Monday, December 17, 2012

Getting Political.

Warning:  The forthcoming blog post contains some of my socio-political beliefs. 
Warning:  If you think me some sort of monster because of them, not only am I not sorry, I am actually quite happy to have offended you so.
Warning:  You have been warned.

The media coverage in the aftermath of last week’s incident leaves me somewhere between shock and rage.  In less than 48 hours, ABCNews had already begun framing the “debate” for “gun control” with (mis)leading “facts,” including a Gallop poll with absolutely no indication of the sample size or demographics involved.  When I watched the other night, I literally threw up in my mouth a little.  This brings me to my first point.

Freedom of Speech does NOT equal Freedom from Responsibility.

“But Cydearrm,” you may ask, “what does that mean?”  Because I’m an opinionated guy, I’ll be happy to explain.  A mainstay of codified journalistic standards, alongside accuracy (among other things), is objectivity.  Sadly, most news sources have completely abandoned this tenet.  I’ll reference ABCNews again, as that was what I actually watched.  During the broadcast, the anchor repeatedly emphasized that the weapons used were “high-powered rifles,” and mentioned “America’s appetite for guns.”  It’s bad enough that the media glorifies the people who commit these atrocities by putting their names and faces on national television and the internet (don’t forget applying catchy monikers like “the Batman killer”), which can only serve to motivate others to perform their own violence, but then they push an agenda with their reporting.  This all happens, of course, while not reporting an attempted hospital shooting that was stopped by trained, armed, law enforcement personnel.  Also not reported:  a school attack in China where over 20 people were killed.  The weapon used?  A knife.

In case you weren’t paying attention, the not-so-objective media outlet is not-so-subtly pushing for the not-so-objective agenda of more gun laws.  Apparently, making it more difficult for the sane, responsible, law-abiding majority of Americans to own weapons will stop these things from happening.  Here’s my second point.

Criminals, by definition, are not deterred by laws.

Case in point in current events:  Drugs.  Case in point in American history:  Alcohol.  The only thing the “War on Drugs” accomplished was to strengthen the most organized drug cartels.  Prohibition only made organized crime richer and bolder.  Restricting gun ownership or purchasing is only going to make gun dealers richer.  Supply and demand.

I suppose now would be a good time to point out that Switzerland’s gun ownership rate is very high due to its mandatory military service.  The vast majority of weapons owned there are the very same “high-powered rifles” that the media was so kind to demonize the other night.  Their rate of gun crimes is absurdly low, as well.  What I’m trying to get at is that there isn’t a correlation one way or the other between gun ownership and gun crime.

Next, I think I’ll rant about the legality of limiting the ability of Americans to own guns.  To put it bluntly, it isn’t legal.  I’ll point you to both the traditional interpretation of the second amendment, and to District of Columbia vs. Heller.  Both state that the second amendment refers specifically to an individual’s right to a weapon.  “But Cydearrm,” you might ask, “what about the safety of our children?”  To which I might reply, “why not arm teachers?  Israel does, and they don’t have problems with school shootings.”  I might also reply “why not detail armed, uniformed, law enforcement personnel to the schools?”  The high schools in my area have them.  Not only are serious investigations (drug dealing, bomb threats, etc) handled more quickly, but the students at my alma mater genuinely liked and looked up to my stepfather during his several years on detail there.  Sounds like a win-win situation. 

I think gun control should be one of the hard questions we look at as a society.  However, I don’t think this is a problem you can legislate away.  I’m convinced that taking guns away from the rest of us won’t actually help things, and I think giving up our constitutional rights is about the worst possible thing to do right now.  This finally leads to my last point, which I’ll close with.  A quote, from Ben Franklin.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Longest. Post. Ever.

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm going to make an honest attempt to avoid the "X is killing eSports" meme.  Let me continue by saying that I'm probably going to fail.


Dear Starcraft 2 Professionals,

As a Starcraft 2 fan, please indulge me by listening to a bit of free advice:

If you don't want people calling your sponsors, don't say stupid shit, especially on the internet.

"Professional" does not only mean "you are good at something."  There is a standard of behavior that comes with the moniker.  Look at all the real sports (yes, I said real) out there.  When they say or do stupid things, they get punished.  An NFL coach took a referee's arm two weeks ago, and was promptly fined $50k for it.  How many times was Ozzie Guillen fined as the White Sox manager for raging at umpires?  How many NBA players have been fined for raging at referees?  You're not special; you won't "get away" with it just because you're not on national TV.  In fact, since eSports is so small right now (compared to the real pro sports), there is less room for your crap, because of the relationship between teams and sponsors.  Sponsors who don't advertise computer parts see eSports as a niche market at best.  If that market becomes more trouble than what it's worth, the sponsor will pull the plug.  Common sense.  So for all the Destinys, for all the Stephanos, for all the Naniwas out there:  Congratulations, your bullshit makes it harder for your industry to grow.  Way to bite the hand that feeds you.


Dear eSports fanbase/community,

As a fellow eSports enthusiast, please indulge me by listening to a bit of free advice:

If people calling sponsors bugs you that much, don't follow players that say stupid shit or teams that tolerate it.

By watching Destiny's stream everyday, you directly empower him to behave like a complete tool whenever the opportunity arises.  Because of his inexplicable popularity, his shenanigans are instantly catapulted into the spotlight, making it that much more likely that somebody will be angry enough to contact a sponsor.  While we're on that subject, let me clarify something for you:

The people who contact sponsors are not the problem.

They are consumers just like you and I, and have every right to tell a company that they don't like what they support.  How many people refuse to eat at Chick-fil-a because of their flap with the Henson Company?  They are not the problem.  You are part of the problem.  You are the one defending the people who make eSports less attractive to sponsors.  You are making eSports less attractive to sponsors.  If you actually think that the kind of behavior that gets players dropped or fined or suspended is okay, do this for me.  Get a real job, and once you have that job, start acting like these players.  Give a coworker pictures of your genitalia before trashing them around the water cooler in a "private conversation."  Call people n*****s and f*****s.  Make jokes about abusing children and defend yourself by saying your "privacy was invaded."  Let me know how long you last.

Monday, August 27, 2012

MLG fracas and why I'll never play League of Legends.

Okay, so in case you haven't heard, at MLG Raleigh this past weekend, MLG disqualified the top two teams after their finals, because they colluded to split the prize money.  The investigation wasn't difficult because the teams talked about it in a public, crowded room and then played ARAM (all random, all mid, a silly rules variant) for game 1.  The teams, of course, deny any wrongdoing (other than playing a retarded game 1), and the fans have flooded the LoL forums with posts about how they didn't break any rules, after MLG explained what rule they broke.  Between the nonsense on the LoL forums (which make the Blizzard forums look civil, intellectual, and grammatically correct), and the following gem of a Twitter conversation, I don't think I'll find myself playing League anytime soon.

Sadly, friend Rory didn't respond to Sundance.  I would really like to know how one of the foremost pioneers in American e-sports doesn't "get e-sports at all."

League fans, I apologize if it seems like I'm painting your entire (enormous) fanbase with a broad brush.  To be honest, I probably am doing that.  However, I flat-out refuse to be part of a community who behaves as badly as LoL players do on a regular basis in-game and defends people when they clearly break the rules.  Even if I really enjoy the game itself, which in LoL's case, I really do.

Monday, August 13, 2012

TvP Battle Report!

So I just finished watching Day[9] and Rob Simpson cast the TvP Battle Report.  Most of my impressions beforehand were reinforced, basically.

The Terran player (of course) went mech to show off Warhounds.  A Spider Widow Mine picked off an annoying Oracle.  The Warhound is pretty good.  Nice damage, kinda beefy, and not super expensive.  I'm looking forward to a more mobile mech style with Warhounds, fast Hellions, and Spider (I did it again!) Widow Mines.  All in all, I'm still sold on Mines and Warhounds, not so much on slow Hellions.  Maybe in TvZ against Zergling/Baneling styles.  As far as TvP goes, I'm thinking MMM with Vikings and will still be the way to go--you're getting faster Starport for antiair anyway, and the otherwise idle Factory can pump out Mines in early to mid game stages.  I think Mines might allow Terran to play even greedier in the matchup.  Something like 1rax CC to Reactor Mines to a super fast third CC before adding Barracks or extra Factories.

The Protoss player did some annoying Oracle harassment--I still think Oracles are stupid--but he didn't commit to it.  That was the theme for the Protoss player; he didn't commit to anything.  He made some Tempests but he didn't commit to air supremacy against a Terran with little to no antiair by adding Void Rays or a Mothership.  He had the Mothership Core up early, but he never made it into the Mothership proper.  He made basic gateway units, but he couldn't commit to that, either, because of the supply taken up by the Tempests.  I think dedicated Protoss air compositions can be very strong in HotS, but there's probably huge timing windows for the opponent to exploit with that style.

I'm still a little concerned about Terran lategame--does PDD work against Tempests and Locusts?  But other than that, Terran seems quite good.  Mech seems like it will be viable in all three matchups, which may make the bio threat even bigger.  As for Protoss, they have some earlyish harass with the Oracle, but in both Battle Reports, it didn't seem to be that effective.  The "Stephano style" Zerg is probably even stronger with Swarm Host transitions, in addition to the Infestor and Spire transitions, but Protoss still seems highly susceptible to it.  I'm looking for Protoss players to skimp on Gateways early on in favor of double Stargate harassment.

I'm still looking forward to HotS, and I'm still probably going to buy it.  It's still too early to discuss balance--wait for the beta proper to be released so  the pros can seriously dig in before even thinking about balance.  Not that that is going to stop anybody from whining about HotS balance...

Friday, July 27, 2012

For the lulz

If you want a mere sample of the vitriol I mentioned in my last post, "like" BlizzardCS on Facebook.  Their stated goal is to be another outlet of information (because the websites, games, and Twitter clearly aren't enough) regarding player-affecting news.  After about ninety seconds of browsing around, I found a winner asking for a refund because D3 is "nonfunctional."  Look, it's okay if you don't like a game.  Don't lie saying it doesn't work afterward.

If I haven't been clear enough about how I feel about this absurdity, let me try this:  I don't care one way or the other what games you* like and what games you don't like.  I care even less about the whys.  Just follow Wheaton's Law and everything will be great.

*This, of course, does not apply if you are one of my fantastic, wonderful, charming, and uncommonly good looking friends.  I care very much what you guys like and don't like.  ^.^ <3

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hello. I am a fanboy.

So I watched one of TotalBiscuit’s videos where he basically takes potshots at anything and everything more popular than himself in an attempt to create drama and viewers, and one of his many remarks was that he “didn’t believe” in company loyalty, and that he’s flabbergasted that anybody has any goodwill toward Blizzard given their “recent business decisions.”  To put it as respectfully as I can, I think he’s full of it.

I’ve been playing Blizzard games since Blackthorne on the SNES and Warcraft 2.  Every single Blizzard game I have played, I have enjoyed immensely.  Every.  Single.  One.  So, after a 15-plus year history of fantastic, memorable experiences, I’ve come to trust the Blizzard brand.  Clearly, that makes me a fanboy.   Why on earth does that make me a fanboy?  Blizzard has given me (well, sold me) great experience after great experience for more than half my life.  I’m 27 years old; that’s a long time, particularly in the gaming scene.  Why should I forget goodwill (and good times) built up since I was twelve years old over a few decisions that, at worst, cause me minor inconvenience and the occasional ESPORTS DRAMA?

All this comes after hearing TotalBiscuit, who promptly insults you if you disagree with him, and reading the vitriol posted on Blizzard forums and even Team Liquid.  If you don’t like a game, that’s okay.  Nobody’s making you play it.  Shut up and move along.  So to the inevitable cry of fanboy that I may or may not hear, I have a response.  You don’t have to agree with me.  You also don’t have to be a dick about disagreeing.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More Single Player Please

I know just about every single AAA game has multiplayer focus these days.  I get it.

But I want more single player games to play when my ps3 (I'm Cydearrm on psn too!) copy of Skyrim crashes.

I'm tired of my experience being at least partially dependent on people on the internets NOT being jerkwads.   This is why I really like what Blizz is doing with D3.  If I don't feel like dealing with internet jerkwads, I can just play a private game.

You know what another great way to deal with this problem is?  If you're reading this, don't be a jerkwad.  Most people play a game because they enjoy it.   Don't screw that up.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo

So I played the demo for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning this week for PS3.

When they started really putting a lot of information on their website about the Fate system and showing some artwork, I was really excited about the game.  There aren't many authors better at creating fantasy lore than RA Salvatore and Todd McFarlane is pretty much a genius.

Unfortunately, the demo didn't live up to my excitement.  At all.  The first time I installed, it didn't work at all.  Got to the title screen, pressed start, and the game would hang.  Deleted the game, reinstalled.  It worked.  Sort of.  Conversations were buggy, and the music/background were all kinds of buggy.

I can forgive a few bugs in a demo if it weren't two weeks before release, and if the gameplay were compelling.  Reckoning, by my reckoning (har), wasn't the least bit compelling.  The graphics looked dated, the controls felt mushy and unresponsive, the skills were lackluster and the talent trees were boring.  For a game that was obviously influenced by great games like The Elder Scrolls, Fable, and World of Warcraft, it was pretty bland.

With Diablo 3, Guild Wars 2, Torchlight 2, and Heart of the Swarm coming up fast, and with my growing stack of games that I should play through, I'm definitely going to skip Reckoning.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hello, Arcane Mage.

Dear Arcane Mage,

I am a Marksmanship Hunter.  I would like to compare your "hard" spec to mine.

Your priority system is divided into three phases based upon your mana pool.  That's nice; my priority system has several different permutations based upon the health of the boss, how much movement is necessary at the moment, and whether any dynamic haste cooldowns (like Heroism or my own Rapid Fire) are active.  While one of those permutations is a two-button scheme like yours (during this time you'd actually be using only one button), it is for the narrowest of phases (boss health greater than 90%) and requires a haste cooldown to be active.

While we're on the subject of haste, we look at the stat in very different ways.  You see haste on your gear and say, "oh, my spells cast faster." I see haste on my gear and promptly break out a calculator and open two or three tabs in Chrome to see what I should reforge it to, if I should reforge at all.  You see, my priority system will change at certain levels of haste, due to being able to work in extra shots between my signature shot.  This makes haste all kinds of win at certain points, and my absolute worst stat at others.

You have several "utility" spells to manage.  Hey, so do I.  I have an interrupt in Silencing Shot.  I have CC in Scatter Shot and Freezing Trap.  I have to Tranquilizing Shot enraging bosses.  Are there adds for the tank to pick up?  I'm probably Misdirecting them to the tank, as well as using it at the pull so you can press your Arcane Blast button lots without pulling aggro.  Oh, you have a threat wipe?  So do I.  You have a short-cooldown movement aid?  I do too, except I have to spin myself 180 degrees to aim it.  So while you face the direction you want to go and push "go," I start to run in the correct direction, jump, spin 180 degrees, push "go--backwards," shoot the boss as I careen across the room, spin back around in the correct direction (while still in midair), and continue about my business.  Did I mention I'm shooting the boss during this entire process?  Yeah.  I am.

So you say you have a resource you have to manage?  Me too!  My life would be much easier if Blizzard gave me Focus Gems, too.  Cooldowns?  Check.  Procs?  Yep, so do I.  In between Steady Shot pairs--I have to pair them or I lose DPS, and I have to fire two pairs between signature shots, or I lose a lot of DPS--I have two globals to dump my focus and react to procs.  Hunters have fast globals too, like Rogues.

So what's your main rotation?  Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles?  That's it?  My main rotation, which is to say when the boss is between 90% and 20% health and there isn't Heroism or Rapid Fire active, consists of Chimera Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane Shot, and Aimed Shot.  This assumes that I've already applied Serpent Sting.  Not only do I have twice the buttons you have, I have to carefully manage my short-term buffs, procs, and my rapidly rising and falling resource in order to not lose a ton of DPS, all  while doing all the useful utility stuff just like you.

In addition to all that, I have a pet that requires careful management, because if it dies, not only do I lose 10-20% of my DPS, but the raid group loses the buff or debuff that my pet was bringing.  That's right, in order to do my job properly, I have to pay close attention to our raid comp and bring the pet that gives the best buff or debuff.  This means that while you're selling ports, I'm trekking all across the world to find the myriad of pets I need to cover buffs/debuffs properly.  Myriad is not an exaggeration; I routinely use 5-8 different pets while raiding, based on the raid composition and the boss we're facing.  Sure, a Huntard might get away with bringing his cat (which brings the Strength/Agility buff) to the raid with two Death Knights, a DPS Warrior, and an Enhancement Shaman, but a good Hunter would be using the correct pet.  In case you're wondering, based solely on that information, the correct pet could be any one of about five different possibilities, depending on how the DKs and Warrior are specced.

In closing, I just want to be clear:  I'm not saying your spec doesn't require skill.  I'm not saying you only press two buttons for an entire fight. I just wanted to compare all the things we have to do over the course of a raid encounter

Yours Truly,
Marksmanship Hunter

Friday, July 1, 2011


So, this is my grand entrance as a video game blogger.  What shall I write about?  The state of the industry as I see it?  What games I'm looking forward to in the coming months, and why you should be excited too?  A cutting review for a brand new game?


I'm going to talk about Valve.

I might be considered a Valve fanboy, especially after this is written, and to be honest, I'd have a hard time arguing against that assertion.  However, I'd like to think I have good reason (or rather, reasons-plural) for having as much affection for a company that a person can have and still be considered (mostly) healthy.

First and most obviously, Valve makes excellent games.  I don't particularly think I need to elaborate much.  They made Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress, among several others.  For those of you who haven't played any of those yet, do yourself a favor and play them.  Team Fortress 2 is now free-to-play on Steam, as well.  That brings me to my next point.

Valve is generous to their customers.  They made one of their flagship games free-to-play.  Yes, I'm aware that there are microtransactions for us to give them our nickels.  Yes, I'm aware that it's either a) a shrewd business move, or b) a business model experiment for future games.  But the fact of the matter is, we're in a time where on top of a $15/month subscription fee, Blizzard (another ultra-successful company with exceedingly loyal fans) charges lots of money ($15-$30!) for character transfers and in-game vanity items, and then they nickel-and-dime their most devoted and/or crazy customers with mobile apps that let them view their in-game auctions or chat with their guildies.  Nevermind the fact they've broken Starcraft 2 into three separate, fully-priced (that means $60!) games.  However, this isn't about Blizzard-rage; this is pointing out that Valve could have gone in a very different direction than what they have, and it's refreshing to me to see this kind of attitude toward their customers.

Lots of companies have already adopted this "freemium" model, where the actual game is free, but you can buy premium items quickly and easily for small amounts of real money.  The difference between Valve doing this with Team Fortress 2 and, say, Turbine doing it with Lord of the Rings Online is that Team Fortress 2 is still really popular.  I've never had a problem finding a game of TF2 to jump into, and I'm also reasonably sure that the game is still selling because I encounter people who are actually worse than me at the game.  LOTRO, on the other hand, was on life support when Turbine switched to the freemium model, but when they did, they immediately started making more money than they ever did with the outdated subscription model.  In other words, while this may have been a shrewd business decision on Valve's part, the decision wasn't made because nobody was playing TF2 anymore.

I could go on about the ridiculous Steam sales that are happening right now (Oblivion GOTY Deluxe $8.50!), or about the new support for freemium games on Steam, but this post is beginning to become long in the tooth.  So I shall sum up this entire post thusly:  Valve is really stinking cool to its customers, and everybody else in the industry can and should learn from their example.