The Gamers Death Sentence

I am fat

Yep you heard it first here, I am fat. Of course the people around me already know that (or do they, most of them weigh more than me). Two hundred and fifty pounds is just too much for a man my size and age. Another wakeup call for me is that my younger sister just got diagnosed with type two diabetes. Now this is not to much of a surprise since both my grandparents have diabetes and my mother shows signs of it(along with other family members). But so far I have avoided it and if my younger sister has it then that train most likely is heading my way and I recommend no one stay on the tracks if a train is coming.

For the past few years I have flirted with weightlifting and adjusting my eating habits. Exercising is not always easy for me because while I actually do enjoy working out my laziness is profound. Sure I can blame the fact that my workout partners all quit or that I got injured about eight months ago deadlifting (totally my fault). But the fact is that I would prefer to spend my time playing games then working out. Even that one hour feels at times like a huge sacrifice to my gaming habit. And that leads us into why I would write this in a blog that I have predominantly written on gaming.

If you wander through the halls of Gencon or any convention with gamers of any stripe for the most part you are going to see two main types of men (exceptions exist and if you are one good on you). There is the ultra “I look like a meth head” skinny and the “my God man put down the snickers” fat man. This is a common denominator across gaming wether card games, online games, or role playing games. Many of us got into gaming young and most never had much athletic acumen or potential. Combined with this many of us have social related issues, low self esteem, adhd, and all the other garbage that attaches itself to young human beings that wish to escape into other worlds and you have a recipe for disaster.

Whether skinny or fat most of us gamers are truly in danger of killing ourselves. Some of you may be laughing about that especially you younger gamers out there but please believe me you are killing your selves. I am now in my late thirties that means I have over twenty years worth of experience in gaming. I am watching my roleplaying groups age before my eyes. We already have hypertension, diabetes, and early cases of heart disease. We have friends that are just in their forties that cannot walk unassisted. Think about that you are in your forties and you need a walker. Not because of some genetic problem but because they and I have abused our bodies. I am watching those I have gamed with die day by day far earlier than I should. Very soon we will have our first dead gamer in our group do to their life style choices and sometimes I wonder if I am the only one that sees it.

What is even more tragic is that many of us are not stupid. In fact I have met some brilliant and creative minds during my gaming. People who if they would have applied themselves could have made their own mark in the worlds of science or writing (some have). Their potential often times it seems to me gets drowned out be the gaming experience. I suppose that is a blog for another time, but what I am getting at is that we have some very smart people doing some very dumb things. People who can think their way out of diabolical puzzles, that can create whole worlds out of thin air, and that have the mental sharpness to evaluate a whole room of LARPERS and determine how to manipulate them all. But they dont have the ability to eat a balanced diet or get some exercise.

Ask yourself this, if you have a character in a game and a man comes up to him and offered to trade him thirty years of fun lazy time for twenty years of painful hardship and death would you take the deal? I know I wouldn’t but unfortunately I am afraid that like many others I already did and did not know it or more accurately did not care.

So what can we do? How do we take a bunch of lazy gamers and turn them into health conscious jocks? Well you cant without a wish spell and I bet we are all out. So what is the next best thing? In my opinion it is starting small and a bit of phycology. You need to play upon two of the most powerful forces of gamers laziness and competitiveness.

First laziness, this is a key factor not just in gamers but all people. It is a curse of the modern world that it allows us to survive and still indulge our laziness. But laziness has a counter and that is interesting “things”. You do not get up off the couch to go and look at something that is boring unless you have too. The couch is your friend and you do not want to leave your friend. But you do leave the couch when there is something to see or do that interests you. Curiosity, new experiences, and pleasurable pastimes these are what we need to find for our lazygamer. The exploration of cooking and trying exotic foods. Or the discovery of places that they have never seen around their town or city. Or perhaps even the idea of spending a little time with loved ones that you do not get to see often. But the key here is to combine those things with gaming in a way that it is seamless and that they do not notice until it is too late.

The second is competitiveness, this is the driving goal for many gamers. They compete by playing games so that they can feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and at times even adoration. If they were more physically inclined these would be the people on sports teams but that ship sailed along with my coordination. Gamers want to test themselves against their peers, game systems, and themselves to prove that they can win. So what we need to do is combine fitness with goals that can be compared to others. I know different people lose weight or gain strength at different speeds. But motivation for the gamer is tricky, it has to be more than just a goal it has to be something that the gamer believes will test him against others. It is finding a way to set goals that keep things interesting and fair. Some way to convince the gamer that they are not exercising so much as competing against their friends and the activity just happens to be physical.

So what I propose to all of you GM’s. DM’s, parents, and friends look at your gamers and consider ways that can get them doing things physically and ways of changing their diets in small increments. For instance LARP gm’s when you are speaking to players one on one or in small groups. Dont just sit at a table in a back room somewhere. Instead just start walking slowly as you speak. The players WILL follow you and not even think about it. GM’s, or hosts propose potlucks but instead of asking them to bring random things ask for cash or give out a list of foods. Just conveniently make them healthy AND interesting. A green salad is not interesting but a green salad with mystery ingredients that many do not recognise is. Parents bring your gamers snacks instead of having them go and grab them. Many times when we are playing a MMO or video game we just want something to munch on and if it happens to be a healthier choice like frozen grapes or apples and peanut butter we usually will not complain because we did not have to get up.

In the end it doesn’t really matter if you concoct some scheme to trick your players or kids into doing activities or if you challenge them. All that matters is getting them use to the idea of eating or doing things that leads to better health. Our lives are so short and the lives of the gamer is oftentimes shorter still. But more importantly is the quality of that life. It is humbling to see people who previously could do all those things we take for granted over time lose that ability early in their lives. But does it really have to be that way?

Do I HAVE to be fat?

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Final Fantasy 1 It is done

Nostalgia is a funny beast. Things as a child seem so much more grand than they do when you are an adult. When you are a kid a summer can seem endless, winter magical, and video games epic. I remember as a kid when I first unwrapped Final Fantasy. I think I was in fifth or sixth grade and it was THE game. Yes some kids were playing Contra and I wet my appetite for this genre on Dragon Warrior. But this game was different! Heck it even said FINAL Fantasy so obviously this is the last fantasy game I would ever need. I opened the box unwrapped the game and stared at the shinay rule book. Then tossing the book, I slipped the cartridge into the machine pushed the button and it just blinked white and black. Well heck, oh ya I know what to do! So I took the cartridge out and gave its inaugural blow. Now now folks I did not do fulacio upon this virgin vidio game. You youngens may not know this but if you blow inside your video games often times they will work when before they would not. Why is that, I don’t know but if ever your PS4 game does not work try blowing in it, you never know (warning this blogger is not a technological guru and any advice should be taken with a grain of salt). After the completely proper blowing of the video game the intro music began and the rest is history.

This game had me from the very first part of choosing characters. Before now I had never played a game where I could choose my own type of characters. Fighters, mages, rogues, even a black belt could be chosen for your group. The graphics where normal for the time but the music was actually pretty nice. Game play was simple enough to understand but it had a bit of complication with the extra options other then attack, magic, and flee that made things interesting. But what really got me was when I beat the first boss Garland and crossed that bridge was the cut scene. If you don’t know what I am talking about and did not play it back in the day you would not understand. Before now games did not have cut scenes (or at least none of the ones that I had) and this one promised high adventure and I was sucked in.

Well I played for hours and hours, restarted a few times and never quite beat it. For many years I went back to the game for a bit but I just never finished the deal. It is not that the game is overly hard, after the first few time of playing you get the knack and you just have too keep playing. But new games came along and then school and life. In the end the game just kind of never ended for me. I always loved it but I never beat it. That all changed last year.

My kids were bugging me and I decided that I wanted to go to my room and do something by my self. So I plugged in the trusty Nintendo (I own three) and decided to start a new game of final fantasy. At that moment as kids are wont to do they rushed in yelling and screaming. Probably with the express mission of bothering their father. As I was about to throw a fit my daughter saw what I was doing and said “can I play?” Then my son said ya me too and the uproar grew in size and annoyance. At this moment I had a choice, throw the little monster out or trick them. Well as any good father would I tricked the little bastards (love ya kids) and said sure but I get the controller. My plan was simple I named the characters after myself and the kids and told them to not be so animated. Then as the game went on I read the text and informed them whenever the character did something.

Now I figured after the initial excitement wore off they would be bored out of their gourds, but not they really started to dig it. They knew who they were and seemed to enjoy the story. Of course there was times when they would wonder off and I could really get some grinding in but invariably they would come back. We would all be on the big bed watching the screen and I would be telling them the story of Final Fantasy. This actually helped me to complete the game since they would bug me to play it all the time. Who knows in the not so distant future this might be one of those things they remember about their childhood. I dont know but I do know that we got to bond a bit over an old 1980’s game.

In the end I was sitting there with the kids when we discovered the Garland was the main bad guy after all! They all were excited and I was excited because even though I knew that little spoiler I was about to beat the game. Well after about five minutes of playing we as a family did beat Garland and saved the day. First try with no deaths so I was pretty happy with that.

So there I was sitting there and the credits rolled when my daughter said, “ok dad time for the next Final Fantasy. I happened to have the PS1 combo disc with Final Fantasy one and two on it. So I said all right then lets do it and off we will go. I have never really played this one so this should be an adventure for all of us. So if you are a parent never underestimate the power of just hanging out with your kids. Even watching a parent play an old RPG can be a fun time for all of you.

World Of Tanks A Noobs Journey Part Two

First allow me to thank you two lost souls that have decided to follow my blog. I was really excited when I saw you two follow, because now I am not just writing because I feel like it. Now I must write so that I dont let you two down and force you both to join a monastery and give up all technology! But really it is just like when you lift, it is good to have a partner to motivate you to go to the gym and get that one more rep. (do you even lift bro?)

Also alow me to thank DIYLOC.com for the picture above, that sight is prety cool give it a look.

Now on to business lets discuss my noob experience. Let me see if this sounds familiar, you download World Of Tanks, do the tutorial, and then get into your first battle. Most likely you trundle along and then see a tank outlined in red. This is it, your chance to be a tank hero! You move your mouse to follow him and just as you are about to fire you hear a clang and a red notice appears on your left. You have been hit you think, so you move your mouse towards the red light and then bang! The red light appears from the original direction you were going to shoot at. At this point you do one of two things you either continue moving the mouse towards the first hit or you turn back towards the other. Either way we all know what happens next……..BOOM! You blow up in a fiery ball and the game ends. Most likely you do not even know how to exit the game or switch views so you sit there as other people drive by until the end of the match. Sound familiar doesn’t it, I bet this is the first match for most people.

For me at least the above was my first three matches. It was not until the fourth game that I killed my first tank when another noob looked across the field and stopped and looked at me as I looked at him. We both traded shots until he blew up and I was victorious! Or at least I was for about three seconds until his team blew me up. But I admit when I did finally  blow up a tank it felt great! I loved it and kept playing and I think i AM getting better. But this process has been long and painful both for me and the teams I have been on. My paltry win percentage of 47.33% can testify to that fact and so can the poor slobs tanking on my side. As the game has gone on I learned all about some key things with this game. Concepts that are not clearly defined by the  tutorial and that most players on a team will not take the time to tell you. These are some of the things I will discuss in this issue of  “A Noobs Journey.” If you are an experienced player please feel free to skip this or better yet read it and laugh at what little I have discovered. If you are a grade “A” badass at this game please feel free to comment or write your own blog. But if you are a Nooblet like myself I hope this helps with a few of those nagging questions.

First lets discuss the basic things that I did not know until probably my 500th game. First why in the heck do I always get shot by invisible tanks? Is it a hack or are my setting wrong or is my computer old and useless for this game? Well the answer to those questions could be yes to all three.  But more then likely you have discovered view range and the lack of it on your tank. Basically it works like this ( I am not going to get into the math, heck I barely understand it) Every tank has a view range, it is listed on the turret in the technology tree section. You are able to see a certain number of meters, this range is affected by your opponents camouflage rating that will subtract from that number.  I use French tanks and let me tell you those early mediums are garbage and their view ranges are right in line with their suckatude. Often times I would get shot over and over again by these invisible tanks. I could not figure it out and I am sure it was covered in the tutorial but I wanted to know how to fix the problem. To fix this problem there are a few solutions, first look at your crew is the percentage of experiance at 100%? If not then they are not working at their full capacity and this affects everything. So if you’re using a 50% crew you are basically operating at 50%. If your crew is at 100% then look at your radio operator, there is a perk (the little plus symbol is next to the name if you have not chosen one)or special power you can give your crew members. The radio operator has one that extends your view range pick it and as you gain experience it will get better and so will your view range. Second thing is you can add coated optics and or binoculars to your tank. These items both increase your view range, the optics always work but only at 10% increase. The binoculars or “binocs” increase your view range but only when you have been sitting still for a while. The down side to them is of course the price but one great thing about the binocs is that they can be removed for free and used on other tanks. SO DONT SELL THEM WITH YOUR TANK!! Read that one again, SO DONT SELL THEM WITH YOUR TANK!! Right there kids I just saved you 250k worth of silver. Feel free to send me real life money in thanks.

Second lets discuss why people can always seem to spot me even when I am hiding. So lets paint another picture, I roll up to a big bush and a tree. I knock down the tree on my left to block my side and park in the bush so they cannot see me in front. Why can they still see me and blow up my shiny scout tank? So first the tree you knocked down, you would think all those nice big leafs would block you but no, the game developers have decided that the fact that you knocked the tree down invalidates any cover it would provide. Those leafs are invisible to the enemy. Who knew right, makes no sense but there you are? Second now that you knocked over that tree, artillery can see what direction the tree was knocked over at. like so: (tree)–>>>> this means that they assume this: {you}—>>>> so that spot becomes: {BOOM}–>>>> a dead tank. Third your bush needs to be big enough to block your whole tank AND make sure your nose is not hanging out of it. I try and park with just my nose touching the bush. Fourth when you shoot, often times your bush disappears for a bit so when you shoot just assume everyone can see you.

Now the third thing that I wished I had known, why do so many of my shots bounce? So many guys (and I suppose a girl or two) go through their first 500 games just blasting away. I know I did that at first and it was really annoying seeing many of my shots bouncing. Now some people are going to talk about armor thickness, penetration, angling and so forth. Lets be honest you you are not going to memorise all the tanks and weapons at first and you really just want to blow up tanks now. Dont get me wrong all of that is important but you will find a ton of YOUTube videos to teach you about that. So here is my suggestion and what I learned through a lot of lost games. Zoom in on any tank and look real closely, all tanks have weak spots and if you know what to look for, it will not matter that you don’t know the difference between a kv-1 and a Chaffee. Things to look for, doors, hatches, gunports, eye slits, and flat spots on angled armor. All these places have thinner armor compared to the rest of the tank. True you still may not be able to penetrate but you are far more likely too if you learn to aim. Also most tanks have weaker armor on the sides or rear, if you can try and maneuver around the hard tanks and see if you can get them in the butt.

The last thing I wanted to speak about is something that I really wished someone had mentioned. Play to your strengths. Once you start to get into the tier five tanks you will probably have played most if not all the different types of tanks in the game. Look in your stats and see if you can see a pattern with your win percentages in tanks. Most likely you will notice that on some types of tanks you do better than others. It may be the fast lite scouts, or slow moving hard armored tanks or perhaps you have a knack for those long range sniping TD’s. What ever the case try and concentrate on those for a bit to learn the game better. Often times you can get frustrated with different tanks and this can take away some of the enjoyment. By concentrating on the tank type you are good at you will learn better since it is easier to learn when you enjoy the subject. Also your stats will be better in the long run.

Well that is all for now, I believe there will be another episode of this (or maybe two) If you have any comments, thoughts, or God forbid questions, feel free to ask. I am not an expert or even a particularly good player. But I do not consider any honest question as dumb and if I know the answer I will give it to you.

First thoughts on Landmark MMO Closed Beta

Well I was searching for articles on Landmark MMO closed Beta that I could read at work. It turns out that most I found were on wordpress so I figured why dont I start documenting what I am doing. Now I dont know much about the game yet but as I learn more I will try and post some pictures and such. Who knows maybe even a few how too articles once I know “how too.”

First a little background I started my MMO career with Gemstone III MUD and then transitioned into Everquest 2. From there I have played all of Sony’s games (even Matrix) and have enjoyed them immensely. As life has gone on I have played fewer and fewer games but I have always kept my toe in the water as it were. For the past two years I have eagerly awaited EQNext and like many of you I have been disappointed since it has not arrived. So I went to other games such as World of Tanks, LOTRO and my trusty CiV games. Then I saw the Steam deal.

Steam decided to offer us 60% off of Landmark. Now I never really considered playing Landmark I thought the idea of paying to play in a Beta slightly ridiculous. But the price was just too low and I wanted to know what was going on. I have to admit So far I have been very pleased with my decision.

For those of you who do not know Landmark is the latest instalment of Everquest esq games. This game is based on the sandbox concept with an emphasis on building things. You can think of it as minecraft but with much better graphics. From what I understand eventually the things you create in this game could be used in the development of EQnext. A concept that is both cool and sneaky on Sonys part. The cool thing is you can really build almost anything you want. I have seen cottages, mazes, castles, and even a full service gas station (I kid you not). You go out searching for the raw materials that you use to create these things. At the same time you are gathering so that you can create ever more powerful tools that can be used to make your life easier. The sneaky part is that Sony can use these things for its other games AND we pay for the privilege of doing their work for them.

So the bad and ugly of this game. First is that this is a closed beta it is not even close to being a finished product. You are there to test the limits of what they have and experiment with what they give you. The game crashes and has weird visual effects that just make the game hard to play. Second the tutorial is weak and very limited. It shows you how to start your first claim (that is the place you build on) and walks you through making your first few items. But that is just scratching the service and that service is DEEP. The tools for building are not intuitive. Here is a hint Sony if you have to go online just to figure out how to rotate a block your system is flawed in a building game. Third the biomes (islands you can build on) hint at diversity but really it is all very much the same a inner biome of one type like desert of tundra and an outer ring of another biome. If they really want exploration to be a part of the game it should be a mystery whats over the next horizon. Four there is no danger because they have not introduced monsters yet but it is coming. Fifth and finally there is not market place or economy. If this game is going to be about crafting and such I think the game will need a robust economy. As such I feel they should have been working on that from the very beginning. The thing I like the most about EQ2 was the crafting and selling things on the broker. I hope these things are added soon.

Now I am sure you all have been waiting for the good and there is a lot there. The number one thing is you can build almost anything you can imagine. The only thing stopping you is your imagination and the ability to manipulate voxels (unit of measurement or building block). This takes a fine hand and a lot of research but I have seen some amazing things. Next finding the nodes (resources) can be an adventure in itself. You are always looking out for that next rich vein of gold or marble that you need to create something. Spelunking is another fun past time. They have introduced cave systems and withing are the best nodes and hidden treasure chests. I have spent hours lost in caves digging up cool resources and searching for chest. The community is also helpful, at this time it is small since it is closed beta but I feel the type of person this game attracts lends itself to helpful people.

The future is bright for this game I think. They are adding monsters and have already added some limited PVP. As the danger increases they game will become more interesting. Even as I speak the developers are finetuning the building tools and my hope it that they will become easier and easier. My hope is when open beta arrives we will have a marketplace where we can start trading our goods and templates (saved building and items we created). All in all I am happy that I am helping with this game development and at the paltry price of twenty bucks I have gained hours of enjoyment.