Tag Archive for team

Paintball

I had never played paintball.  So, when a deal popped up on Living Social a while back, a few friends and I (who had also not played paintball before) bought in.  It took a long while, but we finally went.

In a word… meh.

I suppose I can see the draw that some people have to it.  Being able to shoot other people isn’t something you get to do very often.  But overall, it was fairly lackluster.  First off, there were four of us and we mixed in with a larger group, and they put two of us on one team and two on the other.  Frankly, I’d have had more fun with my friends being on my team since I had no desire to shoot my friends.  Next, they lead a team to each end of a field which was dotted with forms of cover.  They counted to three and said “Go!”  People ran to cover and then started shooting.

The first round we played, my team won.  I didn’t shoot anybody.  In fact, I spent most of the time trading shots with another guy who eventually got shot by a teammate of mine.  We had spent nearly the whole time swinging out, shooting and then ducking behind cover.  Then, suddenly, we just sorta won.

The second round we played, my team lost.  I got shot… kinda.  I mean, my gun got shot.  I didn’t even see it happen, but a ref told me I had been hit and there was paint on my gun.  Umm… okay.  I watched from the sidelines as a repeat of the previous game happened.  People hiding, swinging out to shoot occasionally, and when one team was down enough players one dude ran out from the side and shot the last two players on the losing team.

The third round, I can’t tell you who won, because I don’t know.  The full seven minutes ran out and they called it off.  Not that it mattered.  I got shot in the first fifteen seconds.  By my own team.  I ran forward to a position (we were on a different field this time, larger, more cover, a spot of trees in the center, and more people too), I was crouched over, and then felt the painful sting of being shot, right in the gap between my shirt and my pants, right on the skin.  If I were so tattooed, I’d have been shot on the tramp stamp.  The girl who shot me (and I know it was a girl because the only people behind me were three girls who refused to leave the original, completely out of range, bunker) was no more than ten feet away.  That freakin’ hurt!  Team kills count, so I was out and I walked off the field and walked off the pain.

Round four, same larger field, other side.  We found good cover and began shooting our foes.  Minutes went by of a pitched battle, and I think I shot someone… I don’t know, because with like thirty people on each side and so many paintballs flying around it gets hard to tell if it was me or some other shooter.  All was going well, and then someone on the other team, who was sitting out of traditional range, switched to mortar fire.  He couldn’t hit us firing straight, so he started arcing his shots.  I’m going to pause here and tell you one of the rules of the field: if someone is hiding behind a low barrier, you are not allowed to come over the top and shoot them from above.  This rule exists for two reasons, 1) shooting down on someone’s head can really hurt them, and 2) them shooting upward at your chin (and by virtue of the equipment, the gap between your face and mask enabling them to possibly hit your mouth and nose) can really get you hurt.  So back to the mortar moron… if he’s arcing, that means that the paintballs are coming from above, you know, as if he was shooting down on us.

Boom! Headshot!

Right on the top of my head.

Yeah.  Some people suck.  That really hurt.

Anyway, despite how much I’ve written here, the day was basically a check mark.  Play paintball?  Check.  No reason to ever do it again.

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…

Infected

InfectedI’m going to start the review of Scott Sigler’s Infected by simply saying that I enjoyed it.  I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a weak stomach as parts of the book are fairly graphic in detailing damage to the human body, but it is a good read.  The book follows two main threads.  The first thread is about a typical team of government folks tracking down the source of a possible virus that might be a terrorist weapon.  The second thread follows one of the people who is infected with what the government is trying to track down.

You might want to stop reading here as I’m about to go all spoilery.  Yep, spoilers from this point.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Perry Dawsey is the name of the infected man.  A former football player and survivor of a childhood of abuse at his father’s hands have made him a tough son of a bitch, which is how he manages to make it through so many of the things that happen to him… or rather, that he does to himself.  The virus is this book is actually an alien life form.  Microscopic seeds land on a person, and given the right mix of temperature and moisture and other conditions, they can dig in and start their work.  Dawsey gets covered in these spores, it is never said how, and eight of them manage to begin their work.  These spores are like machines, they read DNA and adapt and begin building the structures they need do their work.  Dawsey’s spores are on his forehead (though that one dies off early), his right shin, his left thigh, his chest (near the collar bone), his back (high, right over the spine), his ass cheek, his forearm and his testicle.  As the story progresses, and as the spores develop into rashes, then bizarre orange scaly skin, then to blue triangles beneath the surface that start talking to him as they awaken, Dawsey takes them out, one by one.  Tearing one out, then another, stabbing, burning and more.  All of which Sigler describes in fantastic detail.  Did I mention there was one on his balls?  Reading it was uncomfortable to say the least.  Unsettling.  And yet, the story drew me in as Dawsey persevered, almost thrived on survival.

The other half of the book, about the team trying to find and fight this new threat, is well written, but fairly standard for this type of book.  That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just… unsurprising.  The only real breath of fresh air here is that the tale lacks a fresh young recruit who shows up the older members.  And this is a good thing.  The story doesn’t need it.

In the end, I’m satisfied with the book and looking forward to reading the sequel in the future.

The Gamer I Am Today

This month’s Gamer Banter is “What was the game that made you a gamer?”

To be honest, I’ve been a gamer since my dad brought home a Pong system in the late 70s.  Then it was the Atari 2600.  The games that cemented me as a gamer were Yar’s Revenge and Pitfall.  I played those games for hours on end, entire days, flipped them and kept on playing.  Sure, we had dozens of games, but those are the ones that stand out.  We had an NES too eventually, and we got a PC.

Over the years there have been many games.  Zelda and Mario on the NES (and Pro Wresting… Starman forever!), while over on the PC it was dominated by Sierra games, from The Black Cauldron to Leisure Suit Larry through the King’s, Police, Space and Hero’s Quests, The Colonel’s Bequest, Gabriel Knight and the Manhunter games.  And Doom.

Doom was a game changer.  By that time I had discovered BBSs and had a group of friends online.  Much like I’d once bought, with my own money, an Adlib Sound Card to play games like Loom that required better sound and a 1200 baud modem so I could get online, I bought a token ring network card and then begged my parents to let me take the PC to a friend’s house.  I’d played Doom through dozens of times on my 386, but with 4 PCs in the same room, network cards and coaxial cable, suddenly we were deathmatching.  We were yelling at each other across the room, taunting each other in text chat.  Gaming stopped being something I did by myself and started being something I did with other people.

Sure, the BBSs had multiplayer door games, but this was different.  It became a regular thing, and soon it became something we could do over the Internet.

Even so, as much as I was a gamer, I still did other things.  Then along came Team Fortress for Quakeworld.  See, deathmatch was fun, but it never felt quite right for me.  But here came a game where not only were we on a team, but roles in that team formed.  I wasn’t the best player, but I was a demon on defense.  Those BBS people, we formed a clan and we played in tournaments.  We played against teams in other states, in other countries.  It was a new kind of social element to gaming.  Deathmatch had its culture too, but it was ultra-competitive, insular, everyone was your enemy.  Team Fortress fostered camaraderie.  When not in a tournament match, hopping on a public server meant you worked with your team whether they were in your clan or not.  It lead to a lot of respect on the battlefield.

Then came EverQuest.  In some ways it was so natural to shift.  From being part of a team in Team Fortress to being part of a group in EverQuest.  I was comfortable with the idea that I couldn’t win on my own.  I didn’t want to play alone.  Groups and raids and guilds, sitting in the East Commons tunnel on Saturdays looking for deals, message boards, all of it.  It was another level of social.  In the Quakeworld world after tools like GameSpy came out it was easier to track down your friends, or people you’d enjoyed playing with, but in EverQuest, anyone you played with you could put on a list and look for them anytime you were on because they were always on the same server as you.  And it was lasting.  I’m still friends with a couple people from the TF days, but I still talk daily with a bunch of people from my EQ server.

Looking back and looking forward, the kind of gamer I am is one that enjoys active social interaction with his game.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that reads my blog as my biggest complaint about most MMOs is when they lack a good social aspect or community.  My Venn diagrams summed it up pretty well I thought.

I was always a gamer, born into a gaming world, but I’d have to say that Team Fortress and EverQuest are the games that made me the gamer I am today, and the gamer I will probably be for the rest of my life.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part, please email him for details.

Other Gamer Banter participants:
carocat.co.uk: A Trip Down Memory Lane
Yuki-Pedia: A Tale of Two Games
gunthera1_gamer: Early Gaming Experience
Extra Guy: Ah yes, I remember it well
The Average Gamer: What Made Me a Gamer
Sivercublogger: Uncovering Lost Treasures
Master Kitty’s World: Gaming Through the Years
Gamer Unit: What was the game that made you a gamer?
Game Couch: Karateka
Next Jen: What Made Me into a Gamer

Movie Round-Up: April 16th, 2010

Death at a Funeral:

I really enjoyed this film… when I saw it nearly three years ago.  Perhaps I might watch it on Netflix someday, but film remakes done so close to the original that aren’t from foreign language originals do not get my box office dollars.  The original was just so brilliant that I don’t see this one improving on that.

Kick-Ass:

This movie, however, will earn my money.  From the first trailer I’ve been wanting to see this, and I tried very hard to get myself in to a free screening so I could review it for release (and then probably go see it again), but I didn’t.  Still, normal folks trying to be superheroes just sounds awesome.  Can’t wait.

The Joneses:

Getting a limited release this week (around 190 screens) is a film about materialism.  Since I managed to see a screening of this film (thanks Film Metro!) I can tell you that the trailer is one of those “not quite true” trailers.  The Joneses is about a company that does self-marketing by putting a team in a neighborhood and then having them show off products and increase sales in the area.  They aren’t exactly salesmen, they aren’t selling specific goods, but they market a lifestyle and drop comments about how they like certain things and work that jealousy angle that gets people to go buy stuff they don’t need.  Demi Moore plays the lead of this sales team, and David Duchovny is the new member.  The basic story is that Duchovny at first doesn’t get how it works, then he proves he’s the best at it, and finally he feels bad about what they are doing.  Along the way there are a number of funny moments, as well as a few dramatic ones, and a few tragic ones.  Overall, I really enjoyed the film.  It might not be for everyone, but as someone who is pretty much beyond his “keeping up with the Joneses” phase and is working on recovering from the damage, it hit home.  I only wish they’d made this movie about fifteen years ago.

My Guild Isn’t Your Guild

Continuing on with my look into Facebook games, and in my look into why I dislike them…

When I played EverQuest, I met a person, we played together a little, and then I joined his guild.  Joining a guild attached me to a social unit and my one new friend turned into thirty new friends.  Now, I didn’t get along with all of them, but being bonded by the unit meant that we were at least civil, because he often wound up grouped together and working together toward goals.

In Facebook games, I invite a friend of mine into my super team, or as my neighbor, or whatever social unit the game has, and that’s the end of it.  I have 12 people in my zombie apocalypse survivor colony.  One of those 12 only have 3 people in his colony.  One of them has 50.  And so on.  Each of us has a unique view of the game world.  Our social unit is fictional, not real.

Facebook games are designed to make you grow your social units outside the game.  You are encouraged to post achievements on your wall, to share them with the world, and the idea is that a friend of yours will see it and decide to play the game also, hopefully joining your game social unit too, and that also a friend of your friend who saw your comment on that picture of your friend’s dog will click your name, see your wall, see your post from the game, and decide to be your friend and join you in game also.

This is completely backwards from the normal Online game socialization model.  Normally, you make friends in game and that friendship can grow outward.  On Faceback, you make friends outside of the game and hope to grow that friendship inward to the game.  That just seems wrong to me.

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…

Quake Live

Spent this morning playing some first person shooters on the PC… one was a beta, the other was the open beta Quake Live.

I had tried to play QL before, but the insane queue lengths kept me out.  I’d wait, then find something else to do long before I got into game.  But today I managed to get in and run through the tutorial and a couple of matches.  The tutorial started out alright, with me choosing the beginner level and quickly getting an 11 to 0 lead.  Then the AI adjusted and I lost 15 to 11.  Then I went and join some matches…

Either their skill levels are very broad or I somehow borked it up or everyone else is cheating.  First off, I hate deathmatch, and prefer team games where my personal frag count is less important than the team winning.  So I joined up with a capture the flag server.  Its been a very long time since I played bland CTF, usually sticking to Team Fortress, so I didn’t know any of the “standard” maps that were running, and I also didn’t know that I had to put flag-on-flag to capture it.  This coupled with the dumb ass on my team who was yelling at me to “go ahead and cap noob!” even though I was standing in the right place (the enemy had our flag too) confused me for a bit.  But that got sorted out, and we eventually won.  It was close, the score looks bad with an 8 to 1 victory, but it was much closer than that with a lot of good slugging it out for each hard won point.  However, I noticed while playing that even though I was doing alright, other players were fragging much more than me, and they were getting off air kills and other feats of awesome that I’m not so good at.  I really am of a beginner level, I know I suck, so how is it that I’m playing with frag gods when skill matching is supposed to prevent that?  Anyway, we won… then the second match started, and the other team picked up a few more frag gods while our team picked up a few more people like me.  We had to fall back into a pretty strong defence (the entire team, minus one guy) just to keep our flag on our side of the map.  In the end, we lost.  It wasn’t even close.  Sure, the score looks alright with an 8 to 5 loss, but we were winning at one point, all our caps were done pretty much by one guy and the other team got 5 of their points within just a few minutes, chain capping the crap out of us.  We got steamrolled.

Anyway, the game runs smooth, although now I need to go beat up on Comcast because I was getting “Connection Interrupted” every couple of minutes, just for a second, but it was enough to get me dead every time.  If you want to find me, I’m Jhaer.

Getting the Job

I love the movie Joe versus the Volcano.  In fact, it is my all time favorite film.  I probably watch it at least three or four times a year.  One of my favorite parts of the films are the early scenes where Joe is working at his dead end job.  Mr. Waturi is having a conversation on the phone with someone, and he says things like “I’m not arguing that with you.” and “I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?”  His entire conversation seems to consist of variations of those two statements repeated over and over.

When, in my career, I have had the opportunity to be in on the hiring process, as I read over people’s resumes, I often think of those scenes.  Many resumes, and even interviews, paint pictures of people who can get the job, but in my experience, less than half of them actually can do the job.  I mean, really do the job, not just skating by doing passable work waiting for the next job, but doing the job well enough that I feel truly good about having hired them.

Every time I get into the hiring process from the other side, I run into the same bump.  My resume looks decent enough, and I can usually shine through the initial interview, but when it comes to the technical interview I usually wind up looking like a chump.

Here is my problem… when I have a job, I spend my time doing that job, to the best of my ability.  I will learn everything I need to know for that job and I will exceed every expectation of my employer.  However, if there is a skill not required for my job, I don’t know it.  Not even a little.  I simply have never found it beneficial to prepare myself for a job I don’t have.  Well, I can’t say “never” because clearly it would be beneficial to the interview process, but doing so would likely infringe upon my job performance or my life outside of my job.

Every job I have ever had, I was completely unqualified for on a technical level when I got the job.  In every case, I interviewed, they really liked me on a personal level, and I managed to inspire them to take a risk and hire me anyway.  Within days I always bring myself up to speed, and within months I am indispensable to the team, leading the way and cranking out the work.

The issue is that in recent years, the technical interview comes first, and I never get in the room with people to be able to personally inspire them.  I do a phone screen, which consists of technical questions, and if I pass I get to go in a room with a couple members of the team, either a PC or a white board, and be bombarded with more technical questions.  Since I spend so much effort be great at the job I do have, I don’t have much left to put in to being great at jobs I don’t have.  I fail the technical interviews every time.

I know I can do the job, but can I get the job?  So far, too often the answer is “no”.

Bass Groove

When it comes to most games, I’m a team player.  I disliked Quake Deathmatch, but I was obsessed with Team Fortress.  So, I wasn’t surprised at all when I finally picked up a Guitar Hero controller a couple of years ago that I really enjoyed playing the “second fiddle” rather than the lead guitar.  When Rock Band came out, while I did thoroughly enjoy playing guitar, the fact is that I enjoyed taking up the bass in a band on tour much more.  A little thing that makes me enjoy online play a bit more since everyone else in the world seems to want to play guitar.

Rock Band 2 came out this past Sunday, and having pre-ordered it a while back, I went and picked up my copy.  The game is great.  Its like Rock Band, only better… sort of.

The one drawback to the new game is that there is no straight tiered solo playlist.  You can’t just get in and play down the list to unlock songs.  To unlock songs you need to either have two people and do the challenges, or you play by yourself in a band on the tour mode.  Basically, its the old multiplayer tour, but playable by one person.  The drawback is that like the old multiplayer mode, you end up playing the same songs over and over in sets until you unlock more… well, unless you owned Rock Band 1 and a bunch of Down Loaded Content (DLC), because then you can choose from any previous song.  All your RB1 favorites and all the songs you paid extra for, right from day one.  Functionally, the single player mode works like the original game, but the presentation makes it feel different.

The advantage to this system, is that as a single player, I can play bass as my method of choice going through the tour and unlocking songs.  And that totally rocks.