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Watching the Watchers of Watchmen

Have you seen Watchmen yet?  No?  Is the reason that you read some reviews and decided against it based on all the negative things they said?

One thing I have always talked about in my life is managing expectations.  Many times when people don’t like a movie or book or some other form of entertainment or experience, the blame can be laid at the fact they went in to it expecting it to be monumental and moving, “the best ever”.  With lofty expectations like that, rarely do those movies or books or whatever actually live up to them.  So, let’s take a couple paragraphs and talk about how you can review the reviews in order to distill what you need to know before deciding if you want to see Watchmen before you let someone else’s opinion get you to dismiss it out of hand.

If the review you read spent more than half of its words pointing out the flaws of the adaptation from the book to the movie, you might be able to completely ignore them.  First, did you read the book?  If not, then why do you care where the movie failed to convey the exact same message as the book?  You aren’t reading the book, you are going to see the movie.  The only thing that matters is if the movie is self consistant and works as a movie.  If you did read the book, are you expecting a shot-for-frame transfer of the book from page to screen, or are you looking for an adaptation?  Adaptation, by definition, means change.  Books are hundreds of pages long.  Movie scripts tend to translate as 1 page of script is equal to 1 minute of film.  Watchmen, as a comic, is over 400 pages long.  And while Watchmen the movie is nearly 3 hours long, 3 hours is only about 180 pages.  The movie would need to be around 7 hours long to faithfully translate the book to the screen.  So, when you go to see the movie, expect changes.  To be honest, it is best to approach Watchmen the movie as being “inspired by” the book.  If you love the book so much that you can’t possibly accept any changes made during its translation between mediums, then you probably should avoid the movie.

If the review you read spent a lot of time comparing Watchmen to Iron Man and Spider-man and other comic book films, it shows that the reviewer entered the theater with the wrong expectations.  Watchmen is not, and never has been, a story about spandex super heroes saving the day.  When Alan Moore wrote the book, his intention was to take all the current super hero elements, put them in a “real world” type scenario and turn them of their ear.  Its horribly violent, the characters are spectacularly flawed, the world is a cynical depiction of the worst aspects of humanity.  All of those things are what made the story so great and so shocking back when it first appeared.  Twenty years have passed, and elements of Moore’s grim and gritty vision of super heroes have rubbed off in all corners of the genre, but his vision is still much more bleak than just about everything that has come since.  Spider-man accidentally let his Uncle Ben die, and his life is spent trying to make up for that mistake.  Tony Stark built weapons that killed people, and as Iron Man he’s trying to undo the damage he has done.  These characters have flaws, but they are nothing compared to the Comedian or Rorschach from Watchmen.  Most comic books have characters who are driven by their one (or two or three) flaws to be better people and do good.  Watchmen is mostly about people who are a bundle of flaws who are driven by their one (or two or three) redeeming qualities to try to make the world a better place.  If you want to see a movie like Spider-man or Iron Man, don’t go see Watchmen.  It is just not that kind of film.

Also, the movie is more dramatic than action driven, so if you get bored when people stop fighting and start talking, Watchmen probably isn’t the movie for you.  Watchmen is more of a thriller or mystery than an action film, much like the book.  The story begins with the death of a former hero, the Comedian, and it follows from there as Rorschach tries to find out why someone would do it.  This isn’t the formation of a super hero team riding out to save the world… this is the remains of a dilapidated hero team who have been told we don’t want them to save the world anymore.

It may sound like I’m apologizing for the film.  People often mistake my “managing expectations” talk for that.  I just hate it when people say that anything categorically and globally failed just because it didn’t meet their personal expectations.  When I go to buy things from Amazon, I always read the negative reviews first, because someone pointing out their expectations and the failure of a product to meet those expectations gives me far more information about how I might react to the product than someone gushing about how awesome it is.  From reading the negative reviews of Watchmen, I determined that it wasn’t exactly the book, and it wasn’t a typical spandex super hero movie, and those two facts are all I need to frame my expectations before walking into the darkened theater.

In my opinion, and from my point of view, Watchmen the movie perfectly captures the tone and spirit of the book, even if it has to deviate in order to make a watchable running time.  It isn’t the best film ever made, but it is far far far from the worst.  And in the end, I enjoyed it quit a bit.

Playing Your Own Way

This is quite possible the best told tale I have ever read of someone playing a game by their own rules instead of following the intended story.  Well worth reading.

Blood Rites

Another Dresden book down… and another enjoyable ride.  In Blood Rites we find Harry matching wits with two sets of vampires: the Black Court, and Mavre, are out for blood, while the White Court is both employing him and working against him.

Thomas, a member of the White Court, hires Dresden to look in to some not-so-accidental deaths around the production of some adult films.  Someone is using a nasty entropy curse to force bad things to happen to good people around producer/director Arturo Genosa.  And when members of the Black Court make their presence known, Harry decides to take the fight to them and try to hunt down their lair and kill them while they slumber.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dresden adventure if things went according to plan.  Six books in to the series, and I am still enjoying them very much.  My only concern is that I hope Jim Butcher does have an end in mind for the troubles surrounding Harry.  I’d hate for the books to go on for twenty volumes and become derivative of themselves like other series have done in the past.

Death Masks

Oh, it should be no surprise by now that I like the Dresden books.  And the fifth book in the series is no different.  Death Masks picks up a little while after book four, the Red Court is still calling for Dresden’s blood and someone has stolen the Shroud of Turin.

Like all the other books, the book begins with a bang, then spends a few chapters laying out the framework, and then the real action begins.

Yeah, I enjoyed it.  I recommend it.

Words in the Workplace

Someone at work has been bad. Or at least so I must surmise, since I found a little gem of an email in my inbox the other day gently reminding me of workplace conduct. Here is a little snippet:

Work Policies and Rules:
I understand that it is my responsibility to ensure that my personal conduct and comments in the workplace support a professional environment which is free of inappropriate behavior, language, joke or actions which could be perceived as sexual harassment or as biased, demeaning, offensive, derogatory to others based upon race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran’s status or disability. I further agree to refrain from words or conduct that is threatening and/or disrespectful of others.

From this I can only determine that the only appropriate speech at work is to be completely neutral talk about work tasks, which, ironically, offends me. I suppose this is just one of those gigantic cover-your-ass type things where the company wants to be able to say, “Hey, we said it was not allowed and they did it anyway, so you can’t sue us, just the guy who did the offending.” And it makes me sad that our society is litigious enough that companies need to be constantly covering their asses.

Sadly, though, the main thing this email has done is make me curious about who said or did what to who to trigger this particular ass covering. In true cover-your-ass fashion though, I’ll never be able to find out unless it happened to one of my immediate colleagues. But in true office gossip fashion, I’m sure I’ll hear plenty of theories.

How do you play?

Ryan Shwayder over at the nerfbat has begun a discussion on the definitions of Hardcore and Casual.

I think, especially if you delve into the comments, he is pretty near the target. Essentially, I think its impossible to define a player simply as hardcore or casual for their entire entity. Instead, you have to break it down into many factors.

For instance, game play time. Someone who is casual with their time in games wants something they can pick up and play with in ten minutes, or two hours, or whenever they happen to want to play. Often this is referred to as “time-starved” but I feel adding the usage of “starved” there just gives it a desperate and needy connotation… also, it implies that if the person had more time they’d spend it gaming, but that really isn’t true at all. Someone who is hardcore with their time is going to schedule blocks, often large blocks, of time to play… three hours, five hours, Saturday. The time hardcore player is the kind of player who spends all their free time gaming.

Further down you can get into distinctions like “knowledge commitment” which would be how willing is the player to remember bits of information or lore of the game. I know when it comes to this, I’m very hardcore… not by choice really, it just sort of happens. If EverQuest (the original) were to have a free weekend starting today, I bet I could log in and get around fairly well. Even though I have not played it in a few years, I still know where stuff is (as long as the zone hasn’t been revamped). The wife on the other hand, well, we play World of Warcraft about once a week, and lots of times she just doesn’t remember where anything is. Its not because she has a bad memory, but because its simply not important to her to remember it. Plus, she has me, and I remember everything, so…

You can literally take any aspect of any game, show a hardcore and a casual approach to it, and show how its not really dependent on any other aspect. To use the example above, the wife and I both love to explore and are fairly hardcore about going new places. She just happens to think that almost everywhere is a new place since she doesn’t commit to memory having gone there.

So… what’s the answer? What is the definition of hardcore and casual? I think the answer is, “It depends.” Even Ryan’s attempt to narrow it down to 4 points isn’t going to cover everything. Is it enough to design a game by? Sure, and as long as you accept that no matter how few or how many boxes you draw there will always be players who live outside them, you’ll be just fine.

Can Someone Really Do That?

One thing that irritates me in games is the lack of reality in certain aspects. Don’t get me wrong, I think being able to carry a half dozen backpacks loaded with gear is actually a good idea because reality in this care would impeed fun since you’d have to keep running back to town and dropping off loot instead of playing.

However, in combat, I am annoyed with people who whiz around running at full speed and jumping like they are on crack.

In reality, if you tried to attack someone with a sword while you ran around them in a circle, sidestepping, while jumping every second, you’d be fairly inaccurate and your swings would be pretty weak. In order to get good power into a swing, either you have to be charging, using your momentum to push the blade, or you have to plant your feet on the ground to support the muscular force you wish to bring to bear.

So, to that end, I wish to introduce a little reality into the game. Movement in any direction other than toward your enemy should have a negative impact on accuracy and power (damage). Moving toward an enemy should increase power based on the distance travelled (makes horseback lance fighting a possibility), and standing still should positively impact accuracy (chance to hit). Jumping should pretty much destroy accuracy and power. However, on the other side, if you are moving any direction but toward your enemy, your ability to dodge should increase. Jumping will actually make you harder to hit.

Now the question is “Well, I could just be jumping when I’m defending and stand still when attacking. Right?” No, not with any noticable effect. The jumping, or moving away from an opponent, would cap fairly quickly and be only a small modifier. The attack bonuses would be greater the longer you stayed still (or charged). So the end result of the proposed scenario would be “You’d be a little harder to hit, but have almost no attack bonus.”

It makes the combat engine very complex, and means that reduction of client/server lag is of paramount importance, but I think it would make for a much better game, especially in PvP.

The Two Most Frustrating Things…

… while working your job…

The second most frustrating thing to run into is someone else doing a job that you think you can do better.

Seeing someone fumble and stumble when you believe you could do it faster, easier, and more effieciently is one of those heartbreaking, knuckle-whitening things that can drive you up the wall and over the edge.

The MOST frustrating thing to run into is someone else doing a job that you KNOW you can do better.

Seeing someone fumble and stumble when you are secure in the knowledge that you can do it faster, easier, and more efficiently, and more to the point HAVE done it in the past faster, easier and more efficiently, is one of those things that drive people to killing sprees.

I want to do my job well, but sitting here day after day, unable to do my job because someone less qualified than me can’t seem to get it together takes me from 0 to 60 on the frustration-o-meter in under 3 seconds of walking in the door.

Shuffle.

The boxes get packed, the boxes get moved, the boxes get unpacked.

And somehow when you unpack them, they contain more than you packed into them. The shelves aren’t big enough. There aren’t enough drawers. The closets are tiny. And then there is the pile of stuff you thought you had lost, and the pile of stuff thought lost that you wish still was because you don’t know what to do with it.

This is one of those moments. Somewhere between an end and a beginning. Neither, yet both. Its like playing a game of poker. Someone has just cleaned out the pot, and the next hand isn’t on the table yet. The time when you shuffle the deck, shake things up a bit. Throw a little extra random chance into the mix.

So when the boxes are gone, and all that remains is the beginning of something new, I wonder what kind of hand I’ll have been dealt.

13 November 1999

Someone, anyone… if you read this page, email me (jasongpace@squadleader.com) and help me out.
How can you tell if a girl is interested?
I have a blind spot when it comes to women, most nice guys do. If you are not attracted to a girl, then you know right away when she is flirting with you, but if you do like her, she could be hitting you in the head with a baseball bat screaming “I LOVE YOU!!” and you still would notice.
I never notice, so tell me… how can I tell?
Please… I’m begging you… help me.
Okay… enough of the pitiful whining, on with the rest of the .plan.
I wrote a list of topics on my mind a while back (October 15th .plan) and decided to actually do another one of the list… Swearing: the power of words.
I actually wrote a paper for an essay class in college on this subject. It all stems from the fact that people swear… alot. Me too, I’m not exempt from this. Sometimes I swear like a sailor, but occationally I try to make a concious effort to stop, or at least slow down.
You see, the power of a swear comes from its infrequency of use. If you say ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and all the rest all the time, people will come to expect it.. and they won’t people able to know when you really are mad.
Think about it. When some friend who swears all the time starts swearing, you’ll just think “This is normal.” But if someone you have never heard utter a swear word yells out “FUCK!!” you’ll be stunned because… well, you’ve never heard them swear.
My first experience with this came many years ago back in the days of dial-up Bulletin Board Systems. People generally didn’t swear (except on the hacker BBSs) so no one was used to it. As usual people got into an argument… people being me and someone else. And when he didn’t have a leg to stand on, he went for the usual personal digs. Making fun of me but still not swearing.
Hold on… pause. I need to cover something else real quick about how I feel. Insults. When it comes to insults they usually don’t bother me much. You can sit and insult me all day long and I’ll either match you insult for insult, or I’ll ignore you. In my opinion, this can often be just standing up to someone. They are right there in front of you and they can defend themselves. But as a matter of honor, you never ever insult a man’s family when they aren’t present to defend themselves. If its all joking, like ‘Your momma’ jokes, that’s fine, but you never make a serious insult about a man’s family. You never go beyond your target and strike his home.
That said… the first swear word used in the argument came from the other guy. He called my mother an ‘overflowing cum sack’. As a result, at the next face-to-face party, three of my friends and myself were waiting for him to show up so we could kick the crap out of him. A bit of an overreaction to be sure… but he insulted my mother AND used a swear word.
Later, I would run into the same wall myself, when on another BBS during an argument, to emphasize a point of an already heated debate, I used the word ‘fuck’. Because no one was used to hearing that strong a word, everyone joined into the argument. I got alot of flames for using the word, and some people threatened to beat me up. But in the end it actually served its purpose: what had been 3 guys talking about a subject was now about 50.
Some people feel that swear word should have their taboo removed, after all, they are just words. You hear kids and even grown ups filling the air around them with these forbidden words. But I think they need to be more taboo, if you get overheard saying one, everyone should stare at you in shock. This way, swear words can once again have the shock value they once did, and be useful.