Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SWTOR strengths become SWOTR weaknesses

I once was told "Show me your greatest strength, and I'll show your greatest weakness." The principle is if you tell an enemy what your greatest strength is, all they have to do is take it away. So I was toying around with what drove me nuts about SWTOR and thought I'd play a little word game with it. I wrote down the 10 best things about SWTOR and then I thought about why each one is also a critical weakness of the game. I would like to mention, that of these, I did not mention the lack of a hood toggle or the generic armor that really starts to look bland after a while.

Ten great things about SWTOR:

  1. You get to live out a Jedi (or Sith) fantasy
  2. Lightsabers are bad ass
  3. You get to use the force
  4. You can play with other people
  5. Lots of voice acting
  6. Light side/ Dark side choices
  7. Customizable Gear
  8. PvP battlegrounds
  9. Spaceships and space battles
  10. Great Storyarcs

Now let’s turn those 10 great strengths into the 10 greatest weaknesses of SWTOR

  1. You'll be living out your Jedi(or Sith) fantasy solo if your friends choose the wrong faction.
  2. Lightsabers start to look pretty generic after 40+ hrs of play time. Plus, unlike the movies, they don't slice off arms and legs. They don't even deflect shots back to enemies. They act a lot more like electric hot sticks than the light sabers we saw in the movies.
  3. Force powers can be lumped either into throwing dirt or shooting lightning, and as cool as the latter is, it is only valid if your friends are smart enough to choose the sith faction
  4. There is no dungeon finder, so you don’t really group with people all that often. Most often you outlevel and drop all group quests
  5. The voice acting is so integrated, that it is great when it’s great, and terrible with it’s terrible, and you’re stuck with it. Lots of horrible-bad voices like the nasally male imperial spy or the bland jedi counseler.
  6. The dark-side/light-side choices are great idea, until you realize that you get penalized for roleplaying. The rewards favor the metagamer who only chooses one side or the other for the sake of gaining points, and punishes the roleplayer who likely will tread a more great neutral path and ends up grinding out light-side/dark-side points by dropping one of their hard-earned professions and masochist-grinding out diplomacy. It is also worth noting that most class story lines seem more designed for one side or the other, making your choice in light-side (or dark-side) feel either like smooth sailing or swimming upstream (so you better hope you choose correctly as a roleplayer).
  7. Customizable gear is awesome until you realize that it makes 90% of all quest rewards void. It also makes most crafting professions useless (with the exception of end-game nuts who are masochistic anyways). It also over-inflates the price of certain low-level customizable gear options (bracers and belts to be precise). A great idea that wasn’t thought through. There should be limits to how long the customizable gear is effective.
  8. PvP battlegrounds can be put into 1 of 3 categories. First, Huttball, which is what you’ll do 90% of the time. It’s a lot of fun the first 100 times. Not so much after that. Two, some kind of defend/conquer in a spaceship scenario. This is basically a waste of time because you either have a team who has no idea what to do facing a team who knows exactly what to do or you lag out. Then there is the capture-the-flag style type with anti-spaceship cannons. This is fun except it’s a lag fest. The bottom line is things are fun for a while but then get real boring after the first 100 or so games. Eventually you realize you are in a perpetual money making machine for Bioware who has convinced you to do the same thing over and over and over and over and all the while fork over $15/month to them.
  9. Spaceships are awesome until you realize the limitations they impose. There is no easy way to return to your spaceship with the exception of a once/day teleport to your faction’s primary space station. So you spend a long time running back to your ship if you need to get to it. Space battles end up feeling a lot like PvP and Bioware expects you to repeat and grind out space battles. They get very difficult and you find you have to spend a lot of currency getting very powerful space ship upgrades. The bottom line is that all space ship battles either end up being repetitive and boring, or being so hard you fork out a fortune to make it be repetitive and boring.
  10. The custom stories are great mostly. However, some stories really do shine whereas others seem like they were scrapped together by a 10 year old. And some start out great, but become repetitive after 30 levels. Others are ridiculously boring and only shine after 40 levels. Finally, many really just leave you hanging at the end. Some are bugged beyond belief. And no matter how much you like a class’s story, it doesn’t matter if all your friends insist on playing the opposing faction.

While I'm at it, there are some additional important critical flaws of SWTOR (for the Republic side in particular).

  1. Jedi Guardians have two looks. They either wear a trooper helmet, or a hood that makes them bald. There is no point in careful selection of hair style. You may as well go with a pink mohawk. It won't matter, because for the next 300+ hours of game time as you grind your way from 1 to 50, and then on to end-game grinding, you will never see that pink mohawk ever again. Bioware has done nothing as far as I know to fix this.
  2. The republic home city is so horribly designed that the developer of Coruscant should be re-assigned to a new project. As a trooper, you have to make the trip from the space dock to your capital building over 100 times, and most of it is in zones you cannot mount. Even if you could mount, you spend a lot of time running. This doesn't even include the time you spend going to your space ship, and then loading your space ship, then traveling to Coruscant, then loading the space dock, then you get to start running. The Imperial city (whose name eludes me) has a quick travel point right at the docks. It takes you to the center of the city. There are even quick travel points within the city. Why these are not in Coruscant I do not know. But when all your friends pick the Republic faction, you realize you have to be a masochist to enjoy it.
  3. Bioware in their infinite wisdom has prevented user-created addons. I know many players who hate addons. It was all too common for raiding guilds to require (as part of the guild application) that players use certain threat-monitoring mods. But I enjoy toying around with mods, and customizing the UI environment. I spend all day at a computer, so at home I switch out my keyboard for an N52 gamepad. In WoW I was able to modify the UI so the buttons reflected the N52 layout. I could create custom events on the screen to inform me of procs. SWTOR has sound effects for procs, but for someone with audible hearing disability (like mine), this is just not sufficient. Developers who refuse users the option to create mods, are handicapping their game. I recognize that the recent patch allows allows users to move things around on the screen, but still prevents users from custom add-ons. Furthermore, macros are not available. It doesn't take long before my hands cramp up and I'm done gaming for a while. Bioware needs to loosen their leash and let users customize their environment a bit more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What really grinds my gears

I am partially ashamed to admit how much I love the Family Guy TV show. That is another blog though. A few days ago I was watching an episode and Peter had a tiny bit on the evening news called 'What really grinds my gears'. I think it is a fitting title for this blog.

I'm not sure when it happened, but my life turned into a roller coaster. A few months ago I was bored. But today I am desperately trying to stay afloat. I find myself for the first time managing a contract worth more than my house. I am desperately trying to fulfill tasks at work and at home. I have more so many projects started that I am having trouble completing any single task. And when I drop all of them to focus on one, something always happens that forces me to redirect my attention. And the worst thing is that I am dead tired in the evening, even on days I don't work out!

All this bustling around though, can't help shake the bitter taste I've got in my mouth. The silly season is coming. I remember loving this time of year as a kid. Christmas and Thanksgiving were great. I remember family coming together and visiting. I had plenty of time off from school. I got gifts. There was great food. I had no worries. Now fast forward 20 years. Now no one visits. The gifts I get are overshadowed with dollar signs floating through my head as I try to plan out a budget to deal with the expenditures of the holidays. And most of the time the only gifts that I appreciate are functional ones anymore (like a sweater). As a kid, I hated gifts like that. But as an adult, I am so happy to get clothing. Isn't that ironic. I dread the holidays because work doesn't stop for anyone or anything (or any holiday). Deadlines don't stop or pause. So there is a crescendo of stress and workload. As the weather turns sour and families are forced indoors more, personalities clash and fights ensue. My kids and wife are at each other's throats. And when all is said and done, I am going to probably gain weight from all the food. And truth be told, Thanksgiving meal is amazing but it was eating with extended family that was truly great about holiday meals.

So what really grinds my gears is my extended family. I do not refer to my kids or wife. Without my wife, I would truly be a lost cause and love her with all my heart. But my extended family is like a Greek tragedy. I grew up with parents who had ritualistic plate-throwing fights during mega-holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. So much so that it doesn't quite feel like the holidays without a rip roaring fight somewhere. On top of that, my only sibling is estranged. My sibling cut all ties when I teased said-sibling on a social networking site. Actually, this person (who I shall call Sam from now on) cut all ties after I de-friended a person they were semi-sorta dating (which happened because they decided to daddy me after I razzed Sam). Seriously, what is wrong with people. I'm 30+ years old. I don't need a 40 year old treating me like I'm 8.

What really grinds my gears is that my own estranged sibling, "Sam" really would be proud of me. I have lost so much weight and I did it without surgery or a special fad diet. I did it without an insane program. I lost the weight the way all the doctors say you should, over a long period of time with changes to lifestyle that you can maintain forever. I exercise two to three times a week and look for opportunities to be active in the evening. I think Sam would be very proud. But instead, Sam is living on in repeat mode. Sam's had three failed marriages. Sam's new friend was (and maybe is now) a fourth marriage. And for all I know, that marriage may have already ended. Forgive me, but I'm tired of welcoming in people into my extended family only to have them ousted because they don't agree with everyone Sam does.

I have a wife. I have three kids. I've been married for 11 years and going on 12. I don't ever plan on getting remarried. I suspect most people don't that are divorced, but the truth is when I welcome someone in my family circle they stay there. I still have a spot for all of Sam's old spouses. I still wish I could see them on the holidays. They are still family to me. So forgive me if I'm tired of welcoming new people that I know Sam will just throw out like last week's chinese food.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Dream Motorcycle

This is a silly blog, and completely useless in all but purpose. But I thought that maybe putting things down on paper (or pixels) may enlighten me.

I own a Suzuki C-109R/T motorcycle. It is an 1800 CC monster cruiser bike, but it has it's fair share of quirks that keep me thinking about alternate motorcycles. So let me write down what I like about the C-109R/T.

(+) A very powerful engine
(+) Liquid-Cooled Engine
(+) Fat rear tire (I like how it looks)
(+) Drive Shaft low maintenance
(+) Rear Passenger
(-) Drive Shaft loss of power
(-) No Cruise Control
(-) Limited Customization (due to lack of Suzuki Production)
(-) Cruiser Fender covers up the tire
(-) Sounds like a weeny-bike
(-) Low Suzuki Support
(-) windshield is very difficult to remove
(-) bags are falling apart
( ) 40 mpg (could be better, but definitely could be worse)

My ideal bike would
A) sound like a harley
B) be liquid-cooled
C) have hard-bags that are easily removed and lockable
D) Have a bat-wing fairing or easily detached windshield
E) 45-50 mpg or 6 gal tank
F) cruise-control

I think what I realized is that riding a motorcycle is more than just freedom. Freedom on a motorcycle is similar to putting the top down on a convertible or putting on shorts after working all day in professional dress attire. But it is also an internal makeover as you step into the shoes of someone else. For a while, you are no longer that geek who does math tricks in his head or the used car salesman with bad hair on a windy day. The moment you swing your leg over a cycle, you become someone else and you live differently. You see the world differently too. And how you feel, or should I say who you feel like, depends on what you ride and how you ride. Are you in matching leathers with a reflective visored helm, hunched over a bullet bike screaming down the road? Or are you in black leather, relaxed, and cruising down the street with your engine thumping. When you step off the bike, it's like going through a virtual reality machine. Everything shifts. Your vision warps as normal reality sets in.

Right now, my vision isn't lining up. I have mixed and matched different realities. I don't know what I feel like when I sit on my bike, but it isn't calibrated correctly for the experience I was looking for. It's close, but not quite. And I can't help but feel proud and embarrassed at the same time when I whip down the street in my jap cruiser. It feels out of place.

There is a lot of argument in the motorcycle world when it comes to jap bikes vs American (and let's not forget European bikes). Each category has it's "faithful" zealot followers. They love to point out the flaws in each other. Some flaws no longer exist. A lot of American motor vehicle manufacturers made really bad products in the 80s and early 90s. Harley-Davidson was no exception. Many anti-Harley folk like to laugh at how Harley-Davidson's break down frequently, but it doesn't take long to see how much of this has to do with poorly made bikes from those days.

Bikes made today are good all around. The real difference is that different motorcycle manufacturers have different philosophies. Also, some bikes are supported while others are not. Take Suzuki for example. They continue to heavily support their sportbikes, but their cruisers are dwindling. The customization available reflects that, as fewer products are being made or designed. There are hardly any selections when it comes to after-market pipes. However, look at Harley-Davidson and you'll see the opposite when it comes to their cruisers. In addition, Harley-Davidson does make you pay more for the same product (but knowing what I know now, I think you get more in the end).

I think if I ever buy another bike, I'm going to stick to what each manufacturer is best at. When I look at Suzuki, I'll be looking at their sport bikes. When I look for cruisers, I'll be down looking at the Harley-Davidson bikes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Golden Rule

This morning I had an epiphany that connected random memories. This happens rarely, but when it does I am left reflecting on my presumed genius or idiocy, and I am never sure which is more descriptive of myself.

I was casually asked about the Golden Rule this last Sunday while sitting in Elder's Quorum at my local Church. I tilted my head and knew the answer, but in my ever-so-introverted way I waited to see how people would respond. The "correct" answer was given many times. If you don't know the correct answer, understand first that the validity is related to the circumstance, namely being in Church. Jesus asked us to do unto others as we would have them do to us. The origin of the idea, hopefully rooted in the good book, eludes me. I digress; my inability to properly reference the Bible is too common of an occurrence and makes me feel spiritually inadequate.

One Elder though, comically answered the question about the Golden Rule and said, "Whoever has the gold, makes the rules." We all laughed and smiled. Humor is rare in Church and I welcome it when it makes an appearance. It is my opinion, that most prominent Church members are far too concerned with the outward showing of humility and display of reserved sober conservatism rather than spiritual enlightenment. The Gospel of Jesus is as much about finding God as it is about serving him thru loving our neighbors. If we fail to connect with other living people, to truly connect, than not only will we likely fail to serve others, but we won't ever really understand what it means to live at all.

I didn't come up with my thought until I was perusing Facebook today and noticed for the millionth time someone's toxic post with a link supporting their argumentative viewpoint. When I say toxic, I mean a statement intended to create controversy and social impairment. The link was the catalyst. Often they are so-called scientific articles that support their belief on correlated statistical data. Take note I used the term "belief" rather than theory. A theory is something that has been tested and can be retested. Statistical data correlations are not proof of anything. Correlations indicate there may be a relationship but how they are related is not proven (if at all).

What does this all have to do with the Golden Rule? Well, in the past I have tried to point out to people who so lovingly adore toxic posts on Facebook with ridiculous scientific links who base their entire argument on statistical correlations, there are always two sides to the story. In an our world, the two sides to each story have to do with money. There is money to be made on any controversy or on any issue. Find a so-called scientific study about why vaccinations are bad and after digging into details you'll find the study was funded by groups that had preformed that opinion prior to the study, and more importantly financially benefit from people getting sick. Find a study supporting vaccinations, and they were likely funded by drug companies who made the vaccinations. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find out the drug companies are funding both studies just to cause controversy and get people buying vaccinations and/or other flu-symptom remedy drugs.

It's the same with any controversy. Find an article on why butter is better than margarine, you can guess who funded it. But you dig more and you'll find articles "proving" the opposite. It doesn't matter if it's breast milk vs formula, computer games vs console games, soccoer vs football, beer vs wine, drinking underage vs. wine at dinner, condoms vs. abstinence, gay vs. doesn't matter. And when you stand back in awe of the human condition, you realize that the joker in my Elder's Quorum nailed it right with his quip. Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

All the statistical proof (I laugh) is just a symptom of the Human Condition. It's what keeps us here on Earth. It is a byproduct of Sin. Is it coincidence that the Golden Rule has two meanings, earthly ambition and spiritual enlightenment.

When we base our decisions in this world on the byproduct of Sin, are we giving into sin? I don't know. Are we giving into our base desires and becoming the natural man when we support financial hypocrisy? Is Science our Tower of Babylon?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Social Networking Pet Peeves

So I'm on a rant today. Not a roaring fire-breathing thrashing and breaking things kind of rant, but more of a steaming raised eyebrow rant where I have the obvious visible exterior that screams "I am going to slap you if you keep being stupid."

So let's talk about stupid social networking pet peeves that I've developed. You may be thinking, "who cares about pet peeves of someone else" but given time you'll think like I do. And that is why I bring this up. It's contagious. I was in your shoes not so long ago. No more digression, let's start looking at my social networking pet peeves (SNPP).

SNPP #1: Baiting
People will post in their status or their twitter something that is actually noteworthy. It's enough to make you go "Wo! Wait a minute, something serious happened to my e-friend. What's going on?" Then you read their whole long diatribe to find out they didn't give you the key information you need to truly ascertain the severity of the situation. Your fingers twitch as you click in the reply box, intent on asking about the conveniently missing information. You start typing, and then stop. They just baited you. And you almost took it. They are fishing for e-friend comments. They are wasting your time. You have to wonder if the event even happened, or if it did how exaggerated was it made by the status post in the hopes to get a bunch of sympathy responses. I say screw that! When someone baits me now, I say "screw you" in my head and keep going. If they really wanted me to know, they wouldn't bait me.

Examples of baiting:
"I have to go to the hospital" but never saying why.
"I have to put my dog down" but not saying why.
"I was pulled over" but not saying why.
"I almost hit a customer" but not saying why.
"Some bad crap happened today while [insert_whatever] and I am very [insert_sympathy_incurring_emotional_state]" but never saying what happened

SNPP #2: The "woe is me" vs "i sniff myself" personas
Social networking is a lot like looking at the world with 3D glasses. On the one side you have the rose-tinted glass with certain people. Their life is super cheerful and happy and lucky. They have whatever they want, do whatever they want, and they are always cheerful. Their pictures show them with a shit-eating grin and it's enough to make you vomit after the first couple months. Then there is the opposite. The "woe is me" crowd is enough to make you almost de-friend them. It's like they are a spokesman for country music. They lost their dog, their house, their lover, and now god is pissing on them. The only good thing to come out of all that, is when one group recognizes the other, and go at it bashing their respective personal beliefs of the world on each other's head.

SNPP #3: The Robot
This person never posts. They setup some app to post quotes. You get 5 invites a day from them to play some e-game from them, but it's all an automated script generated response driven by the need to mass spread the social networking e-life excuse.

SNPP #4: The Vicarious Shadow
This person never posts anything about them. It's all their kids, their spouse, their co-workers, their neighbors, etc. Their avatar is surely a picture of them with other people. All they can talk about is other people. They never really share themselves with you. You may as well not have friended this person at all, but rather just friended the people they are talking about, because you really don't get a glimmer of their life.

I am sick and tired of baiting and eternally happy/sappy people. Robo-friend and Vicarious Shadows are easily fixed with the "ignore" feature. You don't realize how pissed off you are with baiting, until you find yourself trying to e-strangle the imaginary necks of people who post. If you don't feel comfortable sharing the details to important events in your life, then don't share at all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Muscle Soreness and Exercise

I start this blog with an interesting anecdote. Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher. His writings covered many subjects, including "physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology." i.e. he was well respected by fellow philosophers. He also said the world was flat. He said this based on his experiences and theories. Was it right? Most of us would agree he was not correct in his flat Earth theory. We still respect him, but acknowledge that his flat Earth statement was a guess and nothing more.

Recently I have started a new workout routine unlike anything I have ever done before. I learned most of what I know about weight lifting, body building, and exercise from guys back in my home town's gym. One of which had competed internationally in power lifting including the Olympics. Another had competed in the Mr. Utah body building competition. What they taught me was good, but I'm learning now, was a lot like Aristotle's Earth claim. Sometimes people make guesses, and when they aren't disproved they start spreading them as facts.

So the new routine is encouraging me to be as inefficient as possible. Efficiency is the bane of muscle growth and fat loss. Our bodies learn to adapt quickly, and adaptation leads to efficiency. So the routines I'm on right now, are quite inefficient, encouraging a total body workout that let's every body part push hard. I'm doing high reps, and lower weight. And I have never had a workout like these, that has me walking away short of breath and feeling like a Mac truck hit me.

This week though I started a new phase of this routine. This phase encourages me to workout more frequently, and I found myself sitting at my computer uncomfortably sore (but not painfully so), and hesitant to workout. For years, the common gym rat will tell you that you should not work a muscle that is sore. You let it repair itself. Doing so can cause "horrible" damage to the muscle. So why would this routine, written by several fitness and health experts (who gathered information from subject test groups and scientific studies conducted across the nation over decades) encourage me to "horribly" damage myself.

The answer I found, is that the intuitive logic of letting your muscle soreness stop before resuming exercise, is wrong. The reality is counter intuitive.

Before I go on, I need to be very clear that I'm not talking about excessive hardline workouts with very heavy weights and very low reps. Heaven forbid you tear a tendon or ligament because you try to power lift your max.

But you really are encouraged to work a muscle that is sore. Ironically, you'll heal even faster if you do so.

Don't take my word for it. I'm a nobody gym rat that was as misinformed as the rest of you. But here are some excellent references.

"But if your muscles are a bit stiff or sore, go ahead and train them. Your body will ramp up your recovery processes in response."

"Sometimes trying to work through an injury makes it worse, and sometimes it makes it better."

Best plan I can come up with, based on this new finding, is that unless I am so horribly sore (like the first time you did Deadlifts in your whole life), and I haven't experienced a "bad" pain from a workout, go ahead and go lift. If I can maintain proper form, then go for it.

What's the difference between a bad pain and a good pain. For me, DOMS is a good pain. The wiki on DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) also indicates repeated exercise actually helps in the healing process. When you twist an ankle, pull a muscle, or anything that involves sharp pain, probably lay off until those symptoms dissipate.

I could be wrong. Maybe I'm making an "Aristotle" mistake. Perhaps the findings about exercising when sore are all incorrect, and the findings of doctor's with injured patients are wrong, as is all the studies about DOMS. Maybe in 10-20 years a new study comes out that shows new evidence that suggests you completely wait until you are not sore anymore. When that happens, I'll adapt and learn. I won't just stick my chin out and ignore the facts when thrown at me.

We should never stop learning or improving. What we knew yesterday is not enough for today.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birthdays and Underwear Gifts

I have something to say. That’s right. I do. I want to talk about the dreaded gifts that people give to others for birthdays, Christmas, or whatever special gift giving event is relevant.

Underwear is not a gift. It’s a necessity. Just like water to drink. You wouldn’t give someone water for their birthday. “Hello my dearest…I got you a 20oz of water for your birthday”. Hell no! You get dumped for that kind of scandal. Seriously! What were you thinking? The same goes for socks.

Eventually you’ll ask yourself, why underwear and socks? What makes them such a mock gift as compared to a new watch or a t-shirt. I’ll tell you. They are a necessity. They are things we wear that no one sees. No one cares about them. All that matters is you have them on you. In fact, you don’t even need them, they are just nice. Disagree? There wouldn’t be phrases like “going commando” if you could disagree. Sandals and sockless shoe paraphernalia is sufficient reasoning.

Now there are times that it counts. Like the underwear you expose part of in the back (if you are sexy enough to warrant showing off part of your ass to begin with, which is an entirely different discussion in and of itself). This underwear may have bright colors, or is embroidered, or has a design that implicates a certain pre-disposed attitude that might result in events that are less likely without aforementioned underwear. Or socks that are meant to be shown, perhaps with bright colors warped out of the 1980s and somehow re-instituted as in-style (for the criminally insane of course).

Is it ok to give them? Yes, but not as the only gift. It shouldn’t even count as part of the gift budget per say. After all, the gift recipient is going to need to receive these “necessary” items with or without the gift giving event that is being observed (such as a birthday).

So why do I have a bone to pick on concerning this subject. Well when you get right down to it, knowing you are going to be getting “necessary” items for an upcoming gift giving event is just downright irritating and pisses me off. I’d rather just skip the blooming event all together than involve myself in such a hoax of an idea. Necessary items are given regardless of a gift giving event. Give them if you must, but not as part of any gift-giving budget.

What else counts as necessary items? Gasoline for your vehicle for commuting to work. What about sun glasses when you have to drive into the sun (to and from work). Water and sufficient food to live on. A seat belt in your car.

Let me ask you this. If your seat belt was broken. Would you get it fixed now, or wait for a birthday so someone could gift you an unbroken seat belt?

Ya, well…you’ve got my drift. Underwear is a truly sucky gift for any event, especially a birthday. And along with that goes all the other necessary gifts that must be given (or self-purchased) regardless.