Goodbye Pops

There are four reasons I like having a new/good gaming computer.

First, gaming is a way to recharge. Like reading, it is typically something that I do alone, and that energizes me.

Second, I enjoy gaining mastery of a system or process. I like figuring out how a game works and becoming skilled at it.

Third, I like having a good computer because it means more time gaming and less time waiting for things to load, or dealing with things crashing. I’m going to have a lot less free time soon, and I don’t want what little gaming time I have to be spent in frustration.

And fourth, it gives me a way to connect with people and have fun with them that isn’t super exhausting. Even when I’m playing with people, there’s enough distance (probably due to a lack of body language) that it doesn’t require as much of me.

I love playing games with people online. I like multiplayer role-playing games in particular, and I like being able to support my teammates and help them succeed. A few years ago, I joined an amazing guild that spans numerous games and is filled with people I enjoy gaming with. The guild’s credo means that everyone is generally kind, supportive, and mature.

Pops was in the guild before me. He has been in Gaiscioch for as long as Gaiscioch has been on my radar. To me, he embodied the guild’s principles. He was kind, patient, funny, and great to hang out with. Admittedly, he could be brusque and a real jackass sometimes… but it was because he cared. He legitimately cared, and he didn’t want to mince words or dance around any subject because he didn’t have time. Instead, he pushed people to be better to themselves and to each other, and he was… good. He was a good guy.

He passed away earlier this week, and we had an in-game memorial for him earlier today. We sat around a campfire and took turns sharing memories and thoughts about Pops.

I haven’t been to a funeral in a few years, but I’ve been to a fair number, and I’ve had a lot of people in my life die. I think that Pops is the first online friend that I have gone through this with. I didn’t know that he had a terminal illness, but Fog shared that Pops told him when he joined the guild. Pops literally lived every day as if it was his last, because it was supposed to be. He lived 6 years longer than the doctors said he would.

Because our guild is so large and diverse, it isn’t uncommon for guild members to die. But Pops was the first that I played with regularly. I’ll miss hearing him on Discord and playing with him. The world is a bit dimmer without him.

I will miss him.

Getting a new laptop

Thanks to April picking up a teaching gig at Drury in addition to her regular job, we can afford for me to get a new laptop, and I’m pretty stoked. I started to share about it on Google+ and wanted to link to a blog post explaining why this is such an exciting thing for me, but a quick search of my blog demonstrated that I haven’t written about it, so it seemed like a post was in order.

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Review of the Guild Wars 2 Beta Weekend

Though we were out of town to attend a wedding at the end of last week, I did get some time with Guild Wars 2 (GW2) on Saturday and Sunday. This was a weekend beta event for people who had either pre-ordered the game or gotten a beta key through some other method (I was able to pick up a few at PAX East), but even so the game ran great. There was some downtime on Saturday 2-3 hours, but Arena.net got it fixed relatively quickly and overall performance was very good.

That said, while there are a few things I liked a lot about Guild Wars 2, there are a number of areas where I felt it was pretty poor. Let’s start with the good.

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Vanity: How my hatred of a character’s appearance made me hate a game

When I played SWTOR in beta, my favourite character was an Imperial Agent (not pictured). I was a cyborg with a cool implant just above my left eye, which made it look like I always had an eyebrow raised. Combined with a smooth voice, devilish charm, and shrewd initiative, I felt like a mix between James Bond and Spock.

So when the game launched, I tried to recreate that character. Unfortunately, my preferred implant was missing and cyborgs were stuck with these ugly red eye piece things. I made a human instead and decided to go with the same overall look, less the implant.

I ended up a baby-faced pretty boy, and I hated it.

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YADnDW (Yet Another DnD Wiki)

My D&D group is experimenting with Google Wave to plan between sessions, and one of them requested a wiki. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while… or, rather, I’ve been thinking about writing the stories down. The campaign is going really, really well and the story as it has developed thus far is really cool. Unfortunately, I have this block when writing stories down that are already done. One of my favourite things about writing is exploration: I want to start a story and see where it goes, finding out what the characters will do as they encounter new and different situations. Writing something where I already know everything is boring.

Logically, I know that I have to write these things and practice them to become a better writer, it’s just hard. I’d like to say that working on this wiki will help me get into it, at least in regards to fantasy fiction, but this isn’t the first D&D wiki I’ve started. The previous one was about three years ago, and after loading a tremendous amount of game rule data in, I abandoned it. The new one will be focused on setting and story rather than rules, but in some ways that makes it even harder to develop.

With buy-in from my players and their growing interest, though, I’ve got more motivation than I did before. It’s the same premise as exists behind blogging: the knowledge that there’s an audience helps keep me going.

Curious to see how it’s developing? Check out the Chronicles.

The Writer’s Circle

Last Friday, April and I attended a reading at Borders here in Springfield. She had been invited to read a couple of poems out of the Moon City Review, a publication by Missouri State University in which she was featured last year, so we went and joined the sizable crowd as the MSU Concert Chorale sang some renaissance period songs and the readers were queued up. After the singing was complete, the first poet began his reading.

I had a class with this young man several years ago, and as he read about a road trip, I recognized some of the names and assumed they were our fellow class mates with whom he had become friends. We were all in the same poetry classes, two semesters in a row, and if I had continued down that road we may very well have become friends. A culture and a clique was formed there, but I was diverted and went elsewhere.

With a touch of a melancholy I thought about What Might Have Been. Until recently, I was a double major in Religious Studies and Creative Writing, but I dropped the latter down to a minor to graduate sooner. I don’t know that I even have a 3.0 GPA in RS–last I checked, it was a high 2, but it has been a while so it might have risen. I have a 4.0 in CW, though, and while the English department is well known for grade inflation, I feel like I have earned that grade. I honestly have enjoyed almost all of my English classes, and Creative Writing is probably where I should have spent my time.

In light of my recent academic travails, though, I thought through that path to its logical conclusion. Would I have been happy if I had pursued that degree more fully, focused on that instead of getting a job, and been in the same place academically as this young man (preparing to finish my masters degree)?

As I shared with April later, a large part of what I sought there was the community, and I am relatively confident I would have found it lacking. Not that they aren’t nice people–I like every one of the advanced Creative Writing/English students I’ve met–but there’s that pesky religion thing. It is difficult to connect deeply with a group of atheists/agnostics, and it seems that the upper echelons of academia are often inundated with such.

As Jennie observed about the graduate program in art at Wichita State, where she studied for two semesters, Christianity and work inspired by Christ wasn’t exactly welcome. She was often at odds with her peers and professors, and I would have found the same at Missouri State. It wouldn’t have led to negative relationships, just shallow ones, and that is unacceptable to me.

Perhaps I am mistaken in this perception, but it seems that the majority of the people with whom I communicate solely via the Internet are likewise non-religious, and I suspect when they view my site they consider me completely looney. I’m currently becoming even more overt about my beliefs, and I fear people’s judgment to some extent. If I were in an advanced writing program, and wrote and communicated vulnerably and honestly, I wonder what the reaction would be.

Would I have been happy pursuing that education more fully? Yes, probably, because it would have kept me writing and helped me become a better writer. As I listened to the final short story being read, a wonderful piece with descriptive language I doubt I will ever be able to match, I recognized that there were heights I would likely never reach. There was a path somewhere back there I choose to not take, and there is no going back in this life.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t cut cross country now and begin struggling for my own sake. What I need more than anything is practice. And if the degree program is inaccessible to me now (as it most assuredly is for a variety of reasons), that will not prevent me from writing. If a community of writers is part of my future goals and desires, a piece of paper will not prevent me from beginning to form one.

It will not be the same as it might have been, but what will be will be. We won’t have a future if we don’t make it, if we sit around watching TV and pining for what might have been. Instead, we must cut down the trees, stoke the fires, and begin building the future we so desire.

I miss you Babbage’s

Some stenches take a long time to leave my nostrils, and subsequently I don’t visit the mall very often. The crowded corridors are difficult to forget, and the cacophony of crying children, whiny teenagers, and rabid salespeople makes the mall an undesirable destination. Nevertheless, there are some occasions for visiting that cesspit of humanity, and with its claws dug so recently into my neck, I found myself ranting once again about inconsequential and irrelevant things.

The problem is that I irrationally blame the wrong party for most of the evils in our lives, and the mall gives me a billion different excuses to start railing against our society. In this particular instance, I happened to visit Gamestop to see if they had a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic 3 for Mac OS X.

Gamestop has become ubiquitous with brick-and-mortar game stores anymore. What was once Babbage’s in all its glory was purchased by Electronics Boutique some time ago, but the store itself didn’t change much so I didn’t really mind. It didn’t change because it didn’t have time, it turns out: EB was quickly purchased by Gamestop, and the world as we knew it came to an end.

Computer games have taken a number of evolutionary steps in the last two decades, each step angering gamers more than the previous. Increased focus on graphics and flash rather than story, cutting our manuals down to keyboard shortcut reference sheets, and the rise of first person shooters coinciding with the death of the RPG… Other than MMOs (of which there are few), PC games just haven’t done well the last few years.

Now it’s all consoles, and Gamestop reflects this. As I spun wildly around the store, eyes wide in horror, it occurred to me that my quest was doomed from the beginning. I don’t know why I even bothered to go in. Gamestop isn’t my gaming store, because the mass culture of gaming has degenerated to nothing more than vendors pushing crap on kids to waste some time.
Gamestop represents the death of the metagame, of thoughtfulness, and of harmony between gamers. And it’s not like their distribution model has resulted in lower prices; games have skyrocketed in price in the last ten years, until now it has become almost reasonable to pay $50-60 for a game.

Of course, I’m making some wildly insulting assumptions with the above observations and statements. I’m essentially segregating the gaming community into two camps: true gamers (old school) and kiddies (console pill poppers). And it’s particularly stupid because I own a console myself and love the toy. It would cost me well over a thousand dollars to build a computer capable of playing a game at an equivalent graphics level as my XBox 360, and I enjoy kicking back on the couch with a controller.

I just wish the rise of the console hadn’t necessitated the death of the PC game. Relatively few games are released for computers anymore, and it is harder and harder to justify doing so when the console market has become so profitable and far-reaching. But I also don’t feel that we get the same quality of games in regards to story and gameplay anymore. When I get with gamers to talk about games, we often gravitate towards titles released five, ten, or more years ago. Those are the ones we remember and crave, and I think it’s largely because of the metagame.

Older games didn’t have as much flash, and so they had to engage the player on more than an ocular level. The game was something you could “play” even when not at a computer by considering strategy, reading the lore and back story, talking with others about where they were going or what they were doing. There was more to the game than just the game… I feel like we are getting less for our money now.

It’s not going to change, and Gamestop will probably someday team up with Taco Bell and rule the world from their deep-fried brain-dead Tower of Hate. As for me, I’ll just have to avoid the mall for as long as possible to let these wounds scar over… and maybe take some vicodin before I come back.

To be honest, Liches make me a little queasy

I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for bananas.
I see a deep sorrow in Arthas's eyes; a quantifiable longing for cuddly puppies and kittens.

I finally received my copy of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King last night and set about installing it on Linux. Even though I got home pretty late last night, I wanted to at least give it a try, and since the installation and patching only took about 30 minutes, I went ahead and created a Death Knight.

My first impressions were…. *drool*. The opening video is stunning, and I was anxious to get rolling. After configuring my appearance, I began my demented existance.

As I continued playing, however, my apprehension grew. I’m the sort of guy that, when I play Knights of the Old Republic, I’m invariably a light-sided Jedi. It makes me uncomfortable to slaughter people for no other reason than my own self-advancement, and I don’t delight in rampant carnage… unless they be Stormtroopers. Even the Horde on World of Warcraft are billed as misunderstood, noble, and generally decent people. They take care of their own, and if anything can be said about their actions, it’s that they had little choice but to fight for survival.

But the Death Knights… they’re just plain evil. You start out serving the Lich King, and one of your first tasks is to go into a town and slaughter the inhabitants. You’re specifically ordered, in fact, not to worry too much about the guards, but to focus on chasing and cutting down the civilians because that will strike greater terror into the hearts of the Lich King’s enemies.

I’m going to keep going with my Death Knight, because I’m assuming you eventually break away from the Lich King to join your respective faction (Alliance or Horde) and things return to normal after a while. But these opening quests so far have just made me just a little uncomfortable.

How to install Wrath of the Lich King on Linux

You have your shiny new expansion, but you (quite understandably) don’t want to shell out another $90 for a crappy operating system to play it. No problem, says I, because WotLK is Cedega Certified!

Unfortunately, while the game works pretty well, installation does not, and you’ll quickly encounter a bug in the Death Knight starting quests that will prevent you from advancing along that quest chain. No worries, though; just follow these simple instructions and you’ll be up and running in no time.

Installation

First, you need to mount the DVD properly. I use Ubuntu, which means I have Gnome, so I use Nautilus as my file manager. After inserting the DVD, you’ll need to open your file manager (Nautilus in my case) to unmount the DVD. You should see Lich listed in the left navigation bar: right click on it with your mouse and choose Unmount.

Now, open a terminal window and type in the following line. You’ll need to modify userid and insert your own userid (what you use to log in). You may also have to modify the cdrom0 point if you use something else; you can check this by browsing to /media in Nautilus or the terminal.

sudo mount -t udf -o ro,unhide,uid=userid /dev/scd0 /media/cdrom0/

Now you can open Cedega and install as you would normally, just using the Install button. However, when the Cedega installation window pops up, notice that it wants to put WotLK into its own folder. You need to change this so it installs into the folder in which you already have World of Warcraft. Edit this, then you’re ready to proceed with the install.

Installation and patching should proceed smoothly and normally from here. Now it’s time to play!

Setting the OpenGL flag

Personally, I don’t like playing with OpenGL. Maybe it’s just my system, but I get some bugs with it, most notably that WoW doesn’t close when I quit the game, it crashes. Despite this, there are a few quests that glitch out on Linux, and you need to use OpenGL to get through them.

When playing as a Death Knight, this is most notable when doing the quest involving the Eye of Archerus. Your screen will go all solid colours, though you can still see the UI, so you can’t very well proceed with the quest. This is due to the Death Effect and Full Screen Glow, but just disabling those options in WoW doesn’t resolve the problem.

There are two steps to setting the OpenGL flag.

  1. You need to add the following line to the config.wtf file. This file can be located at:/home/userid/.cedega/World of Warcraft/c_drive/Program Files/World of Warcraft/WTF
  2. SET gxApi “opengl”

  3. Set the -opengl flag in the Cedega shortcut, as pictured below:
  4. Click to enlarge

Conclusion

You should now be good to go. After the Eye of Archerus quest, I promptly disabled OpenGL and removed that line of code from my config.wtf. It’s good to know that there’s a solution for this Death Effect bug, and I may have to use it again (especially if it crops up when the Death Knight dies and becomes a zombie that can keep fighting), but if I can avoid OpenGL, I will. It just doesn’t seem as fast or as stable as D3D to me.

Happy gaming, and suffer well!