Final Fantasy 2

Final Fantasy 2 took a lot of risks, that much is clear. For a game released in 1988, it had a lot of ideas that even today aren’t used often. The most obvious of which is that it is a skill-based game, not a level-based game.

As a general rule, I prefer skill-based for my Video Game RPGs. I feel it is more natural and offers some variations that level based can’t really touch. I was pretty excited by the idea of a skill-based Final Fantasy, however, the implementation is rough to say the least. So if you aren’t familiar with the base idea… if you use it, you get better at what you use. I only played the game a little bit (more on that later), but for the most part it seems ok. You don’t get like a point for each use, instead, I believe you get a greater chance of getting a point for each use. So as an example, using made up numbers, if you use a sword once in a fight you have a 5% chance of gaining a skillpoint. If you use a sword 5 times you have a 25% chance of gaining a skill point. 100 skill points and you get a level in the skill. And obviously as you level up a skill it gets increasingly more difficult to get skill points. The system is OK. the percentage chance means there are a lot of fights that you don’t get points for even if you use a skill… I find this weird. Each weapon type and spell is considered its own skill. In addition, HP and MP are use based as well… only way to get a higher max HP is to keep getting hit. But again it is percentage based on how much HP vs your max HP got hit. Even if you use most your HP in a fight… you aren’t guaranteed to gain more max HP.

The system is a bit grindy, this not abnormal for JRPGs, or even CRPGs, so is not a huge deal. The problem comes in the most natural way to grind… which is to attack yourself. I spent a couple hours in the newbie area just doing nothing but entering fights and attacking my friends. And each fight took an extreme amount of time. It was a really boring experience. I like the idea though. I have heard that Final Fantasy X returned to a skill based system and I would like to try it at some point to see if they  fixed some of the flaws from 2.

Final Fantasy 2 had a number of innovations for the series that would follow it on to today. Chocobos and the Chocobo forest were added, and really this was one of the first true unique beings within the Final Fantasy  Universe. They also introduced a rotating cast of characters. You start the game with 4 characters to name, 1 of which doesn’t play with you for much of the early game. This was really unique. They  basically set the stage for you to know from the get go that they were doing things differently here, much like in Final Fantasy 1 how saving the princess was only the beginning. Even worse, they chose the second character you named as the one to get rid of from the get go… well this was odd as I named my characters 0,1,2, and 3 because it was a Japanese game and I didn’t read Japanese and I wanted to be able to recognize my character names somewhat. Well my game went into 0, 2, 3 as my character names! Not a big deal, but kind of funny.

You then would have new party members coming and going throughout the story as required by the story  which was interesting and something they obviously decided to keep doing in future games of the series. The problem in this particular series is that many of the characters had no starting experience in any of their skills so you almost dreaded a new character being added because you would need to grind that character or just leave him be useless. Another weird thing is there was a glitch that counted each selection of an item/enemy as a use in the above system. So you would select a character to fight, back out over and over to gain extra uses in a fight. This didn’t work for the last character in the party (selecting him to fight would start the fighting round!), so grinding the last character in the party was a chore. All the new characters that got added were always the last character in your party, and unlike Final Fantasy 1, you had no ability to move people around. Oh well.

You did have the ability to move characters from the front row to the back. This is another feature that kind of continues in the series. This one in particular was more difficult though. If you put someone in the back row, it was a double edged sword. Enemies couldn’t touch them without magic or ranged weapons… but neither could you touch enemies. (And enemies had rows as well!) Was a cool feature, not a ton bad especially in a use based system. I could see this sort of restriction being a bigger deal if your person in the back row had no ranged weapons.

So as I previously stated, I was playing the japanese version of the game so I couldn’t really understand what was going on without reading guides. And so I had to trust what they told me to do and use. I can sort of read Japanese letters, but I don’t often know what the words mean. At some point the game I was supposed to take an item and throw it into an airship engine to make the airship explode… except the item the guide I was following told me to use didn’t work. I can only imagine that I either read it wrong or the guide gave it to me wrong. I looked up the word in other guides and it was spelled differently in the one other guide I could find. And I figure I must have accidentally deleted the item while trying to clean out my inventory earlier in the game. This sucked. I had no way of figuring out what exactly I was missing or if I actually missed picking up the item in the first place (which I don’t think i did).

My choice was simple. Restart or end it. The thought of going through hours of really  boring grinding did not sound great so I decided to end it. So my end story  that I cam up with for my  adventure is this…

My friends and I lived in a small town that started being attacked by  the imperial army with t heir giant flying warship. They began attacking all the neighboring towns as well. So we underwent a mission in which we snuck onto their airship, started throwing random shit into the engine in hopes of it blowing up. After this failed, we shrugged our shoulders and swore our fealty to the empire!

Hopefully Final Fantasy 3 works out better!

Final Fantasy Month

Last year in December there were a couple of streamers on Twitch playing through Final Fantasy. This was followed by Games Done Quick in January and sooner than I realized, I had a hankering to play Final Fantasy 1 and found myself even trying to learn how to speed run the game.

After a few days into mucking around with it, I thought to myself how cool it would be to go and play through all the Final Fantasy games. I didn’t own all of them, and haven’t played any game in the series since it left Nintendo consoles after 6. But I thought it would be fun to do as the older games in the series were some of my favorite RPGs on console of all time. So I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool if in December I go and play through them all?

Why December? Well because in December, I traditionally have a decent amount of time off from work and often find myself playing more video games during this time frame. This year is no different as I will be taking off between Christmas and New Years. I generally have my daughter for an extended period during this time and do some family stuff as well, but will still find myself with some extra time. So a few days into December. I thought to myself… Oh Shit it’s Final Fantasy month! And while I was a little late going into it. I headed forward through the Final Fantasy titles.

So obviously you start with the first in the series. Final Fantasy I long credit with my addiction to Video Games and my love to RPGs. I remember as a child going out and renting Final Fantasy 1 for the standard 2 or 3 day time, and bringing it back 2 or 3 weeks later having thoroughly played through the game and emptied my pocket with late fees. Many games give me nostalgia joy, Final Fantasy 1 is #1 on that list. Nothing beats it.

I decided not to speed run and just to play like a normal person. Not overly optimized either. I ran with a warrior, black belt, red mage and white mage. I will say that though the BB is really weak in the first few levels, they are pretty awesome the further you get with them and I totally want to try an all black belt group at some point just because they are so awesome. Still, it was a fun group.

Final Fantasy isn’t the longest game in the world, took me about a week to run through it with casual play time. Given that I spent a week on FF1, chances of getting through what 17 or 18 games in the series seems very unlikely in a months time. I still hope to at least get to through the NES games, if not the SNES games as well.

The story is pretty basic as well, though honestly, it is also extremely interesting. Bad guy travels back in time 2000 years, creates 4 fiends that in 2000 years sends bad guy back in time again and destroys the world. Process repeats over and over again. Doesn’t seem to be any real motive as to why or anything. And unfortunately most of the story line isn’t really given to you until you defeat the bad guy. Most the game, you walk around doing what you need to do with little idea as to why other than you are supposed to and if you do you will save the world. You get this really long dialog at the end explaining what was going on the whole time and then explaining how the 4 heroes aren’t the real heroes, you are! Ugh. That was hokey. Again, FF1 was a very simplistic game but they were doing some new things and it was a more simple time as well. Shouldn’t count that against the game. I still love the game in all its simplicity.

I plan on updating my progress through the series as I continue to play the games. As of this writing I am currently undertaking Final Fantasy 2… the Japanese version. I did originally want to record or stream my playthroughs, but I still don’t really have the capability of recording console games so not this year, maybe I will have the set up to be able to do that next  year. And I really want to play the original versions. Even in its most truest form, Square likes to muck with their games when they re-release. An example is in FF1, they usually make it so that your heroes attack the next enemy if the one you told them to attack is already dead. I like the strategy involved in how that works in the original, so poo on that.

E3 ’15: Day 1

Wanted to give my opinions on the first day of E3 2015. For the purposes of this article, I will ignore yesterday’s Nintendo World Championships and its announcements and Bethesday, because whatever. They were minor bits to the grand scheme.

First up is Microsoft and really their highlight was backwards compatibility with Xbox 360. Almost universally this has been pegged as their big announcement and I gotta say that I don’t see what the deal is. First of all, the purpose of backwards comparability is to provide owners of your console to have a library of games to play during the first couple of years before the real content unique to the console starts coming out. Well, adding compatibility two years after launch makes me think that Xboned owners have a couple more years of lackluster titles before they get into the meat which is very worrisome if I were a Microsoft fan. I mean yeah being able to play old games is great, but it’s a bit late for that. Second of all, Nintendo did that with the Wii U and that clearly wasn’t a system seller. And last, the comparability seems like the Xbox 360’s BW where the Xbox 1a games you could play on it were few and far between and even when you found one, it wasn’t a great play. They say they have about 100 games that will work later this year. That’s not much. So yeah, it’s nice but not a game breaker.

The second big thing they did was show off more of their VR headset the holo lens, which still is disappointingly NOT holo. First of all, let me say that I am not sold on the VR tech that has been going around the gaming verse right now, not even the grand daddy the Oculus Rift. I mean yeah the tech looks cool and I would definitely want to play with it a little bit, but I can’t see sitting down and playing with a VR headset on my face for more than a 15 minute stretch let alone a 6 hour run. It doesn’t seem like a comfortable way to play. And the same is true fro Microsoft’s solution. Second of all, even for VR, it doesn’t look great. I mean yeah the playing with Minecraft on a table was sweet, but again that doesn’t look overly fun for more than a 10 minute demo. Otherwise you just sit and look at a wall to play Minecraft how we already play it. Yipee?

I will say that the ability to install mods for Fallout 4 on the Xboned is actually kind of cool, although it mostly just begs the question of why are people getting games on the Xboned when they could just get them on a PC?

Ummm what else did Microsoft have? Halo 4 or 5 or some number whatevs, that was announced last year. A remake of Gears of War. <sigh> This is totally the generation of remakes. Gears of War 4 ok that’s something no one saw coming, a sequel to a futuristic shooter. Ok the Rare compilation of all the non-Nintendo Rare games for $30 looks cool, but sad at the same time (why not on Nintendo platform yo?) The new Rare game looks kind of lame though… it looked like it was supposed to have some personality and character but they just forgot to add it. The one and only game I actively thought looked awesome out of the entire Microsoft Press Conference was Cuphead. It looks amazing.

But hey all you Microsoft fans… I am sure you are EA fans too so you must have been happy to hear that on top of the Xbox Live Fees you will now be faces with EA Access fees. FTW.

 

Sony seemed to beat Microsoft in nearly every aspect yet again. How? Well instead of showing off past games, they actually showed off new and upcoming games. Sony  wasn’t without their remakes… they did show of FF7 remake, which I do think is better than a Gears of War remake, though that is just me. But for the most part it was new stuff.  Last Guardian looks weird but new and I’m interested. Horizon Zero Dawn looks really interesting and cool. Street Fighter V looks like Street Fighter V. Uncharted looks amazing just like its predecessors. And No Man’s Sky  looks phenomenal. I have said once and I will say it again.. this might be the first true killer app of the generation. I actively want to buy  a PS4 to get my hands on No Man’s Sky and every new time they show it, I just want it more. I’m sorry Microsoft, Playing 360 games doesn’t do that for me, I already have a 360 for that.

All Nighter for Old Times Sake

Men are children. It is an unequivocal fact. We display these childlike tendencies in many ways, but really it all comes down to two main categories: Sports and Toys. Sports  is obvious, some guys love watching sports of all varieties and many even continue to play sports. This is a very childlike activity in all reality, hearkening back to little league and bowling leagues. And it comes down to fun, they are fun to watch, they  are fun to play  (at least for some and really I am included in at least watching). The other category is toys. This category can come in all shapes and sizes. Guys with gyms, guys with cars, and yes, guys with games, be it video, board or any other type of game.

And so faced with an impending return to the work environment, last night that I decided to return to the roots of my childhood wonderment and decided to pull an all night Razak have Fun night. A night of game playing, fun foods, movies, and any other fun activities I could think of.  Ok, so childhood isn’t exactly right. I mean I did pull all nighters all the way back to elementary school when Final Fantasy and other video games would capture my interest and make me sneak some hours in the middle of the night playing game (thank you game boy for making it easier!). The all nighter really took fruition in High School and College where parental interference was lowered and rebellious spirit truly ignited. Unfortunately, unlike previous debacles, this one was done alone for the most part, which is slightly sad in some ways, but so is the pains of growing up. It’s a Tuesday, and people have to work! I will say, i would love to do such things again with a group of friends  to mirror sleep overs of my youth, though with jobs and kids, that likely won’t happen anymore lol.

The night started fairly low key. I bought candy in the early afternoon because why wouldn’t candy be involved? After my evening shows I went out to Papa Murphy’s and purchased a couple of pizzas that I could throw in the oven whenever I felt the hanker. And then I played Guild Wars 2 for a bit and  watched iZombie whilst sorting my mail. Really, a normal Tuesday night. I mean just cause I am having a fun night, doesn’t mean I don’t still have work to do!

My plan going forward for the night was to not sit on any one thing too long. When I had done all nighters in the past, it happened largely due to the fact that there were games or people that I got incredibly involved with (not in a romantic sense) and had a good time playing/hanging out. That isn’t entirely  true anymore. I have a few games like GW2 and DIablo 3 and even Minecraft that I enjoyed, but none that I enjoyed so much that could keep me enthralled for the night, and I don’t think I even have any friends that play long hours into the night so that isn’t even a thing anymore.

So, after watching iZombie, I returned to Guild Wars 2 for a couple more hours. And then returning downstairs to start up Legend of Zelda: Windwaker while I threw one of my pizzas in the oven to cook. When the pizza came out, I turned the channel to watch the Late Late Show with James Corden. I like him a lot, but it is on so late I know I will never get to see him much once work starts. And then mid-way through I fell asleep. Yay. I slept for a half hour and decided to try to trudge on. So I started up the reboot of Star Trek (I thought it’d be fun to watch a movie!) and I got another slice of pizza, some dr. pepper and some twizzlers and sat down and watched about an hour of that. I didn’t return to sleep, but I found myself yawning every 5 mintues. It was at this point that I got up and just decided to go to bed.

I don’t know whether the issue was trying to watch TV/movies instead of concentrating on games… If I had started playing Zelda again instead of watching Star Trek, would I have been so sleepy? My couch has the habit of putting me to sleep even under the best circumstances when I sit down and do nothing but watch. I did contemplate switching back to Zelda at the time for just such a logic. But for that one moment in time, I was like.. maybe this isn’t that big of a deal to do. Yeah it is fun. I was super pumped to try and super disappointed that I failed. But at the same time, I have never stayed up all night when I wasn’t enthralled with something. Hell even a few weeks ago when I was all into Diablo 3 I probably could have done it, but now that game seems repetitive to me. Maybe it just wasn’t in the cards. Maybe I’m just too old. I still wish there was an MMO out there that was built for me.

A New Me

Yesterday, I ran into an old friend that I used to work with at the local garden center and meeting up with this guy did a couple of things. First, it scared the living shit out of me. It reminded me of where I used to be (when we worked together), where I am now (unemployed) and where I might be going (employed somewhere new) and every single facet of this scared me. It was like being reminded of how much I enjoyed where I was and how scary the unknown of the future is all in one sitting.

But the more important thing that I got out of it is who am I? This guy always was someone I aspired to be. I saw a bit of myself in him, but a better version of me. Someone who I wanted to be. He was optimistic version, the outgoing version, the nicer version. He was who I want to be but can never figure out how to get there. A good example of who this guy is…. he once got tickets to go see Miley Cyrus in St. Louis, kind of on a whim. Not because he liked Miley Cyrus but more because he was getting sick of Madison (it was winter) and wanted to do something, anything likely. And largely because it would be a story that you could tell later. It is interesting. And that’s who he is. I worked with him maybe 6 months and during that time got a lot of similar stories out of him similar to that and was even part of a couple. He always wanted to do stuff and to make the most out of life, and yes that is something I aspire to as well.

And here I am, what am I doing? I have here an opportunity with my unemployment that honestly I have always wanted. And in this opportunity I have done a lot of gaming, something I do very much enjoy. But is that really what I wanted? Well kind of lol. You hear all the time of people getting laid off and making the most out of that chance, to advance their own personal interests and become a better person in life and I don’t entirely feel like I am doing that right now.

To tie in with this essence of how I am currently feeling… a few years ago I also got similarly inspired by a kickstarter of all things. There was a guy who had previously done a TED talk who was wanting to develop software that could take his TED idea into reality. The idea is to take a 1 second video every day of your life. Be that 1 thing good or bad or somewhere in between. Just take something to remember. And he found in doing that, that he made more of an effort to go out and do things to take that video clip for. If you want more on the idea, you should watch his TED talk, it is pretty cool. I backed the project, loved the idea. And when I got the software, I did it for a couple months (on and off) before I dropped off of it.

Back to this chance meeting with an old acquaintance and I had an epiphany. I need to wake up my  life and start doing new things with it. And to force myself to do these new things I need to record it 1 second style. So my concept is that every single day I think and do something new. Anything. Anything at all. New habit, New movie that I hadn’t seen before, New food I hadn’t eaten before, new TV show, new game, new page written, new schedule, new skill, new language, new project, new job interview, new job, new friend, new attitude, new word, new something. I gotta push myself forward and make myself better. And hopefully I can do it.

Honestly, I can’t even promise myself that I can do something new every day. I certainly can’t do something grand every day. I mean think of it. 365 new things done every single year. I have some things in mind. But there will be days where I will be sick and sleeping all day. What will I find new that day? New cough medicine? Lol. I imagine that things will vary. Some day I will have a big fun event like seeing Miley Cyrus for no reason other than to do it, some days will be going on a walk on a new trail that I had never ventured before. Today, my new thing is starting this idea. An introduction to what may come. It is small, but huge all at the same time. And maybe that is the beauty of it.

Mistakes in Virtual Ecologies

I have been playing a bit of Guild Wars 2 of late. The game isn’t great but it is also not the worst game I have played, and the lack of a subscription fee makes it perfect for a situation where I can’t afford one. Playing an MMO inevitably makes me start thinking about the design of the genre and my own past ideas on how to build an MMO and I eventually returned to thinking about Ultima Online’s Virtual Ecology.

For those who do not know, since it has been so long… Originally, Ultima Online had a Virtual Ecology where each animal and monster had a set of desires in which controlled its AI. Deer wanted to eat grass and  have a bushy hide out, Wolves wanted to eat Deer, Lizardmen wanted to attain gold. If a Wolf, could not find a deer to eat, they would start looking for other things to eat, like players. This actually created a system where a Bear would not be aggressive to players unless it was starving and to some degree it actually worked. The problem with the system though was it really only worked with the absence of players. Once players were introduced into the ecosystem, they would kill everything en masse, bears would starve because food would be scarce and players would get attacked by bears. This culminated in a famous event during beta where dragons began attacking Britain because they were so hungry. An event that essentially caused the devs to remove the ecology totally, even though to this day I consider this event to be one of the most fun occasions that I have had in an MMO ever as I remember the calls going out to save Britain and players returning from across the globe to help out!

I think one of the main problems that this virtual ecology had was that the predator to prey aspect was completely wrong. I believe I have talked about this in previous blog entries years ago, but it needs restatement. I don’t know what the ratio that Origin used initially, but my guess would be 2 to 3 prey for every predator. I mean this was a fantasy universe and it was a game, you need decent amount of predators in the world to ensure players can feel like heroes. However, I do feel like the ratio should be in the range of 10 prey per predator. What this means is that for every 1 wolf in the world, there should be 10 deer at any given time. If not more, the number may actually need to be 15:1 or 20:1 or 25:1. It should be so high that the prey should be overpopulated in the absence of the player.

On top of this  previously thought of issue, I had another realization or two last night while thinking about the ecology. The way that players killed deer in UO was spectacularly odd.  You see deer, and other creatures in UO, weren’t actually  very fast. So players would take their swords and start hacking away at a deer. The deer would turn and run, but from memory it always seemed like the deer would take a step, pause, step pause step pause. Players could completely outrun a deer and this fact is backwards. In real life, a Red Deer (which I am pretty sure deer in UO were modeled after) can run around 40 mph. Have you ever heard of a human running that fast? The fastest recorded speed of a human is 28 mph on a 100 yard dash, meaning a short distance run for someone who trains for running fast, wearing light clothing not medieval armor. A human might be able to leap upon that dear unawares and stab at it once, but if you didn’t get a killing shot on the deer in the first blow, you can kiss the deer good bye. Even with say a magic potion that might double your speed, it would be a pretty tough race. I also would wager that trying to stab a deer to death with a sword is not entirely as easy as one might think, however I’ve never tried so I can’t entirely comment on this concept. My overall point here is that in real life, animals tend to run when they get attacked. It is the best defense they have against anything trying to attack them, human or predator. In Ultima Online, this didn’t happen all that much. Animals more often than  not just kind of stood there and took it.

Conversely, predators probably wouldn’t outright run if you attacked them. They’d probably attack back, or at least it seems logical enough that they might and thus not lose a realistic feel by programming that in. If injured enough, they probably too would run and if they run, unless seriously injured the player probably would be out of luck. However, a human attacking a bear is no easy thing. They kinda hurt, and they can take a beating as well. I imagine even a warrior in full plate would get a bit beaten up by such a fight and it might not be worth it overall.

This whole idea that when animals get attacked, they generally flee lends itself to attacking with bows and crossbows instead of swords. Thinking back on my experiences with Ultima Online, I certainly never used a bow and can’t think of anyone who did (though admittedly it has been 15 ish years!). Everyone used Halberds and Viking Swords and Magic because those weapons did the most damage. But in a combat system where flight was an option…. Rangers wielding bows might be more useful. Thinking of Rangers, it seems like a natural addition that maybe traps could have been a thing as well in this game. Traps are a slower way to capture all the animals you want, and it works in a more natural progression and could have required a completely new skill. It also creates a new play pattern which I think would have suited UO quite well. Granted, this is yet another mechanic to add to a game that was already way behind schedule and still too buggy to launch but it might have made for a nice expansion addition.

The other side of this is that the main reason that players felt the need for over-hunting the predator’s food supply is that deer offered up leather which  you needed to make armor. I believe deer in particular was one of the better sources for leather as well. But here’s the thing. In real life, we can get leather from deer. We tend to get it from cows though. Now you could kill a cow and get it’s leather as well, but cows weren’t as common as deer and I don’t think they gave as much leather (I know not why). I believe all animals dropped leather, but deer was one of the better sources. So if you, as a player, needed leather, it didn’t pay to go get wolves, it paid to get deer. I think overall they needed to give wolves and other predators some sort of drop in order to make it desirable for a player to hunt them down. That could have been one solution. Another solution would have been the inclusion of yet another skill type for a farmer which could raise sheep, cows, and even llamas which could produce leather and cotton. The farming aspect, coupled with deer that ran when they were attacked would make it so that if you wanted to get leather, it might be more efficient to get a cow off a farmer than it would be to go find a deer and convince it to die for you.

Of course, this has the problem of requiring land to start a farm. More than one developer at Origin has since stated that they never intended Ultima Online to house 10,000 players per server. I think the number I heard was they initially intended between 500 and 1000. Space was sparse in the game, and sooner than you knew, the server was packed with houses everywhere. Even if you wanted a house it was difficult to find a location that wasn’t already taken.

The reality is that Origin tried to do too much with Ultima Online. A lot of the issues that they had really just came down to they didn’t have enough time to truly develop the idea.  It’s too bad, but at the same time I applaud them for trying to do too much. i remember beta in UO fondly. The world seemed natural and real. I lament all the time about modern MMOs no longer feeling real, I hate the genre much more now than I used to.  There doesn’t seem to be a game in the genre going for the Virtual World feel that UO began.

As a parting shot on this idea. Another thing I remember in UO early days that I am not entirely sure was due to the ecology or not… When you left a city in UO, what you found immediately near the city tended to be more naturalistic animals… deer, rabbits, mice, the occasional bear or wolf, maybe a llama or an eagle. It was extremely rare to find a lizard man. In today’s UO, you leave town and you can find lizard men, skeletons, and ogres right outside town. And that concept is really mirrored across the genre unfortunately. Anyway, I remember going out with a friend in beta days and we stumbled upon a lizard man camp. We were amazed. Had never seen such things. We killed a lizard man on the outskirts and he wasn’t the easiest kill, we were used to the animals which were a lot easier to terminate. But we did kill him and were entreated to a weapon, some money and reagents! Reagents were actually quite difficult to find in those days and we felt like  we found the mother load if every lizard man had one because there were maybe a dozen right in front of us. However, we soon discovered the danger of trying to take on lizard men and soon found ourselves fleeing. I assure you, we were not taking the same step-pause technique in running that deer in the game practiced.

3 Weeks Later

For those that may not know, 3 weeks ago was my last day at my job. Ever since that point, I’ve been unemployed and searching for gainful employment. If you want to hear a more immediate description of my termination, you can check it out on youtube, where I talk about it in more detail in one of my Minecraft videos.

This morning, I realized it has been a long time since I have updated my blog, and that it has also been awhile since I really talked about my unemployment. I reference it a lot in my youtube videos, but outside of the initial video, I have wanted to avoid the subject as I felt it was kind of depressing. Logically  to me, it seems to make sense to then talk about it more here, since blogs are supposed to be depressing right?=P

Finding a job has definitely had its ups and downs. I clearly have not found a job as of yet. New hopes come up, old hopes die out. Unfortunately, finding a job in my field revolves around working with recruiting companies. Most companies tend to employ people on a contract to hire basis to allow them to get an idea of if they  want to keep the person long term or not without any negative impact of firing the person. I have dealt with about a dozen agencies in town and every week a new one contacts me. I even have been contacted with an agency out of India which after trying to work with for a few days, I bowed out of the position because the agency was awful. I am still trying to figure out what happened to one particular position that I felt perfect for and was being hyped up by my recruiter but it has been 2 weeks since my recruiter said a word to me. Doesn’t seem good.

Next week, for some reason, I am getting an explosion of interviews and almost none of them are coming from recruiters. Currently have 2 interviews that are direct to hire without the aid of a recruiter to companies that I very much would be interested in working with. One interview is the first interview over the phone, the second is a second interview in person. This is the first in person interview I have had so I am both nervous and excited for the chance. It means that I made a cut past the first 20 down to likely 3 to 5 people and so I feel my chances are way high that I can land this job. I have a third interview that is with a recruiting company for another position and i kind of expect a 4th interview to occur from a different recruiting company. So things are moving along well even if I don’t have anything concrete as of yet.

So what am I doing with my new found time? I am probably not being as productive with this time as I should be. The first week out of employment,  I went gung ho on the youtube channel, deciding to increase the frequency of my videos to twice a day rather than once a day. My theory was that with my extra time I might as well try to grow my channel and more videos means more exposure. That hasn’t turned out as well as I’d hope as the views and subscription numbers have not increased much. This realization that number of videos doesn’t help, coupled with interest in other games has caused me to step back from that. Also, I must admit that my mind isn’t in the greatest places right now. I don’t usually stress out too much about life, but in general I have been very stressed and that has led to difficulty for me in showing myself as having fun. Instead, I have turned to Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3 as a way to blow off steam.

I do need to start being more productive around my house, and this is something I realize. My house is generally kind of a mess but it has gotten pretty bad. I used to always blame work as a primary reason that I didn’t have it as clean as I wanted. Well I don’t have that excuse anymore. Now I am just lazy. I have been cleaning little bits every now and then but it isn’t enough and it isn’t actually making a large difference. This last week, I have started getting more restless playing video games all day long. Playing lots of video games the first couple of weeks was great, finally I could sit and relax! But this last week for whatever reason I feel like doing more. So maybe cleaning my house will help with that. I will say in regards to restless video game playing, that generally I have been an MMO  player for the last 20+ years, and though Guild Wars 2 is technically an MMO, I never have really considered it to be one any more than Diablo 3 is. Yeah you can go online and talk to people, but the game seems to be designed to be played alone which means it’s not really an MMO.  Maybe I will go into more of that another time.

Money saving has been a major source of effort for me.  I have begun doing paperwork to go into forbearance with my student loans which will save me $400 a month. I cancelled the DVD portion of my Netflix. I eat smaller meals and less often. I never go out to eat anymore. I’ve increased the amount of items that I sell on eBay to not only get rid of old junk but also get more money. And I’ve put more effort into things like Swagbucks, instagc, Bing Rewards and Perk TV to give me gift cards to purchase things. This last one alone has been a godsend as I early on was able to get a prime pantry package valued at $85 for no cost to me thanks to gift cards which contained food and toilet paper and paper towels. It gave me meals and saved me money. It was great. I am trying to increase Bing and instagc payout right now as a matter of fact. Even if I only get like $100 a month via the rewards programs and ebay, it’s money that I wouldn’t otherwise have, and that stretches out my capability to remain unemployed and looking for a job that matters rather than resorting to moving onto retail or something.

So yeah we are moving onward. i initially wanted to have a job in the beginning of May. I knew that was an unrealistic goal, my friend had the idea that I would have a job mid-May, and that hasn’t happened either. I am fairly hopeful that the current interviews that I am going into will result in something, even if it is a temporary position. And so by that aspect, we are hoping to have a job by the end of May. Am crossing my fingers at least…

YouTube and The Witcher

It has been three months now of playing video games and posting my game play footage to YouTube. I have definitely had my ups and downs whilst doing it, but overall have enjoyed the experience. I am surprised in a lot of ways that I am still persistent in recording and editing and doing all the things that go into video creation, and in fact in many ways am more into it now than I was three months ago.

This past Monday, I went to my computer after work with the intention of recording the latest few episodes of my The Witcher playthrough. I tend to bulk record a few episodes at a time for my non-Minecraft games and Witcher was next up. But I didn’t, instead I went and did some recording for Craft the World instead. I didn’t because, well, I  don’t like the game that much, I don’t enjoy playing it almost at all. Sure, the series has traditionally done the worst of my 4 videos, even worse than the 15 year old Zeus game, but that doesn’t actually bother me that much. I knew it wasn’t going to be that much of a draw going into it.

Going into the game. I did want to play off the release of Witcher 3 by playing through Witcher 1 and Witcher 2 and then going directly into Witcher 3. But honestly, I don’t like the first one so much that I do kind of wonder how 2 even got made.

There’s a lot bad about the game like the  re-use of models so much that they don’t even bother changing the clothes of characters when they change the names. I can excuse this even though the game isn’t old enough for that to really be an excuse, but it was the first game from Projekt CD Red. But the things that actually bother me is stuff like the fact that it literally feels like every female in the game’s main purpose is to have sex with the main character, many times I accidentally stumble into yet another sex scene without even realizing that is where the conversation is going. Maybe it is a translation thing but I feel like I should know where it is headed if that is the result. There is a quest board… which I don’t even care for in MMOs. And many of the quests revolve around kill quests (blech) and various weird mini-games. I only ever have played the mini-games when I am forced into them by the story. There are three main offenders… The Poker Dice (read Yahtzee), fist fighting (which seems to be in every single inn), and the let’s get drunk. I actually feel the time where I had to get drunk and go off and fight was somewhat interesting, but only good once and every time they force you to drink, it feels somehow forced. “I will only tell you the info if you drink with me!!!” Really? How bout I just give you alcohol and you tell me what I wanna know. Wait, why isn’t that an option? You see that theme in all the mini-games too… “I will only tell you the info if you play poker dice with me!!!” Uhh, how bout we pretend I just lost, I pay you some money and you spill the info?

To be fair, there are some cool things about the game too. I like the discovery involved in the alchemy tho I still don’t entirely understand how it works, it’s kind of cool, and it’s kind of cool that you need to learn skills to advance that (even if it isn’t clear). There is also some interesting story going on. But overall, I just haven’t liked it. I think there has been more than one occasion where I have said that I have no idea what I’m doing has anything to do with the ultimate storyline and sometimes I don’t even know why I’m doing what I’m doing other than… quest.

And so I  have just today made the decision to make today’s episode of The Witcher the last episode, at least for awhile. I may  come back to it later. I do kind of want to go through the game as a whole at some point, but right now I feel the need for a break with it. After all, maybe the entire storyline is really good and will make the rest of the game’s issues feel silly. But for now, I’m not having fun, so it is out.

I will say that the decision to discontinue the season had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that today’s episode is the 25th episode of the series. When I was recording it, I didn’t even realize it was going to be the 25th episode as I made no mention of it at all. It’s just kind of that time in my recording. Tomorrow will bring the 25th episode of Minecraft (a fact I knew full well going into it). And I think Zeus is going to be hitting 25 in two episodes. I do feel like 25 episodes might become a standard minimum for me though. I like the number, it basically is equivalent to one season of TV programming (which usally has between 18 and 22 episodes these days). And I like the idea of giving a game a full on shot before I give up on it. 24 episodes at 20 minutes a piece is about 8 hours of gameplay and I think that is a good amount of time to give a game before I decide that I don’t like it.

So what will happen for Witcher’s normal Thursday/Sunday time slots? In short, I don’t know. I am pretty sure at the very least, I will move Craft the World from Wednesday to Thursday. And there is a good chance I move Minecraft into either the Wednesday or Sunday spot. I may actually do a near complete re-work of the schedule to be honest. I am hesitant of penning in Minecraft more than 2 times a week for sure, I have liked the flexibility putting up “bonus” episodes has given me. Which would leave me with a hole in the lineup. I might fill that hole by extending Craft the World to three times a week… Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday.  If I did that it would probably be Minecraft on Monday & Friday and Zeus on Wednesday & Saturday. This would be a pretty big shift for me. So I have some decisions to make over the next couple of days.

Looking forward. I do expect that either Zeus or Craft the World will finish up their first seasons in the next couple of weeks. I do have some ideas for what to replace them with though I am open to suggestions. I do feel the need to take a break before I continue on with both of those games, though I love both of them and definitely will be continuing them both in the future. I just feel I need to keep it fresh to keep it interesting for me.

iZombie Review

I haven’t actually done a review or early thoughts of pretty much anything recently. Very strange for me. Not sure why that is, but I felt compelled to do something for iZombie. Why? Because when I first heard of the show I thought… well that sounds stupid! And well conceptually the idea of a Zombie living amongst us living folks is very stupid and I’m not a huge fan of Zombies anyway, but as it turns out, this particular show is really really good.

To give a basic breakdown of what the show is about… iZombie is about a girl who becomes a Zombie in a world where a Zombiepocalypse is NOT occurring, yet at least. Big surprise. And where Zombies aren’t generally just mindless drones wandering around eating brains. I mean she does eat brains, and seems to be able to zerk out, thus becoming a mindless drone, but it is temporary. Zombies also seem to have the ability to see moments of their victims lives, which leads into the fact that she helps solve crime pretty well.

So this isn’t your normal zombie TV show. If you were looking for gore and violence with brainless killing, you are looking in the wrong place. This show is actually about someone coping with changing into something new, coping with the struggles of this change, and keeping the secret from those she loves. In essence, this show has more to do with a super hero ™ show than a zombie show, just using zombiism as the super power.

The show also doesn’t take itself overly seriously. It is more than anything a comedic crime fighting show. I couldn’t help but think of Psych while watching it when she plays off her zombie visions as a Psychic vision.  It’s style really plays into Psych a lot as well with its comedic crime fighting.

iZombie is a show very solidly aiming at an interesting mix of demographics. You can tell that the general every day life of the lead character is meant to appeal towards teenage girls, the zombie aspect and humor is geared towards everyone else. The creator of the show has also created Veronica Mars and the new 90210, and these roots definitely show. But this doesn’t entirely detract from how entertaining the show is. You as the viewer just need to let it entertain you.  If they can keep it up, you won’t be sorry.

And really I don’t think enough can be said that even though iZombie’s title makes you think it is a show about Zombies, it really is anything but, and to me that is what makes it special. I suggested it to my daughter who likes Zombies and she wouldn’t even let me finish telling her what it was about because a Zombie show shouldn’t be from the point of view of the Zombie. “Zombies are undead and are supposed to decay” she said. Well maybe, Vampires never did decay so I am not tied to that philosophy quite as much. Zombies were always boring previously. I applaud that someone decided to sit down and think about Zombies and try to make them more interesting and dynamic rather than just brainlessly create another show that was the same as all of the others, like the creatures that they are portraying. The original point of the zombie was that we shouldn’t all be part of a brainless horde, and each zombie creation that gets made just emphasizes how much of a zombie the creators actually are. The fact that this show is stepping away from the same old formula is in and of itself a commentary on the genre. Good for them.

Why Madden Doesn’t Sell on Nintendo

Today is the biggest football day of the year. I choose not to care. But I did decide to post some thoughts on why,  I think, that Madden NFL does not sell as well on Nintendo consoles as it does on other consoles. For that matter, this applies to sports titles, Call of Duty, and other franchises that send out a new title on a yearly basis.

And right there, I kind of hit the nail on the head. See, the average user of a Nintendo console has been conditioned by Nintendo themselves to not like this type of release schedule. Nintendo generally doesn’t believe in putting out more than one of their main franchises per console release. Let alone put a new version of such titles on a yearly basis. Super Smash Brothers is a great example. We just saw one come out on the Wii U and 3DS. Don’t expect another until next gen. Smash Bros. has only previously had a single entry on every other console.

It hasn’t been this way for every series however. I’m pointing my finger at you Mario Party. Unlike a lot of Nlntendo titles… Mario Party was an especially easy and cheap game to put out new versions of. In addition, they  tended to sell really well without major new additions. There was 3 Mario parties on the N64 and 4 on the Gamecube.

But then I think something happened. First, sales started to dwindle with each iteration. But I think during the Gamecube days, Nintendo made a very large mistake. They started putting out too many generic Mario titles. In addition to Mario Party and Smash Bros., we also had Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Mario Strikers (Soccer), and Mario Baseball (sure I am missing a few). I think at this point, Nintendo began to notice that all of these titles, many of which started up on the N64, started to decrease in sales. Even though they were fun to play, it became too much. It was around this time during the early years of the Wii that they stopped pushing yearly Mario Party and many of the sports titles ceased getting updates at all. My belief is that Nintendo took a step back and realized that over saturating the market with these types of titles was actually damaging their brand. And so they began the philosophy of only one per console.

Now, in general, we will only see one Primary Mario Platformer, One “New” Mario Platformer, perhaps a “3D” Mario game, a Mario Kart, a Smash Brothers, a Donkey Kong Returns, a Zelda, etc. But likely no more than one. This isn’t always going to be true, I think. We did get treated with a second Primary Mario Platformer on the Wii, but I think this will be more the exception than the rule.

And this turns to other companies who do over-saturate the market and ruin their brand. By and large, I do think that the market on Nintendo platforms will allow for multiple releases of a single title on a single platform, but known yearly commodities Nintendo consumers are more hesitant about. Madden for example… I for one enjoy having a Madden game. I bought one of the Maddens on the Gamecube and played it  for hours on end. I wanted to get a Madden on the Wii, thinking that the platform was perfect for sports games but early reports were that the game was not very good and so I waited for a later release. Later in the Wii lifecycle, EA decided to changeup Madden on the Wii, likely because sales were soft because other consumers like myself wanted to wait for a good Madden rather than just blindly buy crappy ones, so they made a “kiddy” Madden. This had almost no interest for me so I didn’t buy any Madden at all for the Wii, I imagine others had the same issues. Finally  for the Wii U, EA decided to make a straight port, not the kiddy version of Madden, but like early Wii games, reports were that it was a pretty bad port. So again, I was choosing to wait a generation or two until they could figure it out. But by then EA had squandered 7 years of crappy  Madden ports that weren’t selling and decided to stop making Madden entirely. Personally, I’d rather have no port than what they were giving us, but it is sad that they  aren’t even trying anymore.

Still, you see what was happening? I was holding out for a playable copy of the game because I didn’t want to get a second version of Madden. Contrast this to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners who seem to blindly buy every single edition of Madden, FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and so forth, just based on name brand alone despite offering nothing new to the series and it is a wonder that they don’t seem to sell when in addition to offering nothing new, they also do bad ports.

When did this idea of reselling the same game on a yearly basis really take hold anyway? I remember in the NES and SNES days, you did get sports games more frequently, but I don’t remember them being yearly. I think on the NES RBI Baseball was the most frequent series at 3 editions, and the NES was out for what 8 or 9 years? I feel like it wasn’t until 3D became a thing that we started seeing yearly updates. The big thing people seem to enjoy is having stats and players updated, but why is this a thing? Does it really enhance the game to have Johnny Manzel in the series? If the game is good, it shouldn’t matter that rosters are a little out of date. And really rosters don’t really change that drastically year in and year out anyway. I know EA has mentioned in the past that they were working on adding downloadable roster updates in the future, but if they do that they risk losing their cash cow. Even if they charge $10 per year of roster updates, that still is going to pale in comparison to the yearly $60 they get now. The yearly update also protects them from shoddy work. They don’t have to care as much each year if one game is bad, there’s always next year right?

We as consumers really need to stop allowing this to happen. Having a new Madden, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or Mario Party is not good for the games industry. Quite the contrary, this type of marketing has the potential to crash the industry again. Over-saturation of a product is not good. Just ask Harmonix and Activision how that worked out with Rock Band and Guitar Hero.