Sunday, June 24, 2012

Putting it out there.

I resubbed to Match for the summer. Best time to date, and I could really use some exposure to the world outside the electric grid. It's also been a while since I have stepped back and defined what I want from whomever I'm sharing a cup of coffee or whatever with.

At first I just wanted to be just as goofy and funny as possible trying to shed light on how stupid the whole online daitng thing is, but then I realized that nobody was responding to my finely crafted sonnets of love.

Here is the post I wrote to sum me up. I think I nailed it.

I’m looking for someone, maybe they are on the internet. Some of the most interesting people, and some of my best friends are there...

At this point in my life, I have been through a lot, and I have grown incredibly as a person; tragically not nearly enough. No matter what you accomplish, own, or do in life, the struggle is the parts that count. To quote the Barenaked Ladies, “Everything easy has its cost.” I know that I will always be struggling, seldom taking the easy road, and I want to find that person that wants do things not because they are easy, but because they are interesting.

I love a girl who can always be herself, no matter what is going on around her. Being yourself is sometimes rough, but at the end of the day, you can’t be anything else. Be honest with yourself, and I will return the favor. Talk, and I will listen. Teach me something, and I will show you my own weird world. Laugh with me, and I will keep the humor on tap. I’m a complete person by myself, but I want something more than that; I want to build something incredible, even if it only exists between two people.

Ultimately, I don't think it matters what I say or don't say in my profile; just paint a picture of what I feel and those who read it will fill in the gaps with their own paintbrush. It's not about what you say, but what you don't say.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Diablo 3 Love/Hate

Diablo 3 is a great game, but I have a love hate relationship with it right now. I love what it is, and I hate what it is trying to be.

I hold this game very near and dear to my heart. I probably dumped a whole summer into the original game. At the time, dungeon crawlers were pretty disposable. Once you ran through them once and got all the loot, you were done; replaying the dungeon was the same thing no matter how many times you played it. Diablo introduced random dungeon layouts and random loot, something that had never been done at that scale and production quality before.

I cut my teeth on an old Net.Hack clone called Mission Thunderbolt back for the Mac. Every playthough was different, and the turn based combat was visceral, literally beating things to death. It was the random element that kept me playing, and I still boot it up once in a while.

At it's core, Diablo is a slot machine; it introduces random intermittent rewards (loot) for a defined input (killing monsters). In order to progress, you must play the game better or get better loot in order to be more effective against harder monsters, which drop better loot. It's the most elegant gear treadmill ever designed. This is why I love the game, you can choose your own level of difficulty and involvement. The harder you push against the game, the harder it pushes back, and it's internal random number generator gives you the rewards your rat brain wants.

This is what made Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 so addicting. The intermittent reward model has been shown to be the most addictive behavior for our brains to keep doing the same task.

The new Diablo model is a little different. Now you not only have your own instance of the random number generator (I'm just going to call it a RRG - a Random Reward Generator) giving you loot, but you have an auction house linking your RRG to everyone elses RRG. This basically neuters the reward system that we have known and loved, and replaces it with a market based reward system.

The reward system in Diablo 3 is also very unforgiving. You have to kill a LOT of monsters to get loot that improves your potency against the game. The random bonuses on loot are poluted with garbage stats (gold pickup radius, health globe bonus), not to mention class specific gear and the fact that most classes want stats on gear that is dramatically different from the other classes. Playing the probability game, a lot of dice rolls need to come up in your favor to get loot with the most effective stats. In essence, the odds are stacked in the house's favor.

This is where the new Diablo breaks down for me. Now you can see the guts of the machine. You can see the beautiful shiny items on the auction house, and how vastly inferior your own gear is. You now have the option of spending your time farming gold to buy the good itemized gear on the AH, or you can drop some real life coin and go that route as well; the third option is jumping on that gear treadmill and playing against the house for gear that has useful itemization (I swear to god the next monk only fist weapon that has +Str and +Int on it, I'm going to go kill some kittens).

Diablo 3 is a pay or play game like League of Legends or any free to play MMO out there. They gave it away for free to the hopelessly addicted WoW people, and sold it to the nostalgic Blizzard gamers that love them so much. I heard an analogy that Blizzard is the Disney of the video game industry, where they just iterate on their previous successes. Blizzard's plan is to make money on the tail of the real money AH, where "game balances" will drive the economy and shift people into different item budgets.

The pay/play model is killing me. This seems to be the way of the future, where monetization gets sneakier and sneakier all the time. Externalizing costs has always been the way to make a profit and make money in business, and it has finally come to video games; to me, this business model finds the stupid people who will pour money into time savers and "cheats" to make their own game experience better. I know this has been around for a while with downloadable content, but I think we are just now seeing the consequences. Smart people play with skill, and stupid people play with their dollars. I think this kind of model will see developers and game designers chasing the time savers and cheaters, instead of the smarter people who can play within the bounds of the game. Games will get stupider and will start to resemble actual slot machines more and more, or even the old arcade games of old.

I'm still playing the game, but only to see how far I can take my hardcore toon. Once he dies, I think I am done. I rolled a WD at launch, and I can only see grind in my future since I have reached inferno. I'll try to hock all my gear on the real money AH and see if I can make a little scratch.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thou Mayest.

I'm really glad that Carissa gave me 'East of Eden' to read. It's giving me the inspiration to get my shit together again and come out of the hole I have been hiding in for the last couple years. Well, at least it's adding a positive voice to my internal struggle.

One of the characters is mirroring one of my own personal struggle. Wandering aimlessly, finding a girl whom he loves blindly, getting that love shot out of him by the one who put it there, and then the struggle to get back on his feet and keep trying. One of the themes of the book is struggle. If you aren't fighting and struggling for things you care about, then you are wasting life.It's the uphill struggle that makes you great. It's fighting every battle because it matters, and a body at rest remains at an unhappy rest. This is a lesson I am now learning, after wasting a lot of my time avoiding the world and all it's pointless struggles. In the end, the struggle only really needs to matter to one person.

The last 6 months I have been hiding myself behind armor. It's been a polar shift. I've been seeing women as evil creatures intent on stealing men's souls. I'll always feel slightly afraid of women, because men will always desire them and lose their minds in the presence of da ladies. I still feel that culturally, the balance of power between genders is fluid. Men and women want different things, and the reconciliation between those two has made for an interesting time. Men push boundaries and poke and prod the world around them trying to create and solve new problems, while women seek balance and common understanding while building communities and ammeliorating the chaos around them.

I do feel that American society has produced a culture of princesses who see men for their kingdoms, just like men see women for their physical features and their sex; neither genders sees much past that and looks for inner beauty, which is tragic to me. That's just me being weird though. It almost makes sense that as long as you can present yourself to the opposite gender what they are seeking. Women are on a constant quest to be as beautiful as they can, while guys pour themselves into their career and making a good living. This is the way the world works, and I am just now figuring it out. It's fun to think about.

What this means to me, is that it's time to stop moping and keep searching for someone to have in my life, no matter how fruitless the battle or the journey. This lesson holds even after I find a girlfriend or whatever, never stop fighting for yourself.

This doesn't mean I have to give up something else in my life to start down this road. On the contrary: I need to keep shoving more stuff into my life until nothing else fits. If I have free time, I will find something to do. Working out, running, reading, writing, things that are tangible and have value. Sitting around all weekend playing a video game just won't cut it anymore.

Speaking of futile struggles, I might just go make a match profile and see what bites.