The Mid-Life is Here

As of this morning, I have reached – or perhaps passed – that point of one’s life where folks commonly point at and say ‘this is the expected middle of your lifetime.’  AKA, the ‘mid-life’ part of the famous crisis everyone talks about.

Looking back, I am generally pleased with what I’ve accomplished so far, and hope to do even more.  The only big turnabout (that some may again contribute to the famous crisis) was actually an industry I loved tarnishing itself without my realizing it.  In turn, it caused the underlying community to have its own problems – which I hope to solve for myself by seeking out like-minded individuals again.  But more carefully this time.  And I may need to be more careful even after that; I wonder now if computer gaming has decided to prey on addictive behavior, which is very unsettling to me.  Its serious enough that I am considering writing to our Senators for the first time since grade school.

Thinking nearer-term, we’ve already had an amazing year, and its only six weeks in so far.  Obviously all the news this week was for the Falcon Heavy rocket, its almost perfect success, and its associated stunt; I’ve not minded the payload too much, after getting over the surprise of the whole thing.  Instead, I find it a 35-years-late birthday present.  And a few weeks back, we had one of the smallest commercial rockets (Electron) have its first successful launch too.  What a wild ride its been so far for Space – I am very happy for both companies, and hope they keep up with their developments.

As for the future, I take each day as it arrives, just as a certain book taught me all those years ago.  I do have proper goals when dealing with work, of course, but that is usually something that can be planned for.  I do not – in fact, will not – fear the unexpected when dealing with the future; from my own experience, that just leads to pure madness.  Instead, I continue to be ready to face the challenges of the new year and beyond, and hope to have a fun time doing them.

Online Identity and Privacy

Every now and then, I have to bring up to someone why I would be nutty enough to post online with a RL name.  My best answer so far was part of a private forum discussion; re-posting the relevant part of that here:

For the individual, I believe its up to them to make up their minds regarding anonymity. In my case, I decided some time ago to mostly register under my RL name, but in return I decided to not have any involvement in social media, and limit any other public interactions. I also usually participate in forums where there are ‘account only’ sections (such as this site), as web crawlers will be unable to archive those posts. And for more public musings, I still have my private domain/site, which I point everyone to as the replacement for said social media.

Does this allow me to control ‘the message’ completely? No, and I have no interest in doing so. Not if I want to keep my sanity anyway. It does allow some control over what is associated with me, which is enough for my needs.

But I also do not recommend doing what I did without thinking through its implications.

This came up recently due to pointing a few folks to my site while under a different name – the one this site is named for.  But in reality, Sungak has been with me for so long, that I consider him as much of a RL name as the actual one.

As an identity, Sungak isn’t a bad choice.  In fact, he was originally played as an simpler version of myself, which allowed me to learn and grow socially in a safe manner.  But he eventually became much more than that.  He became a goal of sorts to strive for, and (in turn) an extension of myself.  At certain points of my life, he’s even become an anchor of sanity when everything else wants to break me down mentally.  Its an interesting symbiosis really.

As for his ‘age,’ I ran a few numbers and realized he’s nearly as old as I was when 9/11 happened.  He’s certainly been around for more than half my life now, which would explain how comfortable I am shifting between the two (if they even are different people at this point).  I really do need to listen to that part of me more often, as well; sometimes, I wonder if the Holy Spirit has taken up residence there, guiding me along a safe path.  *shrug*  I’ll never know, I suppose.

Valley and Altruistic Games

One the more interesting games I played recently is called Valley.  While one of the Steam tags is marking it as a Walking Simulator, I consider it closer to Portal in some of its core mechanics (mostly in the amount of running and flying around you do).  And it does include an element of combat, however small it may be.  But the interesting mechanic I’ve been harping about to folks is the very Altruistic style of play the game has.

Its no spoiler to say that one of the notable points of the game is to save the valley you end up in.  The source of the threat is not either, if you’re seen the trailer.  But the idea of moving around the valley’s ‘life’ in order to save it has some interesting implications down the game’s core story.  Regardless of how you interpret its ending, you’ll likely enjoy the game if you’re a fan of Portal.

So where is this leading?  Turns out, there’s a Wikipedia article that explains some of the main drivers I’ve had for being Altruistic.  In short, there are two:  1) doing so out of empathy with the target, and 2) doing so to make the target feel better.  And, as is typical with me and driving Sociologists nuts, I’m triggered by both.  :-)  For Valley in particular, one of these options are not available, which I’ll have to leave vague since its possibly a spoiler.  Still, very well done in that aspect, and can’t say enough about it.

(Note to self, though – do the article on being a Social Producer during my SL and Uru days, really piss off the Sociologists…)

And circling back to the subject I’m pondering recently, I went and did a search regarding other games that are like this.  Not surprising, Guild Wars 2 is still top of that list (which was somewhat recent, so still have relevance).  So, it may still be worth another shot there, but more on my terms.  I’m still hesitant, though, as I’m honestly done with negativity of any form in online discussions – I do this to relax, and would prefer to find a like-minded group who is willing to toss out folks like that immediately.

Why is Eve on my ‘Return’ List?

In my previous post (regarding the current sabbatical from online gaming), I left Eve as a second option for returning (other than GW2).  But it does not have any element at all of the new metric I am seeking from an MMO now – an engaging Story element.

Or does it?

Eve is a fickle game to many, including me.  One of its core tenets is to have its players shape its universe, in turn making their own Stories.  CCP just supplies the core mechanics.  And in its own way, that kind of Story can be fun too, because you really are a part of it.  In fact, this form of ’emergent’ play is similar to how some LARPs work on a long-term basis.

There are drawbacks to that of course; I don’t call Eve ‘the largest game of Diplomacy on the planet’ for nothing.  But if you can find the right folks to hang out with its not bad at all – my final year there was involved with the relatively small RP community, and is my likely re-entry point for any venture back to Eve.

The main problem for me, even now, is the need for a Subscription to enjoy the style of play I like there – Industry and its Market.  Nothing is unlocked on an Alpha for that form of activity, which I can understand, but that makes it even harder to want to re-enter the game at $15/month to unlock the other half of my character’s potential.

Which is why I have been predicting the idea of ‘Tiered Subscriptions’ – lower cost options with lesser restrictions than the free Alpha clone.  The main price point I see happening is $10/month to remove access to XL sized ships (Capitals and Super-Capitals), which I’ve been calling Gamma.  That is a very reasonable cost for a sizable part of the community to get behind, as many do not fly those anyway.  Another option, which I call Beta, is a partial unlock of Industry and the Market (as well as more of the ORE mining ship line) for $5/month.  It would be a serious no-brainer for me to pick that up, because even with a minor unlock of ships and skills my character would go from about 50% effective to 75% or more, and I could possibly support myself in-game with that kind of price point as well.

While I can see some potential downsides to this (in particular where to balance the Beta point at – if it happened at all), I feel the general idea may be worth pursuing, and hope CCP considers the options at some point.

Remembering Uru through Illness

This past month I’ve been recovering from a string of illnesses, beginning with a light (yet annoying) norovirus that swung by the area.  And with that, I (probably feverishly) remembered the 2009 Fluru in Spokanne.

While we were collectively suffering those couple days, we still stuck through it, tried to cheer up each other and otherwise be supportive as a group via IRC / CyanChat.  So with this run, I’m quietly lying down and thinking “Where did it all go?  Why have I not found a group similar to them that’s lasted as long?”

I’m not as sure anymore.  I keep pointing myself to the LAW video as an example of what I’m seeking today.  Is that gone now?  I don’t think so, but a part of me still wonders if we’ve ended the era of finding large communities that are more about being both fun and relaxing (ahead of anything else) than it is about getting things done quickly, in a regimented manner.  While it can be fun to do stuff like that in a social aspect (like the parades I’ve participated in), I find no fun in doing that in a timed or competitive setup.

Online Game Sabbatical & What I Seek From Games Now

As a followup to my leaving Guild Wars 2 for a time, I decided to extend that to a general sabbatical to all online gaming.  On reviewing all the MMOs I had installed, four were deleted – of which only one (Eve Online) has a chance of being installed again.  Even then, that would only happen if the ‘Tiered Subscription’ model I predicted is actually implemented by CCP.

The other three – WildStar, Secret World and Skyforge – don’t have enough of what I now realize I was seeking from this type of game:  A long-term, engaging Single-player Story element, that’s not hindered much by the game’s advancement mechanics.

Lets pick apart these three against my new metric:

Skyforge – has a story of sorts, but is lackluster at best and not very engaging.  This is hindered further by the immense amount of grind required to get past what they term the tutorial, for goodness sake…

Secret World – while it does have a very good story (very dark and moody), its falling apart point is still the character advancement.  I’m also not as big a fan of the genre in question (very Lovecraft inspired), which is not helping either.  Their re-work of the system has helped a bit, but also added an element of grind which has made things more unpleasant to me.

WildStar – is probably the saddest of the three.  I’ve always believed it was supposed to be a dedicated game for the Hardcore folks (in regards to Raids and larger scale PvP), while Guild Wars 2 (under the same publisher at that time) would be aimed toward the Casual market.  Since the original collapse of this game – which does have a fairly coherent Story element to it – both this and GW2 morphed to add elements of each other.  I consider this to be a tragic turn of events on both games; I feel that Raids caused quite a bit of toxicity to what is left of GW2’s playerbase (of which a decent portion left over it).  I feel they could have re-worked the World vs World system instead, for the same element of strategy and difficulty that Raids would have had.

Where does this leave Guild Wars 2 then?  Its still installed, though I’m only likely to fire it up when there is an actual Story update for now.  As the only game that has a Story Arc I can be engaged with so far, I intend to go back to it when I feel I can find a like-minded group that is ‘Story/PvE Only.’  Even if that means I have to take up the mantle of Guild Master.

Either way, its currently looking to be no earlier than July; Work is just too hectic right now anyway, and I’m enjoying myself with a backlog of other Stories – like Valley, which touches on an altruistic form of game mechanics.  But more on that later.

Strong Transitions, Strong Emotions, Strong Memories, and MMO Content

About two weeks ago, I walked away from a pair of Guild Wars 2 guilds, and very possibly the game itself, over what may feel like some to be a trivial matter.  But after waiting it out over this time, I’ve come to realize its something I actually should have done sooner.

This bears some explanation and background, so I start with the primary method I learn and remember things:  I learn best by doing the task – no amount of guides will help in the long-run – and I remember an experience best (to the point of it being nearly photographic) when it happens around strong emotions.  ANY strong emotions.  And the memories are so strong because the emotion binds it to similar experiences with that feeling – events going all the way back three decades, perhaps even four.  Including things I promised I would never reveal – and still haven’t – from discussions in various group therapies over the years.

And there lies the problem – when I’m allowed to self-learn, or working with a patient and kind instructor/leader, I do well and I advance well.  In fact, I sometimes do best with a group who does not overly care, and I ‘lead’ at work in a very ‘shamanistic’ fashion.  But, if things get heated, and tempers flare, then I start to stumble and make ever increasing mistakes – to the point where it becomes a horrific spiral that puts me into almost a depression.  Sometimes – like on 9/11 – it causes a much worse reaction; I had a lot of repressed hate over the years after that day, and did things that I’m very ashamed of now.  It took nearly a decade with the Uru community to get the last major bits of that out of me.

So how do I normally resolve stuff like this?  Leave – its the healthiest thing to do in that sort of situation, and its why I survived Eve Online with such a decent track record – I saw the events coming and quietly bailed.  In fact, if it was not for what was left of their RP community at the time, I would have probably only been there two years, instead of three.  And with Eve, in theory, I had planned to leave online gaming for good.

But as I was leaving, the timing came up whereby I saw some potential in Guild Wars 2.  The Uru community had been constantly praising GW1, and some had been looking forward to this iteration; that is a very strong endorsement to me, so I tried it.  Unfortunately, what I found was a terribly buggy mess that had a lot of quirky mechanics (other than the underwater stuff, which worked a lot like Eve), and had more than once considered dropping it.

Then I ran into LAW, and they saved my interest in the game with the one thing I was truly seeking – a group that was somewhat hardcore, but also didn’t entirely care how you went about doing it:

It was a good run – about 2.5 years, with everyone chatting on voice nearly every day, even if not entirely on the game.  Both the long interregnum before the first expansion, and the slew of competitor MMOs pulled various regulars out and back again for a long time; Eventually the main leadership decamped to Black Desert, after which I never heard from them again.  Looking back now, I realize I may not be able to capture that again – the game has moved on from what it was at launch.

But, I tried anyway, which is how I ended up on the other two guilds.  It worked out at first, but only because I only logged in once or twice a week for nearly two years.  But eventually things started to chafe with me, I was craving for more social interaction with the guild – the forum was mostly bare, even Discord’s actual GW2 section was petering out, and all that was being talked about it seemed was the content I disliked the most – Raids – because it was the final straw that killed LAW.  So I decided to gird up and try them – and the other ‘higher level’ content – anyway, just so I had more voice contact with the guild.

I now realize I should have left instead (and seek a proper Social oriented guild), and consider this to be one of the larger mistakes within Gaming I’ve ever made in my life.  But I trusted some of the officers involved to keep things civil – and as a former Eve player, Trust is something I don’t give lightly.  Which made what happen two weeks ago even more poignant.

—–=====—–

With that out of the way, the Event AAR:

Content:  Tier 3 Fractals

Participants:  Myself, two Officers from the Guild I was repping at the time (and who were singly responsible for coaxing me back to this content after a year off), a third Officer from a sister Guild (the Target of this report), and a person interested in the content but had virtually no protection against it.  I barely had any protection myself, and consider myself pretty decent for a casual player…

What happened:  The Officer in question pulled up the fractal, and despite my protests, convinced us it would be fine.  That is despite the fact that the previous run of this event (just the day before) I complained about being unable to track everything, and one of the two other Officers (who was in Voice at the time) knows my limitations from running often enough to have considered Vetoing the run.

As I’ve seen previously from this Officer (many times), after going in with a lax attitude to the content, he got overly serious and began snapping at people regarding being unable to follow the mechanics.  While I’ve endured this before from him, the final straw was his yelling at the new guy, who happened to be running the same class as he was.  This was despite pulling him in with practically NO protection AT ALL against the core Mechanic of fractals – Agony Resistance.  As I said, I barely had enough myself, but probably could have managed if things were explained more calmly and everyone kept their cool.  But this particular person would have none of that, yet again.

Enough was enough; in order to protect the new guy from any more abuse (and I honestly had enough with all three Officers by that point too), I left the voice chat, Discord, the Guilds, and very possibly the Game itself.  I am certainly taking a vacation from it for awhile, take stock in what I really care about, and probably go look for a true Social guild.  I may even go hook up with one of the Christian guilds that I know exist there.

But, there is no way at all that I could come back to either of the other two guilds with the level of Taint that this has caused me.  I am certainly done with any content like that again – not without someone who can calmly take the lead.  I am even concerned if I can even join a Guild that hosts Raids or Fractals, however small that group may be.  Its that scarring for me now.

—–=====—–

So what’s next for me?  Lots actually.  During the time away so far, I got a lot of fun and useful stuff done at work (probably because I’m actually relaxing instead of stressing, as high end content does to me).  And I have a new idea for a long-term project in Minecraft as well – reviving an old project from my Second Life days.  More on that later.  :-)

Another Year, Another Post

Well, 2012 was interesting to say the least.

The biggest thing?  A late storm named Sandy was a real head-cracker over here, unfortunately – a visit to Hoboken today showed that some places are still rebuilding.

The second biggest?  I got to shut down a 65 TB disk array that I helped bring online 6.5 years ago.  Somewhat bittersweet actually, but its work so that’s all I’m saying.

In the ‘fun’ list is a new game – Guild Wars 2, an MMO.  While I had promised myself that I’d never go back to online gaming after Eve, overall I’m glad that I poked my nose into this one; It’s certainly casual friendly – with the right friends anyway.  The only problem I’m having now is not directly game related – Certain class play styles are not very good for my damaged wrists, so I’m experimenting with most of them to see what will work safely.  At the moment I’ve found two, which is good.

My next personal project will be the next PC.  Stats will go up once I’ve got it stable, but I already have the parts here.  Hopefully I’ll have things working this week.

Update – Fall 2012

So, It’s just over a year since last major update, where Irene was about to visit.  Well, I ended up sleeping through it.  *chuckle*  The only major aftermath was a couple of mice that decided to snoop around my PC down here in the basement, but I did not know about that until I came back from a Labor Day vacation.  Argh.

Anyway, the rest of 2011 was reasonable, but ‘Snowtober’ (a major snowfall around Halloween) was interesting, to say the least.  I was on-call during that too, and ended up on two different conference calls from home.  Thankfully (and despite so many trees around the house) the Internet link has stayed up.

This year has been an interesting one so far, mostly around work.  I’ve been extremely busy, and yet I’m also very happy about it (due to some of the projects I’m finally able to take care of).  There’s been some down moments, as always, but I promised not to make this site about work, and that’s all I’ll say about it for now.

Of course, it is also a few days to 9/11 again.  I’m beginning to detect the tension that happens around this time, but it’s not nearly as bad as last year.  And someone, earlier this year, gave me some suggestions about how to cope with that – suggestions that really have helped.

Overall, an interesting year.  And I’ve not even mentioned Eve Online yet (in short? – I finally left it).  Probably in a later post…

 

Painless, Pt 2

Well, deciding to move the wordpress site back to my web ‘root’ (where it should have been in the first place) has been a bit of a pain after all. Despite making all kinds of redirect setups, MystBlogs does not seem to syndicate the site anymore. And of course I’m finding a lot of external and internal linking that needs correcting (as the fresh import has changed the post URL structure). Not a big deal yet, I’m working through all that.

One nice thing so far is how few plugins I need now, in comparison to what I used to have. This new ‘Jetpack’ thing that WP included in the install has served a number of my needs, though I’ve disabled about half the features anyway. :p Three ‘quickie’ plugins used to modify comment/trackback etc behavior ended up in Core. So at minimum I’ve only needed to add in Bad Behavior so far (Akismet spam protection also came installed).

One new thing I did add is something to manage the Redirect Hell I’m in now.  It’s probably going to end up part of my main plugin list, until things cool down in a year or so.  I’m hoping Google etc will re-scan the site and re-hash everything in the new format soonish.

–TSK