Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Through the Logic Gate

So, I was freaking out about today's test. I had most of the material but for whatever reason I just had a feeling of impending doom. So I was frantically going over everything and trying to figure out what I was missing. Just relearning and relearning and covering the estoric stuff that would never make it onto a test until my eyes were watering and I was starting to forget. And whatever confidence I was feeling yesterday had just withered away. But, eventually, I ran out of time to study and headed off to class. Late, of course, because it was turning out to be that kind of a day. And nearly got myself killed on the freeway (That's an entirely different story, though) because I was somewhat distracted and in a hurry and everyone else on the road is a complete an utter moron. Sat down just as class was starting, hurried to get my pencils all nice and sharpened and my test paper ready and waited for game time. And waited. And waited some more.

Until finally one of my classmate (who's kinda cute) asked if we - the class, that is - wanted her to get the teacher. Turns out our normal professor was off today and some other teacher was going to hand out the tests. So, she went and got him and the test was only 12 questions long. And photocopied to death, apparently, as the text was incredibly grainy and hard to make out. Not only that but after handing out the papers, the visiting teacher left the room entirely. I guess that's the difference between, say, high school and college because any attempts to, well, cheat were quickly shushed down. And I was done with the thing and out the door in a half hour.

Anyway, it was a short and sweet test. That's either a good thing or a bad thing, depending, as many of the questions were interrelated so if you get the first one wrong, you're likely to miss a few more. I'm pretty sure I missed at least one because not only was the test short - we'd been promised 25 questions - it was copied horribly and the last question was partially cut off. So, since I couldn't figure out the answer I left it blank. The rest of the test was incredibly easy, though, and I took my time and double and triple checked my answers before turning it in. So, again, I feel pretty good about my chances. Just like the last test, I think I was well over-prepared even though I went out of my way not to go crazy with the studying again. Ah well.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


So much for finding a middle ground and squeezing in some blogging, eh?

Well, the month is drawing to a close and unless I somehow can crank out 40 odd posts tomorrow, it looks like I'm going to fall short of my 100 post Dammit! Ah well, it looked like I'd get there at one point but I've been wrapped up in other things. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed but it's about setting goals and the road towards them, not necessarily reaching them.

Studying for various tests continues apace. It looks like the next Celestial Tournament match for OoX is going to happen Thursday rather than tomorrow. Which is a load off of my mind because I have this pesky little math thing to take care of before hand. And jumping from pouring my brains out onto the page (Or, really, a scantron form.) then right into high-end GvG would be lurching, I'm sure. I need time to unwind after all that stress and my pre-game jitters would no doubt influence my test taking prowess.

Again, I'm not very worried about this test. If it's anything like the last one, it'll be a breeze. For me, anyway. Although I'll admit I haven't been studying quite as hard this time around. Last time I was overprepared but it took basically shutting down everything else for a few days. This time, I'm shooting to get comfortably familiar with the material and to take my sweet time with scratching at things during the test. We'll see how that goes but I'm pretty confident at the moment.

Well, as confident as I get anyway.

Lots more to talk about, of course, but it's time to hop on GW and get some practice time in.

Ruminations on the Elder Game

Interesting post over at Psychochild's place. Not so much the actual article itself as what takes place in the comments but, you know, that's what you get when you set people to brainstorming. Among several interesting “problems” and their respective solutions (I'm particularly intrigued by the idea that increasing encounter difficulty through simply ramping up the numbers is inferior to something more creative and tailored. Because, you know, it's one I've had myself. Too often the PvE design seems focused on coming up with new tricks and ways of bending the rules when a lot more could be accomplished by exploring the possibilities within the established ruleset. But, you know, tossing in a few more Ataxes or a global debuff is a lot easier than coming up with some complicated environmental scripting.) several of the respondents focus on the idea of the elder game and how MMOs do a poor job of transitioning players into their various end games. Quests aren't good training for raids, the AI is poor for learning PvP skills, and there's little to no emphasis placed on the economic power game that often goes overlooked.

It's not just in MMOs, though. As mentioned in the infamous State of the Game article, when you head into PvP in Guild Wars, you pretty much have to forget everything you've learned in PvE and relearn a whole new game – or vice versa these days. As the skills and techniques in one area or the other are widely different even though they share the exact same rules and effects. But, the other day for whatever reason, I decided to load up my old copy of Warcraft III (Short review: Liked it but Heroes pretty much ruined the game for me.) and it's the same there, too – the single player campaign is nothing lik what you'll encounter on BattleNet. And, if anything, it actively teaches you the exact wrong things to do. Just like any FPS where the single player mode is bolted on almost as an afterthought to the multiplayer experience. Our games are designed such that they don't play the same in different stages of their lifespan. And they're not very good at teaching you how to shift between one or the other.

And, to me, that's an interesting problem. Because most of the solutions offered (And, indeed, that I can think of.) involve changing the young game into something more resembling the elder game. Teaching and training in steps and bounds as players progress towards their ultimate destiny. In other words, building in rails to drive the player along on a predestined path. But, you know, for everyone who says “the game begins at 60” (Or, 70 these days, I guess. In GW it's lv20. But you hit that in like a few days. My friends think this low level cap is a bad thing because it's limiting. I think it's great for precisely that reason.) there are nearly as many who become bored with the raiding or whatever else it is to do when you hit that elder game. The game they like to play is the one they've been playing – leveling up – and they'd much rather roll up a new character than go through the end game hassles. Would these sort of players be happy if the overall game experience was more homogeneous? Would leading them gently through the preparatory curve from the very start somehow remove their distaste for the end game?

I'm not sure. But I, personally, believe that in games with as many players as these online games we're so fond of these days, it's best to simply create the tools for players to create their own games. Let them play how they want, when they want (And make sure nothing gets too out of hand, of course). It's all about choice, in so many words. And altering the structure of these games so that the early levels are much more of a training course for the later would, I think, remove some of that choice. Although having more capable players around to participate in the high-end, whether that's PvP or PvE or emote-offs for all I care, would add more options for everyone involved. So, I think the outline of a solution involves multiple paths. Many options leading a player and their chosen avatar down any number of roads. Rather than treating the game as something monolithic where everyone is going to end up in the Molten Core or, say, in the Celestial Tournament and structuring it as a series of handholds towards that goal, it should be a sandbox where players can explore and build towards whatever their chosen goal is. Introduced, along the way, to the various concepts and destinations, but given control over their ultimate destination.

Guild Wars: Drama!

You know, against all odds, I've been enjoying the State of the Game series on the official site. It strikes a good balance between crucial entry level PvP information and high-end theory and practice. Along with the other series on the site, it serves a very useful purpose for the overall game. Not everyone will read it or even care if they've read it but that's not the point. ANet's customer relations have always been good about this sort of thing – it's not the power of the megaphone but the power of the microphone. Each voice is given a platform, a venue, to speak and that official stamp of approval means it gets carried far and wide. Much wider than, say, a lone blogger typing away into the darkness (And, you know, insert poster or website or IRC or whatever else you want there. This isn't a pity part – just a recognition that in the Guild Wars Arena, the developer's word carries weight.). And getting people not just interesting in trying PvP but capable of staying around past those initial forays is vital for the game's continued health. So, the company – really, the community – has many different ways of communicating that message. From the lowbrow to the highbrow, each has their place and their own distinct flavor.

Of course, as Adam says in this week's installment I'm one of those few players who do devote significant energy to both PvP and PvE. I appreciate that they're different flavors of the same underlying tone. And I like them both in their own way. I'm apparently in the minority because as Adam also says the playerbase tends to be deeply divided along the lines of PvP and PvE (This isn't a new development, by the way, or a shocking relevation I'm sure. But I've been around the community since the golden days of yore and while there were always different focuses – when aren't there when several people are involved? - it didn't seem so entrenched. Of course, way back when I always tried to bridge that gulf and encourage the different groups and opinions to talk together so what do I know?).

And, perhaps it's the fact that Adam is someone I have a deep respect for and some personal experience with skewing my perspective but, man, did he ever stamp on that dividing line with this week's column. I first heard about it in local chat where someone was, of course, complaining about it. As I've written a lot about Guild Wars in the past and had no small amount of feedback about it, that's not so surprising. It's the people who are upset who are most likely to voice that opinion. The people who think everything's going fine are much more likely to stay quiet. So, the negative comments tend to outnumber the “way to go”s (And, you know, when you're trying to be comprehensive there's probably not so much for people to comment on except for the negative stuff. The work stands on its own, and all.). But pretty soon it was cropping up in Alliance chat, in whispers, and even on the various boards. And this is far from your garden variety carping people seem genuinely upset. I mean, there's a reason I stopped hanging around the message boards but the viciousness on display – some go so far as to suggest Adam be fired from his job, of all things, simply for voicing an opinion – seems more than the usual cyber-waggling of undersized members (I hear that the worst of it is over at GWO but to confirm this would mean, you know, actually stepping foot in that place, so...). It's even gone so far as to prompt an apology/correction from the developers.

And, you know, perhaps this is a good thing. In the same vein as “there's no such thing as bad publicity” it's never a bad thing to have people talking about the game. To stir up their passions. To get them involved and motivated and, above all, thinking. But while that adage makes for snappy copy, it's always bothered me. It represents a point of view, after all, that your customers opinions and concerns don't, in fact, matter. And all you need to do is to get them whipped into a frenzy. And while that might have an element of truth to it I think that, eventually, all that hype dies a sad and lonely death as you drive people not to pay attention but to stop caring – it's a short term tactic, not a long term strategy. I'd like, then, to believe this was simply a matter of Adam staring at a deadline and letting some internal thoughts get a little too far away rather than anything deliberate.

The touchstone, after all, was Mending. Which is just one of those skills that every loves to hate. For me, it'll always be Unnatural Signet. Not that one. I'm talking old school – the 15second casting time version. Yeah, that's about a good a joke as Energy Storage being energy management. But for people who only learned the game's system after release, Mending's about as close as they could get. Because, honestly, Adam didn't say anything that any hardcore PvPer hasn't thought or heard before – Mending sucks and it's only those scrub PvErs who'd be caught dead using it. Which, you know, is arrogant and condescending but they're PvPers, they like to fight about everything. There's Mending, there's Echo Mending, and there's the mythic five Mending bar (I can get to four, of course, by using Arcane Mimicry to copy Echo off the another teammate and then do the Echo->Arcane Echo chain.) Thing is, while he phrased it about as poorly as you can imagine, Adam's point is a very valid one. There are many skills you'll use in PvE which you'd never touch in PvP (It doesn't work quite in reverse *cough*frenzy*cough* because PvE is a lot more forgiving of your mistakes. But there are skills you'll use in the Deep, say, that you'd never consider for PvP. They're different facets of the same game. And the beautiful thing is that you can easily erase those mistakes by reslotting. And, of course, learning.). As the saying goes, only 10% of the skills in the game are viable at any given moment. Everyone knows 9%, the trick is to find the 1% that gives you an edge. As the game shifts and changes, those skills change. One of the ones Adam mentions, for example, Illusionary Weaponry used to be an excellent skill. IW Mesmers were something like the Burst Sins of today – just fast spiking DPS machines with glass jaws. But that was back when Distortion was actually good and Hundred Blades wasn't elite. A few skill balances, though, and that template's a relic of the past.

And, that, I think, is Adam's lesson – to pay careful attention to the skills in that search for that ever elusive 1%. You can get a good idea of what the majority of skills to use are just by watching and paying attention (Um, just not in RA, please. Not because it puts an emphasis on the scrimmage and being self-reliant that isn't always wise in other formats. But people run anything there. Because it's a good place to go hunting for that final percent.) but for that last skill that no one else has clued into yet, you have to pay attention to what the skills actually do and how they interact with the rest of those commonly used skills. The first step in that is learning which skills are the ones to avoid. But the next is learning just why to avoid them. And that's what's been obscured in all this carping.

As for Mending, well, I could write a book on the subject and, you know, one of these days I plan to. But, in short, it's one of those skills that's, I think, intentionally bad. Like Power Attack or Power Shot or Flare, it's a baseline skill. There to provide an answer to one of the basic questions. For something like Flare it's “how much energy should I need to spend to deal spell damage?” (Turns out the answer is a fuck ton but that's neither here nor there.). And Mending's purpose is to set the cost of a pip of regeneration/degeneration. As long as it hits that mark, everything else using that mechanic can be balanced off of it. If it's below it's trash and doesn't matter. But if it's above that mark then all those other skills become imbalanced.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Celestial Tournament: Round Three Pairings Released

They're up at TGH again. And at the official site.

This time around looks like we've lost a few guilds along the way. We're down to 257 by my count which doesn't affect the number of rounds required just yet – a few more, though, and we drop below 2^8+ teams. What it does mean, though, is that RoX gets a bye this round. So, they don't have to play anyone. I haven't exactly heard from them but, you know, I'd actually be disappointed if that happened to my team. We joined this tournament for the experience and not playing doesn't help that at all. Interestingly, some teams have also tied as there are a few 4 and 1 point teams in the pairings. How you tie in a best of three match-up is beyond me but I suppose that's from scheduling forfeits or something else.

Anyhow, on to the remaining match-ups:

Society of the Dragon [?] 1-1, 3 points (Region: America) challenges Xen Of Onslaught [XoO] 1-1, 3 points (Region: America)

Fallback: 3GMT on March 2nd.

The Mothership's fallen on some hard times in ladder play lately and they've fallen off the official site's ladder. They're rank 1200 or so with 999 rating last I heard. I haven't heard of the Society of the Dragon (Although, a little known dictate here: The lamer your guild name, the worse you play. Corollary: Guild names that refer to the game's lore unselfconsciously are, by definition, really lame. Hence, you get a guild called the King's Defenders of the Realm and you know they're going to be scrubs. You get a guild called Rurik's Champions of Tyria and you're talking Echo Mending level strat.) beyond that they beat Shadow Thief in the first round and, apparently, lost in the last one. However, the higher ranked team tends to challenge the lower ranked one, so it's not like they're a rank 5k team or anything.

XoO had some issues with scheduling last round (Who didn't?) so it's good to see they're up against another American region team.

On the other hand, OoX gets a euro-guild. Given that most of our members are on late night west coast schedules I'm sure this is going to be a headache.

Kids Without Fear
[kids] 1-1, 3 points (Region: Europe) challenges Onslaught of Xen [XoO] 1-1, 3 points (Region: America)

Fallback: 3GMT on March 2nd.

Some wins in GvG after the tournament loss puts OoX at 1014 rating and one game over .500 in 153 games. The Kids, on the other hand, look to be a pretty good team with 1049 rating in only 104 games. They're 29 games over the mediocre mark but also means they don't tend to GvG a lot. They just, you know, win when they do. They also lost last round to the Illuminati – a guild with a similar record - while handling an unranked in the first. Honestly, I was hoping for easier prey but we don't get to make the schedule.


Completely forgot to post yesterday which, you know, isn't a good sign. I'm not apt to quit things so much as I am to let them fade away in a cloud of apathy. Still, in my defense, I was spending all of my free time in the Dragon Arena. Which, as I'd been promised, was a blast. I'm more than a bit miffed that the NPCs where I could turn in my victory tokens were yanked. Same thing happened with the Snowball Fights although I had the speculative foresight to convert some of my massive stock of candy cane shards into items I could actually sell. But, really, what am I going to do with all that useless crap clogging up my inventory? I can't sell it even if I wanted to.

In my not so free time, my brother (the one I'm speaking to) is in town and I was showing him around. And I've been studying up for the upcoming Math test on Wednesday. On top of everything else on my to do list it's left me with little time to write. Hopefully, we'll be changing that but you never know.

On the other hand, my in-game family the XoO crew is undergoing something of a meltdown. It might be just pent up frustration over the weekend's tournament losses, it might be something more, it might be nothing but my imagination but there's just e-drama in the air these days, it seems. Either way, it doesn't give me much incentive to hang around the game or the XoO forums. So maybe, just maybe, I'll find that elusive happy medium I've been looking for.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Celestial Tournament: The Second Aftermath

I must away to rend my clothes and put on a sackcloth. I have done the gods some grevious injustice and must, somehow, make amends. A curse has been visited upon my house. For, you see, my guild lost their second round in the Celestial tourney this very evening.

A rough night as we basically got spanked. Lost 0-2 and weren't really in either match. Hats off to Pints N Quarts as they were running a pretty nasty pressure build. Both of the builds and strategies behind them that we tried didn't work. We were able to put a lot of pressure on them ourselves but we weren't able to get kills. Even though PsQs was running a man down and had to use a Healer hench. Leading to a pretty weird build for their human Monk (And a bit of a delay at the start of the match. We get 20 minutes and they were well within that but it didn't do anything for my nerves to rush to get ready and then have to sit around and wait with the tension mounting. It's okay, though, because we did the same thing to them between the matches as we switched up builds and got ourselves in order.) but whoever it was did a good job of fighting off our spikes and keeping people alive. There were, perhaps, some mistakes we made, some calls that could have gone differently, but the simple fact of the matter is we got outbuilt and outplayed. Not going to win when that happens.

It was a good game and we played hard but I'm upset we weren't more competitive in it. Just, you know, no moral victories or anything of the kind. We've been doing well in ladder matches and, I think, starting to gel as a team so it's disheartening. I mean, it's not like we're bound for the rounds of 16 or anything. But I just felt like, even though I don't know what we could have done exactly, we could have done more.

Ah well, that puts us at 1-1 with 3 points and we'll move on to the next round. The good part about a Swiss tourney is that, as you go along, you eventually find your level. We should play against a team with a similar 1-1 record and they'll hopefully be a good match.


Main XoO lost to Stylish Crew 0-2. They had a lot of problems with lag on the Korean servers but it still sounds like they put up more of a fight than OoX did.

RoX also lost 0-2 leaving them winless for the tournament. All in all, a pretty rough round in Xenland.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Busy Season

Unfortunately, expect light blogging for the next few days. Just, you know, like the past couple days. It's looking like my next match in the celestial tourney is going to be this Friday - we're still hammering out an exact time but that seems to work better than the Sunday fallback for both guilds. Oh, and in case it's not obvious by now, I've decided that I'm going to be playing the tournament reports rather close to the vest. Not that it really matters and all but I'll take all the advantages I can get, after all.

But, suffice to say our plan worked to perfection last time around. But it's hard to tell whether that's because of the team we played or not. Either way, we've had some ideas and we're going to be tweaking things a bit for the next round. And because of various reasons we're going to be short some of our team. So, I might be shifting to another character role. Specifically, on an Assassin. Which, you know, was something I played a bit when Factions came out. And, hooray for escaping to the frontlines and all. But it's not something I'm very practiced on so with the match coming up quickly, I need to knuckle down and get as much experience on the character in general and the build in specific as possible. Of course, I can only take so much RA going "My god, did you just Echo your Otyugh's? Why in the name of fuck would you do that?" before my hatred of all humanity builds to intolerable levels. I seriously just turn off my local and team chat because the stupid burns so much. But that's when I can head to the Isle of the Nameless and just practice my spikes.

Also, I have another math test coming up next Wednesday. I was half-expecting it but it came a bit out of the blue as it's not on the syllabus. It was supposed to be the chapter we're on and the next chapter which would have put it some time next month. But our professor feels this chapter is the most important one of the whole class so we're going to be testing on it. And with one thing and the other, I'm behidn on my studies. So, I'll need to hit the books.

And, I want to start writing again. I've been massively slacking off lately. But I haven't even tried writing anything in a week and that's something I want to change before the end of the month.

So, I'm saying I've suddenly got a lot more to do and I might or might not have the time to post anything much over the next few days.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Celestial Tournament: Round Two Pairings Released

Again, nothing official - the results from the last round haven't even been announced yet. But there is this rather awkwardly organized post at TGH.

A bit too disheveled for me to go through. But the OoX matches are as follows:

Stylish Crew [Sc] (1-0, 3 points) challenges Xen of Onslaught [XoO] (1-0, 3 points) (Region: Asia)

Sc's fairly highly ranked for whatever that's worth. They were at one point, ranked even higher. Seems like XoO's going to have another tough opponent on their hands.

Reign of Xen [XoO] (0-1, 0 points) challenges Omg Noobs [OMG] (0-1, 0 points) (Region: Europe)

Update: I thought the Noobs were unranked but I guess I searched the ladder wrong. They're actually on the ladder with 131 matches and 1002 rating. So, perhaps not the easy match I was expecting to see for RoX. But, still, hopefully, it'll be a match where Reign of Xen can turn their fortunes around.

Onslaught of Xen
[XoO] (1-0, 3 points) challenges Pints N Quarts [PsQs] (1-0, 3 points) (Region: America)

The one I care about, of course, as I'll be playing in it. The fallback time (Which we've learned since last round is an important consideration) is 3GMT on the 25th which, if I'm doing the calculations right is going to be Saturday night.

[PsQs] seems like a good match to OoX. They're currently ranked 391st while OoX is ranked 625th. They've got 1027 rating points in 187 games with a 97-87 record climbing up with a recent winning streak as far as I can tell. While OoX has 1007 in 146 with a 72-74 record. We've stumbled a bit thanks to some tournament testing. In other words, two teams that play a lot and hover around that .500 mark. We'll have to see how it goes, I guess, but I have the feeling this round's going to be more interesting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This Religion Approves of Overindulgence

Alright, I admit it. I'm weak. I gave into temptation and just devoured one of my delicious paczki. It's been a rough day for reasons I won't bore you with and I'm feeling a bit down because I'd wanted to get back to blogging in earnest today and it didn't happen. Somehow, the time I thought I'd have just evaporated. So, I felt I'd earned the pick-me up of a mouthful of custardy filled goodness.

And, yeah, I know that's exactly a wrong attitude to take towards food when you're trying to slim down. Don't reward yourself, eat at regular times, don't eat anywhere but your designated dinning area, and everything else that creates good habits and prevents you from snacking yourself to death. Or, you know, diabetes, heart failure, and everything else associated with being a fat sack of lard. Oh, and exercise. I'm not doing that one too much either. Sigh.

Still, can't feel too down because I'm still feeling the afterglow from last night's smack down. It's not so much the winning (Although, yeah, that feels nice. Even though the games were easy and all, it's still a win. And that's always more fun than the alternative.) so much as it is just being a part of the tournament. All the 200+ guilds participating, just being a part of that, it's an awesome feeling. Everyone's tracking down match results and going over who was running what and why this team won and why that team lost. It's energizing, it's revitalizing, and it's exciting. And I'm smack dab in the thick of it. I mean, I'm not exactly expecting to get to the round of 16 or anything but just to be back in the game and competing again feels great. Pretty soon the first round results are going to get posted on the official page and the next matches will be scheduled and it's going to be like this for six weeks. And past that we'll have the automated tournaments to look forward to and it's just a lot better than playing the ladder game. It's, in fact, a lot more like what I remember the All Calls in the test being like. And those were, of course, a great time.

To think - I almost missed out on this by throwing up my hands and quiting again.

Oh, and this weekend they're going to be opening up all the mini-games they've had for Cantha over the years. Including the Rollerbeetles from this New Year's celebration. But more intriguing for me is the Dragon Arena - which I've never had a chance to play before. I had a blast with the Dodgeball game it's based on so, yeah, I'm going to be looking forward to that. Plus, you know, I'm only about 600 gamer points away from rank 3.

It's just nice to know that, sometimes, you get a second chance.

Really Fat Tuesday

Here's a quick quiz for you. Finish the following phrase: You don't have to be Polish to polish off a ____.

If you answered paczki then, yes, you too might be from the Metro Detroit area. You might also have a glimpse into why Michigan is typically ranked among the nation's fattest states. And if you've never had one of those doughy calorie bombs, well, I feel sorry for you.

To start with the correct pronunciation is "POONCH-key." If that doesn't clue you in, they're a Polish thing. Which is a big deal in Detroit thanks to Hammtramck. Which became a huge center for Polish immigrants some time around the 1900s thanks to, what else, the auto industry. And a paczki is a traditional Polish pastry using up all the baking ingredients around the house that would be forbidden during Lent. They're eaten the day before Lent begins in a last gasp of indulgence before the 40 day long sacrifice that Catholic holiday involves. In New Orleans, they have Mardi Gras. But in the Motor City we have Paczki Day (Seriously, they have parades and everything in Hammtramck. If you follow that wiki link I gave earlier, they even make mention of it, that's how identified it is with the area.). A day given over to celebrating fried, sweetened dough stuffed with a sweet filling and then glazed or powdered.

Basically, it's a jelly doughnut. In fact, a similar version from German cuisine is known as the Berliner (You, know from the famous JFK gaffe where he declares himself to be a jelly doughnut? The one German teachers have been eating out on for years now.). And inferior versions of the pastry are, indeed, nothing more than ordinary doughnuts. It's realyl the "once a year" thing that makes them special.

But, oh, a good paczki? It's magical. Just a sweet, buttery taste given just the right hint of smokiness from frying in the oil. Wrapped in a crisp sugary glaze (Some folks like the powdered but I've always been a glaze fan myself.). The best ones I've ever had have been the ones my grandmother made. We're talking completely homemade from he dough to mixing up the various fillings from her preserves. Paczkis come in all different flavors, after all. Prune is the traditional one that's a bit like fruitcake - you never meet anyone who admits actually liking it but, yet, it still gets made. Fruit fillings like Lemon, Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cherry, and more are also common. Custard's a stand-by. I've even seen them just filled with straight whipped cream. But my favorite is the bavarian cream. Which is like moving beyond custard into new realms of flavor and texture. My grandmother whips up an awesome batch. And I'll never forget being in her kitchen and smelling the hot oil the paczki floated on. She'd flip them over every so often with a big wooden spoon, ensuring they browned evenly to a dark, rich color of maple syrup. The scent of sugar and peanuts and whatever mystical properties fried food take on just flooding her small house - the house where my mother and the rest of her family grew up in. It was a recipe she'd learned from one of her neighbors (The street they lived on was like something out of Leave it to Beaver, apparently, and the child wrangling housewifes traded their recipes back and forth. My grandmother learned how to make paczki's from her Polish neighbor, fresh pasta from the Italian on the other side, and matzo ball soup from the Jewish lady across the road among others. In return, she taught them how to make her traditional French-Candian pastries like the wonderful eclairs she still brings to ever holiday meal. Oh, and corned beef, too, I'm sure. But that came from the grandfather I never met.). And anyone in the house would be drafted into the assembly line of filling them.

So, you know, not getting those any time soon. But the best ones I've ever bought were from the Sweetheart Bakery right on Kelly Road near my grandmother's house. Even after she'd left that house (And it had been ruined by the tenant she leased it to. Long story and not exactly an appetizing one.) whenever she'd come over to babysit or even just to visit, we'd make a pilgrimage and grab some of their fine baked goods. The best ones were, of course, right before Ash Wednesday when grandmama would come into town to take mass at her old parish and show up at our house with a box of paczki.

Where I'm living now, they're not quite as big a deal. Wouldn't even know it's Paczki Day at all. In fact, I haven't even bothered looking for them. Turns out I didn't have to as I received a care package from one relative or another this afternoon. Inside? A half dozen paczki. They're sitting on the counter right this moment and tempting me. You see, as part of the Big Scary, I'm trying to watch my weight. And, well, a paczki is something like 2000 calories alone. I have to exercise just thinking about it (Which hasn't been easy with the crappy weather lately.). Fortunately, these look supermarket bought so there's no expertly crafted Bavarian creams to haunt my dreams. There are, however, some custards.

Lovely, tasty custards.

And they're glazed.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Celestial Tournament: The First Aftermath

First round of the tournament is complete for Onslaught of Xen and the result is a 2-0 victory over Greedy Monkey. I have to do some checking to see just what I can blog about here (The matches are unrated which means no one but the guilds involved knows what went on, so we're in keeping start confidential territory here.) so I'll hold off on the details for now.

We had a good night, winning the first match pretty handily and then the second in a flawless. We probably could have had another flawless in the starting match if someone didn't catch a case of the deads. Hats off to [Mon] for entering the tournament and all but having been on the wrong end of that kind of a rout, I know they can't be feeling too good about now. But, OoX, I think, is feeling pretty good. Not only did we take care of business and win the game that we should have but for the first time in a while we had the whole tournament team playing together. I'll be honest, some of our practice sessions have been rough. But tonight there was a lot more communication and competence going on. Granted, we weren't ever really pushed to the brink but we were talking and playing fluidly, as a team, and that, hopefully, bodes even better than getting a win.

The main XoO team also beat Spirits of War 2-0. And RoX is in progress as I'm typing this - inital reports, though, aren't promising.


RoX went down to a 0-2 defeat at the hands of the Trained Professionals. They apparently had some technical problems. An err late in the first match and someone flubbed their attributes the second. Hate to see 'em lose that way but, hey, it's a Swiss tournament so they'll be back in the next round.

Celestial Tournament: Kicking the Tires

Well, sorry about yesterday - broke my longstanding streak of at least a post a day. And the content around here's been slipping as well. But that's because I've been undergoing rigorous preparation for tonight's round of the Celestial Tourney. Had a bit of a last minute panic with the scheduling but we're set to go against our first opponent later tonight. I've been heavily involved in training and practicing and clearing out my schedule so I could partake.

In fact, at the moment I'm doing my best impression of the 21st century digital boy and multitasking my way to adult onset ADD, I'm sure. Logged into vent and the game, doing some last minute preparation. Checking forums, doing a last minute check of some maps, just anything and everything I can to get myself up to game speed.

I've got the angry music pumped up loud. Biggie biggie biggie, can't you see. It's a good thing I'm wearing headphones because anyone listening to it would be extremely annoyed with me. Not for the content so much as my fast forwarding, skipping from tune to tune, and replaying a particular hook over and over. To get myself into a groove. To angry up the blood.

Just to get pumped up because I need to be confident to be at my best. So I'm using the music to get into that emotional zone I need to be.

Woo, sounds like the Mothership XoO Main, just won their first round battle against SoW. Now the pressure's really on the Ox.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rolled Out

Back in the salt mines again. Made a stack's worth of tokens today although it's hard to tell exactly how many matches that took me exactly. I'm starting to consistently place in the 1 and 2 spot. My longest consecutive win streak is 4 although the picture didn't turn out so, you know, I have no proof. And I figure I'm averaging something like 4 tokens/points per match. That means I'd have to run in another 170 or so races to get that rank 3 Gamer title I crave so much. That's possible if I were to basically play the beetles from now until the closing bell. But I want to try some of the other things to offer. And it looks like the first round of the tournament, for me, anyway, will begin on Monday (Fallback time is 3AM GST on the 20th, which works out to sometime Monday evening, I believe.). So, I don't want to exhaust myself before the big game and all.

Also, I should mention I've found a bug/exploit in the Rollerbeetle races. You see, when you crack open a crate and get a power-up the crate will spawn again in, like, half a second. If you're still there, you'll crack it again and, possibly, get another powerup. So, what I've seen people doing is to park their beetle over a crate. They get loaded up with powerups and they can grief people by launching lots of knockdowns and such (Plus, they make it hard to grab that crate themselves.). Seems very cheap and not something that should happen - the simple fix would be to give only one boost per crate location.

I very nearly ragequit this afternoon the first time it happened to me but, instead, I figured I might be able to use that trick to good effect. Just parking over a crate for maybe three or five powerups gives you a tremendous advantage. And it doesn't put you that far behind, either. And if you get an Echo/Superbeetle it's well worth it. It's obviously not something you want to do when you're well in the lead but a good trick to keep in mind.

Guild Wars: Rollerbeetle Races

Had a brief spin in the Rollerbeetle Races before I was called away to GvG (Long story short, a pretty brutal nigh but good experience. I had more fun racing, though.) and racked up about 70 gamer points including a couple of first place finishes. At this point, though, getting the rest of the points I need to get to my next Gamer rank seems a distant hope. Since I hate the Jundu worm deals in Nightfall with a passion, I thought it would be lame but it's pretty fun. Although I still prefer the Snowball Fights it's fast and exciting.

Here's how it works:

  • When loading into the Arena you'll be under the effects of the Rollerbeetle disguise (leading to the Beetle circle around the spawn point which can be disconcerting.)
  • The Beetle will have a colored shell which is randomly selected each time you zone. In the race itself, your color will denote your starting position.
  • You can apply special designs to your beetle (My favorite is the Eyeball.) by talking to the Rollerbeetle Designer. But it's a gold sink as each design costs 100g and is purely cosmetic.
  • Your skill bar will be changed to the Rollerbeetle sills on loading. Keep in mind that while you can't change these skills you can reorganize them on your bar (Even during the middle of the race now.) to better suit how you want to use them.
  • You'll have 100 health and 10 energy with four pips. This doesn't matter as nothing costs energy or causes any damage. Your beetle will also hold your selected equipment in their grabber claws but there's no benefit to any equipment (You can kill yourself with vamp, though.) that I've found. Stonefist insignia don't, by the way, increase knockdown time. Likewise, your attributes are active (Soul Reaping will trigger when someone dies, for example.) but they have no effect on the game.
  • Hit the enter button and you'll load into the starting gates for the race. Each gate is separated from the others (So you can't bodyblock to start) although they are close enough that if someone's careless you can get a Ram off. I depends on the race but each one lasts maybe 2:30. Once someone crosses the finish line you have 30 seconds to do so yourself.
  • Win the race and you'll get 100 faction. 50 for winning and another 50 for the flawless (Since you can't die, well, go figure.). As well as 7 Tokens and an equal amount of gamer points. 2nd place gets 5. 3rd get 3. 4th gets 2. And anyone who can cross the finish line gets 1.
  • There's a convoluted (And typically Guild Wars obscure) scoring system which will measure your time but basically, you start at 600k and lose 1k for each second it takes you to get to the finish. At score of around 450~430 is usually enough to win.
  • The race is fast and if you go the wrong way or stop moving for more than the normal KD inspired seconds, you're not likely to finish. Hit the gas and don't look back.
  • During the race you'll have a speed measured in "RRPM" this builds up with speedboosts or by going down an incline. You lose speed when you climb or you go through water.
  • Only your first 3 skills are active by default. Everything is one use only but those 3 will be recharged when you cross each of the 7 checkpoints.
  • Along the way there are crates which you can run into to activate your other skills. Crates spawn very fast. Fast enough that if you're a few lengths behind someone you'll run through it as well. But if you're extremely close to another racer you'll miss out. (Think Mario Kart.)
  • The powerup you activate seems to be random. However, I find that you tend to get better powerups the further behind you are. (Again, think Mario Kart.) Super Beetle is the rarest while Rollerbeetle Echo seems to be the most common.

The Skills:
  • Rollerbeetle Dash: For 5 seconds you move extremely fast. (Your bread and butter speed boost. Use it to maintain a good speed and stay out of the way of other racers (Being adjacent = bad.) or to power up a hill or across water. Using it as often as you can isn't as good as saving it for crucial areas. The trick is to maintain a high RRPM with this.)
  • Harden Shell: For 4 seconds, you cannot be knocked down. (You'll come to love this. It can really save you. When you're in the lead try to have it up as often as you can. It's also not a bad thing to throw up when someone's getting close.)
  • Ram: All adjacent enemy rollerbeetles are knocked down. (This can be devastating. There seems to be a brief period after using this when anyone you get close to will be stalled. Also, you get a brief speed boost - enough to crank up your RRPM when you're stalled yourself, for example - when you pop this off so consider using it even when no one's around.)
  • Distracting Lunge: All of target Rollerbeetle's Skills are disabled for 5 seconds. (Interesting, annoying, but ultimately not very useful. You'll want to hit someone with this after they cross a checkpoint so they can't make use of their renewed skills. Also, crossing a checkpoint will recharge your skills and end the disabled effect so don't use it on them right before crossing a checkpoint.)
  • Spit Rocks: You spit rocks at target rollerbeetle. If they hit, that target is knocked down. (You send out three rocks like a Stone Dagger. They all hit for 0 and each of them will cause a knockdown. They're quick and have a fairly flat arc so if you're on open ground, go for it. If you're not, then they'll probably be obstructed. One nice trick - if you're following behind someone hit them with the Rocks, and then Ram when you're rolling by. Two knockdowns for the price of one and you'll shoot right past them.)
  • Rollerbeetle Echo: For 20 seconds, this Skill is replaced with the next Skill you use. (Awesome skill. Try and save it for something good. The best choices, I find, are Rollerbeetle Dash to double up the speed boosts, Harden Shell - especially when I'm in the lead - for longer protection, and, of course, Super Beetle.)
  • Rollerbeetle Blast: Target rollerbeetle is knocked down. (The range on this is awesome. So watch out if you're in the lead because you're going to see a lot of lightning - the animation looks like Lightning Strike. Otherwise, this stops your opponent and gives you time to catch up, what's not to like?)
  • Super Rollerbeetle: For 10 seconds, you move extremely fast and cannot be knocked down. (This is basically god mode. Won't win the race on its own but you're invincible while it's up and you'll eat up a lot of ground.)
    Some tips:
All of these are "skills", have zero activation time, and no recharge.

Some tips:
  • Winning is pretty random as are the power-ups, but if you're good you should get in the top 3~4 pretty consistently.
  • Keeping your speed up is the most important thing. Knockdowns hurt because they stop you but also because they sap your speed away. Remember, you slow down going up things and speed up going down - you're a marble and gravity is what's going to help you burn past the competition. Lateral movement (ie from straffing) doesn't seem to affect your speed at all so use it to your advantage and "slide", if you will, into powerups or up inclines that will speed you up rolling down them.
  • Don't use your powerups right away - they'll last as long as you need. Save them for when they'll have the most impact.
  • Coming out of the starting gate, throw up Harden Shell. There'll be at least one person who'll use Ram so otherwise you might get caught in the KD effect. But save Ram until everyone's shells start to wear off. Same with your Dash. You want to hold them until the first turn at least.
  • A good way to get up to speed. Hit Ram and follow it with Dash. Ram sets your RRPM to 100% (Or, well, a full bar. Because there's really no way to tell how fast you're going except relatively. I swear, the developers would take away the numbers on the health and energy bars if they could.) for an instant and following it with Dash will keep that momentum.
  • The racing track has a few branches that funnel into the checkpoints. There are two that will help you out. After the first check point head right and up the hill, there's a powerup behind a rock so try and grab that if you can. Speed boost up and the roll down will give you a lot of RRPM. Next, after the 4th checkpoint (Not right after the cowpen but wait until you actually cross the checkpoint), take a sharp left and head down and across the water - speed boost across and you'll negate the penalty. The left power-up's easier to get. There are others but those are the two I've found that give the best shortcuts and/or powerups.
  • Getting the powerups means going out of your way for the most part. Many are sitting on water or will cause you to lose your racer's line to get them. So it's a judgement call whether you want the power or you want the extra speed and distance. If the pack is tight or I'm behind, I go for the boost, but if I'm out in front by a mile, I tend to just take the corners sharp and try to put as much real estate between me and the next person.
  • The trickiest part of the map, for me anyway, is the sharp curving section with bridges around checkpoint five. Be careful you hit the bridge and not the little area on the side where you'll be stuck and lose time.The game loses track of who's in what place at this section because of how twisty it is and not only are the turns hard to negotiate they play havoc with my camera because of how tight they are.
  • The target closest enemy button is your friend. Use it to harass your closest competitor whether you're in the lead or they are. Make sure you check if they're using Harden before you try for a knockdown, for example.
  • Keep an eye on your radar to see if someone's getting close. Likewise, there's a control to reverse the camera (That's not bound by default) and you can use that as a rearview mirror.
Have fun and see you at the races!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Another Lost Weekend

Well, the weekend's upon us and it's Celestial Pig time. Don't expect much from me this weekend because in addition to gearing up for the tournament by getting in as much practice time as I can there's also the Rollerbeetle races to delve into. Those Numchuk skillz aren't going to earn themselves, you know. The thing seems to be based on Mario Kart with random powerups and things. Which, you know, sounds interesting enough. Gamer points (And lunar tokens for whatever those are worth) are earned according to how you place – from 7 for 1st to 1 to just finishing. So, I'm at 3k gamer points right now and need 4k to that next rank. So, I figure that means I need to win 140 odd matches or just participate in 1,000. Um, might not make it after all. There's also some quests to try out as it looks like they're giving out some fat XP.

Guild Wars: Tournament Pairings Released

The official site doesn't have it but leave it to the fans.

As, I said, XoO has three guilds out of the 277 participating (Might even be more depending on a few things I'm hearing about.). A few things:

  • That's 138 matchings with one team getting a bye each round.
  • With 277 teams that's likely 8 rounds (or the base 2 log of 277 which rounds up from 2^7 or 256.) although it might be less with the four elimination rounds of 16 teams.
  • Over 100 American guilds are participating. That's over 36% or a lot more than what's currently represented on the ladder.
  • At the same time, only 19 “Asian” guilds are participating. Presumably they've combined the Korean, Japanese, and Taiwan regions due to lack of turnout.
  • I'm guaranteed to see what these “Special Transmogriphy Potions” are. Of course, so is everyone participating.

The XoO matches:

Reign of Xen [XoO] challenges Trained Professionals [Tp]

RoX challenges Tp which means the first match is on Tp's hall. Then the second on RoX's. And the third match will be played in the hall of whomever loses the second battle. In other words, if home field advantage holds, then RoX will play on Tp's field twice. But if they away team wins then they'll play twice on RoX's. Other scenarios end on the second match. A weird way of doing it but important to remember.

RoX concentrates on other things than GvGing so they're not on the ladder. Yet. They've been pretty solid in scrims from what I hear. And they'll no doubt look to practice more.

Tp on the other hand is ranked 386 with 1023 rating from 57 wins and 47 losses. That's something like a quarter of a point per game. But, basically, they're a solid if mediocre guild that plays a lot and hovers around the .500 mark.

They should make for a good test for RoX. But I can't say I know much about them at the moment.

Spirits of War [SoW] challenges Xen of Onslaught [XoO]

This is probably the best of the XoO matchups in the first round. Spirits of War is an old, tested guild (They're also, like XoO on the restricted list. But what happened with XoO was that we had our developer member switch to another division. Basically, as long as they're not on the tournament roster, though, it seems to be okay according to the rules. Spirits of War no doubt did soemthing similar.). Currently, they're 283rd. With 1049 rating in 135 games for about a third of a point per game.

The Mothership is ranked lower at 505th with 1011 rating. But they've the most active GvG division in XoO with 249 games under their belt – it's just they've only won 128 of them.

Statistically speaking, they're the underdogs here, but a tournament isn't the same as the ladder – this is going to be two (Admittedly second or third tier) teams that know what they're doing playing a best of three. Should be fun.

Last but not least...

Onslaught of Xen [XoO] challenges Greedy Monkeys [mon]

The Ox is my guild, by the way. And we're actually ranked higher than the Mothership at the moment with a 1012 rating (Was a bit higher but we had a bad night the last time out – trying things out, testing new builds for the tourney, not caring about the rating, just the experience, ran into some hate and some connection problems, that sort of thing. Of course, you could say the same about Main, too.) which puts us at 495th. We haven't played nearly as much though with only 133 games to our credit. Of which I've played in...10 or 12 maybe.

The Greedy Monkeys are a bit of an enigma. From what I can tell, they're primarily a PvE guild and haven't done much PvPing. They don't show up on the ladder (either of them) although I can find references to them as far back as a year ago. So, it's likely they're not very experienced at this sort of thing which, you know, bodes well for my guild. But they could just as easily be guesting a bunch of ringers, so we're not going to be expecting a cakewalk here.

Still, it looks like we'll have a good matchup to start with. Now it's time to start thinking about round strategies and guild halls and which builds to run and all the other high-level metastrategy I eat with a spoon and a smile. Not sure if these matches are going to be televised or not (138 matches on the obs mode would be a bit much) but I hope so. This is really the biggest tournament ever put on by the developers and given how effort teams had to put into registering, the tournout's great. That's 2700+ people from 45 countries who are going to be engaging in the sport of nerds over the coming weeks. Intense. And, you know, expect to hear more about it all.

Other matches I'll have an eye on:

The “It's all about the name” bracket:

The “Old Friends” matches:

The “They're ranked high, they must be good” ones:

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Feeling kind of sick today. Not real sick but just sick enough that I don't feel especially motivated to do things like eat or stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. I'm sure it has something to do with the weather.

Anyway, several things in the works, I just haven't bothered to get them done just yet. Maybe tomorrow.

On The Strangest Perversion

The answer you're looking for is abstinence, by the way.

Huh, I could have sworn there was a Benjamin Franklin quote to that effect but the closest I can find is Huxley on chastity.

Anywho, today is the feast day of Saint Valentine (Interesting fact: Valentine is derived from the Latin “valens” which means “being strong”.) which has, somehow, become a day of romance and giri-choko. As with so many things, I blame Chaucer. So, of course, my friend set me up with a date (Because, as he says so many of my problems can be solved with two words: “get laid.” I mean, it's not official or anything but it's probably a good candidate for #11(unwritten) on the list.). Since I have class on Wednesday, apologetically scheduling around that was a bit of a pain. I wasn't really looking forward to it what with the heaven's decision to flood the streets with frozen snow. This morning was a real drag, after all, as the roads were coated in the white stuff. And I spent most of the afternoon shoveling my drive and the drive of the not-so-little old lady across the way who keeps trying to pay me for such things. A dollar is what she tries to slip me which a) getting paid (in money, anyway) is not why I do things like that. And b) would be insulting if it was. On the plus side, she makes a damn fine cup of hot cocoa.

Thanks to that, which took a lot longer than I'd been expecting, I was running late and it was nearly time for my class. So, I was rushing around and trying to get ready not just for matriculation but also to get all niced up since I was going to rush from the classroom to meet up with my date. Had a quick dinner of braised sausage and cabbage with egg noodles that I threw together as I was scrambling. Threw on my hat and coat, dashed to the gas station (When it's this cold out I like to keep my tank about half empty. I'm not sure why exactly, it's just something I learned back in driver's ed that's always made sense.) and braved the still sloggy, slushy road conditions (Though at least, by that time, I could actually see the lane markers – it's always interesting to me where people actually drive when they can't see where the lanes should be. It's like what happens in parking lots without clearly marked spaces.) to make it to my class on time.

Only to find it canceled.

Nearly had a heart attack when the rent-a-cop (Or, come to think about it, maybe even campus police.) knocked on my window to inform me of such. I was busy trying to navigate the school's archaic website on my phone and didn't even see him pull up. But, turns out that all the school's in the area had been closed during the day and that included my local community college. Which left me puzzled over whether I should just find a way to kill two hours or if I should call up my date and see if she still wanted to meet earlier.

Anyhow, I think it turned out okay. We had a nice meal and I think I was goofy and charming without being too desperate or off-puttingly geeky (So, yes, I didn't ask her if she was a Mending or a Live Vicariously kind of girl or even if she thought Bow skills needed some tweaking. I'm a nerd but I'm not suicidally so.). Despite my friend's claims, I'm not actually bad at these sorts of things. I'm a hopeless romantic at heart, after all. And, as is generally the case, when I'm interested, I get results. It's more a lack of experience that makes me nervous, prone to trying too hard (Sigh, this is really going to become #11, isn't it?), and disinclined to even try. For whatever reason, I'm the kind of guy who usually ends up as a girl's “friend”. Probably because I listen, I care, I don't mind talking about feelings or anything really, and I honestly don't care if we end up sleeping together or not. But combined with some disastrous relationships that have made me gunshy and a host of unrelated problems, I just haven't had much opportunity.

We'll find out tomorrow, I guess (I'd, you know, much rather find out if this is worth pursuing than do the whole “wait three days” cliché.) as she's supposed to give me a call.

Warning: Guild Wars Humor Ahead!

You know, Charm Female's casting is extremely costly. Far too easily interrupted as well. Compared with Charm Male – where it's like you just bat an eye and you've got a new pet - it just seems imbalanced. Gives Female players way too much of an advantage when playing the dating game.

Frankly, I'm concerned about the loot rates. Males drop their pants far too easily. But Females? Just try and get those suckers off 'em.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Welcome to Sausaletus Street

Todays word, children, is “snow”. As in, there's a hell of a lot of snow outside my window and it's only supposed to get worse. I had a devil of a time slogging through it today. Just couldn't drive anywhere at a reasonable speed thanks to the road conditions and as one task dragged into the other, my day slowly wasted away even though it feels like I haven't done much of anything (Beyond that kick-ass ground turkey meat loaf I'm rather proud of. The secret? Day old toast soaked in some milk. Makes it so tender and moist, it just melts in the mouth.).

Tomorrow the forecast calls for even more snow on the ground so I'm not sure how things are going to go. It's the kind of day when I'd prefer to hole up and keep in the warm. Which would mean I'd probably get a lot of writing done (Then again, someone just sent me an invite to Dungeon Runners so I might just load that up and while away the hours with a new game. At first blush, it looks like a Diablo clone right down to the three class choices. Which, you know, isn't a bad thing for me. I can't say I'm very enthused, though, but I do like the business model and I'd like to give it a shot one of these days.). But, then again, it's Valentine's Day so I almost have to get out of the house and, like, interact with people and stuff. So, might be another day of light blogging, might be a day for grand opuses as I try to crack that 15 post/15k mark.

Anyhow, time to get my PvP on.

I Knew There Was a Reason I Liked Pelosi

She's a mother. In more ways than one.

Also from TPM, take a look at this memo to Republicon lawmakers on how to deal with the whole nonbinding resolution issue. Damning stuff.

Guild Wars: Tourney Time

Well, I'm all signed up with the XoO crew to take part in the Celestial Tournament. Since I'm a sucker for a funny hat I'm, no doubt, going to be checking out the Rollerbeetle stuff during the festivities even though it just doesn't make my heart flutter the way Snowball fights did (The reason, I suspect, is that it's a solo event while even though random Snowballing the night away was still something you did with a team.) but the tournament is the real draw for me. I seem to have caught on in XoO in a midline role so I should have plenty of opportunity to play during rounds. Should be fun.

Part of getting registered, though, was providing some personal information to ArenaNet. Which, you know, since I've been a tester is all pretty much information they've had before but for other people whom they only know as e-mail addresses, there's some information there I wouldn't want to be abused. I'm sure they've taken all due precaution with that, though. No, what I wonder about is the last little piece of information to be transmitted to the tournament organizers: names of characters on my account.

Since part of the rules is that screenshots of each match including the party list will be taken and sent off I'm guessing this is to make sure that the names in that party correspond to the names on the roster. My problem, though, is that since I'm not able to spend 10 hours a day playing I just don't have RP characters at the point where I'd be comfortable PvPing with them. Not with the superior options available to PvP-only characters. They, after all, get decent stat items and armor with all the bells and whistles at the click of a button but, more importantly, they have each and every skill I've ever unlocked at their fingertips. That flexibility is hard to beat. And while those RP characters are static and i'm not very likely to be deleting and rerolling them, my PvP characters are, most certainly, not. I'm one of those people who like to come up with different names all the time and it's rare for me to use one more than a few weeks. I'm not the only one. So, what I wonder is if these rules are saying that I'm going to be stuck with one PvP name or another for the next six weeks? Just so ANet can have a photo on file to compare with the roster? Not that this is explicitly spelled out in the rules or anything. Yeah, that doesn't sound like it's going to cause problems at all.

No Trust, Must Verify

It should come as no surprise that any trust the current administration has with me has long since been spent. I couldn't quite point to exactly when I decided that the default position for anything that comes out of their mouths should be a skeptical one. There are, after all, so many to point at from watching an American city slip under the waves to the continuing erosion of civil liberties to the continuing revelations of how the Iraq war was not just mishandled but conceived and birthed from a pack of misleading and incomplete information that led our leaders to the conclusions they wanted to make in the first place. It's that last one that gives me no end of pause when the start making claims about Iran.

However odious and frightening these claims may be (I remember the same drums being beat in advance of the Iraq debacle.) they also present an opportunity. The same one that was squandered in the run up to the last war. Namely, to re-establish the Congressional duties of oversight, to curb the powers of a Presidency run amok, and, as a nation, to act out of self-interest rather than blind fear. Among other things. But it seems to me that the administration has gone to the well one too many times with this and now it's time to hammer them for it. Suggestions like Mr. Henley's should be heeded. Because while the administration is no doubt hoping to rally their wanning fortunes by coming up with an 11th hour surprise, what they're really doing is handing us all that most precious of comodities – a second chance at getting things right.

Guild Wars: Grenth as Ether Renewal

I know this is pretty late and all, but along with the temporary increase to the size of HA groups, last weekend's patch brought with it a small but select group of skill changes. Restricted entirely to the Paragon with one Dervish skill. That one Dervish skill, though, was Avatar of Grenth which, along with the recharge and energy cost increases has really taken it on the chin in recent weeks. That's probably a good thing asbeyond Melandru's there really wasn't another elite you'd use on a Dervish – Grenth's was that good. Now, it's easily interrupted, will be down for a while if it is, and has an up time of about 25%. While it's up it can still be devastating, sure, but that's a smaller window for the opponent can focus their shutdown in. So, for a combination of reasons, it's pretty much been nerfed into obsolescene. I like the idea of Grenth's but it was definitely overshadowing everything else. Be nice if the rebalance wasn't so vicious but I can live with it. The other changes were also nerfs to some Paragon stuff – mostly defensive things along with a bat to some of the better Paragon's spear skills. Again, good changes as far as I can tell.

But, I bring this up because, in the past, I've complained about rebalances. And I just wanted to say that this is the kind I'd like to see more of. Coming a week after the massive changes following the test weekend, this was a small, focused rebalance to address specific concerns. Not only does it cause less upheaval, its impact can be measured much more precisely because there aren't other changes to cloud the matter. Less drastic, more frequent updates that will serve as course corrections is what I'm hoping we'll see more of in the coming days and months ahead.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bounce Back Refresh

Feeling much better today. I think a decent night's sleep has done me a world of good. But beyond that, I'm feeling up and inspired. I don't have any evidence but the world doesn't seem as bleak as it did just a few short hours ago. Haven't gotten much done for the site, mind, as I decided to try my hand at writing again - something I've really been neglecting for too long. What with my class and that growing urge for some hot and heavy guild on guild action I'm feeling, I jotted down a few ideas for posts but I just haven't been able to get them done before my self-imposed deadline. There's a tournament coming up, you know, and like a boxer, I'm undergoing serious training because I want to be hitting my peak come match-time. Last night I didn't get any matches in but I did manage to test some stuff in the RA and in scrimmage mode. And that's nearly as valuable (If not quite as much fun.). When GvGing I seem stuck in the midlines (There's a few simple reasons behind that, I think. First, the sort of bland, generic casters that are slotted there are, arguably, the easiest characters to run. Fortunately, I haven't had to test my reflexes by playing as a Mesmer yet but there's not much to do except be aware of your position and cast your junk on the best target available, whatever that junk happens to be. That's quite different from the life of a Monk or a frontliner or even a flag runner. Those are, you know, all roles I've also played in the past but they're more demanding. To me, anyway, but I imagine to others as well. Therefore, good players of those positions are hard to find and when they are they tend to stick with those roles and play them time after time.) so if I want to play in some other spots eventually, I'm going to have to practice.

Otherwise, class was again very boring tonight. Which is a bad thing, I suppose, in some ways, but good as it gave me lots of time to think and day dream. It's just so...slow, I guess. As is usually the case, I'm grasping the material a lot faster than the class average and it's frustrating to wait for them to catch up. I'm ahead in my studies and not having any real problem so these class sessions aren't really doing me much good. The real benefit, I suppose, is that they give me a reason to actually study and do the homework and everything else I'd have a hard time doing if left to my own devices. But, well, today I found another error in the book - that makes three so far - just a sign change in a factored polynomial but one that gave me fits as I was trying to follow along with an example. I kept getting an answer the book said was wrong but I checked with the instructor and, yeah, they switched a positive to a negative and rendered their whole proof invalid. Considering how much textbooks cost you'd think they'd have taken care of that sort of thing before going to press. It just made me think about wasting my time and money and all - something, you know, I've done enough of by this point. And I'm beginning to wonder if this class isn't something of a waste.

I was, after all, excited to go back to school. Thrilled to be thinking and discussing and, well, awake again. Just like I remembered being back in college. But, well, my local community college isn't the same thing as my alma mater. So perhaps I wasn't the most realistic in expecting a group of scholars and all. Or maybe I just forgot how tedious the school experience was. But it just feels slow and remedial. And I'm not very engaged. While everyone else in the class seems to be struggling.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Weekly Wrap Seven

A lazy day today. Didn't get much done and took it easy. Just really feeling tired lately. I'm sure staying up until 4 in the morning to GvG has something to do with it. I've only been doing that for that past few days, though, (Hopefully I'm going to cut back soon.) so I can't really blame my lack of production on that, now can I?

Between the studying for the math test and joining a guild and all, I just haven't gotten much done. Not much I'm proud of, anyway. Lots of posts started but not many finished. And the ones I have just aren't as good as they could be. Kinda discouraging, really, but maybe it's just my funky mood today.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Time Sink

Going to call it a night early today because I've been rushing around all day and although, as usual, I have so many things to talk about, I lack the time to do so. You see, I want to get logged into Guild Wars and get at it. I managed to get in several games last night and I'm hoping to do so again. Hopefully, I'll have something to say about it eventually but long story short one of those nights where it seems everything is frustrating and not working but a lot of learning is being done. You know, the kind of nights you need to go through on your way to the top.

But even if it wasn't, it's refreshing to be in a guild again. Pal Clamatius was right, damn his black soul, being in a guild makes the game so much better. Meeting new people, figuring out builds and plans, working to get better, playing together, working together, everyone contributing in their own way. Even though I didn't know it, I've missed that feeling. And I want to get back to it - even if it's only running around the Arena testing builds to discuss the next day.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll have the Weekly Wrap up. I've also decided to stop the whole "Outlook" and timing myself thing, at least for the time being, in case you haven't noticed. Just, you know, too LiveJournal.

Friday, February 9, 2007

I'm weak

There's no getting around it, I'm still upset by the glut of Anna Nicole coverage. Just, shameful really. Especially when there are much more important deaths to report on.

Outlook: There's really a lot more I could say. But I won't.

Rudy For President? Well, At Least He Has a Ready-Made Slogan

You know, it's looking like Rudy Giuliani is the frontrunner for the Republicon nomination (And, you know, this is crucial information to discuss because the election isn't for another year and a half yet.). And I couldn't be happier. I almost feel like rooting him on. Not because I hope he wins or I'm hoping for an all-NY presidential campaign (and rehash of a Senate battle that never was) or anything. But because I expect him to flame out spectacularly in the general election.

For starters, I don't think the average voters shares the grotesque fetishism of September 11th that the average Rebuplicon lockstepper has. Sure, Rudy managed to stand at a podium and all but does that really qualify him to be President? I really hope not. For all our sakes. Add to that that he left plenty of people in New York who absolutely hate him (Although let's not forget his attempt to suspend election and assume emergency powers in the wake of the disaster - it did happen shortly before the elections but I think we've had just about enough of that cavalier attitude towards our system of government in the Oval Office – Giuliani wasn't doing very well. But he was term limited, on his way into the history books and his handpicked successor was headed to an easy defeat on September the 10th. He's ghoulishly built his current position on the backs of that September tragedy.) And that's important because New York is the newsmedia capitol. The people making and reporting the news have had a good, long, upclose look at Mr. Giuliani. So, hit pieces or attempts to correct the record – depending on your point of view - like this one are going to be par for the course.

But, no, the real reason I'm excited about the prospect is that Rudy is the Republicon Dean. He's crazy. Batshit crazy. And I don't care how protected and covered by the right-wing noise machine he is, it's eventually going to tell (Just, you know, hopefully before the election.). But, like Dean, he's going to be lifted by a wave of right-wing support, from people sick of the status quo, and people who think he'll stand a chance in the general election and are willing to ignore his unpalatable stands on the core social issues that have driven the unholy Republicon coalition these many years. All of whom are going to be ignoring the warning signs and glossing over the cracks in a horribly flawed candidate. I'm just convinced that he's going to wither under the glare of a national election. And it's going to be wonderful to watch.

Hockey Day in Michigan

With the football season over and March Madness a month away, what's a sports fan to do? Well, where I'm from at least, this is hockey season.

I haven't caught many games this year (mostly because they're on some channel I have no idea where to find) but I'm a big Red Wings fan. Like most anyone who grew up in the area I did around the time I did, I couldn't help but be swept up in the events of a few magical summers spent chasing the cup. Not of the past few years, the ones before the lockout anyway, when the Red Wings became the Yankees of the hockey world. Just superstar signing after signing and you expected them not just to complete but win, year in and year out. But before that? Well, they were the Tigers. Last year's Tigers – the ones from before their miraculous season. Just horrible. My father had season tickets that he shared with a few others at his law firm. And every so often we'd head down to the Joe and catch a game – the taste of rink nachos, all corn and gooey bright orange cheese, is hockey to me the way a the smell of a good stadium dog from the Corner will always be baseball. At the absolute worst, they had maybe 2000 people in the stands on a good night. And they'd give away cars just to get people to show up. We lost those tickets around '89 or '90 or so, when my father's firm moved out into the suburbs to follow their clients. It's a familiar story around my hometown. But anyone who's a Red Wing fan is slapping themselves in the forehead right about now. Because that's when the big red machine really started to roll.

I was a bit too young to realize it at the time, though. It was those playoffs in '94 and '95 that really cemented me as a hockey fan. It was the struggle to get past those hurdles and finally win that cup – at the time, the Wings hadn't won anything since the 50s. We couldn't even use that as a rallying cry because the Rangers had us beat. No, to be a Wings fan then was to be watching a team on the cusp of greatness who just couldn't quite pull it together. Then they won the cup. It was an electric feeling around the city. And in one gut wrenching moment, it was all taken away. And, then, of course, the next summer they went out and won the cup again spurred on by that tragedy and, I'd like to think, the raw emotion of their fans.

Anyhow, I mention this because tomorrow is Hockey Day throughout Michigan. Tomorrow morning, there's going to be an open skate at the Joe. And then a practice season free for the public to attend (And, yeah, they can actually get money for that sort of thing in the exhibition season.). And that night, it's going to be a showdown between UofM and MSU on that very same ice. Along with high school games today and around the state and plenty of other activities to enjoy. So, it seems now is a good time to start caring about hockey again.

Guild Wars: The Best 1k Faction I Ever Spent

Last night was an off night so I decided to dick around in the Arena. But before I did I had one very important skill to unlock:

Death Pact Signet. Signet. 2cast, 8recharge. Resurrect target party member with your current Health and Energy. If that party member dies within the next 120 seconds, so do you.

Which, you know, I wouldn't contemplate running under normal circumstances (Although it does have some viability in certain extreme builds thanks to one simple fact - deaths under the Death Pact Signet don't cause DP). But last night I wasn't exactly normal circumstances. Rather than heading into the RA to practice and hone my, admittedly meager, skills I was out to mess around with a "joke build".

Guild Wars, after all, is a game. And a game's about having fun. Sometimes, for me anyways, that's about having the perfect build and all that implies. And sometimes it's just about loading up something ridiculous and just having a ball with it.

Because, let me tell you, DPS is the funniest skill since Unyielding Aura ("Oh, what's that? Someone overextending? Click, that'll learn you to keep on my leash."). I pretty much went with the Weapon of Remedy rit I've been using lately in GvG swapping out Flesh of My Flesh for the Death Pact. My only other change was to put in Lively was Naomi. The idea there is simple, rez someone up with Death Pact (swapping up to a high en set so they got up with a fat stash of energy to work with, of course), and if it looks like they're going down, put up Naomi and I'd die and pop right back up. Hilarious.

Since the Weapon of Remedy build is basically a resto healer, it was a mad scramble whenever the Death Pact was in play. There's no icon - that I saw, anyway - reminding you of the signet's effect so there was nothing to prevent someone to rush off and get themselves killed again. At times I had the entire team Death Pact'd (I'm generally quick on the draw with a rez - by RA standards, anyway - and with a 2 second cast you can beat any rezsig.) and was rushing back and forth trying to keep them from dying. Pure, unbridled madness.

Not something I'd want to do everyday but, hey, nothing compared to some joke builds I've run in the past - I remember a few memorable evenings where the entire team rolled up Paladin premades to GvG with. And we'd win with that. It's nights like those that I remember much better than yet another Hall or GvG match. Every now and then it's good to just get silly with it, after all.