Saturday, October 25, 2008

Politics of Dogs and Chickens

It's not easy to find a good veterinarian. It's even harder in Mexico. Weeks of trying to get Emma the kitty decent medical treatment led to the diagnosis of liver disease. That confirmed my own suspicions, since Google and I had also concluded Hepatic Lipidosis. Emma the kitty has been doomed for close to a month now.

I was really having a hard time with that. Emma was the kitten that picked me out and followed me. Because she fell in love with me at first sight, I decided to adopt a girl cat, and my girlfriend at the time was sort of fenced into taking Emma's brother - Spike the kitty. When we broke up, I stole Spike and kept the family together.

Fifty thousand miles and one international border later we're missing Spike and Emma has been failing rapidly. It's been long and heartbreaking, but she never stops eating. It's hard for me to give up on an animal that's ravenous. Something in that doesn't feel right. Maybe it's just that watching someone die slowly can force an addiction to hope.

So the third vet... the desperation vet... the 'I can't stand to see Emma wither away for six more hours, so please just tell me something better' vet... whose office is more like an urban barnyard pet and feed store, takes one look at her and literally makes a "pssh" noise at the idea of liver disease, and sentences Emma to four days of shots for parasites.

Four days later she's getting her fourth shot, and Emma the kitty is much improved. We pay the second half of our 300 peso vet bill and we go home. Everyone is going to live!

Well, not everyone.

A few hours after giving Emma her last shot, and telling us to come back in three days for a check-up, the veterinarian and his two helpers, along with a 15 year old boy, were gunned down in their shop. I don't know anyone's names. If I did I'd recount them uselessly for you.

Nor do I know exactly why it happened, although it's pretty easy to connect the dots if you start with the roosters and consider our local cartel wars.

What I do know is that Emma is sleeping on a green towel right now, and the guy who saved her life is dead.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I laughed, I WAAAAGH'd, and it became a part of me...

Every time Blizzard releases a new Warcraft game, I have to remind myself that they do not have the official Warhammer license. It's hard to tell. Warcraft is a direct copy of Warhammer, right down to the most minute stylistic details. Make no mistake, Warhammer existed long before Blizzard started stealing their ideas and using them for RTS games. By the time WoW debuted, they'd been biting on Warhammer for almost a decade. So this game, Warhammer Online, had two difficult jobs:

One, be a better mmorpg than World of Warcraft.

Two, steal back the Warhammer identity, and return it to its rightful owners - Games Workshop.

For the first twenty minutes of Warhammer Online, I thought it was a tie. Honestly, Warhammer just seemed like a different version of WoW; as much a clone as WoW had always been itself. Then the details started to bleed through...

Warhammer classes are interesting and well designed. Archetypes you've grown used to from every game since Everquest suddenly have new twists. My Battle Priest, for instance, must melee to recharge her healing spells. My Dwarven Ironbreaker is a tank that can make an oath to protect another character, and share his combat activated defensive buffs. (I can't say enough about the social/personal investment dynamic this ability creates!) My Dark Elf Sorceress tempts backlashes of magic energy as she collects greater and greater amounts of dark energy, becoming more dangerous to others AND herself. Every character class has their own little special mechanic that adds a dimension to their skills and abilities. It's really quite clever.

The PvP section of the game, a segment of massive online gaming I tend to ignore outside of Eve Online, is structured and implemented in such a way that it's fun, engaging, and perhaps most importantly, directly rewarding. Go play arena scenario games against the opposing force of Order or Chaos, and earn cool renown awards - from new goods at merchants to actual loot on the bodies of dispatched players.

Warhammer just brings so many good ideas to the table, and carries them out so well. Public quests that are fun and interesting foster a sense of community and teamwork among strangers almost from the moment the game begins. Npc banter is well written; for the first time since... well, since ever in a mmorpg... I find myself reading the quests. Grinding has been rendered ineffective and useless; virtually all gameplay is purposeful and quest driven. Exploration is rewarding and fun; the maps are littered with clickable objects that bestow experience and quests or new entries in your Tome. And the Tome!

The Tome of Knowledge is perhaps the greatest single addition to massive online rpg theory I have ever seen. Imagine a slick, user friendly combination of your journal from Oblivion, the statistic tracking reward system of Madden football games, and Xbox Live's achievement system. Plus a lot of other cool stuff. It brings the game together into a cohesive presentation that would be very impressive in a well designed single player game. To see something that good in a massive is a rare moment indeed.

I think that's the most basic truth of Warhammer Online - it's the first massive online roleplaying game with a design that genuinely compares to the best experiences of offline, single player gaming. It doesn't require (or ask for) your forgiveness for being an mmorpg. After a couple days of playing Warhammer, you'll understand why Blizzard stole every idea they ever had from these people.

And you'll be glad Warhammer just stole them back.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What Chuck Woolery has always known...

Politics, for those of you taking notes, has almost nothing to do with issues or logic. Democrats should be careful about getting smug, and republicans should be even more careful bandying about a defeatist attitude.

Because politics is really all about the romance.

Either side could still easily win or lose this election. Since I'm playing for red team this year, I'll tell my people how we win.

We win by being nice. I'm not talking about John McCain or Sarah Palin, though they could certainly chip in. No, the real road to red team victory lays with us, the supporters.

Don't fight. It's retarded. The only people who will fight with you about politics are the people you will never convince. So while you think you're "standing up for what you believe in", what you're actually doing is damaging our cause by driving off the spectators we desperately need to be romancing.

Nothing is decided yet. We've just got two proposals. America still sleeps with no ring on her finger. Our plan is simple.

Be upbeat. Be strong in your kindness. Be good natured and funny.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Class Act - 75AP

Dear Sarah Palin and Joe Biden,

Thanks for a really fun debate. Genuinely fun. Whatever people say about you... and I'm sure we're all going to keep saying a lot... I'm proud of the two of you for finally representing my United States of America: the one that's civilized and good natured.

For ninety minutes you didn't annoy me. Neither of you embarrassed me or yourselves. You didn't get snarky, condescending, or interrupt each other. I laughed a lot and cried a little and found you both very likable.

Keep this up, and you'll actually foster a sense of inclusion in this election. Randomly placed decent human beings will be encouraged to vote and participate in their republic. I have no idea if we've even got chairs for them, but we'll figure something out.

And so I award each of you the 75pt Acheivement - Class Act. Please make the corresponding changes to your gamertags.

Again, thank you for a lovely evening.

~ Reed W. Decker, Red Team