends and family who have decided to quit smoking, I think I can manage working out three times a week and eating a little less crap.

Also in 2007… I think I’m almost done with PC games. Frankly, the alure of MMOs is finally wearing off. New games just don’t appeal to me much. WoW has been fun, and I still might pick up the expansion to play around, but most games on the horizon my computer can’t play (I’m in the Vanguard beta, or rather, I got accepted but I haven’t been able to log in and actually create a character), and rather than paying two thousand plus dollars to upgrade my and my wife’s machines, I think I’ll just invest that same money into a Wii, a 360 and an HD projection TV. And hey, bonus, the new TV makes watching movies and television shows better too. The list of non-MMO PC exclusive games has practically vanished, and with the consoles you never have to worry about compatibility issues.

I’m still interested in MMOs as a theory and design, but nothing out there for the next year is really gripping me. Largely it looks like the same old grind, and if I’m going to play in a fantasy world, I’d rather be sitting around a table with a half dozen friends these days instead of staring at my monitor pushing buttons for rewards.

It looks like 2007 is also going to bring a flood of superhero books to the market. I’m guessing the successes of Hollywood and both Marvel and DC’s initial forays into paperback books have paid off enough that it seems like a new book is coming out from somebody each week. Though, the landscape is still lacking in original material. Its all book adaptations of existing characters from the comic books. Perhaps in 2007 I’ll work toward changing that and actually finish a writing project or two.

And on the business front… lets just say that aught seven is looking pretty good.

Finally, we come to the end of my ramblings and musing, and I welcome you, heartily, to two thousand seven.