Monday, December 29, 2008

yes, I picked up a 360

Couple of notes. If you've been watching the website, you might have noticed some rapid changes over the past month. Suffice to say, the winter specials and New Years events have kept me pretty busy.

Anyways, to the main point... yes, I have picked up an Xbox 360... partially funded by selling off my Playstation Portable. While talking in Gamestop about the system, I made a comment that I hadn't purchased anything for the system since Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. One of the store clerks shot back, "You mean there's been some more games since then?."

For me, the PSP was probably one of the worst $250 purchases I ever made. I honestly had less games for it than I did for the original Xbox, and there just hasn't been any compelling content on the system for a long time... and the upcoming play-list looked to be pretty bare as well.

I also saved some money on the 360 by picking up one of the refurbished xbox 360's instead of a brand new one... having taken advantage of Circuity City's pre-Christmas special on a hard-drive and wireless controller for the 360. All told, I pretty much got the $299 Xbox 360 for around half the price.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MMO playing doesn't give leadership skills

Source Story is from here :

The basis of the story is that job recruiters are being instructed to avoid World of Warcraft players, and that one particular job recruiter shrugged off the possibility that leadership skills could be learned in an MMORPG, or that playing MMO's could gain project management skills.

The employment industry has a point to be made. While some MMO games, like Eve Online, demand a certain strategic and tactical mindset to play, the most popular MMO, World of Warcraft, doesn't require anything more than a credit card and some free time. Just playing an MMO won't somehow make people learn management skills or learn how to work with teams.

Lets do a management case in point with City of Heroes, the MMO I currently play. I've talked about explaining to high level (40+) players with 4 or 5 vet badges how their basic powers worked. Specific examples include enligtening a storm defender to the capability of his O2 boost to prevent endurance drain, and explaining to a kinetics that the increased density they had skipped over prevents knockback and increases damage resistance. On an almost consistant basis I come across people who have been playing for literal years that don't have basic grasps on how their powers in CoH work, or how to slot those powers. I still remember a Fire Tank who went out of his way to get a slotting for a large Ranged Defense buff, and couldn't understand why ranged attackers were still killing him off just as easily as before the buffs. The player was oblivious to the complete lack of defense Fire Tanks get to begin with, and didn't understand the point of a tank is to get up close and personal, forcing melee combat. In short, the player would not accept that he couldn't boost defense to anything meaningful on his fire aura, and wouldn't accept any advice on how to make his tank useful.

From my own experience then, just playing an MMO doens't grant managment skills. Management skills can help to play CoH in a certain way. Players able to plan for the best enhancement slotting and best mixture of powers, and able to understand the limitations and liabilities of a particular archtype, can help turn even mediocre builds into desirable teammates.

Keeping on my own experience, I think I can safely say that leadership skills aren't granted by MMO play either. I can actually go all the way back to Phantasy Star Online for emperical data on this idea. Since PSO was limited to 4 players online play with no true team leader, it's not the best example available. That being said, it wasn't uncommon to come across a level 70+ player who didn't know the maps, and kept aggroing too many monsters onto a grouped team. Just because somebody had better equipment in PSO, and a higher level, didn't mean they were a better player qualified to lead.

Planetside actually handed me one of those what was I thinking moments. I remember early in the life of the game joining up with an Outfit and having the rank of Dread Knight. We were fighting on Oshur against the Terran Republic and I figured out what the Terran's battle plan was. I broadcasted in a base zone what the Terran's where up to, and somebody challenged, demanding to know who I was that I would dare say the leadership was wrong. I still remember my response : I'm a dread knight whose a little pissed off that we are going to lose this fight. ... which we did.

One of my biggest complaints against Planetside as the years went on is that qualified leadership was non-existance in the command ranks. It was not uncommon for a CR5 to log on and immediatly call an offensive at their location. It was not uncommon for CR4 and CR5 players to completely screw up major offensive drives. Some of my fondest memories of Planetside were hot dropping in on a base and taking out an enemies generator, then holding the generator against enemy forces and reinforcements. It also bugged the living daylights out of me when right after dropping a generator some clueless CR4 or CR5 would suddenly complain loudly about somebody dropping the generator, therefor depriving them of precious exp. In a couple cases, CR4's and CR5's on my own side would orbital strike a team heading to blow up the generator.

The real problem is that out of any game, Planetside would have been the best place to learn real leadership skills. Not even the America's Army games have come as close to fully implementing real-time combat with armor caravans, supplies, travel logistics, infantry concerns, and so on. The amazing point to Planetside is that it was real-time warfar on a truely global scale. It was an incredible experience... only it served to prove that just playing an MMO doesn't grant leadership skills.

Tabula Rasa was another such game that had a chance to be something truely epic. There was the very real possibility of becoming another Planetside with a working simulation of full-scale warfare. Sadly, Tabula Rasa never materialized anything above basic running and gunning... and squad leadership was meaningless once the devs decided to take the focus away from the inherently imbalanced team-based gameplay.

City of Heroes then, as a more typical MMORPG, also represents emperical data that simply playing an MMO, even for a long time, doesn't grant management skills. Very recently I ran a Cap Au Diable Strke Force with a rather... obnoxious player. One of the basis of City of Heroes is that a team leader is signified by a star over their name. The starred player can invite new players to the team, kick current players on the team, and select new missions without actually having to be at the mission door. However, just because somebody has the star, doesn't mean that they are actually the team leader, or the one choosing the missions.

Some Task Forces and Strike Forces in City of Heroes have to be unlocked, such as the Katie Hannon Task Force, Hess Task Force, and a villain group strike force. Sometimes the player who has run through the task force and knows all of the missions and how to complete those missions won't have the task force unlocked, or their current avatar won't be in a villain group that has the villain group strike force unlocked. So, while they can direct the TF / SF, they may not have the star.

Then there are the cases where one player has a particular story arc, and an entire team works on the story arc, such as the Praetorian arc on the hero side. The arc holder may let somebody else put the team together because a friend has better promotional skills.

Leadership in CoH is extremely flexible then. A good team leader needs to be able to come to grips with changing conditions such as players who quit or log out, or finding out that a particular player is not really good at what their archtype does. A good case in point here is the Imperious Task Force. As I diagramed out and posted on several times in this blog, there are several ways to succesfully complete the task force. I even ran into a new way to complete the task force on a recent run. With 3 blasters, the team lead called for the ranged players to fire on the healing nictus before the AV fight even started. It worked. The blasters could fire from outside the healing range of the nictus, and had enough DPS to take the healing nictus down.

Going back to the Cap Au Diable SF, the person who put the SF together hadn't wound up with the star, and early on the SF started directing the fight... which was a good thing. The player knew how to work the SF. After a couple of disconnects, I wound up with the star, and promptly kept asking the experienced villain side player what to do, where to go next... only to get no response. As far as the player was concerned, whoever had star made the choices, no matter what... and then after the TF the player went off on a rant that I hadn't "abidcated" my position and that if I hadn't wanted to lead the Strike Force I should have just quit, logged out, and given somebody else the star.

So. Word of Advice. Don't play with @Celerity on Victory. Just /bad/ idea.

From the empirical data I've witnessed then, I myself call into question the real world viability of management and leadership training as gleaned from inside MMO games. From what I've experienced for myself, skills learned in the real-world, skills learned in a job, in the military, are far more effective. I find it real easy to believe then that employers would ask recruiters to avoid MMO players, and I'm not at all surprised that World of Warcraft tops the list of games that employers don't want employees playing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CoH - Pain Domination / Cold Domination

Originally wrote and posted this on the City of Heroes forums here.

However, since most good ideas on game forum threads tend to get buried in a crush of bad ideas... posting my take on the Pain and Cold sets here.


Actually spawned from I13 feedback here.

One of the things that bugs me about the pain domination and cold domination sets is that they sound like Dominator sets... but aren't.

So I proposed changing the names to pain corruption and cold corruption to better signify their use in corruption the powers of pain and cold to suit the users interests. That opens up the cold domination and pain domination sets for actual Dominator powersets. So the idea here is to create a workable framework, list of powers, and implementation of powers that would fit the cold domination and pain domination sets.

The base framework as follows seems to be about the same for each dominator

Tier 1: single immobilize

Tier 2: single hold

Tier 3: special power

Tier 4: aoe status effect

Tier 5: mass immobilze
Tier 6: weak mass hold

Tier 7: unique power

Tier 8: strong mass hold

Tier 9: pets


following this train of thought then:

Cold Domination

Cold Domination : the idea of Cold Domination is that it will borrow aspects of Ice Control and Storm Control. To separate it from Ice Control, work on it having a few more debuffs / buffs, and targeted radial drop AOE's instead of targeted aoe burst aoes. Cold Domination calls up on the powers of the Arctic Winds to freeze and shock opponents.

Tier 1: single immobilize : Lighting Paralyze : summon an arctic cloud that strikes with a bolt of lighting paralyzing an opponents lower legs. Alternatively, a low cloud filled with sparks appears about the targets legs shocking the opponent into submission.

Chance for 30second Mag 2 stun

Tier 2: single hold : Lighting Lock : The target is overcome with a cold storm that shocks them into a hold.

When target exits the hold, 15 second Mag 2 stun.

Tier 3: special power : Artic Fog : lifted directly from Cold Corruption

Tier 4: aoe status effect : Snow Storm : lifted directly from Storm Summoning. Massive toggle Slow Debuff.

Tier 5: mass immobilize : Lighting Storm Paralyze : Summon a cold blast that detonates a shocking cloud at low levels, paralyzing enemies where they stand.

Chance for a 20second Mag 2 stun

Tier 6: weak mass hold : Arctic Icicle Detonation : The Cold Dom launches a ball of ice into the air detonating it at eye level. Enemies are struck by a blast of cold wind and think they have been hit by a stronger attack, closing their eyes and turning away. Attack though and the victims will realize it was just a trick.

Tier 7: unique power : Arctic Waters : The Cold Dominator Summons forth a well of shallow water, as freezing tendrils wrap around foes legs. Enemies defenses and resistances drop, and enemies recieve a dramatic slow to travel speed and recharge rates.

Tier 8: strong mass hold: Lightning Storm Lock : The Cold Dominator unleashes their most powerful attack. A huge storm explodes completely paralyzing everything in sight.

15 second mag 2 stun on exit from hold

Tier 9: pets : Lightning Cloud : Cold Dominators can summon forth cold winds personified in the the Lightning Cloud. The pet follows the dominator around chilling everything in it's path. It's able to cloud enemies visions, lowering accuracy, and the constant cold temperatures drop Defense and resistance. Unlike other pets, the Lightning Cloud is weak. Aside from being able to generate it's own lightning strike, it has nothing else to offer.


Pain Domination

Pain Domination : The concept of Pain dominators is that they inflict pain on a very mental and physical level upon their opponents. Unlike Mind Dominators they strike to the bone, not to the head. Like Pain Corruption though, Pain Domintors use pain to their own adventage as much as their enemies disadvantage

Tier 1: single immobilize : Oppression : The Pain Dominator can make even the hardiest foe feel pain. It's not enough to stop attacks, but with but a hand wave, most enemies just won't feel like moving.

Tier 2: single hold : Oppressive Force : The Pain Dominator digs in and uses both hands to generate a wave of energy stopping enemies dead in their tracks. Enemies that are held take little damage, but their regeneration rate drops dramatically, and they need to take a moment to catch their breath.

(the intent of this power is to have an effect similar to the transfusion power from kinetics, with an end removal and regen decrease equivalent to a kinetics defender).

Tier 3: special power : Soothing Aura : lifted from Pain Corruption. Pain doms can heal allies around them.

The Heal buff is equivalent to an Empathy Defenders heal buff.

Tier 4: aoe status effect : Radiated Pain : A Pain Dom won't hesitate to use an allies body as a tool. A hand wave places a wave of pain circulating an ally. All enemies who come close are convinced they will take more damage.

(The intent of the power is to be similar to the sonic buff of
disruption field giving a resistance debuff)

Tier 5: mass immobilize : Mass Oppression : The fury of the Pain Dominator extends to all. A wave of pain washers over enemies, leaving them with their legs quaking. It won't stop attacks, but it will make most enemies think twice about moving again.

Tier 6: weak mass hold : Anguishing Scream : A scream of pain causes enemies to halt in fear. However, a scream alone won't halt enemies for-ever, for if they refocus their attention, they'll keep attacking, even if they have trouble dodging attacks and think they take more damage than they should.

(intent of the power is a Modification of Anguishing Cry from Pain Corruption. Because of the hold component, use the debuff values from the Mastermind, which has a lower defensive debuff value).

Tier 7: unique power : Forced Pain : The Pain Dom is never afraid to sacrifice their own health to that of their enemies discomfort. The pain dom sacrifices their own regen rate to keep enemies disoriented.

(The intent of this power is to be similar to Oppressive Gloom on the Dark Armor side. However, instead of sacrificing hit points, Pain Dom's sacrifice 50% of their regeneration. A higher Regeneration rate increases the lasting time and strength of the disorient.)

Tier 8: strong mass hold : Oppressing Shutdown : The Pain Dominator unleashes waves pain, hitting enemies in there very bones. Enemies take massive smashing and lethal damage and held for an extended period of time. The sheer force of the attack takes a chunk out of the Pain Dominator though.

2 minute Hold time. 5 minute recharge time. Hitting the Enhancement Diversification limit will mean that Pain Doms can actually keep the hold cycling. However, using Oppressing Shutdown causes the Pain Dom's own regeneration rate to shut down for 30 seconds, and if Forced Pain is running, send a Pain Dom's regen rate into negative numbers. Recovery Rate is also terminated for 30 seconds. The intent is that this is a nuke for dominators.

Tier 9: pets : Shadow of Pain : The Pain Dom can summon forth a being of ill will from dimensions best left unmentioned.

(The intent of Shadow of Pain is that it is an analog of the illusionist phantasm. It is able to create a decoy copy of itself, and attack with ranged dark attacks. However, while it has a high resistance, it can't be buffed, and it can't be healed).


Friday, December 12, 2008

Saying Goodbye to American Cars : is it also saying Good Riddance?

Over the past couple of weeks the news has been pretty much unavoidable. The US car industry is going down the toilet, and 2 of the big 3 USA carmakers are facing the very real possibility of bankruptcy. Right now there is a very real chance that General Motors and Chrysler will cease to exist as car-manufactures, with only Ford surviving due to actually having some money in the bank.

I've seen a lot of doom and gloom takes on the demise of the US car industry, but I can't say I'm convinced that it's a bad thing, or that it wasn't going to happen anyways. National car companies with tens upon thousands of workers have gone bust before. Case in point, British Leyland. As far as I can tell, Britain got over the demise of their own national automaker, and while many people lost their jobs, the British economy recovered and is chugging along relatively nicely.

I'm also not convinced that the US car-makers dying is a bad thing because, well, they haven't made good cars. Seriously, go pick up a Consumer Reports from the past two decades. Tune into Top Gear on BBC. Check out Top Gears annual car survey results from people who actually buy cars. The short version is, US cars have been overpriced and under-performing for not just years, but decades. Jeremy Clarkson loves to point out that Ford's premium muscle car, the Mustang, was shipping with leaf springs for the suspension, less than 2 years ago. Leaf springs are something you'd literally find on a horse draw cart. Top Gear also wondered aloud on camera how Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, and Lamborghini get 500 horsepower out of the same size engine that Dodge only gets 400 horsepower from.

The reality is, when people I know buy cars today, they start with non-American cars. There's a reason why Japanese, Korean, and Malaysian cars have hammered out massive shares in the US car market. They simply make better cars for the price. There's a reason why Europe dominates the sports car market. They simply make a better car. It wasn't until the most recent Corvette that Chevy finally made something Jeremy Clarkson liked, then loved. Now, I don't care what you think about Jeremy Clarkson, but as long as he's been driving and talking about sports cars, I'm pretty sure he knows what he's talking about.

Even though the US car makers are finally stepping and competing on a practical level by making cars that can compete against their European, Japanese, Korean, and Malaysian counterparts, they haven't solved the real problem. The real problem of the US car industry is the Union.

One of the points that I see a lot of news analysts just skipping over is that the United Auto Workers Union declined to take a $3 to $4 an hour pay cut in order to have pay scales in line with non-unionized car manufactures. Now, speaking for myself, when I got hired on to help Adventure Crossing, I flat out told the owner when he asked me how much I was looking to get paid, I said this : Pay me whats in the budget. If that's minimum starting salary, that's minimum starting salary. Unless the work I do helps the business I don't deserve the big bucks, and you shouldn't be paying me big bucks.

I still remember my first trip to Anthrocon resulting in a What was I thinking moment. During the closing ceremony the con chairman offered thanks to the local Union, and I turned to somebody who was local to Pittsburgh and said something to the effect of the following : You still have Unions up here?

The result was a completely confused expression on the local's face as unions were second nature to him and responded to the effect asking why didn't we have unions down south. I remember sitting there trying to come up with a polite way to say that unions where one of the worst business concepts going, and that for the most part, most Southern businessmen and employees had figured out that unions were a BAD THING.

One of the issues with Unions is that they once did have a practical use in the American Economy. I'd even say that as little as 20 years ago Unions still had a place in the US economy. At one point there was a need for employees and workers to get together and unionize themselves through select representatives to promote their rights and ideas to their employers. However, in a democracy like the United States, one of the basic governmental foundations is that if you have an idea, and it's a good idea, and you want it to become law, convince your fellow citizens to vote for your idea to become law. Today there are both federal and state regulations regarding workers employment rights, payment rights, overtime rights, and safety rights. All of the issues that unions used to fight for are safely ensconced in federal and state law.

Instead of disbanding after the legal rights were achieved, unions continued to hang together, and the effects today are bank shattering. I've lost count of the horror stories where several hundred people in a union were paid to sit around on their read ends and do nothing because there was no work for them to, but they couldn't be sent home because they were unionized, and they had to be paid for work they didn't do because they were part of the union.

What we learned in the South, and what is practiced in the South, is a form of the free-market economy. There is someone out there better than me at what I do. There is somebody out there who will do my job for less money. I do not have job security. If I mess up, screw up, or do something wrong, I can be fired. Yes, I can make life difficult for my successor by not leaving proper documentation, changing all the passwords and locking systems out, and so on and so forth. But, if they are as good as me, it will just take them some time and aggravation to undo everything I did.

Thus I have to work at my best, doing my best, to prove that I am valuable enough to keep getting paid.

Unions do not encourage that behavior. Once a person is part of a Union, such as United Auto Workers is today, they don't have to the work. If they screw up, mess up, or whatever, so what. Nobody else is going to take their job, and the employer gets stuck with a logistics nightmare.

That is what has happened with the car makers in the US. The Unions have such control over the production of the cars that the companies are effectively held hostage. US cars cost more than their counterparts because US cars have to calculate in the exorbitant pay of the unions, the ludicrous benefits of the unions, and the outrageous pensions of the unions. When push came to shove, rather than backing down, the unions torpedoed a deal that would have bailed General Motors and Chrysler out of trouble.

As I see it, Unions as represented by the UAW, don't understand real-world economics. They don't understand that they have to be better, and that they have to produce better products. Shoving out brand new cars with yesteryears technology just doesn't cut it for the smart consumer.

For me then, I welcome the collapse of the US car market. General Motors and Chryslers bankruptcies will shut the unions down and remove their power base. And like Britain did after the collapse of British Leyland, the US will no doubt recover.

There's just one slight problem. The unions are democrats. Oh yes. They vote democrat. And there is a democrat senate, a democrat house, and a democrat president coming up really soon.

Do I really need to spell out why this is a bad thing?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fox's take on Dragonball: Not that Bad

People who have seen my first attempt at making my own website probably correctly guessed that I'm something of a Dragonball fan... People who saw pictures I took of some of my computer systems may have also noticed a number of Dragonball products as well. People who read my take on the Chrono Trigger Playstation re-release probably also caught that I described it as the Dragonball RPG that was never going to happen, although Dragonball RPG's actually did make it stateside in the following years... And those who have seen my collection of 1990's Bandai boxed DBZ / DBGT toys... think I'm a complete lunatic for Dragonball...

Which is actually pretty correct. Suffice to say, I was reading and enjoying the Dragonball series long before Funimation and Cartoon Network got their hands on the projects. I can even forgive some of the horrendously bad effects from the conversion from Manga to Anime, such as focusing on a single panel setup panel for 2 or 3 minutes... simply because at the core, I liked Dragonball. I liked the storyline and the concept. When I needed another alien race for Callaer, I didn't even bother disguising the use of Saijens.

The point of this is that I pretty much consider myself a hardcore fan of Dragonball, although I will admit that's probably not exactly cool at the present time, sort of like being a Trekkie.

And the new trailer from 20th Century Fox?

Doesn't upset me at all. Actually I think it's rather cool looking.

Even if it's not 100% accurate to the Dragonball series, I'm fine with that. I, personally speaking, really expected another Super Mario Brothers movie, a movie that was pretty much rubber stamped with Dragonball characters and not much else. I expected something truely horrendous that didn't even bother staying true to the anime concepts... and well... from the trailer, it seems that Fox has stayed pretty close to the concepts.

Considering that the anime to live action genre normally goes really wrong to begin with, it's quite refreshing to see something that looks like it went halfway right... and I'll probably be sitting in the theater on opening night for it.