Monthly Archives: October 2012

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, I’m A Halloween Kid

Standard

Today is Halloween, and officially marks the first of 25 years in which I have not dressed up or handled candy (whether giving or receiving, and yes, I know that sounds dirty, and I have no regrets).  Instead, I am limited to wearing my Hello Kitty Halloween shirt and doing my special Halloween dance which comes with an original Halloween song that goes as follows:

IT IS HALLOWEEN
IT IS HALLOWEEN
IT IS HALLOWEEN
candy

I performed this for The Boyfriend this morning.  I don’t think he fully appreciated it because he just kind of stared at me flailing about on the lawn and shrieking out the chorus at the top of my lungs and told me to get in the car.  Maybe it’s the lyrical minimalism that doesn’t appeal to him, or the lack of pulsing synths.  At any rate, I expect the death metal remix to be released within the next year.

Somewhere along the lines it became a rule that if you’re over the age of 12 you’re not allowed to costume up and beg strangers for candy.  There is another rule that says if you are any age ending in -teen you are supposed to go around the neighborhood wearing “ironic” T-shirts that say things like “This Is My Halloween Costume” because you’re so sarcastic and edgy, man, I’m totes jelly and want to hang with you and listen to Fall Out Boy.  The final rule is that once you reach drinking age, you get to wear the same costumes you did as a kid but with the addition of the adjective “sexy” and down jello shots until you vomit your liver out of your eyeballs.  Though I am indeed at least of drinking age, this last one is sadly out of reach for me, due to the fact that mixing alcohol and my anti-convulsant meds will, to paraphrase my doctor, “straight up kill [my] ass.”

All of these rules suck.  I can understand not wanting to reward people for having shitty costumes, especially adults who should have the fine motor skills by this point to put together something even mildly acceptable, but what about those of us who actually put stupid amounts of effort into it?  “But you have conventions to cosplay at now,” the anti-grownup-Halloween fascists will declare.  This is very true, and very enjoyable, in fact, except for one very important thing: the complete lack of candy as a reward for walking around in weird clothes all night.  Halloween at its core is the one night of the year when the awkward nerd kids like myself can finally shine.  What’s that?  You threw a sheet over your head and you’re a ghost?  That’s precious.  Me?  I’m a screen-accurate Princess Leia, bitch.  And this is my real hair that I grew out all year so I could put it in the proper diameter buns ESPECIALLY FOR HALLOWEEN.

But even worse than this is the fact that opportunities for anyone to trick-or-treat the old fashioned way are disappearing faster than ever.  Walking door-to-door has been replaced by a Trunk or Treat abomination in many locations, where children are taught that it’s totally cool to get into a stranger’s car if they have candy, and also told that the mere act of accepting candy has condemned their souls to burn in Hell for eternity (totally worth it for the candy corn alone).  This is something I never understood, by the way.  If Halloween is supposedly blasphemous and evil, then by corralling all of the neighborhood kids into your church parking lot and/or handing out those stupid Chicktracts to either save our souls or scar us for life — I was never sure which of those was their ultimate goal, I mean, sweet mortal Jesus, what better way to celebrate any holiday than a terminally ill child and watching your friend die in the middle of the street — aren’t you still celebrating it yourselves, regardless of intent?  It can’t even be argued that it’s permissible because it’s “for a good cause” when you consider that kids eschewing candy in favor of collecting pennies for UNICEF are apparently still going straight to the lake of fire.  What kind of message does that send?  “Love thy neighbor, kids, except on Halloween, otherwise you’re going to spontaneously combust and get face-humped by Satan. ”

Then there’s the trick-or-treating events at shopping centers and malls across the country, which seem anti-climactic to me if not for the fact that if I want to watch a bunch of kids dressed weird while they walk around at the mall, all I have to do is camp out in front of Hot Topic for a few hours (if you overprice it and add a fake vintage wash, they will come).  I understand that we’re trying to make Halloween safer for kids to make sure that nobody gets poisoned or eats a razorblade-infested apple, though handing out apples at Halloween is in itself a severe offense punishable by a thorough TP-ing of the house after everyone goes to sleep, but then I remember that oops, all those supposed cases of poisoned candy from strangers were utter bullshit and the small number of needle-hidden-in-candy incidents that have occurred were so minor that nobody even needed medical attention, let alone died from it.  In fact, most cases of non-accidental child poisonings can be traced back to the freaking parents.  Which makes sense, I guess, since they need to keep up the ruse somehow in order to continually allow themselves to steal the best pieces of candy out of their kids’ haul under the pretense of “this one looks slightly unwrapped.”

Yeah, mom.  It took me 20 years, but I finally figured out your game.  That candy was perfectly fine, you just wanted all the Milky Ways to yourself and disguised it as caring for my health and well-being.  That being said, it is a brilliant scheme and I totally look forward to sending my future children out to collect candy so that I can pick through it and “save” their lives.

The reason these sterilized versions of Halloween bother me so much is because it removes the thrill of the hunt that I felt as a kid.  Halloween was the most important holiday of all to mini-overlord — additionally, the most awesome part is that being a Jew means I get two Halloweens (scroll down to #4 and remember that I feed on your envious tears) — meaning that costuming and even being able to participate in the festivities was the most serious of business.  The amount of candy you received was directly proportionate to how awesome your costume was and how cute you were when you reached the door.  I’ve trick-or-treated while deathly ill.  When I was two, my parents asked me if I needed to use the restroom before we got started.  I lied and said no.  Then I peed myself in the driveway because going to the bathroom would have delayed trick-or-treating and meant I’d have to shave at least two houses off of my route.  That’s dedication right there.  You just don’t get that kind of excitement and determination when you know that the amount of candy you get has been predetermined and is exactly the same as the kid in the shitty robot costume made out of unpainted cardboard boxes.  You don’t get to frolic among fake tombstones and motion-activated plastic skeletons hanging from the neighbor’s porch and pretend you’re a super-brave explorer of haunted houses.  You don’t get to carefully plan your route with your trick-or-treating buddies, you don’t get to go to the rich neighborhoods where they hand out the whole candy bars instead of that fun-sized crap… it’s soulless, and it kills me to think that by the time my future children are catapulted out of my lady regions, this is all that will remain for them.  We are leaving them a ruined kingdom, the smoldering ashes of what Halloween once was.

But I guarantee you that much like cockroaches after the apocalypse, those black and orange-wrapped taste abortions will still be around.  Seriously, who actually likes those, besides old people who lived through the Great Depression and had no choice but to like them or else starve to death?  Did you know they’re actually supposed to be PEANUT BUTTER FLAVORED?  Whoever invented them has clearly never tasted peanut butter in their lives.  At least the next generation will still know the disappointment that comes with finding half of their treat bucket lined with the damned things.

I understand that a lot of people will probably read this and think I’m obsessive or immature.  To this I say “yes.”  But then, if you haven’t figured that out by now, there’s really not much hope for you.

Advertisements

And Now For Something Completely Different (That Will Only Cost You Like $1)

Standard

Is it tacky to ask for donations three posts in?  Really?  Well shit, then I’m the queen of the trailer park.

In an effort to really kick my writing ability into overdrive, I signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo.  If you’re new to this whole internet thing or have just been focusing all of your attentions on steamy Harry Potter fanfiction, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel-Writing Month.  From November 1st through the 30th, the insane(ly talented) people who sign up for this will be cranking out what should amount to a 50,000-word novel.  That works out to a target of about 1,667 words per day to finish on time.

The really cool thing about NaNoWriMo is that it’s run by this not-for-profit organization called The Office of Letters and Light.  OLL’s goal is to bring free writing workshops to children and adults all across the world to, as they put it, engage in “ambitious acts of the imagination.”  They even offer free teaching materials to educators to promote creativity in the classroom.

Some of you may be saying now “but they’re not feeding the hungry or saving puppies, why should I give them my precious monies?”  Several reasons, actually:

  • Jersey Shore
  • Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo
  • American Idol
  • Keeping Up With the Kardashians
  • Jerry Springer Okay, you know what, to be fair, coming up with that shit DOES take a fair amount of imagination.

The point remains that kids nowadays have been woefully robbed of anything requiring them to use their tiny little candy-eating brains (in that they themselves eat candy, not that their brains do because that would just be weird).  They’ve grown up with Facebook and Twitter and awful reality TV shows that have not only destroyed their attention spans, but killed their ability to imagine and create.  I heard a six-year-old complaining once that she was “too old” to play dress-up and I think a part of my soul died a little bit, mostly because from time to time I still put on a tiara and pretend to be a Pretty, Pretty Princess and I do not regret admitting that to the entire internet and possible future employers even the slightest bit.

This is why if you look at my NaNoWriMo profile you’ll see that I’ve got a sponsorship link listed.  NaNoWriMo has teamed up with the fundraising website StayClassy to try and gather up some benjamins (I promise to never use that term again) to keep bringing these free writing workshops to people on a global scale.  Apparently these things cost money, and since they aren’t greedy jerks who pocket it themselves, they need your help to make sure that atrocities like 19 Kids and Counting never happen again.  If we don’t step in and teach this current generation that they need to actually, you know, use their imaginations, our future will be a very bleak and insipid one, indeed.  You can donate any amount, even just $1, and it will bring me closer to my rather reasonable goal of $250.

As a special bonus, when I do get my novel, Observe, published, if you donate any amount, I will include your name on the Acknowledgements page so that everyone can see what a badass you are, assuming your name isn’t Dick Penis McVaginerson or something, in which case you’ve got to donate at least $50.  You will also have the undying love of a short, angry Jew, and you never know when that might come in handy, like when zombie Jesus returns and somebody needs to put his ass down again.

To help out, just clickie here for my fundraising page.  Let friends and family know, share this post, retweet it, link it on the Book of Faces, or otherwise help spread the word.  If you don’t choose to donate through my page, there are lots of other people doing the same thing, too.  The money all goes to the same awesome cause, and none of us are getting a cut of the proceeds, so in case you hate my face or something you can still redeem yourself!

And of course… thank you!
 

Cross-Realm Zones: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

Standard

All the way back in patch 3.3.0, World of Warcraft introduced a nifty little piece of gaming wizardry known as the Cross-Server Dungeon Finder tool.  Before its introduction, players looking to run dungeons were forced to stand in various capital cities and sending out the once-ubiquitous cry of “LFM {dungeon name here}, need tank and heals, PST” until either the group was filled or they gave up — in the case of lower-level players, it was typically the latter while looking for runs of earlier game content that most other players on the server had already completed.  Eventually this tool was expanded to cover raids, PvP battlegrounds, and holiday world event bosses.  The overall item level of gear currently equipped by players in the queue is taken into account, locking undergeared players out of more advanced content to ensure that nobody gets the proverbial free lunch, and class composition is nicely varied.  Players who either leave or are kicked from the group are easily replaced by another of the same role in the multi-server queue.  Because of this newfound ease in assembly, queue wait times for even the earliest of instances are often negligible; the number of players looking to run instanced content has grown by leaps and bounds as a direct result of this tool’s implementation.

Because of this, I earnestly believe that Blizzard meant well in patch 5.0.4 when they introduced Cross-Realm Zones (hereafter referred to as CRZ because I am exceedingly lazy and words, man, just… words).  After all, if opening up instanced content to multiple servers within a battlegroup made such a positive difference in gameplay, surely doing the same with questing zones would mean double the success, right?  Said Satan himself, apparently.

I’d like to take a moment to apologize in advance to whoever it was that is responsible for birthing the abomination known as CRZ.  At its very core is a truly remarkable piece of code that required an insane amount of ability to create, which is highly appropriate because I’m pretty sure that they were insane to think that this would be anything but the Rosemary’s Baby of WoW.  Regardless, I know I certainly couldn’t have written something as involved and technologically impressive as this, and for that reason alone, I would like to let this unnamed talent know that despite the fact that I will be alternately referring to him or her as Satan, a potential sadomasochist, and the Sha of Misery, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them and their work.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to point out that if CRZ was a fairytale, the moral of the story would be “just because we have the technology, doesn’t mean we should use it.”  For other examples of this, we can look to Japan’s lifelike sex helper robots, their not-so-lifelike sex helper robots, and, letting poor Nippon escape mostly unscathed for the moment, Daikatana.

Okay, so maybe that last one was too harsh of a comparison.  I’m sorry, unnamed code monkey.  I didn’t mean to lash out at you like that, but sometimes you just make me so angry.  Why do you make me hurt you?  Why?

The intention of CRZ was to make it easier for players to interact with each other and share their gaming experience, whether that be while questing, roleplaying, or having hot sexes chats in the Deeprun Tram.  Before elite quest mobs were hit with the nerf bat in defense and damage output, in the days when named “boss” mobs only gave credit to the first player to tap them, this would have been an absolute godsend.  Nowadays, however, these group quests have been largely phased out; I could probably count the number of quests requiring 3+ players on both hands, which, when compared to the astonishing total number of quests in the game, is a drop in the ocean.  The more major group quests still in existence, such as the Ampitheater of Anguish and the Crucible of Carnage could easily be integrated into the Dungeon Finder, much as they were in the LFG tool that it replaced.  The reality of CRZ is that questing areas are now too overpopulated to be efficient, rare battle pets are less rare and more unobtainable, and hunters trying to train special pets are often left out in the cold, especially on already high-population servers.  Given its relative uselessness at the current time — Blizzard could always surprise us in the future with some epic addition that would make it a necessity — and the level of infuriation it causes, regardless of how impressive a piece of code it may be, CRZ has sadly been outdated since its inception.

In compiling a list of legitimate arguments against CRZ, however, I feel it important to note that I cannot, in good conscience, include the several minor bugs that have sprung up with its introduction.  Because this feature is still relatively new and so wide in scope, it is unreasonable to expect it to be 100% flawless straight out of the gate.  Even with rigorous QA and beta-testing, not all variables can be accounted for, as this is all done in a relatively “closed” environment.  Until it is released to the general player base (and thus to an infinite number of possible scenarios), it is impossible to find and remove every last bug, although the major ones that affect gameplay are usually worked out long before then.  I would, however, like to address a particularly soul-crushing moment when, after hours of camping out Shatter Scar Vale in Felwood to try and get a Minfernal of my very own, I left for a short time to take care of some things in Orgrimmar and then flew back to Whisperwind Grove.  This flight path takes players directly over Shatter Scar Vale, and as I flew over it myself, the minimap absolutely lit up with battle pet spawns for the elusive Minfernal.  As soon as I landed I ran over to get one and found that once CRZ had kicked in upon landing, I was no longer seeing my “home” server’s plentiful spawns, and instead was faced with an empty spawning location.  I’m sure that I’m not the only player to experience such a disappointment, but it still strengthened my distaste for the entire CRZ system.

As I mentioned previously, the influx of non-native players into our collective faces has made the simple act of questing a major annoyance.  Non-named mobs required to complete quest objectives are often camped into oblivion, leading many players to exhibit some less-than-desirable behavior, such as kill-stealing and running ahead to grab an item when another player is in the process of clearing mobs away from it.  I’m not sure what the technical term for that is, but I usually call it “extreme dickery.”  It is understandable, though; when it takes so long to complete a simple quest, especially when it comes to dailies (which are some of the most painful quests to complete now as a direct result of too much CRZ and not enough spawns… looking at you, Fatty Goatsteak), many players simply feel a certain sense of desperation and desire to just get things done and get the Hell out of Dodge.  Blizzard currently appears to have been going on a small campaign to promote politeness and helpfulness among its players, but this Douchebag Effect arising from the overpopulation caused by CRZ flies directly in the face of it.   There is also an overall feeling of invasion, that these players showing up from other servers are intruding and encroaching on the game’s experience.  I, myself, enjoy yelling “GET OFF MAH LAWWWWWWWN” from time to time when I see a player from another realm.  It doesn’t really accomplish much, but it’s a great way to get out some of the frustration.

In my previous post I promised that I would not blindly criticize elements of the game without offering real, thought-out suggestions.  There are many who call for the complete removal of CRZ, but I feel that this is too much of an arbitrary solution, and if Blizzard is in fact preparing to release new content that will make all of the aggravation completely worth it, much too premature.  I would like to suggest to nobody in particular that players be given an option to turn CRZ off and on at will, perhaps with a warning of sorts that removing themselves from the grouping may make completing certain quests more difficult.  Without this feature, it seems as if the game is forcing us all to be overtly social creatures, something that I, myself, do not appreciate very much — I prefer to pull myself through the levels on my own without other players to slow me down, at least until I start running dungeons and raids.  Blizzard would be better served to cater to all play styles, social or otherwise, lest they risk alienating the “antisocial” among us.

For now, we will have to adopt a “wait and see” approach to see if a more efficient and less anger-inducing solution is in the works, but until then, I think that the vast majority of the player base can agree, cross-realm zones make us rather… cross.

/sunglasses

Overlord Bunny, Game Developer: Potentially Non-Existent God Help Us All

Standard

I figure that before I start armchair-devving and exposing the internet to my oftentimes bizarre behavior, I should probably say something.  So… something!

Wow, that was a really bad joke.   I am ashamed.

Anyway, I mentioned armchair-devving, and for those of you wondering what the Hell I’m talking about, I have a tendency to play a game and then, in my mind, sort through the things I didn’t like and figure out how to make them better.  I’m not a game developer, so I’m basically talking out of my ass, which is something that I happily admit to, I just find it to be a good mental challenge for myself and a great exercise in thinking outside the box.  Not that I need any help in doing that.  I don’t so much think outside of the box as I think six zip codes away from the box.

Unlike a lot of people who do this kind of thing,  though, I like to try and back up my ideas with solid evidence.  I don’t just say “oh, this feature blows, you should change it,” I say “This feature really gave me a lot of trouble and I wonder if other gamers may have experienced the same thing?  Here’s how I’d change it while still trying to keep the overall feel and what the designers were trying to say with it intact.”  Truth is, game developers, quest designers, Hell, the entire team behind a game all work really hard.  This may come as a surprise, but I am a creative person — I’ve been writing regularly since I was four — so I understand how much of one’s self goes into a creative project… and how much of a sting it can have, no matter how thick your skin is, when somebody comes along and just shits all over it.  I constantly find myself defending these people (unless it’s EA who I still have not forgiven for Dragon Age II) to the gaming community because these vocal detractors don’t stop and think about the pressure of deadlines, the tons of drafts and revisions, the all-nighters spent trying to get things just right before the product ships… it’s a fun job, but it’s a difficult one.

To which I say, “challenge accepted.”

Rather than sticking to theory, it’s my dream to actually be able to put this all into practice.  When I was younger, I never understood what people meant when they talked about their “dream job” or anything of that nature.  Nothing called to me.  Then, a couple of months after its release, I started playing World of Warcraft, and ten levels later I was already saying to myself “Oh my God.  I want to make these things.”

When I do something in a game, ANY game, the first thing I notice is the storyline.  Graphics I can forgive, even sound, but nothing makes me cringe more than a game with a bad storyline, or worse, lack thereof.  A prime example of this is the Tera MMO.  The Boyfriend, who does 3D modelling, was drawn to it because of the admittedly impressive graphics.  I played it for a very short time before sadly giving up because of the lack of any lore or reason behind the quests.  “Kill 10 of random mob?  But why?  What good does this do?  What is this world I’m questing in?  Who is this questgiver and how does he tie into things?”  None of those questions were answered for me, and so I lost interest.  If I want a mindless grind-fest, I’ll get exalted with the Timbermaw, thank you very much.

In cases like this, I find myself trying to sketch out a “new” version of the material that I don’t feel is up to speed.  I do the same thing with movies; it can be the trashiest, most awful B-movie in existence, but if there’s even a spark of potential to be found in it, I’m immediately writing down ideas with how I could make it better.  It’s never done in an “I’m smarter and better and more talented, and you’re all jerks” kind of way, more in a manner intended to be helpful, like “Hey guys, I see what you were trying to do, but what about this?”  I’ve also gone so far as to write sequels and additional content for games that I really like.  Obviously I’m useless with regards to the coding aspect, but I know what I see in my head, I know what I want it to look like, and if it’s not doable, well, I’ll figure out something else that is.

So my ultimate dream?  To get a spot on the World of Warcraft quest design or development team at Blizzard.  A lot of people have accused me of wanting it just because I’m a fangirl, but in fact, I want World of Warcraft specifically because I’m so versed in the lore.  Sure, I’d take a spot on D3 or Starcraft, but I know next to nothing about them, so it would be a much harder start for me.  But why Blizzard, and why not a more general scope?  Two reasons:

  • I can troll Skinny British Stepdad by slooooooowly rolling myself in a wheelie-chair past his doorway while staring at him in the creepiest manner possible
  • It’s legit a good company that treats its employees well, and with three major IPs to its name, it’s a lot more stable than most game companies — something very important right now with so many studios closing their doors.
  • Special Extra Bonus Stage Because I Thought of a Third Reason and Am Too Lazy To Edit the Previous Paragraph: I actually like their games.  They’re quality stuff, and in the case of World of Warcraft, ones that I feel extremely passionately about.  I could happily immerse myself in their storylines on a daily basis and, in fact, I do that just by playing.  But I want to do more.  I want to be at least partly responsible for creating the things that make me (and, of course, other gamers) go “wow.”

Will it ever happen?  I really hope so.  When you find a tough part in a dungeon, I want it to be MY name that the masses curse.  I can hear them now: “DAMN YOU, OVERLORD BUNNY!”

It’s a good feeling.