Saturday, August 26, 2017

StarCraft: Remastered

It was 2000.  I was heading back to college, as a returning student, and I was twenty-five years old.  My friend took me to the local store (remember those, kids?) and decided he was going to buy me a video game.  
Now, I’m not proud of this, but I’ve always been poor.  My first computer, I overpaid for an underperforming, floor model machine.  I had that thing for four years before a “friend” shorted the motherboard out because he was trying to be smart.  Or something.  The replacement computer I got had the mouse port burned out.  Ultimately, I got a better computer, but it was still a couple years out of date.
So, when I got to the store, there were a few games that interested me, and none I could play on my computer.  After searching high and low, we settled on StarCraft, the boxed set.  I have to admit, I didn’t think much of it.  I was more into older games that could be played on run down computers – turn based games and so on.  This wasn’t quite state of the art, but it was more state of the art than I’d ever played.
So, it was months before I got around to playing it.  I got excited reading the manual, and frustrated when I wasn’t allowed to use those units in early missions.  As usual.
I was often between college and home, with internet access not often available.  Heck, for the most part, I was on dial up at home still.  So, I played alone.
I eventually discovered the scenarios and single-player non-campaign games.  Again, even when I had the internet, it was often mostly unavailable.  As a side note, the university I went to actually throttled internet access to games and such.  My crappy computer never helped either.
It was a long time before I realized there were game updates – missile turrets always cost 100 minerals, for example.  I don’t even remember the rest, but I always built lots of missile turrets.
Then, I was stuck on campus for the summer.  I’d made plans for that summer, but they were cancelled when I realized I wasn’t going to stay on campus.  Then, amazingly, I got to stay.  Yeah, it was complicated.  So, I was on campus, doing a “job” that didn’t involve a lot of work, or money, and all I had was free time.  I’d stay up all night, every night, playing StarCraft.  I’d beat missions with Goliath walkers, or just Siege Tanks – just because.  I’d always play the long game.  In fact, the best experience I could have in a game would be to have my fleet of Battlecruisers hit by a Defiler with plague.  I’d have to rush home and sit and repair them, all the while imagining different sections to be engines, life support, bridge, or engineering.
Alas, StarCraft 2 changed that.  StarCraft 2 was designed to force you to play online.  Playing offline was possible, but was unnatural.  Achievements weren’t recorded and enemy unit stats weren’t available, even in-game, when the internet wasn’t available.  The game measured things that I’d never worked on before – speed, counters, and so on. 
I’ve played too long by myself, on my own rules, to ever be a good player, but the new way of playing has ruined me for the older way.  I still have some remnants of the old way – “Ratchet”, my repair/build SCV is always hotkeyed at four, for example.  Even so, the game has become less for me, than it has become a force to change me for it.
That’s disappointing.  It’s not a bad game, but other people are too often pains in posteriors.  Chat is all about political arguments.  Games are an exercise in fast-clicking rather than any sort of strategy or fun.  Blizzard itself has become another money machine, well on its way to a more advanced Mafia Wars, nickle and diming users for the smallest tokens and digital hooha.
I bought the new game - StarCraft: Remastered.  I played the final mission of the first StarCraft game and rather than running around, killing all of the bad guys over the course of ninety minutes, I rushed in and beat the game in just under thirty, without even trying hard.  Sigh.
            - Jim

Friday, July 14, 2017

Game of Thrones

               This is an odd post.  Well, first of all, it’s a post.  That’s weird enough from me these days.  Second, I’m pre-writing this, to copy and paste in my blog.  It will still be largely unedited, but not perfectly so.
               As you probably know, I’m a Game of Thrones fan.  I like the show.  Full Disclosure:  I’ve only read the first book.  I hate waiting for new seasons of shows, but I despise waiting for new books.  He has his reasons, but George R.R. Martin takes a long time to write, and I don’t want to get invested in books that I’ll have to wait years to read.  Also, the books and the episodes are different enough in plot, storyline, names, dates, ages, ranges, timelines, datelines, ley lines, and probably everything else.  They’re similar enough to only be confusing.
               This isn’t going to be an entirely popular post.  Then again, I doubt mine really are all that often.  Being a fan turns me off from everyone who doesn’t like the show.  Everything else about the post will turn me off from the fans.  Shrug.  I write these things for me. 
               So, I’m watching the episodes again, in anticipation of another season.  I’ll finish late, which means I’ll watch the episodes late.  That’s me.  I’m so far behind, I’m reading news from four months ago.  Why should television be any different?
               As I was saying, I was watching the episodes again, and I’ve got a complaint.  I have the same complaint about the first book as well.  The first book seemed like it was written in search of a story.  George R.R. Martin wrote television episodes for other shows in the past – maybe that’s the reason for it.  The first book was written like a TV series.  Generic (and less generic) plot hooks are left dangling left and right, some never to be brought up again.  Overdramatic scenes are overdramatic, simply for the sake of drama.  People grow, which is the nature of people.  These characters flesh out more than they grow.
               I’m learning to appreciate character deaths more, but many of these character deaths serve little purpose, except as plot contrivances to create season highs and lows. 
               Y’know, I don’t mind all that to a point.  It’s just that Game of Thrones takes it up to level fourteen so much that it’s become a trope by itself.  I’m writing this post after seeing yet another, “I Promise” on the screen that you know will end unfulfilled, as the character saying it, or the characters they’re saying it to, die tragically.  Wouldn’t be such a big thing, but this character was instantly developed, over the course of twenty minutes, to be a tragic death.
               I admit, the show has a lot to live up to.  It has to constantly upgrade tensions, outrages, action scenes, and special effects.  Its worst enemy is itself, but the highs come too often, too fast, with too little story behind them.
               Speaking of story, I also dislike the digression into backstory as often as it does.  Sometimes it works well, too often it is inserted clumsily, leading to clunky exposition.  Sometimes, when a character is angry and chomping at the bit, answering yes or no is more appropriate than extolling about the time your father taught you a lesson about taking a spear to court.  Blah blah blah.
               None of this makes the show unwatchable, in my opinion.  It’s enough to make ones eyes roll pretty hard though.
- Jim

             My prediction for the series now is that Petyr Baelish either is, or becomes a follower of The Great Other. 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Still Not Dead Yet. Sorry.

Nope, I'm still not dead yet.

I've been away from here for a while.  I haven't been totally gone - you can see my Twitter feed to the right of this page.  I just haven't posted here.  To tell you the truth - I've been behind on everything.  Last year, I was sick several times, bad enough to be put in the hospital.  In that time, and the recovery time afterward, I've fallen behind on everything.

I also didn't want to comment on the election.  Yeah, like everyone else I have an opinion.  While I think I may have had something to say, I couldn't have gotten a word in edgewise.  The screamers from both sides weren't letting any reasonable opinion through the gates.  Of course, balanced against everything else in my life, it just wasn't that important.

I'm not back yet.  I'm catching up, but there are literally piles of stuff around here - projects I started and never finished, news articles I haven't read, books I haven't seen, movies I haven't watched, papers I haven't filed.  I just figured it'd been long enough without posting that I should probably say something.

The Twitter feed does give some indication of stuff I do from time to time, but I mostly reserve it for movies and television shows I watch.  Rarely, I mention books and magazines.  I don't post about much else.  If you're stalking me, it's a good place to start, but you'll have to work harder than that.  Of course, if you're stalking me, you need more of a life than even I do.

The book(s) are being worked on.  Work essentially stopped when I started getting sick and either never started again, or had been just restarted when I got sick again.  I'm a weird sort of OCD completist, and taking a break that long usually means starting from the beginning, one way or another.

I hope to have something better to write about soon.  High hopes.

- Jim