Tag Archive for number

Thirty-seven

It is the normal temperature of the human body, in Celsius.

It is the number of plays (counting Henry IV as three parts) that William Shakespeare is thought to have written. Unless, of course, you don’t believe he wrote any.

It is the TV channel for which there is no channel because the frequencies are reserved for radio astronomy. Except on cable, because cable isn’t broadcast television.  Oddly enough, thirty-seven is also the number of as-of-yet unidentified radio signals that have been received from outer space.

It is the number of slots on a European roulette wheel, though that number does not appear as it uses 0 through 36. Americans hate things that are odd, and the hard work required to divide a wheel into 37 slices and so add 00 opposite the 0 slot, thus bringing the total to 38.

It is a prime number, the first irregular prime, and the number of dicks that Dante’s girlfriend has sucked.

37 B.C. was also known as the Year of the Consulship of Agrippa and Gallus, while 37 A.D. was the Year of the Consulship of Proculus and Pontius.

Vincent van Gogh died at the age of thirty-seven. As did Michael Hutchence. On the other hand, at the age of 37, Benedict Arnold was signing his Oath of Allegiance at Valley Forge, Bob Hope performed his first USO show, Arthur Miller has his play The Crucible open on Broadway, Alan Shepard was the first American in space, Rupert Murdoch bought News of the World, and Pete Rose had his 3,000th major league baseball hit. I’m sure that lots of other people died or did significant things at 37, but these were what I could quickly find.

Today, I’m 37. What am I going to do?

Too much carrot, not enough stick

You might have noticed a lack of my Sneakin’ Around and other WoW related posts.  I’ve cancelled World of Warcraft again.  The truth is that I absolutely loved playing in a strange way, but not enough to feel like a $15 a month charge is money well spent.  But what really drove the nail into the coffin was the constant feeling like the game was broken.

It isn’t broken.  Not really.  But I play MMOs for two things: community and immersion.  The enemy of both of those things is leveling.

It was almost impossible to play without leveling at an absurd rate.  The experience rewards for quests are so out of whack that I can’t finish a line of quests, finish a story, without being horribly overpowered by the time I read the final mission.  That boss who is supposed to be hard to fight isn’t when I’m now three to five levels higher than him.  My other option is to chase quests that have the most challenge and ignore the story.  Abandoning quests just because they go green made me feel bad.  “Hey guys, I know was helping you with your problem, but, ah, I’m gonna move on to the next area now. Hope things work out!”

And lets not forget that unless my friends and I played dozens of alts, we could almost never play together because missing a single gaming session could leave you five or more levels behind your friends.  Slow leveling of old games never felt like work to me, but constantly playing catch-up in an attempt to just be able to effectively group with my friends did.  I supposed I could do what most other people do and just accept the fact that we’ll even out at max level, but the prospect of playing for 85 levels as filler until I get to the real game doesn’t entice me to want to log in.

The reality here is that Blizzard has seen that people are generally happier when they are “progressing” and rather than allow people to actually work for and earn things, they just lowered the bar so that you practically can’t log into the game without gaining something.  And most people seem to want that.  They’ve become reward junkies, the constant dinging of achievements and levels and other random things bringing them joy.  But to me, it’s all empty.  I’ve got over 50 levels and dozens of achievements on one character, but I look at him in the armory and don’t feel any attachment to any of it.  I didn’t really earn it.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t hard earned achievements in WoW, there are plenty, at the high end.  However, the 85 level escalator to get there is full of Fool’s Gold and cubic zirconia.  And I think escalator is the right word to describe the ride.  You get on and it is pushing you forward and if you’d like to stop, you can’t, but you can stay relatively still if you run backwards, working against the flow.

Where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I only know that playing World of Warcraft simply doesn’t get me what I want from an MMO, and I don’t think any of the offerings coming down the pipe will either.  I want a game, where I’m playing the “real game” from the moment I exit the tutorial, and I want that real game to have as few restrictions as possible, to let people make their own rules.  A guild should be a guild because the people want to be a guild, not because raids require X number of people with Y number of tanks and Z number of healers and a DPS output of greater than N.

Back in my EverQuest days, I used to tell people all the time that it’s “not just a game”.  And maybe that’s what I want most, to feel like it’s more than a game, and WoW, with its flashing lights and rapid rewards feels very much like just a game.

1313 and other random thoughts

This is my one-thousand three-hundred thirteenth post on this blog.  My name is Jason, also the name of the star of the Friday the 13th series of movies.  My wife was born on the 13th of March.  Back in the days when I managed a video store, my own personal account listed my address as “1313 Mockingbird Lane”, an address made famous by the Munsters.  My favorite holiday is Halloween, which is on the 31st, which is 13 in reverse.  And if you are into that sort of thing, you might know that we are currently living in the 13th b’ak’tun, which will draw to a close toward the end of 2012, which may or may not be a significant thing.  Thirteen has always been a good and lucky number for me.

I don’t believe in signs, though I see them everywhere.  The fact is, you can do it with any number.  If you decide that 27 is your lucky number, you’ll suddenly begin noticing all the 27s that appear in your life.  You’ll even being doing things that force 27s into your life.  I know a person whose lucky number is 14, and while 14s do randomly appear in her life she also makes a number of decisions based on 14s.  If offered two options, one that contains a 14 and one that does not, she’ll choose the 14 and see it as being a sign when she could easily have chosen the other.  Personally, I try not to make decisions based on 13s, and yet, here I am, rambling about 13s in post 1313 on my blog.

The Writer's Block

3" by 3" by 3" of literal inspiration

Borders is closing a bunch of book stores.  (Yeah, I’m done with 13s and moving along with no segue at all.)  Of all the brick and mortar stores around they’ve been my favorite because of their finer separation of categories, specifically in having a horror section as opposed to splitting up horror between mystery, sci-fi/fantasy and general fiction.  They also have a location that shares a building with a movie theater I frequent.  When we go to a movie, we always end up browsing before and sometimes after, and often end up buying a book or two (or five or ten).  The only good thing about the store closings are the discounts.  Lately, paperback books haven’t been seeing much of a discount on Amazon.  A $6.99 mass market paperback will be $6.99 on Amazon, so picking them up in a store can actually be better, especially if you have the store discount card and get 10% off everything.  With the store closings, most stuff is 25% off already, and they are still honoring the store discount card, so it makes picking up a few paperbacks a good deal.  And of course, a sale means more serious browsing, looking for books you might not normally buy at all but will if it’s 50% off.  I bought The Writer’s Block (pictured).  I promise to use it and post the results.  Despite my good fortune with the sale, the closing Borders locations will be missed, and since the only remaining Atlanta locations are the ones that are too far away for a casual visit, Borders may have lost me as a customer for good, and that is a shame.

A few weeks ago I went to a place called Hemingway’s down at the Marietta Square to see a band called 7 sharp 9.  With no expectations at all, I was fairly well blown away by their performance.  Being a band playing in a bar, they primarily stuck to playing great bar band music, rock favorites from various decades.  They played well and even threw in a few twists, the biggest surprise being a mash up of Prince’s Kiss and Sir Mix-a-lot’s Baby Got Back.  Even the smattering of original tunes they played (just one per set) were good enough that we picked up copies of all three of their albums.  They made a fan out of me in just one night.  It looks like they’ll be back at Hemingway’s in April and I plan to be there to see them again.  To the right is a very short video of them playing a cover of Blister in the Sun at a bar in Destin, FL.

I’ve been writing for Shakefire for a bit over a month now and I’m enjoying it.  Links to what I’ve written can be found each week in my A Week of Tweets posts on Sundays.  So far I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying everything I’ve reviewed for one reason or another, but I fear that is going to end this week as the next two CDs I’ve been listening to for review have been uninspiring and borderline awful.  I don’t like giving bad reviews but I like being dishonest less, so I’ll probably be lambasting a couple of artists and then maybe I can get back to stuff I enjoy.

And finally, is you have a few dollars you can spare, or even if you have a few dollars you think you can’t spare, consider tossing them toward the Red Cross for their efforts in Japan.  Every dollar helps, and with the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear power plant, the aftershocks, the volcano… they can use all the help they can get right now.

Fifty Thousand Words

For the first time ever, I have won the NaNoWriMo.  By focusing on word counts over content, I was able to bang out over 50,000 words in 30 days…

… and I feel dirty.

In my time on this Earth I have written a number of things of which I am ashamed, but after the first fifteen thousand or so words this year’s WriMo project turned into the worst piece of shit I have ever created.  I will set it aside and sometime in January I might review it, and in all likelihood I’ll delete over 35,000 of those words and pretend they never existed.  And that’s if I can ever bring myself to review it, which I may not, because it really is a piece of shit.

Next year, I think I’ll go back to focusing on content and return to my previous years of losing with style.  I’ve never felt so poorly about winning in my entire life.

Not Enough Information

I deal with a company on a fairly regular basis.  When I call in about any issue, we open a trouble ticket and I’m given the ticket number.  They have a Quality Assurance team, and before I go bad mouthing them know that I think having a good QA team is awesome and more companies should do it, however… their QA team will call and based on whatever report they are looking at will ask if a) I’ve been contacted, b) my problem is being resolved, or c) if I was satisfied with the completed work.  I have no problem with this at all, and as I said, I wish more companies would do it.  The problem I have is that the QA team is not given enough information.

They call and say, “Hi! I’m [insert name] from [company X] and I’m calling in reference to ticket number [ticket number]…” and then they ask their question.  Given that at any one time I may have three to five tickets open with them my first question is always, “And what is this ticket in reference to?”  They never know because they aren’t given that information.  They get contact info and a ticket number, that’s it.  I could always look it up myself, since I keep my own notes, but I’m not always at my PC when they call.  This company also has a website where I can view my open tickets and add details.  Only, all I can see is the original ticket and the latest update.  This means if there have been multiple updates to the ticket, I cannot see anything but the last one.  The last one is usually the most useless too.

  1. [original problem] Stuff is broken, please fix it.
  2. Assigned to dept A
  3. Researched, found errors in logs that indicated dept B is actually needed
  4. Assigned to dept B
  5. Resolved source of log errors, item still not functioning
  6. Assigned to dept A
  7. Trouble appears to be on external lines
  8. Assigned to contractor Z
  9. Z found damage, repaired
  10. Assigned to dept A

After the above series of events, I go to the website and can only see:

  1. [original problem] Stuff is broken, please fix it.
  2. Assigned to dept A

which is pretty unhelpful and looks like they’ve done nothing at all.  Why have a customer viewable ticket if you are going to have it be that useless?

All in all, this is something I run into all over the place.  So many people want to control information because they feel like controlling the information gives them the upper hand… which it does, but it also often slows things down.  Or worse, they’ve been told to never admit fault, ever, and so they hide all those details so they can do some hand waving and things will be magically fixed without ever telling the customers that a problem actually existed.  It is just so frustrating…

Social Networks: Real Life vs The Internet

I thought this was quite interesting, so decided to share.  It’s long, but it makes a number of good points.

Where there’s a Wil, there’s a way.

My hatred of PAX stems from two important facts.

  1. It happens on the other side of the damn country so I can’t go.
  2. It happens the same weekend as Dragon*Con and I love going to Dragon*Con too much to skip it.

The new PAX East solves problem number two, and actually lessens problem number one.  It’s still far away, but going is more possible.  But not this year… you know, since it happened last weekend.  Wil Wheaton gave the keynote speech, and not only is he a pretty good speaker he’s also a real gamer.  If you have an hour, watch it… if you don’t have an hour to just sit and watch, let it play and listen to it while you do other stuff.

Facebook Games and Friends

Lately, I’ve been diving into Facebook games so that I can see what they are all about.  Overall, I’m fairly disappointed in a good number of them.  Not in the game themselves, but in how they are implemented on Facebook.

I’m not new to online gaming.  I’ve got an Xbox 360 and there are people on my friend list there that I met playing Left 4 Dead or Burnout Paradise or some other game.  I’ve played MMOs and I know people from EverQuest and World of Warcraft and other games I’ve dabbled in.  I understand, and actually desire, the need for other people.  However, the way games integrate into Facebook, it requires me to be extra vigilant in how I handle my gaming friends.

In order to progress in most of these games, you need friends.  I suppose you could spam messages out to all the people who are your real friends and beg them to play, but not everyone wants to play Facebook games, so it is not uncommon to need more game friends than your real friend list gets you.  Most games, on their pages, have discussion boards where people can ask to be added as friends.  Now, I can’t just add you as a FarmVille friend, I have to add you as a Facebook friend.  Facebook does allow me to add people to lists, of which I have one called “Not” for people who are not my friends, and manage what they have access to and then I can hide them from my news feed so that I never see their stuff, but it just seems like hoops I am jumping through.

A perfect example of this is a game called Hero World.  It is fun, if tedious at time, but the main element is that the number of people in your super team directly influences how powerful you are.  So, people with more friends are more powerful.  Scouring my list of real friends, I came up with 9 who wanted to play Hero World.  With the max team size somewhere around 250, clearly my team was weak, and therefore I was weak.  Moreover, I found that in order to buy bases and continue growing my own character I needed more friends.  I utilized my “Not” group and made some new “friends”.  Yay!  I’m more powerful!  And now I’m getting spam from people I don’t know!

Perhaps I’m just missing the point, perhaps I just don’t get it, perhaps I am becoming the old man screaming at the kids to get off his lawn, but to me a “friend” is someone I know.  What passes for “friends” on Facebook just don’t seem to fit the definition.  Facebook already makes a distinction between a friend and a fan, so why not allow someone to be application level friends where we can play a game together without the instant intimacy of being a “friend”?

Anyway… having been banging at some Facebook games for a while now, I’m going to start putting up reviews of them in the near future…

If Only Spam Were True…

Having run a blog for quite some time now, I’ve seen my fair share of spam.  Since installing Akismet with whatever version of WordPress it became included with, my site has blocked over ninety-six thousand spam comments.  This number is actually low because for a period of time I also ran the Bad Behavior plug-in that would block some spam before it got to Akismet (I had to disable Bad Behavior because it was causing other plug-ins to fail – long story).

Because of this, I have seen spam evolve over the years.  You still get the usual vigra and tramadol and other pharmaceuticals, and you get the porn, but as administration and spam catching have changed, so have the spammers.

One of the more common spam protections is to simply force all comments to be moderated.  Then, when a valid comment comes in and you approve it, that poster, assuming they use the same credentials, will bypass the moderation queue from that point forward.  To that end, more than half of my spam these days are attempts to get approved.  They say things like “Love your site. Adding it to my bookmarks!” and “I never thought of it that way, but now I am. Thank you for posting this!” and other similar things.  They almost look real.  In fact, if you dig through my comments you’ll probably find one or two that I’ve let slip through.  Of course, I don’t use that level of moderation, I use Akismet, so being approved once doesn’t mean you are approved in the future, and the ones that have slipped through are likely early spams before Akismet learned it was spam.

According to my feedburner and a few other tools, there are about 100 people who are not bots (as far as I and my tools can tell) who read this site.  Less than a dozen have probably ever commented.  Perhaps that is because I’m not writing things that are comment worthy.  Or it could be when people agree they are less likely to reply than if they disagree.

In any event, one of the things I am going to try to do in the future is to comment on the blogs that I read.  Maybe not every post, but at least every once in a while just to say “Hey, enjoyed reading this!” or something.  Because, you know, it is kind of lonely when only the spam tells you you are doing a good job.  Heh.

Finished with Monthly Subscriptions

This isn’t a condemnation of the monthly subscription model for MMOs.  In fact, I think it is still a great thing, and preferable to the heavy handed item stores than some games use instead of a subscription.  However, over the past couple of months I’ve come to realize that as much as I love MMOs, games with a subscription model are largely a waste of my money.

Why?  Well, back in the day, I started playing Ultima Online and I gladly paid their subscription because I played every day (almost).  The same was true of EverQuest and of all the games that followed.  Some games I didn’t stick with for very long, a few months or a year, but even then when I was paying I was playing.  In the last year or so I have taken up a number of other activities, such as more reading, programming in my off time, writing, playing console games, and more.  The net result is that my MMO playing time has become fairly erratic.  One month I may play an hour or two every weekday and a couple of longer sessions on the weekend, the next month I may not log in at all.

Its the not logging in at all part that ends up bothering me.  I hate paying for something I don’t use.  Sure, I can just cancel and resubscribe when I want to play, but doing that is a hassle.  On the other hand, I didn’t play Wizard 101 at all in November and it cost me exactly zero dollars and I didn’t have to cancel.

I’m not saying that Free-to-Play is the wave of the future and all games need to do that, however there is a disparity in the subscription model.  It’s like going to an all you can eat buffet, paying the $10 and then only eating about $1.75 worth of food because you weren’t really hungry.  I wouldn’t mind seeing some games in the US adopt the pay by hour model used in the Asian markets.  I’d love to be able to buy a block of X game hours for Fallen Earth, and if I don’t log in for a month, I don’t use any hours, and when I do log in, all my hours are still there, waiting for me to use them.  No canceling, no resubscribing, just easy.  It would even be great if a game supported both models.  Let people subscribe for $15 a month for unlimited play if they don’t want to worry about how much or how little they play, let people who don’t want a recurring payment and don’t mind watching their hours buy 75 hours for $15 ($0.20 per hour) instead.

I will say that the one thing the subscription model does is prevent me from maintaining active accounts in multiple games.  I’d love to be able to pop in to EQ or DAoC or any of a number of other games for a couple hours once in a while, but re-upping for a full month of subscription makes the whole thing simply not worth it.  However, if all those old games had a pay by hour model, I’d gladly toss $5 on there every now and then in order to keep some hours available for those days when I just want to go play something different.

All this hoping and wishing aside, however, the fact remains, as of today I am officially finished with monthly subscription MMOs.  I want to play a number of them but I just can’t justify the cost given the amount of time I’ll play and the little spare money I’ve got for entertainment.

From a developer/producer standpoint, consider this.  While the need to unsubscribe might garner you a couple extra months of fees from me before I realize I’m not playing and cancel, the need to resubscribe if I’d like to put my toe back in the water is very likely to keep me from coming back.