Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Innovation without Imitation is a waste of time

If you've ever used the term "innovation", you really should watch this. It is Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs talking about what's he's learned.

The best line in there is the title of the entry. Think about it for a bit. The best innovations are things that leverage imitiation to its fullest - learning from the past efforts, their mistakes as well as trimumphs. His example is good - iPhones may be cool, but they don't work without the knowledge of touch screens, programming, circuit boards, materials, mass production, etc.

More close to home - a lot of people who hate on Halo like to say it "has been done before". Sure, it has a few neat ideas, the Internet goes, but mostly just cribs from PC shooters. Congratulations, you just describe almost every game ever made, or everything ever made that's any good. Innovation, with imitation from those who came before. That's not a bad thing... if anything, that's just good sense. Never let common sense stand in the way of a good troll, though. That ruins the fun.

Thanks to my wife for pointing this video out to me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Wife Produces!

Times are tough. You know they're tough when you're doing everything right, and you lose your job anyway because your company fucks up or decides to think short term shareholder gain. No, not me - I'm talking about my beautiful wife. Jarrah got laid off in February from Expedia in their big raid against their in-house talent. Slash and burn. Lots of good people lost their jobs there.

So now, she's been looking for a job. She's got a great resume (she's a producer/project manager), lots of good experience on big time projects, etc... but the problem is that people are in hiring freezes everywhere. That is crazy frustrating to me, and I'm not even the one looking for a job, so I can only imagine what she feels like.

But let me tell you, she handles it like a champ. She's sending resumes out, getting callbacks, taking classes toward new certifications in stuff that sound difficult based on their acronyms... it really is just a matter of time. To all the companies out there in the Seattle area looking for producers, you're missing out without her. Act fast before this offer ends!

One day I hope to be fabulously wealthy so she doesn't have to work at all. So, before my "lottery retirement plan" (hehehe) kicks in, be sure to snap her up! A producer like her is not a common thing, so don't let her amazing abilities go to waste!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

World of Warcraft is Broken?

In an effort to keep making regular posts to make this place somewhat interesting, and because I have nowhere else to discuss this, we're going to talk about World of Warcraft. I know, I know. Too bad.

Up until recently, I had been a long time subscriber, running around with my single character. I don't play alts, I played one character, doing the solo content, some dungeons, and even a raid or two more recently. I didn't try and min/max my character, I didn't pick the best spec, I picked my spec for fun and flavor: I've been a demonology warlock in WoW since before the first class revision, so I've seen the lowest of the low and the best of that class. And it was fun, even when I hit max level and didn't really raid, because of the social component, and because there were enough "extra" things to do that it made a great default game when I had nothing else to do.

I say "until recently" because a month ago, I cancelled my subscription. I'll probably resubscribe when the next expansion comes out, but I couldn't really play the game anymore. It wasn't because I was out of things to do... patch 3.1 was about come, and despite not really raiding, I could always do some dailies and professions and whatever.

The problem I hit was I couldn't ignore how broken the end game was for WoW now. You see, Blizzard's idea of the endgame is "raid, and when you're finished, farm, grind, and roll an alt while you wait for us to add more content." Think about that for a minute. You invest all this time into building a character, after you manage to go through the tremendous effort to go through whatever the current "final raid" is, you either just keep running the same area over and over again, grind some repeatable quests, or start a new character. You're expected to run in place or start everything over.

That's bullshit. Why do I have to wait for Blizzard to make content? There is no possible way they can keep creating content at a pace that will satisfy their users. They know, and I know it. So why do they keep pretending like that problem doesn't exist (yeah, I know, millions of subscribers, but this is a philosophical discussion)?

This is where they need to invest in some user generated content. And I'm not talking world-building, necessarily - you don't need something like City of Heroes' mission architect. Look at EVE Online - they created a sandbox, and the players basically call the shots. Other games are adding the concept of exploration, where players travel to areas that are somewhat "randomly" generated, and can do things there, then come back with something to show for it. See Star Trek Online's exploration model and how they're trying to make sure the game always has something over the horizon for you.

The point here that Warcraft is the biggest, most well funded MMO. Why are they still going with a "add content onto the end" model? I mean, having that stuff is all well and good, but they need something that's a little more self-sustaining. With their player size, I don't understand why they're not doing more to allow players to affect the world.

A tall order, I know. But they really need to break this "boom bust" cycle WoW seems to have with the lull between patches of content. This is especially true if they're making the content more accessible. If it is easier to get to all the content, that means more players are going to run out of stuff to do sooner.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Final Fantasy XII (no, not XIII)

So, a few videos of the demo for Final Fantasy XIII popped up on YouTube. Still not really enough info for me to comment on it, although it did bring back horrible memories of playing FFXII.

You see, I'm a fan of jRPGs in general. I recently finished up the main quest of Star Ocean 4 and, despite the horrible crash bug and atrocious voice acting/dialogue, enjoyed it quite a lot. This was mainly due to the incredibly fun battle system. Basically, you control one character (you can switch instantly), others are AI controlled. The game has combos, blindsiding, position matters, etc. It also has all these little "battle trophies" for doing things like reaching thresholds in damage, consecutive hits, and more. Great fun, even on non-bosses. And since the enemies are visible all the time, you can choose your battles (although in practice you'll want to engage every one).

Now, I've played every Final Fantasy except the MMO. I've liked all of them, except XII. This bothered me, because not only was everybody telling me how awesome this game is (check its metacritic score), but it had obviously high production values, decent localization, and was very generally well polished all around. Plus it was Final Fantasy, right?

At first, I thought my dislike was for the plot and characters. I didn't really feel invested in what the characters were fighting for, and didn't care for the characters themselves. This probably was because Vaan (the young thief you primarily see the world through) was just a lame character. He's a side character masquerading as a main character. But hey, maybe that's just me, it happens. Besides, a lot jRPGs have dumb plots or really irritating characters.

Of course, that's the point. If it were just the characters and plot, I'd normally just play through. Final Fantasy VIII had a terrible plot and the main character was a whiny emo asshole. Seriously, Squall was kind of a dick. But the battle system was engaging enough, and the rest of characters didn't suck as bad as Squall, and the game held up much better... except the entire ending.

I must therefore place my blame for not liking FFXII on the battle system. Here is a game that recognized that non-boss ("trash") mobs can be boring to fight. Instead of fixing it so that these mobs are fun to fight, they created a system to automate these fights. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a way to better control AI controlled party members. Star Ocean 4 could have benefitted from that. But Star Ocean 4's combat is fun. Their effort obviously was put into the combat system. FFXII had this complex Gambit system that could be interesting, then they locked most of it away into slow paced skill grid and completely forgot that their battles are still boring! In order to have any fun at all, you have to powerlevel and open up your skills so you can access the more advanced skills/gambits. This made the game feel just glacial in its pace - like a bad MMO without other players.

With FFXIII on the way, it appears that they're not keeping any of that system. Apparently they've decided to use the old Active Time Battle system, but make the time gauge in that the limiting resource of gameplay, rather than magic points or skill points, etc. I hope there are other things beyond that. But even if there isn't, it already looks more interesting than the combat FFXII presented me.

Hopefully the plot is a little more fantastical and less political intrigue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We Didn't Start the Flame War - CollegeHumor Video

This particular video on should be sent to anyone new to Internet as an introduction.

Also, I think I'll start sending this to people who ask me what dealing with the forums is like sometimes.