Age is a Number

My eldest and I are a few days apart in birthdays.  I’m hitting a “milestone” year and I have to keep answering the same questions about feeling old.  Until you become legally eligible for something, there really isn’t a difference between the day before and the day after.

I’m in good shape and in great health.  I have the money to do what I want, though not always the time.  I’ve got a loving family.  Tons of stuff to be thankful for.  As an individual, the number doesn’t define me.  And really, it’s a time where you should have both time, money, and the wisdom to know what to do with both (in particular if you still have your health).

Yet, events do.

When my kids started school, I felt old.  When I started hiring students that were blank slates to my field ’cause the tech simply didn’t exist for them, I felt old.  When I realized there were more funerals than weddings, I felt old.  Seeing the kids ride bikes, learn to read, develop their own streams of thoughts… hell just grow a few inches…I felt old.  In the clearest of sense, age is relative.

I can relate to being not so much a kid, but living those same experiences when I was younger.  I did a lot of things, not always with permission but certainly with some guidance.  You learn from falling down and getting back up (or knowing when to stay down).

I am not suffering from some sort of existential crisis.  A wave of that has certainly hit the social circle… and in the wide majority it is with people who are still with the folks they were with at the end of their teens, and whose kids are now in the more self-sufficient block.  All of a sudden, they have much more time on their hands and they start looking around and wondering where the time went, looking at their biological clock.  More like regret than bitterness, but all are willing to take major steps for change to ensure primarily their happiness, and by proxy, others around them.  It takes a lot of courage to make big changes, and not expect some outside force to make you suddenly happy.  Not everyone is willing to make that change.

(I’m not immune to this phase.  The wife and I went through a hell of a rough patch a few years ago, but we put in a lot of effort at improving communication and I believe we’re better now than at any point prior.  Honest conversations open a lot of doors.  And once open, those doors open an entirely different world view.)

So as I edge all the closer to this magic number, I don’t think the date matters as much as my current state.  I would not have been able to get here earlier, and would not want to have waited longer.  I am happy, I am loved (with love in return), and I am content.  More than anything when I do celebrate the birthday, it’s about being thankful for what I have and being able to share with those I care about.  The larger step is taking that mindset an applying it outside of this single date, and trying to live it every day.  I’m not all the way there, but I’m trying.

This post certainly has a more philosophic vibe to it.  Feels good to write it out.  Hope you all find what makes you happy, and the right people to share it with.

Out of Midfield

I like sports.  I’ve played most of them.  I still play hockey at a “competitive” level.  Have for 30 years.  I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of a beating – more than enough times.  A few streams of thought.

The Women’s World Cup is underway now in France.  World’s largest sport, great stage, awesome that we can see more of it.  Hockey is in a similar boat, where the global talent pool is only just emerging.  It takes at least a generation to build a base, and that includes a massive investment in infrastructure.  Elite athletes are not born, they are bred.  And depending on the country, a particular sport may be more attractive than another (see Usain Bolt).  The gap in hockey is dramatically larger than football – but it’s similar enough that there are plenty of wash outs on the international level.

The US beat Thailand 13-0 the other day.  Opinions abound.  The aspect of this particular tournament is that goal differentials can make/break the way forward.  The men’s cup often sees this occur.  Combine that with the fact that the players on the team are all actively competing for a starting position, there are only a few games, and there’s ample reason to see why the US did not let up.  Anyone who has played at the competitive level where points scored mattered in a tie breaker understands this.  Be mad at the people who made the rules, not the ones who follow them.

Where a bit more nuance applies, and gameship, is in the way the US acted as the game progressed.  I don’t mean in a technical sense but in the personal sense.  In hockey, there’s an unwritten rule where you simply stop celebrating goals when you’re clearly dominating.  That’s really super evident in the lopsided international events where games can reach 10-0 and there’s barely a smile after a goal.  I can’t recall anyone celebrating an open-net goal to clinch a game.  I would hazard to say that this is a holdover of the Canadian “sorry first” mentality that permeates the sport. (US mainline sports do not have this, since baseball, football, and basketball are never managed on a points scored system.  It’s purely win/loss.)

Watching the US players celebrate their goals really got under some people’s skins, and effectively makes them look like villains in this tournament.  Villains in the sense of international eyes.  How the home crowd views this is really a microcosm of the global sport.  At no point do I advocate them not scoring plenty of goals – again that’s the way the tournament is structured.  Fill the net.  But perhaps lay off the major celebrations on goals 8+?  At no point did anything thing Thailand had a chance, so what exactly is being celebrated?  That you were able to beat someone that has half your skill level?   Yay you?

(For those watching NBA finals and wondering about the classless Toronto fans, hear me out a second.  When we (Canadians) see an injury, it is a real visible injury – e.g. blood, knock down, etc…  Hockey players end up in the finals with no ACL/MCL… so there’s a certain toughness in sport that’s expected.  KD stopped, and walked to the side to sit down, barely made a face.  That does not look like an injury.  The Raptors and replay were essential to communicate that it was indeed a serious injury.  When that was understood, the fans completely changed their response.   I don’t think it had any bearing on the game past that point – that was a horrible 2nd half for both teams-  and the game changer was the oddly called time out.)

E3

I guess I should put something up relating to E3.  The general lack of posts (and I will state that my blog roll is down by a  large margin) seems to be more symptomatic of the medium than just me.  Always found late spring to be a tough time to write…weather is finally nice and I want to be on the lake.

Anyways, back to E3.

In 2019, we’re in a space where there are very few surprises left.  Aside from Keanu telling everyone they are breathtaking of course.  Dev cycles are admittedly longer.  There is minimal progress to be had on the graphical front (I still recall the PS3 tech demos).  Nearly everything is a sequel to something.  The last time we saw a risky AAA game that was actually good was Horizon: Zero Dawn in 2017.  There’s a fine line between sequel and a new coat of paint (*cough*Battlefield*cough*).

From all the hoopla, there are a few games that seem interesting.

  • Baldur’s Gate 3.  BG2 is the best RPG of all time… of ALL TIME!  Larian has done a smash job on Divinity, so this seems like a reasonable fit.  Finding the balance between mechanics and exploration/story is going to be key here.
  • Outer Worlds.  I have a soft-spot for sci-fi RPGs.  Been a long time since there was a good one (sorry Isey).  And I’ve rather enjoyed the long list of games from Obsidian.
  • Evil Genius 2.  One of my all-time favorite games.  Playing bad guys for comedic effect is always entertaining.  Will be interesting to see how this applies modern game practices.
  • Cyberpunk 2077.   Both the setting and the developer hit the right notes.  As long as the story structure is similar to the Witcher, I’ll be happy.  I have a serious dislike for Witcher combat mechanics.
  • Ghostwire Tokyo.  This seems more like a serious take on Ghostbusters.  The art style & setting seem interesting.  Hard to say no to a new IP from these devs too.
  • Gods & Monsters.  Zelda but in a greek setting.  Which in that case would be Kid Icarus without wings.  I rather like exploration games.
  • Marvel’s Avengers.  Honestly, I am more confused than much else. A co-op live service?  Did we not just do this dance with Gazillion Marvel Heroes?  Pretty please, let’s not have another Anthem.  The timing here seems even more off, given that Avengers just bookended.

Random Thoughts

  • There is a lot more talk about cross play, and generally this is doable if the game is also on PC
  • 120FPS on a console is a big deal.  Which frankly, means people are going to need better TVs.
  • More streaming service.
  • Ubisoft’s play for $16/month similar to EA’s service is a heck of a stretch.  That said, curious how many people still pay EA after the Anthem fun.
  • Since all this was pre-E3 it was entirely console focused.  PC only games and mobile games come later.
  • There is a general lack of indie games making the threads, but I would say this is more due to the fact that indie is almost entirely focused on PC launches first, then console later.
  • Bethesda.  What the heck is going on over there.  Thumbs up to the ESO success story after a horrible launch, but everything else feels like throwing spaghetti on the wall hoping something sticks.
  • There’s still Nintendo to show some stuff.  Guess it will relate to Metroid and new spec on the Swtich.  Indie games already have a good foothold here… maybe we see more.
  • E3 has to compete with the 24/7 news hype cycle.  When devs are paying Twitch streamers to promote their beta games… where does E3 fit?

Love, Death & Robots

I think sci-fi is my favorite genre.  My favorite stories come from the golden age, when people were chasing stories rather than paychecks (the 80s… ugh).  There’s a child-like vision in those older stories, where the science projections were more magical and focused on the psychology, rather than the technology itself.  Or from another lens, great sci-fi is about people, not technology.

Netflix has an anthology series Love, Death & Robots that tells multiple story lines, with a sci-fi backdrop.  They are between 5-17 minutes, so really quick bites.  Anthologies are like a buffet, there’s something for everyone, but not everything is for someone.  I used to have bookshelves full of them as a kid (Reader’s Digest is exactly that).  And in most sci-fi, the best stories are the short ones, where there’s plenty of open ended questions (see The Martian Chronicles).

There were quite a few highlights here for me, in my order of preference

Beyond the Aquila Rift

This plays out like golden sci-fi, with an interesting punch at the end.  There are some open ended parts, and a nice twinge of horror within.

Sonnie’s Edge

The main line story is great, the setting a bit less.

Secret War

Aside from the monster design, every other bit of this story hits near-perfect notes.  It’s very tight, and is eerily relatable.

The Witness

There are many stories like this, but none that look like this.  Apparently there was no mo-cap, which frankly, bodes well for CG as a whole in the genre.

Shape-Shifters

Werewolves in modern day setting… much better than Underworld’s gothic take on it.  The blending of genres works here… a bit like the Forever War.

 

Not to say that the other shorts are bad, they just resonated less with me.  When the Yogurt Took Over I’ve read a dozen times now in other formats.  A half dozen others seem like they are pulled straight from Heavy Metal.

Considering how short each episode is, it’s very digestible.  Most of us can spare 17 minutes to watch an interesting story.  Kind of hoping we get more anthologies in this vein.

Classic “Bugs”

The neat thing about nostalgia is that it’s tempered by emotions.  People rarely remember the mundane, but they will remember the things that caused an emotional reaction.  And over time, people tend to ignore the bad emotions and only recall the good ones.

In Classic, you may remember taking down Ragnaros the first time, but you likely don’t remember having to herd 40 people on-line, manage a bench, and continually farm for Tranq shot just to progress.

If you stopped playing WoW altogether, then your mindset is probably locked to the type of game when you left, mixed with some older bits.  If you’re still playing today, then there are some concepts in Classic that will seem archaic.

Seems a few times a week now, Blizzard is putting up posts about things “not being a bug” but actually reflective of Classic.  I find these hilarious.  The things that people take for granted today were 8+ years away in Classic.  Single viable specs.  Weapon skills.  Trainers.  Slow mounts.  Mounts not being able to swim.  Resistances.

The more recent one is a bit more technical.  Deals with combat stats.  I played a Rogue from day 1, and Rogues needed to attack from the back or else they would get parried to death.  Combined with the penalties for dual wielding, you needed the right stats to progress (ilvl wasn’t a thing).  Misses, lower crit changes, dodge… all that stuff needed to be factored in when taking down a boss.  That’s why most bosses were tank & spank, because people needed to be in static positions for most fights – and a player afflicted with Fear was a death sentence.

Honestly, I knew this but at the same time I had put it so far out of my mind that it was more or less forgotten.  (Side note, this is why reforging was both implemented and removed.)

I’m looking at Classic from the outside and really wondering how many people truly want to live in that game vs. are simply curious.  People may think they remember Classic, but as time goes by, they are going to discover more and more things that they purposefully put in the “do not remember” box.  Should be interesting to watch.

EA Play – June 7

Anthem hasn’t had any new info since April, making their entire roadmap obsolete.  Even their twitter feed is empty.  Reddit is still a salt mine though!  Last check, there was 1(!) Twitch streamer.

Apex Legends hasn’t had any updates in weeks, and has dropped off the play list like a rock.  I’m all for them avoiding the gaming crunch nightmare of Epic/Fortnite – but they certainly need something.

Jedi: Fallen Order is a nice tease.  Due in November, a few weeks before the new Star Wars movie comes out.  Of note, it’s entirely single player – run by Respawn, who specializes in multiplayer games (Titanfall and above mentioned Apex Legends).

From the outside, it seems like Anthem and Jedi:FO should have swapped between the developers… though everyone does deserve a chance at trying something new.

June 7

EA won’t be going to E3, but will instead hold a EA Play day just before the conference.  Certainly allows them to have much more control of the event.  No more press conferences, just some live streams (yay!)  And it does allow people to “reserve” gameplay sessions, rather than hour long queues (why people do this is beyond me).

Can’t say I’m expecting anything grand here.  Nearly all the good will that existed with Anthem was burnt away by an surprisingly inept leadership team.  The issues that exist in that game will take months to sort out, if at all.  Apex Legends is in no-man’s land right now – every patch seems to bring more headaches to the player base and time spent fixing major bugs is time not spent on content generation.

Jedi: Fallen Order will not be playable.  Maybe another cinematic, or a dev stream of some content.  Quite frankly, the time period after Order 66 and A New Hope is the least interesting to me.  No matter what happens the characters all have to die, and do so leading up to events around Yavin.  Sort of like how Starkiller was very poor on applicable-lore (force pull a Star Destroyer!?), and was more of wish fulfillment to play a force user in interesting locations.

E3

Which does beg the question on E3 as a whole.  For a very long time, it was the time of year where all the big news bits dropped.  In the age of Twitter, Twitch, and Reddit, companies can get new releases out to everyone within minutes.  Game announcements can happen a few weeks before launch.  PAX is nearly on-par, at least in terms of things people want to see.

As budgets get tighter, as the walls on micro-transactions/lootboxes start closing in, I’d expect large companies to start pulling back on the media events outside of their control.  Good news is that leaves a lot of room for the smaller folk to shine…

Rim of the World

When homage turns to collage.

culture_rimoftheworld

Netflix has a new movie out, Rim of the World.  It’s a re-take on every single classic 80’s adventure ever produced.  To a nearly absurd level.  Just look at the picture and tell me it doesn’t look like a mash between a half dozen ideas (Red Dawn, Goonies, ET, Stand by Me are pretty evident.)

Loner/nerd kid gets sent to camp, to grow.  Makes 3 friends (female, mouthy kid, tough kid).  Aliens invade.  They need to save the world because every adult around them dies.  CGI is a wonderful pastiche of high-school attempts and purposeful stop-motion looks.  Montage included.  It’s worth a re-watch just to count the number of themes it borrows from other movies.

If Stranger Things hadn’t hit a few years ago, this would be  much easier to digest. Stranger Things uses the 80s as a backdrop to tell the story.  Here, the 80s are the story.

It’s a no-apology romp, with the hammiest of delivery, and most straightforward plot.  There are literally no surprises at all here, everything happens as it should.  Which in nostalgic terms, is certainly a plus.  People like the comfort of the familiar.  And it Netflix is any smarter about this, then we’re going to spent the next 5+ years with films in this vein.  80s/early 90s people are the main target for Netflix, so why not get those eyeballs?

It’s a solid B movie, where it doesn’t try to ever take itself seriously.

Also new on Netflix – Bash Brothers.  Now that is worth a watch, just not with the kids around!