Playing Well With Others

Many moons ago, some friends and I all agreed to pool our money and buy network cards for our PCs. Coaxial token ring cards to do an ad-hoc IPX network. All for the purpose of playing DOOM. We would actually load up our computers in the trunks of our cars and drive over to one person’s house, throw together our network, and spend all night playing, laughing and eating pizza.

It was during these gaming sessions that I was introduced to a little game called Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. We all bought copies and our game nights shifted from DOOM to splitting time between DOOM and Warcraft. It was great, and like the FPS game, the two factions of Warcraft were pretty much equal in design, all that mattered was random luck and a little player skill. When to hold back, when to charge. Warcraft II continued that trend, mostly, and we played the heck out of it.

Then came Starcraft. But it was different than the other games in that the sides were not equal. Supposedly there was balance, but since the units were different, they developed different strategies, and often times defending against an enemy’s attack strategy meant playing to your weaknesses while they played to their strengths. In online play, you either agreed that no one played the Zerg, or everyone played the Zerg because they were strong when the other races were weak. The Zergling rush was very effective and while at the beginning it was considered a cheap tactic, it eventually became a part of standard play with people devising rush strategies for the other two sides. And rush tactics began to invade Warcraft II and Total Annihilation, would become a part of Warcraft III and every RTS game around.

I hated rushing. I liked to settle in and build out units so that we could have later, larger tactical wars that ranged all over. Its not that I couldn’t rush, I could, but I just didn’t like it. It ended the game too quick and utilized so little of the game. Among friends we would set timers and say “No fighting for the first ten minutes.” or something like that, but online, it was nothing but rushing.

Real Time Strategy games were not the only place I ran into this sort of thing. Over in the First Person Shooter world, circle strafing had taken over. Running a circle around a person at high speed (sometimes while jumping, moving in impossible ways), all the while with them unable to reliably target you. Thankfully this was less prevalent in Team Fortress, which I has started playing exclusively. Death Match and regular CTF were closed to me, like with rushing in the RTS games, I could circle strafe, I just thought it was stupid.

When EverQuest came out, I looked forward to the idea of settling back and playing a table top RPG in a 3D world. I’d actually enjoyed UO, even PvP in UO, and this looked to be like a step up. But EQ attracted the FPS crowd, and flaws in (or a simple lack of) game design allowed circle strafe jumping to take over the PvP side of the game. Again, I could do it, I just thought it was lame. Honestly, have you ever tried holding a sword, running around a target in a circle, jumping repeatedly AND successfully hitting that target? Its nearly impossible to hit, and even if you hit that is going to be very little power in that swing. Even now in World of Warcraft, the Battlegrounds are ruled in melee range by circle strafe jumping morons.

One of my more recent addictions (which I recently realized I’ve been playing for over a year) is Conquer Club. Its basically RISK online, but with a couple dozen or so maps, some with very different rules. Playing random pickup games, I run about a 33% win ratio. I’m happy with that. However, I’m a little envious of some of the people there who have regular teammates and work together to develop strategies. So, last week I hooked up with a guy I’d recently won a game with and we decided to play 6 games together as a team. We created the games on Thursday, and in less than 2 days, we’ve already lost 2 of them. In both games we lost to the same strategy. I spent some time looking around and have found, like rushing and circle strafing, this tactic has become prevalent in the team game world on Conquer Club. I don’t like it. I don’t want to play games this way. It makes the games short, and usually ignores any rules of the map… to me, its cheap. Sure, I could do it too, the strategy isn’t that hard, but I don’t want to. Luckily, the strategy only works in team games, so all I need to do is avoid games against prearranged teams.

Overall, all these strategies boil down to one thing that I don’t like… the best defense for them is to use them yourself. Using any of these tactics dumbs down the game and removes nuance. Both teams are now fighting exactly the same way and the only factors remaining are “luck of the dice” and who can execute the strategy faster. I can respect when someone executes a thoughtful attack and forces me to change my plans to react, but I just find it distasteful when the strategy they use is a trump card: I either lose, or I play the game exactly like them.

Can this be fixed? Should this be fixed?

I don’t know… but I do know that slowly it is driving me away from real time multi player games and more toward single player and turn based games with clearly defined rules of game play. You can find me on Xbox Live playing Catan, Carcassonne, Uno and others.

The Shopping Season

Now that the holiday shopping season is pretty much over, I wanted to take a moment and share what it is that I like and don’t like about it.

One thing is fairly consistant among people I talk to is that noone seems to like going to the mall, or near the mall, or even getting on the roads at all from Thanksgiving to January 2nd. Most of this, I find kind of funny. First off, the traffic… yeah, people are stupid, but with some good Christmas tunes (or other music if you are one of those sicko people who hates Christmas songs), a watchful eye, and a zen “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude, traffic is nothing to worry about. Just always give yourself plenty of time, and know that if you are late the simple excuse of “Traffic!” is enough for just about anybody. Then there is parking… my legs ain’t broke, ’nuff said. Well, almost. Look, seriously, most of us out there are perfectly capable of walking, just don’t go shopping on rainy days and you’ll be fine. Nothing tickles me more than watching people drive around the mall looking for the perfect parking spot for an hour when they could have parked at the end, and be halfway done with shopping by now! I am literally filled with glee when I see the vultures circling the aisles. The next thing is the crowds. Now, I completely get why most people don’t like crowds… mainly it is because crowds are pushy and they get in the way. The solution here is just to not be in a rush youself.

That whole not being in a rush thing is at the center of enjoying the holiday shopping season. Number one, don’t wait until the last minute to buy high demand gifts. If you were one of those people clammoring to buy a Wii or PS3 on December 24th… you are an idiot. You should either have bought it sooner, or come up with another plan. If I ever have kids, they are going to love me or hate me, because I simply will not put up with that crazy shopper crap. If I can’t lay my hands on a high demand gift early, they’ll be getting a letter from Santa, an IOU and a substitute gift. Christmas in February! There is just no point in killing yourself for a gift. That said, this season, I had a chance to lay hands on both a Wii and a PS3, but not dying for either, I passed them on to the next person in line. I can wait (for a better bundle deal). I’m not perfect though. I mentioned previously that I was pretty sure I hit a home run in the gift giving department this year (and I did), and part of that was an in demand gift… a Nintendo DS Lite, the pink one. I didn’t act soon enough and so the pink one slid through my fingers. I had a choice to make… get another gift, or get a non-pink one. I went with the non-pink one, because the DS itself was really the gift, the pink color was just a bonus. But that was only half the home run.

See, the DS was one of those “only if” items. I had a budget, and the DS was only on the purchase list if I could manage the other gifts with enough room in the budget left for the DS. This leads to the other side of shopping, the best side: deals.

The wife, for whom the DS was for, also wanted some power tools. Now, under normal circumstances I could have only gotten two, maybe three, tools for the budget, but it was Christmas which meant package deals. ACE Hardware happened to be running one, it was a really nice 6 piece cordless toolset for about $50-60 off the regular package price. I shopped around for other deals, but ACE was the best deal, and decent quality stuff (not top of the line, because top of the line does not go on sale, ever, because it doesn’t need to, its top of the line). None of the ACEs I went to had it, and I tried to order it online, but they weren’t giving the same deal as the in-store, so I kept searching. Finally, I found one, just one, the last one. Yay! But the box was all damaged, so I asked to talk to the manager and asked him if the item had been returned. Yep, it had been. Well, I didn’t want to buy something that was broken, so I wanted to know why it had been returned. He went to pull the customer service report to see the reason stated for return, but couldn’t find it, and I didn’t want to buy it if it was potentially broken, and he didn’t want to sell it to me if there was a possibility of return since he didn’t have any more and wasn’t going to get any more… so, he gave it to me for another $40 off, a total of about $100 off the normal list price. I bought it, took it home and tested all the parts and they all worked! Yay! That left enough room in the budget for the DS and a game.

The wife managed a similar kind of deal when she got for me the Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I know the suggested retail is $150, and Amazon sells it usually for $99… but I know she got it for $68. You can’t always get these kinds of deals just filling virtual carts online.

But back to the rush… see, the most important reason to not be in a rush, is that when you do go out to the stores and malls, you are filled with the warm feeling knowing that you are not one of those crazy people who are surrounding you. I actually like to hit the mall once or twice when my shopping is done (or nearly done) just so I can sit back and watch the people. I’ve always been a people watcher, and the holidays brings out the best and worst in people. It makes for fantastic people watching.

WriMo Results

November is a horrible month. At least it usually is for me. The holiday and other family stuff, Christmas preparations, and my job aligned against me to foul my plans.

Mostly it was the job. Thanks to the traditional December code freeze (which they introduced for Y2K and just haven’t bothered to remove), everything has to get done before then. Rush, rush, rush. Blah.

Anyway… I managed to write about 2,000 words. Maybe 3,000. Far short of the 50,000 word goal of the contest. Better luck next year.

Veronica Mars

If you don’t watch this show, you should.

It has been a couple days since I watched the second season finale and I’m still just amazed. The final episode, just like the season before, takes all the clues that you’ve been getting all season long, the ones that you know are related but they don’t all fit into one puzzle, and gives you one last bit that makes everything snap together and the rush for the resolution is on! Holy crap! No wait.. they didn’t just.. oh my.. wait… what… I don’t… jeez… wow… holy fu… NO, THAT DID NOT JUST… YES!!

Seriously… season one is on DVD, buy it. Season two will likely come out soon, buy it also. And season three? Well, we will find out this week if Veronica and company make it on to the CW Network’s fall schedule. And they better, because I want to know what … nah, I won’t ruin it for ya.


In EverQuest, when it was released, the highest level you could attain was 50. Later, with the Kunark expansion, that bar was raised to 60. With the Planes of Power, now that rung sits at 65.

I’ve never been at the top in EQ. When Kunark was released, I was level 29 or 30, I forget which. With Planes of Power, well, I could have been 60 before then, but I had 3 or 4 characters I was actively playing by then and I had let the levelling rush on my primary character lapse.

Its been a long time, but I finally managed to bring Ishiro to level 60. Its not the end of the road anymore, but still a good milestone I think.

Only 5 more levels and about 300+ Alternate Experience points to go…

… someday.