(inspired by the cadence "I wanna be an Airborne Ranger")

Friday, September 13, 2013

The most fun I’ve ever had gaming

This year has been one of slowly trying to turn my life around and get on a better track.  Part of that has involved shifting away from negative influences and focusing on the positive ones (because at the end of the day, given where I live and the life I’ve had, things are pretty darn good for me).

So I wanted to touch and start writing on here about the most fun I’ve ever had gaming.  I want to preface it with some apologies, though.  I kind of feel… bad.  Like I’m slighting all the fun times I’ve had gaming with friends over the years.  That’s not the case at all! 

Jason, I have absolutely loved all the board games we’ve played and can’t wait to play more.  To the friend, all those hours gaming online (and that epic 6-hour StarCraft game) were (and hopefully will continue to be) a blast.

The thing is, I came across something that was even more amazing…

D&D (henceforth referred to as DnD because I’m a lazy typer and the n is easier to input than the &)

Ok, that should probably be written as ‘table-top RPGs’ but DnD is what we were playing (some of the time), shorter to write, and catchier (in my mind at least).  I recently finished a campaign (well, it’s technically not done but I’m not sure if the group will ever be able to get back together) that was just… AMGSOMUCHFUN!

I think I know why it was so much fun as well: we could do whatever we wanted.  In board and computer games you’re ultimately restricted in what you can do.  In games like DnD your imagination is the limit (and it didn’t hurt that I was the GM and occasionally playing characters as well, so the world was… well… my fantasy come true).

So, yeah.  I have tons of stories I want to share about this last year playing our campaign, where I got started, and where I’d love to still go with games like it in the future.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On poor game design: choices should be noticeable and actually do what they’re intended to

Wow, that title was a bit… long.

I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to format my game reviews and ended up focusing on a negative point about two of them, Dragon Age and Elven Legacy, that I thought warranted a post of its own.

In Dragon Age, as you level, you get points you can spend to shape how your character plays (it’s been years since I played so the terminology may be off, but the point is still the same).  In every fantasy game I come across I always go for a Ranger build (focusing on ranged combat with a bow).  This aspect of Dragon Age’s combat was in a poor state when the game was released.  The friend pointed me to a hot fix from a dev the week it came out (first sign that this aspect of the game wasn’t ready) that tried to buff ranged combat.  It wasn’t enough.  If you spent heavy into ways that seemed to buff ranged combat you did little to make your character stronger.  It was just a poorly designed system at launch.

A year or so later I came across an article online where someone showed how you could make ranged combat work.  The trouble was… it was horribly unintuitive and required DLC NPCs to work.  IOW, it was still broke but if you were willing to spend enough time to get a PhD in bad game mechanics you could’ve figured out a way to play the way I wanted.

No thanks.

In Elven Legacy the issue was a bit more straightforward.  As your units gained experience you could spend those points to give them abilities, bonuses, etc.  The problem was… those upgrades did nothing.  You get all excited, upgrade the unit, see it still struggles in combat, and dies because the level designers rushed out the content at the last second due to deadlines or their own or the manager’s ineptitude.

The lesson in all of this is that if you’re going to have a development/upgrade system in a game it needs to actually do what it claims to do and the results need to be noticeable.  If it’s not, don’t leave it in the game.  Delay the release till it’s done right or (more realistically) pull it out of the game till it’s ready and throw it in later in a patch.  It’s never a good thing to release a product that appears rushed and/or poorly thought out.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Failures in Leadership… II (and the failures of strategy in WoT)


It’s been a frustrating last two hours in WoT.

It started when we had ‘practice’ for a map we’ve been struggling on recently (against a clan with players who individually are a tier below us, but this is organized play and we’re not very organized**).  This ‘practice’ (if you haven’t noticed yet, I use those quotes often for phrases that annoy me or when I’m annoyed about a subject) ended up lasting an hour long and we got all of 2 runs in.  To call it a waste of time would be an understatement.  It highlighted a huge frustration I have with bad leadership.


As a leader/manager/NCO/coach/whatever you never just go up to someone underneath you and ask ‘are you ok in your current situation?’ or ‘do you understand the assignment/strat/plan?’  For the latter, in a military or sports environment, you run the bloody thing over… and over… and over.  In a work environment you observe what’s going on.  The result should be you making the call based on what you see.  That’s why you are in that position.  If you can’t tell or you don’t know then you shouldn’t be, plain and simple.

What happened tonight in practice was that we got all of 2 runs in in an hour.  The second run came right at the end and it didn’t go as the ‘caller’ wanted.  On top of that both runs only covered the initial placement.  We never got into “what if?” scenarios.  We called it a night after the ‘caller’ asked if everyone was ok and if they understood.  Everyone that answered said yes.  It was clear from that last run, though, that we weren’t.

Gimmicks are not strategy

When it came time for the battle the enemy didn’t do anything like our ‘caller’ had expected.  Since we hadn’t planned or even remotely trained for something like this we were caught flat-footed and they cleaned our clocks.

This has been a recurring theme from my experience in a fairly good clan on the NA server.  Instead of working on tactics and formations that are flexible we practice very specific moves (and often just opening moves) in hopes that that will be enough to catch an enemy in a bad spot and win.  Sadly, given the huge spread of player and clan skill, this often works (since most clans are just… bad). 

Why’s that sad?  The reason is we then take that same approach against clans that practice or against other clans with good players.  When tried against them said gimmicks are just a roll of the dice.  That’s not a recipe for success.

In our old clan leadership and some players had selective memory and blew such setbacks off (one infamous leader claimed we were undefeated when playing tier 10s when we… weren’t).  We recently got our rears handed to us in a war so we’re more grounded than before.  As such, and coupled with our recent frustrations, I’m hoping our leadership will be more willing into looking at a flexible approach.



* Stupid Windows Live Writer.  I made a post about an hour ago.  Just now I went to edit it but decided to write a second post instead.  I canceled pulling up the old one, made a new one with a different title, and yet it still overwrote the old one completely.

** We’re working on the organized part… sort of.  While I had seen some huge strides in the last week tonight was a huge step back to where we were before.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Failures in Leadership

At work just the other day I came across a friend who was working in a new area.  I joked about whether he’d been given any instruction on what needed to be done in this part of the store.  He responded, “Nope!  Once I saw where I was working I went up to Manager X and asked him what I needed to know.  He said just to ask the driver.  I get over here and the driver’s working here for the first time as well!  Dontcha love this place?!”

I chuckled because what my friend described is, sadly, typical at where I work.

“But Illy, what does this have to do with gaming?!”

Well, strange-voice-from-the-nether, let me keep going.

The other night in World of Tanks (WoT for short) we were in a battle in Clan Wars.  We were playing Highway and our ‘caller’* told our heavies to move into the city to engage the enemy.  Most of our E-100s moved into the same area and tried to engage.  The fight didn’t go well and our caller started yelling at us in TeamSpeak (TS for short). 

“Umm… Illy, again, where are you going with this?”

Seriously, strange-voice-from-the-nether, you’re starting to grind my gears.  The point in both is to highlight failures in leadership I’ve seen recently.

“Well, in the battle in WoT did you all fail to do what you were told?”

That’s the key… and like the example at work above, we were never really told what to do to begin with.  Our caller told the heavies to move in.  They did.  Then he started yelling at them because they weren’t going exactly where he wanted them to.  Had they ever practiced this, though?  No.  Did the caller cover this just in chat before the battle started?  No. 

We had never covered this in any way, shape, or form and yet it was our fault for failing to carry it out exactly as the caller wanted.

This is a sensitive issue for me because of my time in the Army.  While I was only in for a few years I was an NCO for over two and to be blunt the Army knows how to train small-unit leaders (the big ones, at the very top of the food chain, well… that’s another discussion for a later time and a different blog).

Leadership isn’t simply saying ‘do Y’ and expecting it to happen magically.  Think about that for a second.  No, really.  What magical trait do some people believe they possess that they think they can simply say something very brief and expect it to work?  It’s absurd, yet it’s so common.

On top of that when things don’t work it still boggles my mind that folks think yelling at folks will magically fix a problem.  As an NCO I never once had to raise my voice and I dealt with a lot of soldiers who were, well, not the brightest bunch.

The key with leadership is that it’s work, and too often IRL and especially in gaming over the last ten years I’ve come across far too many in leadership positions who don’t know how to or are unwilling to.  Instead they expect the slightest breath from their magical lips to make things miraculously come together and when they don’t (which is often the case) it’s the peons they’re forced to deal with who failed.

It’s just… pathetic, amateurish, sad, and so many other things.  I’ll write in a later post on what they should be doing  (as well as express my comments on ‘callers’).


* I put that in quotations because the role this plays in WoT just… bugs me.  It’s worthy of a post of its own but that’s for another time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The good ol’ days

I miss the days of yore when servers were their own small communities where players that stole, were obnoxious, etc. were black-listed and lived the life of a recluse or had to reroll elsewhere.  This shift to mega-servers and cross-realm grouping means those people have nothing to fear, and as such in games like WoW I’ve watched them go from servers that were real communities to games where there’s no incentive to care for other players and it shows.

Not every advancement forward is a good thing.  This shift in gaming is one of those.

Friday, September 28, 2012

If you enjoy a good action movie, see Dredd

Yes, I understand movies aren’t really the focus of this blog (or rather, weren’t… things be a-changin’).  However, having just got home from seeing Dredd what I care more about these days are relating experiences where I actually enjoyed myself.  Sadly, those have been few and far between for a long time.

Dredd was well done, entertaining, and above all fun.  That’s worth blogging about.


Simple things can be really enjoyable when done right.  The problem is, they rarely are.  Dredd is ultimately a simple action movie that’s just really well done.