Wednesday, July 20, 2016

For The Love Of Dog

Awhile I received the terrible news that one of the dogs I walked died unexpectedly over the weekend. Bentley was a healthy, 4 year old King Charles Cavalier and one of the most lovable dogs I have ever known. I don't know the full details of the accident, but frankly knowing them doesn't bring him back. Nothing will and it breaks my heart. He was one of my first clients I had, having nearly walked him for 2 years come this August. He was there when I started, when I didn't really know what I was doing, but he learned to trust me as I kept showing up. He quickly became my little buddy, my friend, and my favorite of my dogs. When I came in in the morning he'd stay curled up on his bed but wag his tail so hard he'd flick himself in the eye. Some days he didn't want to get out of bed, but if I laid down on my back he would rush over and put his head over my face and whimper and lick me until I got up. He had his own personality and quirks and opinions that I learned like that. I walked him twice a day, once in the morning, and then on the evening. In the morning he had the choice to go right, which lead us to the dog park, or left, which lead us to wander around the neighboring blocks a bit. He always picked one or the other and knew which route he had picked that morning. In the evening he got supper and then wanted to just sit a few minutes before we went out. Some days I had to coax him to get going, other days he was ready to go and bugged me to get going. Walking him always cheered me up and often I stayed with him longer than the 30 minute window to play some more with him. He loved playing ball in the house, play barking, but letting me know he wasn't really mad. At the dog park he was really awkward around other dogs when we first started going. He'd look at them, look at me, look at them, look at me. Eventually he found that chasing other dogs was fun, if socially confusing when too many dogs wanted to play. His favorite game there was to play chase the ball. This is a lot like fetch, but instead of bringing the ball back to me, Bentley would just make sure it stopped and run back to me, looking as proud as could be. My heart goes out to his owners, he was like a son to them. He was such a sweet dog and they managed to give him so much without spoiling him. They welcomed me into their home like few other clients have done. Most people I meet once or not at all, I come in to do my job and leave. His family made me feel so welcomed in their home, it made up for all the crappy things that come up in this job. It's not all puppies and rainbows, but having someone leave you some coffee in the morning can really help your day turn around. Knowing that it's okay to sit on their couch when your feet hurt, or that they trust you will take the very best care of their dog, really helped me stay sane. The news of Bentley passing devastated me and I know they are grieving. He was such a great dog and so friendly to all. He had some health issues they were concerned about but this was completely unexpected. I had long thought about how if I quit this job, how would I break it to Bentley? Would I get to say goodbye properly? Could I train the new person so he doesn't protest like when someone covers for me? Would his family invite me over to have supper with them and surprise him? This is all for a dog. All these tears, all this crippling sadness. I guess you can't judge what will really hit you or what really affects people. A lot of feelings were invested in this animal because he was special and showed that he cared that I walked him. I care for all my dog clients, but some only tolerate me, some are problem children, some like me but love their family more, some love everyone, some have clients who treat it like a very automated service. Bentley made it special and was like my dog away from home. I will miss him greatly and just wanted to share how awesome a dog he was with you here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Don't Hate On Pokemon GO

Okay, so here's the thing; you don't get cool points for hating something someone else likes. You don't have to like it, but check yourself before you go posting bitter, salty things online.
Most of my friends are excited about Pokémon GO. Others are tired of seeing all the posts, while others still are posting about not having time or interest.
Great, wonderful, you're all allowed to have your own likes and dislikes. If you're upset that people are spending their time playing Pokémon GO, I have bad news for you, and maybe you should sit down.
You see, people have free time that they can spend as they like. You don't have free time? Really? You don't play app games? Read a book during your commute? Binge watch Orange Is The New Black? You don't flip open Facebook and read statuses?
Regardless, you're not better for hating Pokémon, the new game, or having no free time! It's a new thing people are excited about that gets them walking around outside or playing on their break at work! Yes it's everywhere right now and yes it's annoying being on the outside of something so many other people are too excited about, I'll give you that.
Calm down, go back to your exciting life or kids or important work you're doing. Let people have fun.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The "Reaper Main" Overwatch Bingo Card!

So I don't know if you're one of the 7 million other people but I've been bitten by the Overwatch bug. 

I'm in, I'm playing, I'm eating up the characters, the fanart, and the gameplay. In honor of one too many games with someone who just won't change heroes *cough*shadowling*cough* I made this fun little bingo card about "Reaper mains."

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

In-Game Booster Packs

The 2 Second High And The Long Disappointment

A rising trend in video games lately has been offering some sort of blind box or booster pack-esque prize. These unlock in-game items, weapons, skins, icons, character, etc for players when they level up, complete challenges, or simply pay hard cash. Halo 5 has REQ Packs, Overwatch has Loot Crates, Hearthstone has packs you open to get virtual cards.

Other games that include unlocks are Titanfall, Mass Effect, and Paragon.

Beyond games, there has been a rise in toys and collectibles being sold in blind boxes in real life. It's basically just another way to sell more by making people have to buy blindly in hopes of getting the things they really want. Sounds broken, but people eat them up enough that more companies are getting in on it. I'd say I'm better than that but I have also bought way more booster packs for Magic and Pokemon than I'll ever admit before I quit. The thrill of opening a new pack, of hoping for a legendary card or item, of sorting through the spoils is a gamer high like no other!

The most exciting 1.5 seconds of your life (after sex) is waiting for the opening animation to finish.

So why does it suck so much in video games?

A pet peeve of mine is when video games forget that they are virtual worlds will near limitless possibilities. In improv (follow me here), you can pretend your character is at work, trying to get a raise, but just as easily you can pretend your character is fighting a race of cat-aliens on another planet while using a laser pointer and a bag of catnip! Why limit yourself to the mundane settings of the real world counterparts?

As reference, this pose was a duplicate and I was given +15 C for getting it a second time. The cheapest items are +25 C and this pose is listed at +75 C if I tried to buy it.
Almost all of these in-game booster packs function the same as real world booster packs. You open them up, get a random set of items, and they are added to your inventory. That's it. There are usually options to buy more packs or better packs with higher rates for better items, but a lot of these are still laughably sad what they offer.

In Hearthstone, you open booster packs to unlock cards to use in decks. Cards are limited to a max of 2 of the same card in a deck and are pulled from your collection to be used in any deck you design. This means that having a 3rd or 4th copy of a card is entirely pointless, just taking up virtual space! In Overwatch, if you get a duplicate item it gives you a minuscule amount of credits in return. The game Dirty Bomb actually lets you unlock items for characters you don't even have access to yet! In Halo 5 I'm always opening packs and getting guns/vehicles I never use and my only option is to sell them back for a few more REQ points to buy another pack later.

I don't care how many Scout Warthogs you give me, I will never be caught dead in one in Halo 5! (because if I did ever use one, I would be dead 10 seconds out the gate)
This is a video game for crying out loud! I understand with a real life booster pack the cards were pre-packaged together long before I laid hands on them, but with in-game packs there is so much room for making this system better! What I want to know is, why none of these games have done anything to really improve the booster pack experience?

Hearthstone the best of the bunch in that at least they let you break cards down for material to make the cards you actually want. Compared to in real life where I have to sell crappy Magic cards on ebay at 25 cents for four cards.

Why can't I mark certain cards I want to get less of in a pack? Why not remove the chance of me getting a duplicate? How about giving me the option to re-open a pack, scrubbing the contents and trying again at the sacrifice of 1 less card or credits? Or the option to pay some credits to beef up a pack before I open it, raising the chance of me getting a rarer item? How about having the packs more likely to drop items for characters I use more?

We're basically already gambling here, so let's push it further! Give me themed packs, give me ways to increase my odds, give me the feeling of some control of the outcome, even if it's just in my head!

I get that the companies are just trying to move virtual items, cash in on micro-transactions, and generally make money. But there must be something that can be added to spice up this mechanic. Most of them have colorful lights and explosions, special animations and sounds that play up the reveal upon opening a pack. Why not take it a step further and add another layer of gamification here? At the very least, don't leave me raging at my screen because I've opened yet another pack with lackluster to down right terrible draws!

Keep the fun rolling, make opening in game packs great every time!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"How do you start making indie games?" - Shared Blog Post

My friend Monique Blaize posted this on the blog for Pumpkin Online, an indie farming game I help run their social media during their Kickstarter, and I wanted to share this for all those interested in making their own games. Here's what she had to say:

"I got invited recently to talk to a highschool class about making games and to talk about our game and how we’re doing. 
Now I’m not claiming to be an expert, but here are some things I have learnt from graduating with a degree in Game Design from successfully funding and managing a game project for over two years now. 
Assuming you are in highschool, or want to make a career in video games here is some advice that I wished I had known earlier. 
1. Start making games early. Making games is a skill and it takes many years of experience to develop. Do not wait until college to start learning the software, there are so many programs that are out there for free you can use such as: Unity, Unreal and Autodesk Maya. As well as many youtube videos and tutorials to get you started. Do it now, even if you are just messing around! 
2. There is not a job for ‘idea people’. Many people have ideas and just want to assemble a team to make their game idea/ be a game designer. Not happening. In the game industry you need to be a part of multiple successful projects for decades before a company even takes a gamble on putting you on as their idea guy. Even then you are probably holding a crucial position such as programmer or producer. The only way you can be the idea guy is if you have unlimited money to pay people to do things for you. 
3. If you want to start your own indie project you need to be able to have at least 2 skills that will contribute to the actual development of the game. In the order of the most valuable here are the top skills that are useful: Programming, 2D or 3D Animation, Modeling, Texture Artist, 2D Artist, Music and Sound, Writer. You need to know how to do at least 2 of those things because trust me, running an indie project not everyone is going to play ball or be reliable and you HAVE to pick up the slack where others will not or the project will have a higher chance of falling apart. Some of the most successful games like Minecraft and Stardew Valley was made by a single person with minimal outside support. You have to take control of your idea as much as possible even if that means taking the time to sit down and learn new skills 
4. No one cares about class projects, companies want to see if you have worked on published games. Colleges spend a lot of time prepping students with portfolio pieces and stuff, however when it comes to games let’s be real, chances are you are not going to have time to complete anything halfway decent to impress a company (Unless you are a super competent programmer). Work on projects and games outside of classwork so you aren’t limited by time and put them out for the public to play.  
5. To my ladies and other minorities who want to make games.There aren’t enough of us in the game industry and when we are, most of us opt to take writing and artist jobs that make us easily replaceable instead of being project leads, producers, programmers, or more tech positions.We have to push ourselves to be in more lead positions in the industry to have any kind of meaningful influence. That’s why I am here producing my own game, on my own terms and that’s why Pumpkin Online has many elements in it that other game companies won’t ever consider. When you want something done you have to do it yourself, is what I believe. It’s a big personal and financial risk, but I’m taking it because I believe in this project. 
And that’s pretty much the short of it :) I believe anyone can complete anything they want if they put their mind to it. Thanks 
Pumpkin Online is a multiplayer, farming dating sim, currently being developed by a small indie company, Pumpkin Interactive. Feel free to check out our website for more information about our game. "

Original post here. About Pumpkin Online:
"Pumpkin-Online is a multiplayer farming dating sim. It is a chill relaxing game where you can, craft various items, customize your own private farm and house go on various quests, interact on a deeper level with NPCs, all with friends or solo! We're still very early in development I hope you join our forums or follow us on one of our many social media sites."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"For Good Men To See Nothing" Shared Content

This is a shared piece I wanted to do my part in getting out in front of more people. Please check out the following and read the full article here.

Guys, we can't say that nerdom is always girl friendly. Sometimes it seems harmless, just the way things are, other times it's painfully obviously how direct and pointed it is that women are not welcomed. From online multiplayer, to conventions, to comic shops, the female gender has to jump through a gauntlet to prove they beyond while males are just accepted as they come.

Trust me, I'm a dude. No one ever questioned if I'd actually played the game on my shirt. Only once in my entire adult life has anyone ever grabbed at random while I was out. And never have I been made to feel uncomfortable due to sexual jokes being made about me or about guys like me. So hetetro white guys, please take a read:

I specifically AM addressing this piece to the people of “my tribe”: white, heterosexual male gamers who wouldn’t dream of grabbing anyone in a non-consensual or sexual way in public, and find descriptions of these kinds of acts inconceivable, because they don’t happen in front of us.
Our starting point is an article by Emily Garland, who won a judgment from a Canadian court about entrenched sexism she experienced as a customer at a game store. It’s the “Tabletop Gaming Has a White Male Terrorism Problem” piece that came to public notice in early April 2016. To our credit as human beings, it’s gotten a lot of positive responses — positive in the sense of “Yes, this is believable, and we’ve got to do something about it.” However, it’s also gotten the “I think she’s making it up to get attention” backlash that’s common when discussing sexism.
No, guys. She isn’t. And as long litanies and lists of licentious license being taken won’t convince you…I’m going to pose this a different way:
  • What does it cost you (yes, you!) to assume the women coming forward are telling the truth?
  • Why do you demand they “confront the person they have a problem with” rather than bother you by asking for help?
  • Why, with your pride about being smart, can you NOT see the pattern here?
I’ve seen sexism in gaming, both in stores and at conventions, for more than twenty years now. Here are a handful of the stories I’ve heard from reliable witnesses. They illustrate the thought process women go through, and I can say that I am certain that all of these have happened.
 “Hey, I was at a table, and another player made a crack about having a gang bang on the tied up dark elf villainess. It made me very uncomfortable. I asked the GM and the other players to walk that back; they told me ‘It’s just a joke…’ and ‘Hey, all gamer chicks LOVE bondage sex!’”
“I hate going into game stores, because the customer service is either ‘stare at my shirt’ or ‘I’m invisible’ — I’ve had customer service reps simply ignore me because I didn’t ‘look like a customer’ to them.” 
Here are two that happened with me present: 
A woman was posing in a costume at WorldCon in Spokane. I’d demo’d my game to her and taken a few photos with her permission. Another fellow came up and asked if she would pose with him. She graciously said yes; he handed me his phone to snap the shot. While she was standing there, he moved his hand down from the back plate of her armor costume to squeeze her ass-cheek. 
She told him “No photos for you. You do not grab my ass in public, no matter how many people you think can’t see it. Ken, please delete the photos you snapped.”
He mumbled an apology, picked up his phone and walked away. She needed to sit down behind my display and talk herself out of what looked like a panic attack. She was trembling.

You can read the full article by Ken Burnside here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Dismissal And Then Acceptance Of A Black Batman

So this thought train all starts one day as I was scrolling through a site and saw one of those cast wishlist posts for a Batman movie where all the characters were played by black actors. Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Catwoman, all the good guys, the villains and supporting, etc. Now my first reaction was, "this is silly" or otherwise dismissive. Why should all the characters be black? Do we need a black version of Batman? This looks like one of those movies recast to better appeal to whatever audience. (like Death At A Funeral) Why not introduce more black characters into a Batman story, or better yet, launch a new black character instead of changing am old?

I thought about what it would be like to see ads for "black Batman." To see it in theaters knowing I'd likely only see a white character in the background or some minor role. I then thought about how that experience would be what my non white friends experience with most superhero movies, much less most media in general.

It dawned on me that maybe this wasn't for me. Maybe this would be for kids growing up to see themselves on the screen, see themselves in these characters. But I thought about it more, about why I like Batman, what Batman is. Why wouldn't a black Batman story be for me too? Batman is a fictional character who's been reinvented and whose story has been retold time and time again. He's been old, he's been new, he's been violent, he's been to space, to far planets, the distant past and the end of time even! Every ally turned against, every villain worked with. Batman has died and been reborn, rebooted, made campy, gritty, kid friendly, he's been rewritten to tell the story a different way each time. Why can't he be black too? Why can we believe he's running around rooftops all night and running board meetings all day, that he can beat a mentally ill clown princes of crime monthly, can fight an alien super human to a standstill, out wit dark gods, be a human computer of super deduction, but change his skin color and suddenly he's not the Batman we know and love?

Some will argue that this would be pandering, just some sort of money grab. Firstly, Hollywood could spend then next 2 years putting out movies with no white people in it and it still wouldn't make a dent in percentage movies available starring all white casts. Secondly, if you think DC or any other studio making movies isn't doing so for the sole reason to make money, you are sorely mistaken. Thirdly, I think people don't really know what the definition of pandering really is anymore. Pandering is awkward, forced, completely out of character plots and dialogue. Pandering is when they make the chubby, unpopular video game nerds mankind's only hope against the invading aliens and then at the end of the movie one of them gets to keep the sexy video game lady for no reason other than sex sells and forced love interest!

At the end of the day, Batman doesn't have super powers, he fights crime and evil because his parents died, and he uses his wits and gadgets to come out on top. That's what makes Batman Batman and that's what's the most important element of any Batman story. The cowl is more important than the color. It matters more about the story told than what Batman and his cast look like.