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2012 for this blog in review… according to WordPress!

Seems like Worpress did some data compilation for this blog and even made it into a snazzy report. Since they also included an easy button to share it with you, I thought it might be of some amusement to other people besides me. :)

Ok. From this point on it is all WordPress words!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 13,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Everything Else

 

My favorite things about games

December is here and so is another challenge from Ambermist of Tastes Like Battlechicken. Sadly, it is also probably the last monthly one she will be ensuing due to other commitments. If anyone else picks it up I will do try to rise up to the challenge too. In any case, here is my thanks to Ambermist for these. They have been fun and a good exercise for the good ol’ brain cells. :)

Anyhoo, this month the challenge are a few questions but all about the same theme: Our favorite things on games. I will just copy the questions she gave about it for organization’s sake and because it makes it easier to write it in a more coherent way.

What are your favorite things about gaming in general, or about your favorite game specifically?

I guess my favorite things about gaming in general would be, in no specific order, exploration and story.

Despite my love for exploring places in game I don’t think I am the typical explorer type. At least not the way I think the typical explorer type is. In my definition they are the type to throw caution to the wind and just go some place because it is there. If there is danger in the way they will just deal with it somehow. I also imagine they are the type to pay a lot of attention to details, to the point of being able to paint a place they’ve seem while blindfolded.

Myself, I would define as more of a cowardly looter type of explorer. What I mean by that is that I like to explore but only after I feel confident enough that the risks to do so are manageable. I don’t mind a few deaths or defeats in the process but I also don’t like to do something if I believe the odds are near impossible or if it would cause too much hurdle. As for the looter, I guess my main motivation to explore, at least dungeons and such, is more to see what kind of cool stuff is in there. I won’t leave any corner or creak unturned until I am sure I got all the cool loot in a place. I guess that was ingrained on me by my early years of JRPG where it was common to go inside someone’s house, break all their vases and search their drawers for any kind of loot!

Some times I act more like a typical explorer though. My best memories of Morrowind (one of my favorite games of all time too!) were about stumbling into some cave entrance, abandoned temple or something similar. Then just entering to see what was inside. A lot of times I had to make a speedy retreat. But there were some cool times where I found some quest, some notes telling the story of what happened there or just some interesting decoration where I would imagine what the place was used for.

Because of that habit one of my favorite Morrowind mods was one that was conceptually simple, yet cleverly implemented, a chalk mod. That mod allowed you to put symbols or even write a message (in a kind of clunky way given the limitations) on walls or floor. With that mod I would mark places I had already explored, places I couldn’t bother to enter at the time but should come back later or even make signs inside dungeons so I wouldn’t get lost. Simple in concept, yet useful and very immersive! :)

As for story… I am pretty happy either with linear or multi-branching, full of decision-making stories. In both cases what is important to me is that the story and the gameplay don’t be at odds. For instance, if I know I am close to a boss fight, making my way carefully to a good position to start the fight in then a cutscene happens where my character for some stupid reason goes out in the open to have a chat with the boss and stays there after the scene is over then I will be very annoyed. It also annoys me when the character says something in some cutscene, like “Killing is bad!” then does something that completely contradicts it during gameplay, e.g. he says “killing is bad” yet murders every goon in the way without blinking.

Though none of that annoys me as much as given a false choice. That is the kind of no matter if you choose A or B, the only difference will be, at best, some different lines of dialogue. And the game doesn’t even do much of an effort to hide that.

When story works though, it can be one of the most wonderful game experiences ever. My latest one in that area was “The Walking Dead” by Telltale Games. Not only they do make a good job of making you care about the characters you meet they also made the decisions feel hard and to have heavy consequences. It is the kind where you think “Well, if I chose X back then would character Y be still alive?”. Of course, not all the decisions are life-or-death ones like that but they all feel meaningful.

What keeps you coming back?

I guess it is the same thing that keeps making me reading books. Each game is a new world, a new experience. I also just dislike not seeing the end of story or leaving things unfinished. This last one can be a bit more fuzzy. Sometimes what I felt unfinished can be not getting a character to max level in a MMORPG other times it might bee to see a different ending of a game. Then there are a few games where I just like to play because the gameplay itself is fun. Terraria being the latest example of playing just for the gameplay. :)

What makes you smile?

I think I already answered that one in a indirect way through the other answers. I will just add another point. I really like a game where the rules are just as simple, elegant and full of interesting choices. This is a very hard thing to achieve. From the top of my mind the only games achieved this recently was Civilization V and XCom. Not surprisingly they are both from the same company, Firaxis. Guild Wars 2 gets very close too, which is amazing considering the complexities of MMORPGs. I just don’t say it achieves it completely because there are a few things that confuse me. Although I admit I have yet to really make an effort to deal with that.

I guess Terraria could count too, in terms of interesting choices.

When the bee stings and you’re feeling bad, what is about gaming that makes you smile?

There are a lot of times where I feel weak and unable to change things. In games at least I can feel like I can make a difference. Even if it is just to save a virtual world that will disappear as soon as I turn the computer off, and the emotions the characters display are just scripts read by professional voice actors, it still feels nice.

It also feels nice when I can help someone in a MMORPG. Even if it is just to give some hint, share some information or be there for a dungeon run. I rarely do those things though when I am in a bad mood since when I am like that it is best for me to be alone least I whine every 3 words or end up snapping at someone for no reason. But remembering the good times help to cope with those feelings.

Bonus Challenge: Tell me something awesome that happened to you this year!

That was to see my friends get back together to play Guild Wars 2. I met almost all of them in Everquest 2 but over time they all scattered to other games and it was hard to find one that we all enjoyed. Although recently they have been scattering from Guild Wars 2 (including myself!) for a reason or another, at least with its buy-to-play model, I can always twist their arms ask kindly to do a dungeon run or something like that for old times sake. Something that would be more complicated in subscription-only games or even some so-called “free to play” games.

***

Well, that was it for this challenge! I hope everybody have a wonderful christmas and an even better new year! :)

P.S.: I know that I am not the most prolific blog writer out there but in case anyone has been wondering about my silence lately…. it is just that I haven’t been in the most sociable moods for a while. Hence, haven’t been feeling much like writing or even playing MMORPGs. My mood is a little better now but not by much. So things might be quiet on here for a little while longer. Hopefully not for too long now. :)

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Ambermist's Challenges, Everything Else

 

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Books and me

Before beginning this post, let me do a shameless plug to a blog from my guildie and friend Celesteral. It is called Lost Ranger. I am not sure what kind of topics she will tackle but no matter what it is, judging by her first post, they will be very enjoyable to read. :)

Now the reason I am doing that shameless plug is because of that first post I mentioned. It made me think a lot about my own relationships with books. And instead of writing a giant wall of text in her comments I thought it might be better to just write a post here.

Let me just give a disclaimer first. Although I try to keep this blog with a general positive attitude this one might have a few drepressing/negative parts. It also may end up being somewhat of a incoherent ramble. I might as also mix fiction, comic books and tabletop RPGs throughout  the post. Albeit they are technically very different types of books they were all important in the formation of my reading passion in a way or another. I will try to minimize all that for the sake of myself and for the sake of anyone reading this post.

For reference purposes, this is all relative to Brazil, the country where I was born, grew up and still live in. I am just pointing it out because it is one of those instances where this kind of detail matters.

Alright. Now that is said, let’s get to it…

Once upon a time…

I don’t remember anyone ever reading me a story to bedtime when I was a small child. I do know my mother and my aunts always stimulated me and my brother to read from an early age though. I know this since as far as my memory goes I can always remember reading either a book or some comic. Among those early memories are some of my mother taking me and my brother to a local biannual book convention. She would let us choose any book that was suitable to us for buying. Some times though those wouldn’t be exactly children’s books. For example, I  don’t remember at what exact age… Maybe when I was 10 or somewhat about then? Anyway, I remember wanting to buy a Sherlock Holme’s book during one of those conventions. I don’t even know why I got interested on him to begin with. But I remember it clearly that the guy who was working there even helped us by finding out which was the first book detailing Sherlock Holmes’ adventures. I still have that book to this day and I consider it one of my little treasures. :)

Then when I wasn’t reading books I was reading comics. During my childhood it were some local ones, of the “Turma da Mônica”… series, I guess? Franchise? I am not sure what the proper term would be. It was pretty much the only comics produced locally back when I was a kid. I have no idea if things changed since then. Probably not.

Later on, during my teenager years, I end up getting hooked on super-hero comic books from Marvel and DC. I got so addicted to them though that I had to stop reading those entirely since I was spending much more than my allowance permitted. Because of that out of control spending I was constantly in debt with my mother!

Then there were the tabletop RPGs. It started innocently enough with a board game actually, called Hero Quest, that a neighbor got as a gift. He got us hooked on it but eventually it wasn’t enough for us. We wanted more of it. In the comic books I read there was some advertisement for some “Forgotten Realms” thing that at the time I had no clue what it was. I am still not sure what it was actually. Maybe it was a module? Anyway, it was an actual D&D product, properly licensed and translated and was sold on news stands around here. It was a bit pricey but I bought it anyway thinking it was another Hero Quest type of board game. At the time I couldn’t make any sense of it as it just described a village, I think, in the Forgotten Realms setting, and some adventure to go with it, if I recall correctly. The only clue we had what this was all about is that it was something about Role Playing Games. Then my brother found a magazine that talked about that stuff, I read it, found out there was some RPG convention. I thought it was kinda like a book convention so I went there. It wasn’t quite like it but I was able to buy my first RPG book there, GURPS. And from then on a new addiction was born…

My addiction to RPGs led me to buy several books of different systems throughout the years. I can’t say I really played any of them since my attempts to get some groups going to play them never went too well for a reason or another. Still I love them to death and it was thanks to them that I found out about literally genres such as fantasy, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, etc. It was also through them that I found out about books like Lord of the Rings, Dune, Amber, among others who are in my list of favorite books ever.

Even if I haven’t really played any of them I still love those RPG books. They also gave me a way to explore other worlds, except in a more “atlas” style I guess instead of the traditional narrative way. I also found in them ways to express and think about characters in a more formal format as well as think about what makes a character interesting.

RPGs are also in part responsible for my current english skills. There was always very few translated RPG books here. My hunger for them though was insatiable though and I just got any RPG book I could buy regardless of language. So I ended up using the english skills I learned for my future professional career to read them instead.

If you are curious, the other things that helped to hone my english skills were the internet and MMORPGs. The later helping me more to get confidence with the language and rounding some rough edges.

Infinite Worlds, Infinite Possibilities. Yet not everybody can be a knight.

Although my memories with reading are almost all good there are a few that are more tied in with some… complicated emotions. I will be purposely vague on these parts. Partly for my own sake, partly because going into details would require posts of their own and partly because I don’t think I want to go about such issues in a public blog right now.

As a child one of the issues I had was trying to deal with the differences between the kind of life portrayed in the comics I read and the one I lived in. It isn’t that my family was a terrible one. I guess it was more of an issue of… I don’t know. Unstructured family? I guess that wasn’t quite the case either. Perhaps it might have been more of being a natural dreamer in a family of pragmatists which just didn’t seem much reason in birthday parties after a certain age or hugs or some other more direct expressions of affection. Or that they seemed more busy or interested on their own stuff or what they considered important to me and my brother. It is really hard to explain.

It took me way too long to realize the issues of my family weren’t all that unique or some form of social aberration, that there were, far, far worse families out there or even if they weren’t all that much worse, that they had issues of their own. It also made me think about how much I end up fantasizing about, well, everything. About how that tendency of mine just makes it harder to deal with reality which is often not as bad or as complicated as I tend to imagine. It is still something I ponder about from time to time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming comics, books or anything else for that. I firmly believe that things would still happen the same way. It is just that it was that it made it easier for me to realize those things. So in a way, I guess there was a good side to those discrepancies too.

The other problem was my relationship with my father. The shortest way I can describe our relationship problems is that we are of completely different worlds. The problem with this as a child is that I didn’t feel like I had a proper father figure. Again, please don’t take things the wrong way. My father wasn’t, nor he is, some kind of monster. Like I said, it is more of a question of both us being of completely different worlds. Also that neither of us are good about talking about goes into our hearts, so to speak.

Anyway, the problem with this is that I grew feeling that I didn’t have a proper father figure in my life. I grew up promising to myself that once I was an adult and married, I would be completely different. I would be a proper husband, a proper father to my children, etc.

Where I could not find a good role model in my father, I found it in books and comics. It was in those that I found what I thought a man, a human actually, should be. Although that might have been too much of an idealized version. So much that I guess it might be impossible to anyone to live up to it. So if at times I seem too hard on myself, that is part of the reason.

Nowadays, I got over most of my issues with my father. I am also able to recognize that, despite everything, he always had the best intentions on his heart, at least as far as me and my brother were concerned. He also has some qualities that unfortunately I wasn’t able to inherit. It is still a very complicated relationship though.

Stuck in a isolated cultural island

Much to my shame I don’t have too many books bought with my own money. Making a guess about it I think I might something between 50 to 100 books. Most likely 50. That is counting all my fiction books, RPGs and technical books. I am not counting comic books though since I left those behind, somewhere, a long time ago. If I counted those it would easily be over a 100. Of course, I did read much more than that number. That number is just of those I actually count as belongs solely to myself, that I went out looking for or that were gifts specifically given for me.

There are a couple reasons for  that low number. The first is that I just seem to have an apathy/forgetfulness, I guess, to buy more of anything that I am passionate about. That includes books. I only end up remembering about it when I really need to read something new.

The second reason is that book variety here is really poor and a bit pricey. The publishing companies say it is because producing books in Brazil is expensive due to all the heavy taxes. I don’t doubt they are telling the truth about it. All sectors of our economy here are heavily taxed unfortunately, and it isn’t a case where it is ok to have high taxes because we get a high quality of government services in return. We don’t. The services offered by our government are pretty poor to say the least. Anyway, I think this problem with publishing books ends up feeding into the other side of why we have such poor variety, in my opinion. And that is that we, brazilians, don’t have a culture of reading. Every year there are some campaigns by different groups to try to change that, sure. But it is a tough battle when people just seem to give it little value and with the prices of books as they are.

The end result of all that is that for a person like me who loves fantasy and Sci-Fi it can be really hard to find books of those genres. Unless it is from a highly influential author or some extremely successful one, like J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, William Gibson, among others, you just won’t find a version of their work translated and published here. Perhaps you might find them in the imported books section but even them the chances are slim. Local production of books in that genre then is even more of a niche. At least I can only remember one example of each that was produced by a local author. Neither being famous or influential either even around here.

So the best way for me to satisfy that hunger ends up being by importing books. Fortunately, thanks to the internet and digital versions it isn’t too complicated. It is also fortunate that we don’t have to pay taxes for importing books either, thanks to a law about no-taxes for importing any cultural media.

My only pain then is my preference for physical books. It can take about a month for them to arrive here. I guess I could pay more for it to be delivered faster but then I would be paying pretty much double the price of the books. More pragmatic people would then just stick to the digital versions of the books. That is something I keep trying to get myself to do but so far I haven’t been able to. It is just that I dislike reading a book in  front of the computer or other electronic devices. Even though I can easily read a site’s article or a blog post without thinking twice. Ironically I can buy digital versions of technical books without thinking twice. I guess the difference is because technical books, at least the ones I read, can get outdated so fast. That and I just don’t have any real emotional connection to them. So I don’t really care about technical books as much as my beloved fiction books.

And with all that waiting time, my natural apathy/forgetfulness ends up turning into laziness. So I end up not importing many books at all either. Perhaps I might change that though… Hm…

It is all about love

Regardless of all of the difficulties, emotions that they were tied with or how they shaped me, books will always be my greatest love. So much so that, after seeing other people’s list of books, I am starting to think about making one of my own. Not sure yet in what form it will be but I’d like to do it. Not as a form to show off possessions but rather more like a travel log of worlds I visited and worlds I intent yet to visit. :)

We’ll see how that will turn out! :)

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Everything Else

 

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How MMORPGs twisted me

Syl, of the Raging Monkeys blog, made a pretty interesting post about all the ways World of Warcraft changed her. I haven’t played World of Warcraft nearly as much as her (it was just a brief stint during Vanilla then a few months later during Burning Crusade) but it made me think about all the ways MMORPGs over the years changed my tastes and expectations in terms of gaming. So, this is my list of those and the MMORPGs who influenced the most on that.

Oh, for convenience, I will just copy the format of her post. :p

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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Everything Else, MMORPG

 

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Of Epitaphs and Scrolls

Over at Massively, Justin “Syp” Olivetti wrote a pretty funny “Perfect 10″ column taking a look at the top 10 epitaphs you can find at one of the Guild Wars 2 cemetery.

I didn’t hang out long enough in the human area during this beta weekend to see that cemetery but this is definitely something to check out during the next beta. :)

Still from Massively, come the news that Bethesda confirmed the existence of a Elder Scrolls MMORPG. Apparently it will feature three-faction PvP.

I have mixed feelings about this. One one hand I love the Elder Scrolls series starting from Morrowind. But PvP is not something I like. Although I guess it wouldn’t make sense for a Elder Scrolls games without it. Separating people into factions is something that I am not much a fan of either. The reason for the latter is that I am still bitter about it from my times in World of Warcraft. Back then I wanted to play with any of the Horde Races. But my friends wanted to play alliance…. So guess which side I end up playing on. :p

In any case there is still pretty much no detail besides that. So we’ll have to see how it goes. Hopefully I am already worrying for nothing. I also hope this doesn’t mean they will stop making single player games in the Elder Scrolls universe. It seems pretty unlikely right now but who knows.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Everything Else

 

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Why I decorate in Everquest 2: The return!

Ah, the insights we get when we are can’t sleep, don’t feel like doing it but we know we must try otherwise we became living zombies. Anyhoo, in a previous post I rambled a lot about why I love decoration in Everquest 2. However as often happens in such endeavors I think my point got lost, even to myself, amidst of all the rambling. It is one of those gut feelings you have but you just don’t know how to put it in words or even explain it to your own self. You just know it is the thing that is right to you. I think I finally got it in a more rational way now. So to avoid losing track of what I am trying to say, let’s do something different this time and delve directly to the point, shall we?

There have been too things that have been bugging me a lot since I got into decoration in Everquest 2. The first is why I have so much trouble with little details and colors in my decorations while to other decorators it seems as natural as speaking? The second is why I care so much about a game’s feature that pretty much the majority of the MMORPG industry and player base doesn’t seem to care about, namely a good housing system? I mean, it is pretty much the only reason I am still playing Everquest 2. Everything else is just my silly obsessive side.

Although both questions seems to require different answers, in my case, they have pretty much the same answer. Thinking about the first one my conclusion is that to most of the other decorators, to decorate a house in Everquest 2 is kinda like painting. A painter will try to recreate the world, as they see it, with a brush, a select choice of colors, shapes, etc. With the average decorator it is not very different. Except the subject is a lot more restricted in subject and by using the in-game house items as their brush, color oils and a way to create different shapes. While a painter will make paintings of whatever they feel more strongly about, a decorator will try to recreate in-game some type of real life architecture they like or some fantasy image they have in their head. It is something I am just realizing more now as I see some of my friends who decorate mentioning what type of architecture they were trying to recreate in-game. It is not something totally new either. People have been doing it in-game for a long time. There also plenty of examples of people trying to recreate some cool house from a book or a movie or just getting inspiration from those.

Why I think the analogy works so well is because just like a painter considers the entire piece, from the big picture to the small details, these decorators seem to do the same. It is kinda like they have the entire mental image of the place already in their head. They only need to figure out how to translate that to something  that can exist in-game given its constraints.

Where I differ, and this ties to the second question, is that I am more of a world builder instead of a painter. Unlike a painter, a world builder doesn’t think so much in terms of image as in terms of what kind of features that world needs to have to be interesting. What kind of characters will live there, what story it will serve as a setting to. That is not too different from how I approach house decorations. The first thing I think of is what kind of character lives in that house, what is his story, what kind of features his house are necessary for his usual activities, what kind of stories could happen in that place and so on and so forth.

That is why it is so hard for me to think in terms of little details. To me the little details are linked more with the story of the character and that can be hard to implement since we can only get pretty much the same items as everyone else in the game, instead of say, something more personal to the character.

It also explains why I care so much about decoration in a MMORPG of all places. I’ve always love the idea of having as much freedom in a game as possible to shape the game’s world through my characters actions. How much of that is actually feasible in a game or even if it is interesting in a MMORPG is a ramble for another time. But the fact is the housing in Everquest 2 provides that to me. There is just something right about it where I feel like I am carving my little spot in the world of Norrath. It might be a complete insignificant spot, that doesn’t change squat about anything else in the game but it is my spot. It is the spot I made with my own imagination and effort. It also helps that I can still enjoy the rest of the game just barely enough to allow me to indulge in such endeavors.

Ultimately, the reason that I still play Everquest is because its housing system can scratch my creative itchy. A type creativity that just so happens to be different from the majority of the other Everquest 2 decorators. It also explains neatly why a good housing system is important to me when considering a new MMORPG nowadays.

Now that I think about it, it also explains why I have been struggling with the idea of trying my hand at the dungeon maker. It feels like a different beast where I feel the need to entertain other people with an interesting place while with housing it has been always about entertaining myself first and anyone else would be a (much appreciated) bonus. The problem with the dungeon maker though is that I feel the tools to do it right now are very primitive. That however is also a rant for another time, perhaps if I actually decide to try making dungeon.

For now I will just continue with my usual house decorations and ramblings. It is just what feels more natural right now.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Everquest 2, Everything Else, MMORPG

 

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Tokusatsu and me

This is a topic that I’ve been thinking for a long time if I should tackle or not here…. Honestly, it is mostly due to a fear of embarrassment. Yet I get this urges to ramble about some of the tokusatsu series I’ve been watching or  watched from time to time. And although there are good forums specifically to discuss it I’ve been feeling to self-conscious to join them. I’ve finally decided to at least make this post about it though. After all there are far worse things to be ashamed of and tokusatsu is certainly not a bad thing. Plus writing it on my blog means I can write giant blocks of text without feeling guilty! Mwahahaha!

*clears throat* Anyway, putting the melodramatic aside, perhaps an explanation of what  this tokusatsu things is might be in order. To put it in simple terms tokusatsu is a live action show with super-hero like types aimed at children. Think Power Rangers and you are not too far off. In fact Power Rangers is not only based, but also use costumes and concepts, from one of the oldest tokusatsu franchises, the Super Sentai. It is much more broad than the team of super-heroes fighting the monster of the week though. For instance, Ultraman and Godzilla also fall under the tokusatsu genre.

Even though it is aimed at children they usually have themes that can be appreciated by adults too with some even having plots more complex that you would expect in a children’s show. There are also a few tokusatsu shows that have been trying to aim at an adult audiences too with some relative success. Garo is probably the poster child for this type of tokusatsu.

Ok. Definitions out of the way, let me ramble on about how I got into tokusatsu, rediscovered it and why I love the genre.

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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Everything Else

 

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