Still Mostly Alive

Apologies for the super late post this morning, but it’s been an ordeal to get to this point.  I woke up about 3:30 last night with the most excruciating pain I think I have ever experienced.  It was this pain that was super hard to place because it seemed to be everywhere.  It sort of radiated from just below my bellybutton, around the right side of me and also had this sorta lower back pain thing going on.  I spent a good deal of the early morning hours trying to find a way to lay that was less painful than the others without much luck.  Finally after getting up and showering the pain started to lesson enough that I could crash and attempt to get some rest.  At this moment there are occasional twinges of pain but nothing like it was this morning.  I went back and forth about going to the emergency room, because I hate dealing with that nonsense.  Instead I took the day off work and have a doctors appointment at 2:10 that will hopefully get me to the bottom of whatever is going on.  Anyways as a result you are getting a very late and very non-gaming post.  This is in part because really it was a pretty gaming light weekend.

On Saturday I went up to my home town and helped my parents move a bunch of stuff and hang a television on the wall.  I think when I first started to notice the abdominal pain I thought maybe I had just pulled something moving in directions my body is not used to moving in.  Saturday night I felt completely out of it, like I was a little guy in my brain piloting my body badly sort of out of it.  Sunday we had to get up and around and go to a family thing…  that turned out to be its own nightmare.  There are three people on my wife’s side of the family that I really do not like being around and all three of them were at this party.  By the time I got home I was once again out of it and spent the evening watching black mirror.  I remember some minor abdominal discomfort when I first went to bed but I guess as the night went on it just kept getting worse until it finally woke me up.  Here is hoping that the doctor might have some ideas for what is going on.  I’m in this state where I am almost afraid to eat or drink anything because I have no clue what might make it worse…  and the last thing I ever want to feel again is that pain.

I mostly wanted to make a post because I didn’t want folks to be concerned about me…  even though I guess in theory there was reason to be concerned.  I hope the start of your week is going better than the start of mine.

Squandered Post

Pay no attention to the lack of a proper blog post this morning.  I’ve squandered what is normally my writing time watching a video of Adam Savage recreate the futuristic binoculars from Blade Runner 2049.  I don’t have a ton to talk about this morning because in truth I didn’t do much in the way of gaming.  I logged into both the Warrior and Demon Hunter horde side and did some emissary work and then logged into Destiny 2 only to log right back out.  Since I got only a couple of hours of good sleep last night I was ending up crashing pretty hard starting around 7:30-8 ish last night.  My focus for the night however was to attempt to get some sleep rather than do a lot of epic gaming.  My hope for tonight is to get in and do some Destiny 2 and at a very least knock out some of my weekly milestones.  I also still have a bunch of work to do on the Demon Hunter in trying to finish its class hall.  Additionally I only actually have one mount from the whole order hall madness thing.  I should in theory do some more.  Right now as it stands I have Warrior, Death Knight and Paladin to 110 on Alliance side and Warrior, Demon Hunter and Death Knight to 110 Horde side.  I would really like to get the 3 other mounts that I have easily available between the two sides.  I also at some point think I am going to push up my Warlock because it is something I enjoy but have no real clue how to actually play.

I am still very much getting used to the new routine that comes with managing three groups of people, and expect me to have a lot of adjustment time and probably low quality posts in the meantime.  I love you all and I hope you will bear with me through this madness.

Resolutions

The last few days have sorta whirred past as we did not do much of anything.  The cold temperatures and the desire to eat up some of the many things we have in our cabinets and freezer meant that we largely just stayed inside.  This mean’t fuzzy blankets and pants and sheets and cats…  while chilling out and playing lots and lots of World of Warcraft and Destiny 2.  I mostly made it to midnight on New Years Eve but crashed shortly thereafter.  In the grand scheme of things 2017 was not a bad calendar year for me personally…  but for the world as a whole it had a rather soul draining visage.  It is my hope that 2018 will bring forth new and interesting things for us…  while neglecting from finding ways to crush our spirits.  On a personal level I want 2018 to the unbridled goodness that seemed to be 2013-2015.  What I mean by that is 2013 was a year in which I did a ton of interesting things…  not the least of which was beginning the whole blog post a day madness.  In 2014 I founded AggroChat podcast and with it a bunch of interesting discussions have been had.  In 2015 I started going to Pax South and also writing some for MMOGames.com.  Not saying I really want to return to writing for other people because I frankly don’t have the time on my hands for that…  but just saying those three years were pretty great for various reasons.  I am not normally the resolution making type, but I figured I would do it just this once.

Sort out my Blog Feed

One of the casualties of trying to write on someone elses dime was my blog reading habits.  Prior to that I had been a rabid consumer of so many home grown gaming blogs, and while I never commented as often as I should have…  I mercilessly lurked in the background.  It was part of my daily routine to sift through the latest posts and they often times served as fertile ground to come up with something that I wanted to say in response.  During the brief time where I attempted to write a column on the blogging community… I felt like I had to expand my horizons by a large bit and with it my blogroll ballooned up into the 600-700 blog range and became unmanageable.  One of the side projects for this year is to sort all of this out and begin reading on a daily basis again.

Organize my Magic the Gathering Cards

Towards the tail end of 2017 I purchased a bunch of stuff from BCW card supplies with the intent of organizing my Magic the Gathering collection.  This has yet to happen in part because the upstairs is sweltering at the moment due to the cold snap.  That said I want to make sure this actually happens.  I have been playing since 1994 and I have a mishmash of cards spanning through the decades as I picked up a pack here or there for nostalgia purposes.  I want to organize all of these and get these sorted not only by set, but also by card color and rarity.  I got dividers to denote sets and colors, but this is going to be a long process given just how damned many cards I have.  I also have some hard cases for the cards that are more valuable and really should be better protected than a sleeve.

Sort out my Humble Bundle

I have a bad habit of snapping up Humble Bundles when they come out and often times not doing much with them.  One of the goals for the new year is to sort this shit out… consume the keys for the games I do not currently have in steam and try and find homes for the games that are duplicates.  I know there are gamers out there that would love to be playing these games…  I just need to find them a new home.  I did this once upon a time…  and need to spend some time getting my lists up to date.  In theory there might be giveaways or something…  or me just going through steam and looking to see if certain games are owned by my friends.  Whatever the case this is on the list.

Get Back on the Wagon

During 2013 and 2014 I lost a lot of weight and during 2015 it started sneaking its way back on.  Now at this point I have gained back every last bit of it and probably then some.  In truth I have never quite made it back up to my highest weight, but I am up there.  Essentially I need to do something about it for quality of life reasons as much as anything else.  I’m an aging fat man and I need to at least fix some of the things that I can.   I know this involves doing regular exercise and also is going to involve monitoring what I am actually eating as well.  I had a lot of luck with the Lose It app in the past and I will likely return to using it religiously again.  Probably also going to go back to having oatmeal for breakfast…  though I failed completely at that one this morning.  Basically the reality is that I need to do something because I am tired of being as big as I am.  I will never be a small person, nor do I really want to be…  but I want to be a smaller person.  I am not going to set parameters here because I am not even sure what the reality of it is going to look like yet, but I do want to make some changes because I am tired of feeling tired and sore all the time.

 

Cursed Images

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I don’t have a whole lot to say this morning.  It is my first day back to work…  and that is hard enough without having to suddenly have things to talk about on my blog.  I figured I would reshare these photos because I clearly did not creep out enough people over twitter.  One of the things my wife and I enjoy doing is what we call “going junking”.  Now technically we tend to be visiting a bunch of “antique malls” but in truth we are not looking for the high class ones.  Instead we want the ones with weird stuff in them and they rarely disappoint.  First up on the left is a doll that I am absolutely certain has killed someone at some point.  It looks like it is probably possessed and if you take it home will let you star in your own Blumhouse film.  Next up is something that I am guessing someone created while in the deconstructionist phase of a meth high?  I am sure it sounded like a good idea to take apart the lamp and the doll…  but when they came down and tried to put things back together they maybe got something wrong in the process.  The thing is it wouldn’t be anywhere near as creepy if they just left the doll head out of the equation.  It might have even been slightly funny to see a doll with a lampshade for a head… but instead they created a plasticine dullahan.  Lastly is a legitimate product of the 1980s where someone thought it was a good idea to create a bear lamp out.  I am guessing that this is one of those weird castings that pottery stores used to keep around for people to come in, purchase, glaze and then walk out with a pseudo finished product.  My aunt was super into that sort of thing and my family has a lot of porcelain Christmas trees and puffy precious-moments-esc native american dolls as a result.  This however just went south at some point during that process and apparently no one actually realized that punching holes in the doll for light to come through looked like a teddy bear roadkill carcass?  Apologies to everyone with trypophobia that I am apparently going to trigger again, but I figured everyone needed to see this madness.

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Occasionally my trips however yield things that are actually rather cool.  Like these two glass skulls that I found in a junk store in Muskogee.  I would legitimately love to have them, but have no clue what I would actually do with them.  It isn’t like I really have a proper place to display glass skulls and everything in my house is moments away from being knocked off by a bored cat.  Granted my glass mannequin head that I have in my office has survived a tumble from bookcase onto the carpeted floor and I am certain these are equally of sturdy make.  Had I come across them in college I likely would have snapped them up in a heartbeat, but I have reached the point where I realize that 99% of the things that I see in the world that I think are cool…  are probably things I can live without.  Largely it isn’t about denying myself cool stuff, but more that I already have a ton of cool stuff that takes up too much space.  As a result when I snap a photo of something at one of these junk stores, it is me collecting its image rather than having to lug home the actual item.  The trip and the discovery and the memory are the parts that really matter.  Sure we occasionally drag things home, like we stumbled across an amazing pixel art plastic canvas booth at the same place the cursed bear came from.  I walked away with a tiny tardis keyfob that I have on my badge lanyard, and an adorable Ewok and Nintendo controller magnet that I will put up in the cube at work.  Those are small bits of awesome that I can easily fit into my life, but these bigger objects are just harder for find a proper place for.  Half of the fun of these trips is sitting back and trying to figure out what the hell the person who purchased the item in the first place was thinking.  Every object has a story and it is interesting to try and sort out how the thing in front of you ended up where it is now.

Adventures in 4k Panels

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I am getting a super late start this morning because I am still in holiday mode at least until I go back to work tomorrow morning.  Then thankfully I have a short two day week before I get back into holiday mode for a four day weekend.  One of the things that I did over the break was obsess over 4k televisions and drive my wife insane.  We both do this thing when we are researching a purchase, where we slowly shift into a mode where we cannot seem to talk about anything other than the thing we are delving into.  Then at some point the other one is like “just buy the fucking thing already” so we don’t have to think or hear about it anymore.  For me this tends to be technology… and for my wife this tends to be things like cars but regardless we have both had to go through this cycle for the other one.  This time around it was my desire for a better monitor for my PC upstairs.  For the last several years I have used a pair of 23 inch mismatched monitors and a separate television in another area of my office for all of my gaming consoles.  The idea that got planted in my head is…  what if I could use the same “monitor” for both purposes.

What lead me down the path of using a television as a monitor is the pricetag.  Most of the televisions that I looked at were in the 300-400 price range for a 43 inch 4k panel, and the equivalent monitors are 700-1000 with a 200 dollar premium added on if you want G-Sync for your Nvidia video card.  At this point most televisions and monitors are both IPS LCD panels, often times manufactured in the same plants so I wondered how much difference could there possibly be.  The reality is that a Television and a Monitor are serving different purposes and as a result they have mutated into very different beasts.  For the most part a Monitor focuses on precision of making sure that everything on the screen is pixel perfect and has an extremely high refresh rate.  Televisions however are focused on trying to provide a smooth viewing experience and as a result have a bunch of software hacks to try and make the picture look better than it actually is.  All of these things however get in the way of what we want from a gaming display, so as a result I focused on some very specific things.

The first problem with a television is that it has a significant amount of input lag as compared to a monitor.  While this is a stat that is just part of the default specifications block on a monitor, it is nowhere to be seen on a television.  As a result you have to rely on third party sites that have done the testing to determine what the input lag is for a given television.  This will end up producing some really unexpected results.  You would think that all of the televisions in a specific product family would be very similar, but there are a lot of cases where the 40 or 43 inch television in the range has double the input lag of the 50 or 55 inch television.  There are lots of sites out there if you just google “television input lag” but an example of one is RTings.com.  It will take some digging to narrow down which specific site has the test data for the television you are looking at.  Ultimately this narrowed my search down to a few television models.

When you look up the refresh rates for these you see that the LG is 12.7-12 ms depending on mode, the TCL is 14.6-15 ms depending on mode, and the Samsung rounds out the pack as the slowest with 19.8-20 ms input lag.  Now if you compare this to a monitor…  those generally have 5 ms or less input lag.  Basically I wanted to get this as low as possible so immediately I started leaning towards the LG panel.  When you compare price wise…  this fluctuated significantly over the course of the weeks I spent researching this.  At the time of writing this…  you can find very similar prices on each of them…

The Samsung 43 has a MSRP of $379.99 but I could not actually find it being sold anywhere for that.  Best Buy has it for $499.99 currently and Amazon only has it available through third party sellers.   As you can see already…  the deck was sorta stacked in the favor of the LG panel and this only became more so when Target last week was running a deal on Cartwheel that gave an additional 10% off on all televisions which took the pre-tax price down to $297.  We have a bad habit of letting gift cards just sit around unused and we happened to have a stack of smallish target cards like the $5 ones you get from using the cartwheel app.  All total this took the final price that I had to pay out of my pocket down to around $250 post tax.

The next gotcha with these televisions is that they state they can run at 120hz, but the reality is that this is a psuedo “motion rate” that requires you to use some of the interpolation technology while viewing television and movies to actually achieve it.  If you are going to run this as a monitor however you are going to be turning all of this off and running in “Game Mode”.  The reality there is that you can run 4k at 60hz and 1080p at 120hz…  but only if you use the right cable set up, which was my next big challenge.  With a monitor you would be relying on display port cables to get your best picture quality, however none of these televisions have that option.  They instead have HDMI 2.0 which is in theory good enough, but you need to make sure you are using a 4k rated high speed HDMI cable.  I happened to have a display port to HDMI cable laying around, but as it turned out it was not 4k rated.  What ended up happening is that I got a washed out picture and Windows was only able to run the display at 30hz, making it a completely unacceptable experience.

After trying a few cables I had laying around I found a Amazon basics high speed cable that I had ordered some time ago when I hooked up my 8 way HDMI switcher.  This allowed me to get the full 60hz but cased a lot of display issues.  I could have lived with it but all of the text on screen had for lack of a better term… a red glow of about one pixel beyond the text.  After a lot more research the suggestions all pointed to the problem being that the HDMI ports on the back of my Geforce GTX 980 were not capable of pushing that much data without artifacts.  The solution appeared to be getting a highly rated Display Port to HDMI adapter to get the clearest possible signal out of my video card and then again relying on the high speed HDMI cable to finish the transit to the television.  I hooked this all up last night and the results were immediate and breathtaking.  Now I legitimately cannot tell a difference between the 23 inch secondary monitor and the 4k television serving the role of monitor.  For those wanting to go down this same path…  I highly suggest checking out the following parts.

 

 

 

Airing of Grievances

Yesterday I talked a bit about my feelings after watching Last Jedi and how they have actually soured further as time has gone on.  One of the things to know about me and this blog is that I often use it to work through things.  My hope is by getting all of my complaints out of the printed page…  or pixel page in this case I will be able to move past them and reach a point where I start to remember the good more than the bad.  Yesterday I mentioned that today I would be focusing on individual complaints so without further ado…  here comes a bunch of rambling commentary about various points in the movie.  Be warned this is full of spoilers and you should not in any universe read this before you actually watch the movie.  The following are going to be a bunch of loosely connected thoughts I’ve had in thinking about the movie.

  • One of the core themes of the movie is that each of the characters needs to learn something or change in some way.  However the Poe change just falls flat for me.  He is supposed to learn that he shouldn’t be a hot head and his actions end up leading ot the downfall of the resistance.  The problem there is without his actions in the opening scenes of the movie that are looked down on…  the OJ Simpson White Bronco car chase across the galaxy never would have actually started.  He sacrificed forces to bomb the dreadnaught and this was looked down upon by Leia and lead to him getting demoted.  However had they jumped to hyperspace…  the First Order tracked them…  the Dreadnaught would have opened fire and destroyed the capital ship within minutes.  It had a range capable of hitting the planet surface and bombarding it…  and our ship could have not outrun it.  All it needed was one hit for the rebellion to be completely over.  It was his brash actions that ultimately saved the resistance instead of doomed it.  Were there a moment in the movie where a squadron of bombers would have saved the day then maybe just maybe this wouldn’t have come across so hollow and misguided.
  • The timeline of the movie is incomprehensible.  We know that from the moment the slow as hell chase across the galaxy begins they have 18 hours worth of fuel, meaning that almost all of the movie had to be crammed into that 18 hour window.  If you start the clock with the first moment where Poe stalls Hux with the brilliantly extended Yo Mamma joke…  at best you have 19 hours total.  Now if you scan ahead to Rey no time has passed since the closing of Force Awakens.  In that non-existent gap of time we are to believe that both Kylo and Finn are completely healed from near fatal wounds.  Additionally they do this run to Canto Bite and all of the time spent on Acho-To.  All of the interaction with Kylo and Rey, the battle with Snoke…  all happens within 19-20 hours if you are being generous.  That was one fucking busy day and just seems like total nonsense.
  • Admiral Holdo… this character we have never heard of fails to communicate any of her plans and chastises Poe for dooming the resistance essentially.  However her actions and the fact that she failed to communicate them at all…  ended up taking the 400 as Leia states made it out of the base down to enough people to comfortably fit into the Millenium Falcon.  Additionally it is a slap in the face that Admiral Akbar one of the best Republic strategists ends up dying with almost no mention…  and this Admiral Holdo that only exists to be a plot device instead gets to go out like a hero.  Even more frustrating is the fact that from the moment she decided she was going down with the ship I thought surely she was going to ram snokes ship.  Yet instead she waits until almost everyone is dead before she makes her heroic act.  I guess she was told in the script to wait long enough until they were down to only the key characters.
  • Maz Kanata is one of my favorite new characters, but she only exists in this film to be a brief plot device that our characters completely fucking ignore in the long run.  Additionally she apparently has a camera crew with her while she is doing whatever the hell she is doing?  We still don’t know how the hell she got Anakin’s lightsaber from Cloud City and probably never will.  Yet another plot point that the movie does nothing with, but at least in this case Rian thankfully doesn’t prevent someone else from maybe just maybe filling in these details later.
  • Canto Bite is this mission to go in, get the best cracker in the world and get out.  Yet our heros cannot apparently park their ship like any normal person would do at the starport.  They land the ship on the beach, and think this is a good idea.  From this moment onwards everything that happens in Canto Bite could have been avoided were they not complete morons.  Even worse they apparently decide that they trust this random dude that is also in Jail with them that he too is the greatest cracker in the galaxy?  They had a known good player that came with the pedigree of Maz Kanata someone we generally trust, but instead they decided to just casually ignore that.  Of course he is going to fucking betray them…  you met him in a holding cell.  Of course he won’t have any allegiance outside of money…  because you don’t even know him.  Even worse this entire subplot of the movie goes to shit because apparently Evil BB8 can read fucking minds and knows exactly what they are here to do?  At this point the hyperspace tracking tech is barely known…. So at what point does the empire even know that the resistance has a clue?  This is just sloppy as shit and even more annoying that we spend a bunch of time in the movie jumping through hoops to have it not actually make a difference in the end.
  • I grew up with two friends that had pretty horrific stuttering problems and while we are on this Canto Bite shit…  DJ just didn’t work for me.  The moments he was stuttering didn’t seem to be actual moments of anxiety or stress.  I am by no means an expert just after spending years growing up with two friends who did stutter, I knew when they were going to do it before they actually did based on the situation and based on their demeanor beforehand.  Mostly it just annoyed me and felt fake.
  • Luke on the Island – Mostly I am not a fan of watching one of my childhood heroes turned into a grumpy old man who is just wrong all the time.  I hated the whole tossing of the lightsaber but I can get over that.  It just annoys me that he isn’t even testing Reys patience like Yoda did his…  he is simply trying to run away from someone who obviously went a long ways to find him.  The moment he heard the words “Leia needs you” that should have triggered something in him, that never really did until it was too late.  This is not the same Luke we knew before apart from the fact that he is still a whiny assed farmboy.
  • Mary Poppins Leia – For the most part I am okay with this.  I’ve always wanted to see Leia use the force, but I just think this scene was a lame one.  It looked goofy to see her flying across space.  One of the things I wanted from this film was to watch Leia do something badass with the force and this didn’t really feel badass.  I would have loved for her to break out Bastila Shan style force meditation…  even if it was a lesser version and be actively protecting the forces from the command ship while they were in battle.  I would have loved to have seen her use what seemed like a force ring in any way.  Maybe that was what allowed her to pull herself to the ship?  I am not a huge fan of the scene but overall I can be okay with it because it did at least make good on the promise of her using her force abilities just once.
  • While on the topic of Leia…  she should have died.  We knew going into this movie that we no longer have Carrie Fisher, and because I loved her…  she needed a proper ending.  They have already stated that they do not have any footage with her for episode nine and that they do not plan on doing a CGI version of her like they did for Rogue One.  So what is ultimately going to happen is that she is going to die in the opening crawl of the next movie… off screen in a pretty shitty manner.  I fully expect her death to be one of the catalysts of events leading into that movie.  I just keep thinking that they could have done some editing chicanery and given her a proper send off on screen like she deserves rather than forcing the next set of writers to shim her into the margins as an event that happened in the time between.
  • While we are on the topic of deaths…  Finn should have died as well.  We have this character arc with Finn where he is always trying to run away even if he is running to something.  He is never in the moment, never willing to double down for a cause.  Instead he does exactly this in the movie…  as he refuses to break off the attack on the battering ram canon.  It would have been such an amazing moment if he would have driven that speeder up into the canon and it exploded buying the resistance more time.  Instead Rose who I absolutely love and is a great character…  decides to swerve into him and knock his speeder off course.  Then apparently Finn casually drags her to safety while there is a whole army of troops waiting outside?  This is another one of those plot twists for the sake of making a plot twist and it just plays as shitty.  Finn had a nice clean arc and would have gone out in an amazing way…  but apparently surprise bullshit was more important.
  • Snoke…  who the fuck is Snoke?  You have set up this Villian only to sloppily throw him away in the same manner you did Darth Maul.  Thankfully Darth Maul got his comeuppance with the Star Wars Rebels series… but that isn’t going to happen with Snoke because we saw his dead decaying complexion ass laying there on the floor with his tongue out to even drill the point in harder.  This just feels like a slap in the face to everyone who spend the last two years trying to figure out how he fits into the larger tapestry of the galaxy.  He has to have some connection to the emperor and empire, but this is another thing that Rian decided wasn’t important and just lazily discarded.  I am hoping we at least get a Snoke series of comics or something like that to fill in the pieces.
  • Who the fuck are the Knights of Ren?  We know they exist… we saw them in a flashback in Force Awakens.  We can surmise that these are the students that left with Kylo when he burnt down the temple.  We know jack and shit about them.  Were they the Praetorian Guard?  Did they wash out and get killed off by Kylo as Snoke pitted disciples against each other trying to force breed the strongest force user?  We know nothing and apparently it isn’t important because reasons.  This is frustrating beyond words that not only do we not know anything, but after the events of Last Jedi I am completely disillusioned that we ever will.  Apparently burning down Star Wars from orbit is the hip and trendy thing to do.  
  • Rey’s Parents – I’ve mostly come to terms with this one and can be okay with Rey just being a spontaneous upwelling in the force.  This only feels horrible because the movie took a giant shat on anything else anyone had ever theorycrafted since Force Awakens.  The thing is there were thousands of Jedi at one point, and very few of them actually came from fable lineages, so it makes perfect sense for Rey to be like she is.  Only addressing this because its a point a lot of people have in frustration with this film, but I am largely cool with it.
  • Everything is worse and no progress is made.  Basically this movie is two and a half hours of spinning wheels and doing things that end up not mattering at all in the end.  Sure Empire Strikes back ended on a massive down note, but at least there was a clear call to action for what was going to have to happen in Return of the Jedi.  Rescue Han, Complete Luke’s Training and Defeat Vader.  After this two plus hour long slog…  I have nothing to go on.  You could tell me that the FIrst Order is just about to build a new Starkiller base and I would believe you because I have nothing to go on.  You could tell me that Rey is going to fight Kylo over a volcano and leave him charred on the beach like an idiot to only return as a space robot man…  and I would have no cause to not believe you.  This movie nuked everything from orbit like I said yesterday… and gives us absolutely nothing in return.  Fuck you could tell me that they find some clone tubes in a rebel base and decide to clone that Millenium Falcon’s worth of rebels to make an army of scrappy would be heroes and at this point I still have nothing to really prove you against that.  Rian Johnson is a 80s mom who decided to throw out their kids kenner Star Wars figures collection because they were inconvenient and gathering dust and it feels just that shitty.  I love the new cast of characters, and I feel like they deserved a better movie.  I love the original characters and they sure as fucking shit deserved a better movie.  There should have been a happy medium that honored the past and let the future shine, but instead I got this and now have to come to terms with how much it feels like a betrayal of my hopes and dreams.

 

Squandered Lore

This morning I am getting a little bit of a late start to doing the whole morning thing, because I am in full vacation mode starting today.  Sometimes I just skip blogging altogether, but given how many days in a row I will be on vacation I figured I probably needed to at least make an effort.  Sometimes in the course of this blog I have to post something more for my own sake rather than actually informing or entertaining.  This is one of those mornings.  Last week the Last Jedi was released and it signaled the next chapter in the Star Wars storyline.  You have to understand I have a very special bond with this franchise.  I was roughly two years old when I saw the first one and left the theater talking about “Darfa Bader” and wanting everything in my life to be Star Wars themed.  

The Kenner action figures only served to cement this franchise even harder in my brain and at this point I find it very difficult to unravel the movies, the comics, the expanded universe novels, and eventual animated shows and the video games.  They all combine together in my head into this amalgam I know as Star Wars.  So it was a completely foregone conclusion that I would see Last Jedi.  The prequels taxed my love of the franchise but my devotion was rewarded as Force Awakens and Rogue One brought back that passion with a burning fury.  I felt extremely confident that Star Wars was in good hands as we entered this new era and new set of characters.  The legacy of Star Wars seemed safe and good…  so when I stumbled out of the theater at midnight on opening Thursday I was somewhat shocked and confused that I wasn’t feeling the same rush of elation that I did with the first two “modern” movies.

As time passed little frustrations started to worm their way into my brain, and when I watched it again last Saturday with my wife…  those frustrations reached a crescendo.  She turned to me as we were walking out of the theater and asked if it was just her… or if I also didn’t think it was as good as Force Awakens or Rogue One.  I remember feeling like the movie dragged a bit on opening night, but I mostly equated that to the fact that I was up past my normal bed time.  However watching it as a Saturday afternoon matinee, it seemed even longer.  Basically the frustrations had settled into distaste…  which only became compounded as I realized…  I was not feeling the same love and passion that a lot of my friends seemed to be.  I’ve had two kinds of conversations over the last several days, the first is real life friends coming to me with a concerned look on their face and asking if I took didn’t think the movie was that good.  The second are mostly online friends trying to somehow make me understand just how precious and magical the movie is by constantly linking me articles that they thought were a “good read”.

The thing is…  I get why the people that love this movie think that it is such a liberating and “brave” experiment.  The problem is I just simply disagree with all of the points that these friends and articles and youtube videos and thought pieces seem to think are so perfect.  What they watched was a life changing experience, and what I watched was a movie that squandered everything that could have been for the sake of being purposefully contrarian.  What I watched was a movie that nuked everything from orbit to create a blank slate, and in doing so washed away everything that kept me going from movie to movie.  Star Wars for me has always been this rich tapestry of mythology and religion and fable.  The thing that always kept me engaged was trying to solve the puzzles left in the universe and figure out how they would ultimately change the future of the franchise.  This movie grabbed a bullhorn and screamed at me that those puzzles and bits of lore that I had been hanging onto no longer matter.

This morning’s post took a very different turn than I had intended.  I originally had planned on doing a full on spoilery discussion about each and every thing that bugs the hell out of me about this movie, and instead this ended up as a fairly non-spoiler narrative about my feelings.  Tomorrow more than likely I will do the Festivus style airing of grievances…  this is hilarious considering Saturday actually is Festivus.  I’ve spent the week listening to folks as they tried desperately to explain to me why I should love this movie, and quite frankly each time someone sets off on another well intentioned attempt to educate me…  it just makes me dislike the movie even more.  In truth I don’t hate the Last Jedi, I just don’t think it is anywhere near as good of a movie as it could have been.  There are moments I love in that movie that I would never trade for the world, but there are so many little details that just overwhelm that good will.  Tomorrow I will get into it, but for today I just needed to do a little blog therapy and get this post out of my brain.

Rogue Tanks

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Yesterday another big update happened to Destiny 2 that added Masterwork level weapons.  These are special versions of the existing legendaries that include a single stat boost and the ability for the weapon to generate orbs of light.  In theory these can come from anything that rewards legendaries already, but after spending down my stock of tokens I did not actually see any.  Granted I have not actually started doing my weekly powerful engram grind activities, so I might wind up with one through that system.  That said I think the more important update is the fact that every vendor sells a full set of their unique set of armor that unlocks as you turn in packages.  Additionally they have one weapon for sale that is available for a combination of legendary shards and faction tokens.  This means that eventually there will be a week where Lord Shaxx sells the Better Devils or Zavala here sells the Curtain Call.  Basically this is another way of mitigating bad luck in the RNG systems, and I for one am super happy to see it.  I love package loot but it can be frustrating when you keep turning them in and never get the item you are actually after.  Additionally this can generate buzz for players to go back into the game when there is a week with a really great item up for sale.

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Unfortunately I did not spend much time in Destiny 2 last night because I started the evening in World of Warcraft.  By the time I finished doing the few World Quests that had interesting rewards my friend Cuppy popped online and we decided to run a bunch of heroics together.  Heroics always felt easier than they probably should be, but at the way the power levels are now…  they are insanely easy.  For the first Heroic we opted to run Eye of Azshara where a rogue ran off from the group and solo’d more content than the rest of us managed to kill.  He killed the first boss before we could even get to it.  In the second dungeon I am pretty sure it look less than five minutes to do a full clear, and by the time we finally landed on Blackrook and Darkheart Thicket…  we got something resembling a reasonable group and still had zero issue pulling multiple packs and burning things down.  It was one insanely fun night and once again…  zero drama.  All of the groups were chill and once I figured out I had to use /I instead of /P we actually had a lot of people responding and being rather friendly. I guess I need to run some content Alliance side to see if this really is a difference between the factions or if everyone has just reached a point where they are no longer asshats?  Additionally as is usually the case with my blog… as soon as I complain about something karma steps in to invalidate my comments.  Last night I not only picked up a Trinket, but also got the rest of the relic slots that I had been missing.  As a result that takes my overall gear level to 874 which isn’t too shabby for dinging halfway through Sunday.

Patreon and Awards

Just a fair warning…  this morning I am going to jump around between topics like mad because god knows why.

Game Awards

Since Xur no longer comes at a time when it is reasonable for me to post a blurb about him on Fridays, I am left without a clearly defined purpose for what I should be posting.  Last night was as I mentioned yesterday a bit odd because I wound up going with people to see The Disaster Artist.  I swear if that movie is not decorated with at least a few awards during the upcoming awards show season, it will be a complete travesty.  By the time I got home and settled in The Game Awards were already in full swing but I tuned in for the tail end… only to watch Horizon Zero Dawn get completely robbed by everything else and walk away I believe with zero awards.  We’ve talked about this problem a lot on AggroChat that 2017 was a year that just had too many amazing games.  This hurts from an awards prospect but also from a financial prospect given that each player has a finite amount of money to spend on gaming and probably couldn’t do ALL of them in the same year.  I know personally there are a bunch of games that I picked up but have not actually started, in part because I wanted to assist the financial success of the title…  but have lacked the time to devote to them.  Ultimately that is the real tragedy of this year as far as gaming goes…  we had too many awesome things to play and not nearly enough time to play them.

As far as games that were shown off…  Death Stranding still seems completely incomprehensible.  At this point we have seen three trailers and none of them really help to flesh out what the hell is going on…  something to do with naked Norman Reedus, creepy Babies, and the alien black oil from X-Files.  New game that is now on my Radar that I didn’t know about before…  is Witchfire which unfortunately is getting labelled soulsian because everything apparently has to be soulsian now?  It name checks Painkiller in the trailer and that is precisely what it reminded me of.  I can only hope that it also has the same sort of gameplay as Painkiller did, because that game did something unique that shooters just don’t do.  You would have a flurry of activity and mindless mayhem…  and then a moment of calm until you moved up to the next area through a tangible series of gates.  Another thing that people seem to be super excited about is Bayonetta 1, 2 and ultimately 3 coming to the Switch.  I’ve never played a Bayonetta game nor really know anything about them other than the main character being nonsense and not exactly the sort of character that draws me in personally.  Perhaps in the near future I should change this and try out the series especially now that it is available on the PC.

Patreon

Another thing I sort of wanted to talk about is the Patreon change.  Ultimately I get the why of how they ended up going down this avenue, and I am sure someone thought this was a hugely positive change.  From the aspect of supporting a creator it absolutely is because they will wind up getting more of the face value of your donation.  However messaging wise and the feeling right now that everyone is attempting to nickel and dime us with micro-transactions…  there is a lot of push back happening.  Functionally there are two truths about online payments…  firstly that the processing company is going to take a transactional chunk of every fee.  This has nothing to with Patreon and everything to do with them needing to offset the liability of handling financial transactions to a third party company that does literally nothing but this.  Its nothing new to Patreon and just the way online payments work, so that is part one that is becoming transparent now and the cost is being passed on to the supporter instead of being taken out of the creators cut.  The second piece is that every online service needs to charge something for their time in order to support the growth of the platform and the employees that the company needs in order to keep things up and running so to speak.  Once again this was a feel that used to be obfuscated to the donors and just taken out on the back end from the money paid to the creator.  So ultimately more of your money goes to the creators…  but it also means that you are having to pay more money out of your pocket.  I think of this along the same lines as that ever present $2-3 ATM fee that you just sorta grit your teeth and deal with because if you could actually get to a bank during the painfully limited operating window you would instead of harassing a machine in the back corner of a convenience store.

The problem is that we are wired to think of things in certain patterns and it was very clean to say that you wanted to give a dollar a month to support someone.  It felt like you were helping but at the same time felt like such a minuscule amount  of money that you would never end up missing it.  When you start tacking additional cents onto the end of that for some reason it feels like more…  even though once again it is still a tiny amount of money in the grand scheme of things.  However it gives you just enough pause to think about the transaction instead of handing off your dollar happily in the process.  Now the positive is as far as I understand it… these fees are for the transaction itself…  not for the individual donation.  So if you give a dollar a month to a dozen people…  then you get a single transactional charge on your $12 instead of a bunch of individual fees because Patreon is extracting all of that funding from your account at the same time.  You still end up having to pay a cut to Patreon but giving more than one donation at once tends to blunt the blow…  which is ultimately what their advisement was trying to say.  However it was worded so poorly to make it sound like they were ultimately going to phase out the $1 donations.  I got what they were saying… but I also got that the way they were saying it felt shitty.  As a result I seeing a report of a mass exodus of those $1 supporters that end up slowly adding up to a lot of money for several folks.

I have a mixed relationship with Patreon because I waffle back and forth regarding what I think about it.  There are times where I think it is this great business model and ultimately helps fill the gap between the other monetization vehicles that are available for independent creators out there.  There are times I feel like it is the equivalent of internet panhandling and lump it in with all of the insane gofundme campaigns you end up seeing.  All of the time it really depends on whether or not I value what is being created…  and as a result I try really hard to keep that second reaction in check as a result because I realize my personal preference should not be dictated to everyone.  I’ve even kicked around the notion of starting a Patreon myself, but always stop short of doing so because is it really worth the effort?  I do not realistically believe that I could ever do “this” for a living, because I am too used to the stable salary of a developer and manager.  However there are times I think that it would be amazing for all of this to fund itself…  that the blog and podcast and all of the expenses that go with it could somehow make enough money to be “fiscally neutral”.  The problem is the second you enter into any sort of additional money coming in separate from your traditional W-2 employer process…  you are setting yourself up for a world of Tax time hassle.  Right now I figure I would maybe get three to five dollars a month pledged because folks did so out of some weird sense of obligation and then for that extra $50-60 a year it would cause me more headache than it would be worth.  I used to do a significant amount of 1099 contract development work and at that point I had a whole system of extra bank accounts to handle filtering off what I thought would be my tax liability and keeping it out of the main stream of money so I simply forgot about it being there until Tax time.  That is not a world I am willing to enter back into lightly.  So as a result there is still no “Aggronaut” themed Patreon, nor is there any monetization turned on with YouTube…  because in both cases it crosses a line that is hard to uncross.

MMO Blogging Dead?

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One of the things I have failed miserably at lately is keeping up with my blog feed.  During the heyday of Google Reader I was a voracious consumer of gaming blogs of all stripe, and regularly read through everything in my backlog of posts.  Stuff happened and my attempt to expand my horizons when I was writing a column on the blogosphere saw my feed ballooning to some 700 sites…  a good number of them posting about things that never really interested me on a personal level.  As a result I find myself spending less time reading blog posts and tend to catch up in a flurry of reading on the weekends.  That said I did end up doing a strafing run on Feedly yesterday afternoon and stumbled across a post from Tobold posing the question of whether or not the MMO Blogosphere is still alive.  The short answer is yes, the community is still very much alive.  The long answer however is a lot more complicated.  While there are still a ton of active people that I see when I catch up on my feed, there are also a lot of names and faces that I have not really seen much from in years.  There has been a changing of the guards and I feel like maybe I have done a poor job of catching up with who is leaving the community and who is brand new.  Additionally the “community” aspect is a little on the ropes.  We didn’t have a Newbie Blogger Initiative this year nor did I do anything with Blaugust…  two previously big events that pulled people in.  We barely had a Developer Appreciate Week… and only then because Ravalation was determined to make sure it happened.  I’ve personally failed miserably this year at attempting any sort of outreach into the community because 2017 has been a time when literally all I can seem to manage to do is attempt to keep one foot moving in front of the other.

The other big change I have noticed is we no longer have the big MMORPG game looming on the horizon that we are all interested in playing.  The community as a whole is way more fragmented in their tastes.  In the run up to World of Warcraft expansions, Star Wars the Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, Wildstar or even as far back as Warhammer Online there was a community upsurge of blog sites that sprung up as players attempted to mitigate their hype levels by pouring that excess energy into post form.  That is just a thing that doesn’t really happen these days as the traditional MMORPG outside of South Korean doesn’t appear to be a viable business model that big studios are really releasing these days.  Instead we have the MMO-lite games that have some online interaction capabilities like The Division or Destiny but lack some of the rich imaginative landscape that us bloggers used to feast upon.  Essentially when we started playing MMORPGs it was a novel concept and gave us a sort of interaction that we could not get in any other game.  Now that same concept of being online and playing with a bunch of your friends while working on some long term achievement is no longer really something special… and instead describes almost all of the games on the market right now.  Almost every game has RP elements that allow you to customize or build your character, and almost every game now has an online presence often with some sort of persistent progression system.  MMORPGs no longer really offer something unique that you cannot get in dozens of other places…  that also don’t require the level of community to support them.  The games have changed and with that the amount of effort and time they ask of us… or at the very least the sort of skills that they require.  While I can wax philosophically about the differences between two guns and the way they fire in Destiny 2…  that isn’t exactly something more players even care about.

Lastly I think the players and their habits have changed.  When I started playing Destiny at launch back in 2014, one of my big frustrations was how there were no blogs really dedicated to the game.  Instead that community exists as a combination of Reddit posts and YouTube videos that you then need to somehow knit together to get an overarching picture of what is actually happening.  I wish I could say that this phenomena is unique to Destiny, but it seems more often than not the newer games don’t really have much in the way of a blogosphere presence.  In some ways I think we are aging out of blogs being a relevant experience.  While I have never actually had the “thousands of vistors per day” that Tobold talks about in his post unless some major news site picks up one of my posts…  I’ve had a steady trickle that has stayed pretty stable through the almost nine years I have been blogging.  In honesty my daily readership comes and goes based on what I happen to be posting about.  Each time on get on a Destiny bender, the folks who just do not care about that tend to disappear.  When I pick back up a game they are interested in…  they tend to come back.  Most of our blogs were started during the most fertile period of MMORPG releases to exist… and with that ground turning fallow we are left to turn to other interests.  My blog started as a World of Warcraft Warrior Tanking blog…  with a super narrow focus and over the years has shifted over and over again until finally I don’t really have a “format”.  This blog is me and my ramblings and if you aren’t interested in that you aren’t likely going to be here very long.  I’ve seen many other bloggers shifting to the same sort of thing, and while I personally care about their lives and their opinions…  it makes our blogs harder to digest for those who have not been along for the full journey.