Gamerzone

The title for this page is unbearably cheesy and sounds like something a 15-year-old with no friends would think is cool.  Although as a 24-year-old with basically no friends, at least I’m self-aware of it.

Madden

Video games are one of my hobbies, and I play from time to time.  Currently, I’m playing Madden 16, and I’d consider myself to be an average player.  I play on the All-Pro difficulty setting and win about 70% of my games.

In the game, you have the option of being the owner of a team so you can control the financial aspects of Football rather than just the players, and I have to say, it allows for some hilarious results.

Wanting a challenge instead of a cakewalk I chose to inherit one of the very worst teams in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars.  I made an announcement that I would relocate the team to a new city in the following year (you have to wait at least one year before you can transfer).

Eventually, the choices came up, and some of them were… unexpected.   Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

-Brooklyn, New York.  Now I know what you’re thinking:  New York has a large population.  They also already have two football teams.  Do they really need a third?  In fact, they already have three if you include Buffalo.

-Mexico City, Mexico.  Mexico isn’t exactly a financially prosperous country for the NFL, and even if they were, that’s irrelevant as their kind of football if futbol.

-Orlando, Florida.  Florida already has 3 football teams.  In this case, I’d be moving from Jacksonville to Orlando, but no one in their right mind would do that.

-Portland, Oregon.  Hipsters are far more likely to be Soccer fans than Football fans.  And everyone in Oregon who does like Football is already a Seahawks fan, it would take a hell of a long time for that to change.

And last but not least.  *drum roll*

-Dublin, Ireland.  Lmao.  I couldn’t put London (you can choose London) on this “terrible cities” list because at least Londoners tend to be rich (very high property values) and they have a huge population base.  In somewhere like London even if the NFL is seen as a novelty sport and only a tiny fraction of them would actively support the team, that could still be plenty.  But Dublin?  Hahahaha.  All of Ireland combined has a population of less than 5 million.  Green Bay can get away with this sort of thing since the people there live and breath football, but the Irish barely care about it.

Keep in mind the game DOES factor in the population of your location as well as the loyalty they’ll give you, which ranges from “hardcore” (the best fans) to “fairweather” (the worst).

Dublin gets the worst population rating possible and the second worst fan loyalty rating, “laid back.”  That means it will be exceptionally hard for my Dublin Shamrocks to be a profitable franchise.  Challenge accepted.

Unsurprisingly the locals in Jacksonville weren’t exactly happy about this, but they can piss off.  You can’t call me a greedy corporate Fat-Cat because of what I did.  If I moved to somewhere like LA or London at least the “you’re only doing it for the money” accusations might actually be right.  But when you move to Dublin, it’s only because you hate yourself.

I chose to “auto-simulate” the rest of the season, knowing I would lose the vast majority of my games since the Jaguars are one of the very worst teams.  I was hoping to have the worst season in the league (I’m about to explain why) but instead I came in the fifth-worst.

My scouts had been hard at work all season long to find the best players from college to draft, and I knew the worse my season was, the better the players I could snatch.  If a team in Dublin, Ireland is to survive, it will take a lot more than the luck of the Irish.

I spent my first round pick on the best QB I could get, wanting a franchise worthy leader rather than Blake Bortles.  The dude I picked ended up with a rating even worse than Mr. Bortles, boy that was a mistake.   I made my other picks in priority of replacing the worst players on the roster, and I marginally improved my team from a 79 rating of last year’s season to an 82 for the new season.

I promised myself not to cheat by restarting the game if I’m losing.  If I lose, I lose.  As of writing this, my record is 4-2.  At least my Dublin Shamrocks are in the AFC South, the worst division in the league.  Since the Colts somehow managed to get even worse between last year and this year, that means there are absolutely no decent teams I’m competing with.  I know I won’t go to the Superbowl this year, but I’ll probably make the playoffs.

To be continued…

update:  Actually, it won’t be continued.  I abandoned that Shamrock campaign, and I’m burned out of Madden in general.  I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can (sometimes) win on All-Madden, the highest difficulty setting.  I won’t get much better than I already am, without playing like 8 hours a day.  This would effectively mean stop going to the gym, stop trying to learn guitar, piano, and synthesizer, stop playing all games besides Madden, drop out of college, stop showering, etc.  All of that just to maybe become one of the top 200 Madden players (yes, it has a worldwide ranking since you can play against other human opponents online).  That said, even the Madden world champion doesn’t make that much.  In other words, totally not worth it.

So the game I’ve moved onto…

Starcraft

One thing I’ve learned about StarCraft, which is also applicable to life in general, is that to get good at it, the general rule of thumb is to do it about an hour a day, every day.  Any less than that and you won’t get good.  Any more than that and you’ll get burned out, thus quitting altogether.  And plus, StarCraft is just a video game.  Do you really want to dedicate that much time to something that is quite literally not even real?  Of course, the pro-StarCraft players make surprisingly good money.  But the average age for a pro player seems to be 22 or so.  And they start retiring by 24-25.

“Why?  It’s not a physical sport.  Anyone can sit on their ass and play games until they’re an old man.”

Then you don’t know how StarCraft works.   StarCraft is an RTS (real time strategy) game.  You command an army and go kill the other player’s army.  You have to multitask between getting more resources for your army, controlling your troops, scouting, attacking the other players base, defending your own base, etc.  As you get older, your ability to do this diminishes.  And when we’re talking about the very top players in the world where they all are elites that play near-perfect games, every second is crucial and can mean the difference between life and death.

Here is an article that explains this concept much more eloquently than I can.

(from that article) :

In layman’s terms? 24-year olds save 30 seconds worth of thinking time over the course of a 15-minute game when compared to somebody 15 years older.

Again, 30 seconds doesn’t sound like much.  But at the top tier world championship level, every second count.  Think of it this way: would 30 seconds make a difference in a NASCAR race?  You bet it would!

So if I know I’ve got no shot at being a world champion (or otherwise making money while playing), why do it?

First and foremost, to keep my mind sharp.  There have been studies that playing video games keep your mind sharp.  Of course, not all games are created equal.  Games specifically like StarCraft are good for the mind because they force you to multitask, think as quickly as possible, and strategize.  A mindless zombie ‘shoot ’em up’ won’t have near the same effect.

Here’s one example.  But seriously, just google “StarCraft 2 good for the brain, ” and you’ll get tons of hits.

There was one particular study I remember reading (too lazy to find it at the moment) done with university students.  One control group played no games at all, one played a more ‘casual’ game (I think it was the Sims), one played StarCraft 2 where you only commanded 1 base (in other words, not that much multitasking) and one group would command as many bases as they felt sufficient to win.

They all only play 1 hour a day.  That very last group in the study actually saw their university grades improve by the end of the 40 days.  “But StarCraft is wasting time away from studying!”  If you’re taking tons of hours and/or working a job at the same time, sure.  But most university students (particularly during their undergrad) have quite a bit of spare time.  You can either use that extra time watching TV, smoking pot, or something else that does no good for your brain, or you can use it doing something that forces it to be sharp.

My philosophy is playing StarCraft 2 for more than an hour a day is a sign of a pathetic addiction, playing less than that means I’m not doing my brain as much favor as I could.  And to reiterate, this study was specifically doing one hour a day.  No more, no less.

One thing I like about it is that unlike some games, it does not have a “level up” system.  Ok, so technically it does.  But here’s what I mean: In some games, you continue to get better gear/weapons/abilities/whatever as you level up.  It could take weeks, months, years to get to level up your character.  That’s going to be a pain in the ass if you only have an hour a day, especially when you’re competing with basement-dwellers playing 10 hours a day.  In StarCraft you “level up” for playing/winning matches, but that’s purely for snobbery/prestige.  It makes absolutely no difference in what you have at your disposal each game (and the average game lasts like 15 minutes).  Which is to say, it doesn’t make you in any way more “powerful” to level up.  Just like in chess.  Gary Kasparov (world champion chess player) would have a higher rating than you, but he has no advantage each game because of it.  The only point of the level up/rating system is to match you up with players of a similar skill level that you are.

It’s also worth noting that the average game of StarCraft only takes roughly 15 minutes, so you can usually squeeze in a game or two even if you have a life.

The older you are, the more you ought to be playing StarCraft.  This kind of game delays Dementia or Alzheimer’s activates synapses in both the left and right parts of your brain, and it increases your efficiency in prioritization/time management.

Have I got your interest in playing?  Good.  Now here’s the next step:

First, I’d recommend playing the campaign before going against other players.  The campaign is not that great and generally less satisfying than ‘skirmish’ mode (where you play other human beings in an online matchmaking), but it will give you a general feel for the game.

After that, pick one of the three factions to play as and stick with it.  When I say “stick with it” I don’t mean only that faction the rest of your StarCraft 2 life.  I mean stick with it until you’ve more or less mastered it.  Why?  It is much harder to learn all 3 at once.  Not unless you’re breaking my 1 hour a day rule.  If you only play 1 hour a day that splits your time to 20 minutes per faction.  You won’t get anywhere.  However.  Once you do master one faction, I would recommend learning the other ones even if you don’t have long term plans to play as them.  Why?  Because being familiar with your opponents, army style can help you prepare against them.  There is not a “get rich quick scheme” to mastering StarCraft, so to speak.  Which is to say, memorizing a specified build type is not going to work in every game.

There is also another aspect to mastering StarCraft which is also applicable to learning the art of writing (as I’ve personally learned as a writer) or just about anything else.

I call it “dissecting the monster.”  What does that mean?  If you look at the package of the entire game, StarCraft is a beast to try to learn.  There are so many different things.  If you try to master everything at once, you’ll get overwhelmed, and more than likely get burned out and give up.

So you have to dissect the monster.  First, instead of learning all 3 factions at once, start off with only 1.  Then, say “I’m going to master the early game,” which basically means the first 5 minutes of every game or so.  I suppose this would be comparable to the first 20 turns in chess.  If you have mastered the early game, you should be beating the AI (you can play against the computer rather than against human opponents) at medium mode at the very least, every time.

Starting with the middle game, it gets much more complicated, because there’s a lot more options to choose from and things going on in general.  So you’ll have to dissect the monster even more precisely than just “this faction + middle game.”  Dissect the monster only concentrating on one particular type of unit that faction can make, until you understand the mechanics of that unit like the back of your hand.  Then do it with every other unit generally available in the middle game(there will be many to choose from).  But you’re still not done.  Then try combination attacks with different middle game units.  See if it’s better to wait to build up a larger army, or to attack as soon as possible to knock your opponent out before you think they’d be ready.  And once you’re generally aware of what units are strong or weak against the others, start dissecting the monster dedicated to only the multitasking aspect associated with the game.  Know the perfect balance between training drones, SCVs or Probes (the units of the 3 factions devoted to gathering resources, required to make your army), building up your army itself, scouting, etc… Then dissect the monster dedicated to the late game, which is, even more, vast and complex than the middle game… And once you’ve done all that, dissect the monster all over again for the other 2 factions, rather than the one you’ve just mastered.

Once you’ve done all that, you can further enhance your style from watching the pros play on YouTube or Twitch.

If you look at the pros before you’ve thoroughly dissected the monster inside and out, it will not be beneficial.  Why?  Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you don’t know a damn thing about math.  You don’t even know how to add or subtract.  To start learning, you decide to walk into Harvard during lectures of math classes for their Ph.D. program.  You won’t learn anything at all.  It will go straight over your head, and you’ll only feel discouraged and overwhelmed.

The same applies to StarCraft.  The pros play at an exceptionally fast rate, they play very complex, and all around smart.  You won’t absorb knowledge from watching the pros unless you’re already pretty good yourself.  But once you decide you want to look at them, the good news is, thanks to Twitch, YouTube, and the power of the internet in general, pro games are readily available and won’t cost you a dime.

You can also watch replays of your own games.  I strongly recommend this, especially for games you lost.  The manchildren who blame their opponents for “using hacks” or “cheesing” (going all in on a rush attack during the early game), or whatever else, are only hurting themselves.  Blame YOU when you lost.  See how your opponent beat you and learn from it.  Perhaps play the next several games dissecting the monster, specifically focusing on what went wrong during that match.

One mistake I was making when I was first learning the game is that I thought the units that were technically the most powerful were the “best.”  This is wrong.  Think of every unit in the game as a tool.  If you’re a carpenter, would your most expensive, powerful and heavy to carry around tool be your best?  Not necessarily.  If the job at hand to pin something to the wall, you just need a hammer and nail.  A $1,000 workbench wouldn’t even be applicable.

I was playing Zerg (one of the 3 factions in the game) when I was first learning, and I found out that Ultralisks (which are basically giant monster beasts) were technically their most powerful unit so I would try to get Ultralisks as fast as possible.  This was WRONG.  First, it takes a long time to build Ultralisks, so if you neglect training an army until Ultralisks, your opponent will kill you before they ever come out.  Second, even Ultralisks have weaknesses just all other units.  If you only build Ultralisks, your opponent can easily counter.  No one unit in the game is a one-size-fits-all solution.  All the units are tools, each right for a particular situation.  Certain units will technically cost more and be stronger than others, but that doesn’t mean they are always “better.”

Here’s the bottom line of StarCraft: Think of it like an Olympic athlete versus someone hitting the gym to be good for your health.  If all you want to do is stay in good health, an hour a day of exercise would be rewarding.  If you want to train for the Olympics, you basically have to train like 10 hours a day, be athletically gifted, to begin with and have started from an early age.  I know I’ll never be an Olympic athlete/top tier champion StarCraft player, which is why I dedicate roughly 1 hour of gym time and 1 hour of StarCraft time every day, when possible.  One good for the body, one good for the brain.

Keep dissecting the monster, keep your mind sharp, and have fun!

Finally:  There’s tons of strategies/information on StarCraft available on the internet besides this little tidbit I wrote.  Here is a good start.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate deserves to be assassinated.

First, I want to say from the bottom of my heart, I really and truly wanted to love this game.  I suppose I was a little late to the Assassin’s Creed bandwagon, as my first experience with the series being Assassin’s Creed 3.  I have achieved 100% synchronization in 3, 4 (black flag), Unity, and now Syndicate.  For those that don’t play Assassin’s Creed, achieving 100% synchronization means you accomplished literally everything you possibly can within the game.  Meaning you not only beat the main game, but also all of the “side quests,” optional objectives, etc.  It takes a LONG time to do this, and I did it for 4 different games.

First, let me make this bold statement.  I will NEVER consider buying another (new) Assassin’s Creed game after this unless it not only gets overwhelmingly good reviews, but the community as a whole says it doesn’t have near as many bugs and glitches.

Any game with this much content cannot be 100% bug/glitch free.  I am a reasonable and forgiving person, and I can deal with a lot up to a point…  But this game had so many problems it was borderline unplayable.  And for a triple A release (in other words, major release by a major company on a major budget), that is atrocious.  You would think this game was made by a 19-year-olds who were learning how to code for the first time, for their first job.  And sure, making games is harder than playing them.  Here’s the thing:  nobody has paid me a dime for making games, nor should they.  I spent my own cash for this game, and it sucked.  If I made a game this bad, I would never charge anyone for it.  Honestly, I would be so embarrassed I’m not sure it would even make the light of day.

For emphasis, let me repeat again I’m mostly only talking about bugs and glitches.  The storyline was decent.  Not exceptional to the point the writers of the game could quit their day jobs and become the next Charles Dickens (who is actually featured as a character in this game, since he matches the location and time period) or whatever, but the storyline sufficed.  I won’t elaborate on the storyline much because I don’t want to ruin it for people who haven’t played the game (though this is obviously not a game I’d recommend).

The game is set in London during the 1860’s, which is the eve of the industrial revolution.  It’s a period of time that doesn’t seem to get talked about much.  Probably because the rich who control the strings of the system don’t want us to.  Lots of people (even children), getting their fingers chopped off working for wage slavery.  It’s a bitter reminder of what crony capitalism can be.  So I’ll give them props for making the game in that time period, and go into elaborate detail about life as a factory worker.  As well as the lack of women’s rights, and all sorts of other things.

There’s diversity within London.  There are poverty-stricken districts, wealthy districts, the area where nobility lives, etc. It makes it all seem very real.

The final good thing I have to say about the game is the zip lines, and horses make traveling around the map much faster.  And since they made London pretty big (quite a bit larger than they made Paris in the previous game, Unity), getting to travel quickly is important.

But even if the storyline of the game is the best ever made (which isn’t even remotely true anyway), and even if they made London exceptionally convincing, and their use of horses and zip lines in the game were both original and the best thing since sliced bread (which they’re neither), it still wouldn’t begin to make up for the bugs and glitches.

There have been so many bugs and glitches in this game that I can probably only name maybe ten percent of them off the top of my head.  Here it is:

  1.  Your character often moves without you wanting him/her to (you get to choose between a boy assassin and a girl), or not moving when you do want it to.
  2. The boy Assassin, Jacob, and the girl Assassin, Evie, have different advantages and abilities.  So if there were a mission that I thought was more suited for Evie, I would try to use her to complete it.  Guess what happened almost every time?  The game would crash, and on some occasions even turn off my Xbox.  Then when I got back into the game, it would give me no credit for completing the level.  I contacted Microsoft more times than I can remember about this, and they gave me no solution.  Then they transferred me to Ubisoft, who made the game.  They also provided no answer and didn’t even pretend they cared about the problem.  I even offered to let them see my game save so they could fix the problem for other people, and they said they couldn’t be bothered.  So in other words, for much of the game, I could only progress with Jacob and not Evie, even though you’re supposed to be able to play as either one.
  3. Even though I not only paid for the game (as well as the extra downloadable content), but I preordered it, at one point my Xbox was telling me I didn’t have the game.  It said to either insert the disc or purchase it as a digital download.  I already did purchase it as a digital download!  Once again I had to talk to Microsoft 3 different times, although to be fair this time they actually did get the issue resolved.  Ubisoft, by the way, seems to think the problem is simply with my Xbox and not the game.  That would not begin to explain how I literally only have difficulties with this one particular game, and nothing else.  Oh, wait!  I actually did have bug/glitch problems on another game.  Which one was it?  Yep…. Another Assassin’s Creed game.  In the downloadable content for Unity, your character is supposed to be able to light his lantern so he can see in the caves.  I pressed the correct button, and it wouldn’t let me.  What did Ubisoft tell me?  “Yeah, lots of people had that problem.  It can be resolved by running around in a circle really quickly while holding down the button.”  And sure enough, that technically worked.  But that’s really weird.  Why not just… fix the glitch?  Especially when this downloadable content was released for free to “make up” for the glitches in the main game of Unity itself.
  4. On several occasions, I distinctly remember the game simultaneously deciding both the mission was already over and that it was still going on at the same time.  Here’s how that’s possible: during a mission, a targeted enemy will be highlighted in yellow while you use your “eagle vision.”  The target continued to be in yellow after the mission was over, even though the target should be irrelevant (and no longer marked yellow) because the mission is over.  If that makes any sense.

Ubisoft said much earlier this year that they would not release any new Assassin’s Creed games for 2016, and indeed possibly even 2017.  I think this is an excellent idea.  Do not torture us more until you get your act together.  And if this is the best they can do from here on out, they might want to hang it up entirely, rather than continue to pee the bed indefinitely.

Games should not be realistic (nor any other form of art/entertainment media)

There is a particular trend among some gamers, particularly in “history” games (such as games replicating World War II, the Middle Ages, or whatever) to make them realistic.  Countless World War II vets have been interviewed for this purpose.  The Middle Ages vets have died, but that doesn’t stop some from trying to learn from them.

Some gamers ask for games to be more “realistic.”  I am (sadly) not talking out of my ass here, but I have seen the opinion expressed on many gaming sites and forums. There are countless examples as to why this would be terrible at best.

In Call of Duty, you fully recover from near death due to fatal shot wounds, just by not getting shot at for the next 10 seconds.  It’s ridiculous, but it has to be.  Do I have to explain why, and how the “realistic” alternative would make for a terrible game?

Oh and the way D-Day actually happened is nothing at all like how games (or movies) depict it.

I read a history book written by an expert.  While I’m too lazy to dig up the exact quote (you could if you looked hard enough), it said something to the tune of this.   (note, this quote is from a man who served in the D-Day battle himself, not a liberal arts major from an ivory tower 70 years later)

“The real D-Day was nothing like the movies.  In the movies we are depicted as swift ass-kickers, storming the beach like banshees and crushing the opposition before they knew what hit them.  D-Day was actually nothing like that.  It was piles of blood and dead bodies all over the beach.  It had taken a long time before the Germans were forced to retreat from the beachhead, and most of us spent the vast majority of that time taking cover because we were scared out of our minds.”

That was how D-Day actually went down.  Nobody would watch that movie or play that game, or read the book, or whatever.  Because that’s so depressing and anti-climatic, it makes The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails seem like a feel-good Disney fairy tale.

A relative (from my white side of the family) stormed Normandy.  He would never talk to anybody about it unless he were drunk.  This is what he said:  “We were completely scared out of our mind, and we had every right to be.  Many of us literally pissed or shit our pants.  There was broken limbs and blood everywhere.  There were men literally coughing out their intestines.”  I’m not going to these graphic lengths because I want gross you out.  I’m doing it because there are way too many people making movies, video games, or books who make war seem romantic, sexy, or glorious.  It isn’t.  It is the most disgusting thing you can possibly imagine. 

I took one upper-level history class before deciding it was not for me, so I dropped that as my minor.  It was in Europe in the Middle Ages.  This is what I can tell you about warfare in that time.

You did not want to even think about directly assaulting an enemy castle unless you knew you can afford to lose a lot of troops (which would be unusual), and/or if the enemy castle provided an exceptionally significant strategic value (even rarer).

Why?

You would need an overwhelming numerical advantage to overtake a castle by sheer brute force (see:  D-Day).  If you were a typical medieval king, your army was only a tiny fraction of what the Allied expeditionary force in World War II was, even after adjusting for (population) inflation between the two time periods.

They finally figured out a way to feasibly take castles… but it’s even less “sexy” than how D-Day really was.  It was this:

Maybe you can’t directly storm the castle.  Their archers, moats, burning oil, etc., will kill too many of you for it to be worth it.  But what you can do is wipe out their peasants. Their peasants work in the fields, provide food, income, and other necessities to the castle.  While it could be argued that the peasants depend on the knights and king since they provide protection, what wasn’t being realized is the other way around is even truer.  Without the peasants being able to tend to their fields, nobody can eat.  Nobody can be taxed, thus no one to pay the army.  So while we can’t just take the castle directly, what we can do is give them absolute hell through a war of attrition.  Yep… that means killing, raping, and/or capturing a bunch of defenseless women and children.  No one would want to play such a video game unless they’re a straight up sociopath.  Again, this is why video games should not even try to be realistic.

I think it’s also very telling that life was so backward.  Lots of people (baby boomers are the worst about this), seem to believe we are falling in a “dark age,” and “things have never been this bad,” and “let’s blame it all on the violent video games, movies, and rap music.”

Humanity was 100 times more barbaric back then than now… All from an age without film, video games, or rap music.  There were also virtually no black or brown people in Europe back in those times.  I point that out because they seem to be getting a disproportionate share of the blame in today’s society.

Only a tiny fraction of games currently on the market could be considered “disturbing” by anyone older than 12 … and even then, they are not more disturbing than what has already happened in real life.  There is a reason for this of course.  Video games are an INDUSTRY.  Just like any other industry, the purpose is to make money.  What is “realistic” is 9 times out of 10, either horribly disturbing or simply boring.

When I (and others) say “games should be designed to be fun first, and everything else second,” I get a fierce reply from these “make games realistic” people.

“Bbbbuttt if games are only made to be fun that’s just appealing to the lowest common denominator!”

“Lowest common denominator” just means as many people as possible.  First, the masses are more intelligent than you give them credit for.  Nobody cares about your liberal arts degree in History.  Second, like I said before, game developers have to make money.  They literally cannot do what they do if they do not make a profit.  If they don’t, they can’t eat.

Games, (as well as movies, books, music, and just about all forms of art in general) are not realistic.  Deal with it, snobby haters.

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