Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reality Check

Time to step away from what seems to devolve into rants against ever present gaming annoyances....
I've considered that some may wonder why I seem to take gaming so seriously at a time in one's life where career and family should be the central focus.

Well, as I alluded to in my first post, I'm a little different...

Family for me was always first whether I was someone's son or someone elses significant other.  Nothing took precedence and to a large extent it's still the same.  I just have a little less family now and a little more perspective.  Strange how our heroes turn into real people with real flaws when we grow up isn't it...

Career, well, I have the student loans and some paper on the wall to prove that I used to take that very seriously.  Seems I figured out a bit too late that the payoff doesn't quite live up to the investment.  On that topic, however, I choose not to regard it's value in financial terms. (not that I really could anyway) Rather, I value the experiences.

I dont' believe in the promise of some big payoff after years of suffering.  Life is for living, not for aspiring to.  Maybe I'd be more tolerant of such cultist beliefs if I were following the model of the nuclear family but I never have fit that mold and failed every time I tried.

Maybe that's why gaming is important to me.  I'm not trying to be the next middle aged gaming world champion.  Heck, I'm not even that good at a lot of these games.  I don't necessarily enjoy sitting alone in a room with only the glow of my monitor for company.  I like to play games with other people around.  I value the social contact that extends well beyond some well rendered pixels on a Way too expensive monitor.

I think the recent financial crisis has forced many people to reevaluate their faith in the promise of the gold watch.  I have no faith in it and instead look for personal satisfaction in what I do every day.  When I can't get that on a regular basis I know it's time to move on.  I often joke that "I'll probably die at my desk" but so long as I was able to satisfy myself it's ok.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not some self-centered egotist.  I've spent much of my life putting the happiness of others before my own.  The hardest reality I eventually had to accept was that you can't help anyone if you don't meet your own needs (not wants, NEEDS) first.  Such martyrdom only leads to disappointment and resentment and you accomplish much less in the long run.

Just like me, retirement is a question mark for many people now and keeping up with the Jones' on the way to it is financial suicide.  Hoping that someone doesn't run off with my 401K isn't part of my plans. I'm not some anarchist or overgrown child, however.  I just advocate making the most of each day and maximize anything you glean from it even if you don't earn a single dollar. 

I strongly believe that people have a basic need to relax (no matter what their philosophy) and enjoy eachother's company.  The difference now is that we have to dial down our expectations of what exactly that entails.  Maybe that's a good thing.  On most Saturday nights I can be found with friends.  We go have a nice dinner somewhere, sit and talk for awhile, have a few beers and of course play games!

All of that cost's me personally about $23 a week if you count fuel costs.  When I was younger I remember hanging around with people that would blow that much on a cover charge and their first watered down beer.  All for the privilege of having the dandruff on your shirt glow in the dark :)

While not as exciting an environment as my younger days I've found that a little friendly competition stimulates the mind and frees it from the weights of our daily reality.   In fact in my carousing days I never had as much fun as I do on any given Saturday night.

So what have we learned?

I don't know, what did YOU want to learn?

Perhaps I offer a slightly different perspective to what you thought you knew.  That's for you to discover....

Messing with the Game/Life Balance

It's been a hectic past few weeks. As I mentioned in a previous post I started a new job recently and finding time to get some good gaming in let alone keep a blog going that nobody reads can be rough.

That makes those stolen few hours all the more precious. 

Lately I've been spending a lot of time with Borderlands and having a great time with it.  I've also recently acquired Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (the new version) and been building up that profile.  It's a fun game but I'm in it more for the multiplayer than the career mode. 

That's a switch!

I mean Co-op multplayer of course!  The further I get in the career mode the better variety of cars available to race with friends.  Still there is a sick, guilty pleasure in playing the cop and ramming people into oblivion.  Maybe I have a secret desire to be a demolition derby driver or maybe I'm just indulging my daily commuting fantasies.

My friends and I have been pretty focused on Borderlands on our game nights but Hot Pursuit is creeping in there now.  Although last week I almost gave up on it.  Why?

Well, read back over a few of my previous posts and you'll quickly discover that I have zero tolerance for bad game design.  I'm not a big fan of EA's recent inclusion of the "autolog" in the newest Need For Speed games and while it seems to work acceptably well in Hot Pursuit it's absolutely broken in Shift 2. 

So if I'm going to be saddled with an intrusive multiplayer system that wastes precious game time at least make it useful.  Enter the Autolog...

In the newest Need For Speed games, Autolog is a thinly veiled gimmick designed to hide the console roots of a PC game release.  It does little more than get in the way of the game with its pseudo-social networking antics and convoluted interface design lifted from some twisted game of scrabble.  Most of which fails to deliver on the most basic level by the way and only brings exasperation and ultimately rage.  So imagine my thrill when I can't access a saved game profile with it.

Why is it that I'm forced online to compete against players in the same room but have to resort to digging in Window's 7 horrible directory structure (another pet peeve BTW) to find my saved game profile?  I bought the game on Steam, Have to start Steam to play it so why do I have to mess with finding savegame files and hope I have the right ones?

This would be a minor annoyance except for the fact that if you copy the wrong files in the save directory you'll effectively kill the game. 

(BTW the path is C:\Users\username\Documents\Criterion Games\Need for Speed(TM) Hot Pursuit)

It used to be a bad save would just screw up your profile, now it borks the whole game.  I couldn't believe a savegame file would crash a game to the desktop.  I even rolled back my video drivers thinking I had a compatibility problem. 

Why am I subjected to this?!

Why do I have to even worry about savegame files with a game so dependent on an Internet connection?  If I have the legal right to play this game on multiple PCs
(just not at the same time according to the license)
then my progress should be automatically saved online or at least offer me the opportunity to download the file without digging through directories and guessing. 

C'mon guys, you've already got me trapped on your less than adequate online gaming system, throw me a bone already.  Manually moving savegame files is Waaaaaaaaay old school. 

I may not be a rabid IPhone or Droid user (My phone is 5 years old and anything but smart) but there's a trend that is undeniable even to a troglodyte like me.  People want their information to be portable and that includes their games. 

I can watch a movie in one room, pause it and continue it in another room with the right satellite provider.  I've seen games played on mobile phones that can be continued on a gaming console!  What's the excuse! 

Why do you continue to sabotage an otherwise pleasurable gaming experience?  Why do you want to give me pause the next time you release the next would-be heir to the gaming throne?!

Needless to say the time wasted and frustration level had an impact on my gaming night and that's not something I take lightly.  My time is precious and the fact that I choose to spend it on a game publishers product should be of immeasurable value to them.  Sadly, I fear it's not. 

It's just a game, you might say. 

These things happen...

Yes, yes they do but it seems they happen too often and I'd rather play the game than put on my IT hat and root around registries, file systems and hardware drivers because someone got sloppy...

Yeah, I don't cut no slack when it comes to this.  I paid for the privilege and I won't tolerate sloppy design.