Monthly Archives: March 2013

Biebs’ Bytes: Hangout 3

Wow, my internet connection sucked tonight.  Sorry about that.  We had a lot of fun rambling tonight though.  Mostly griping about end users!

Greetings from Lornar’s Pass

My progress in Guild Wars 2 is slow.  It is laborious.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am savoring every single moment with this game, and those moments are pretty scattered, so the time I do get to play is even more appreciated.  At this rate it is going to take me years to beat this game.  And you know what?  I’m fine with that.  I see all this new Level 80 content coming out, stuff that I can’t participate in for the most part as I’m still only Level 40, but most of it will still be there when I get there.

I spent parts of the day continuing to explore Lornar’s Pass, where I’ve been for probably the past week.  I did some personal story stuff which went amazingly smooth.  Considering I finally upgraded my armor and weapons.  Here I was roaming around Level 40-ish, but still using level 25 gear!  No wonder I kept getting my butt kicked!  Up until now, decent gear had just been dropping for me from mobs, or came as rewards from quests.  I hadn’t had to buy a single piece of equipment. But as I am flipping all this stuff on the trading post now, usually doing mid-level armor and weapons, I got to thinking… “Hey, I could use some mid-level armor and weapons!”  That’s when the light went on…

So I haven’t been steamrolling since then, but as I spend most of my time soloing through these maps, it has gone much smoother.  Here’s some more screens from today’s adventures.

DRAGONS!

Ahh. No problem. They’re just carved from stone. It’s not like anything carved from stone has EVER come to life in this game.

A Norn lodge in the middle of nowhere. That means one thing. ALE!

Another Durmand Priory camp. These guys are all over the place out here. I guess since I’m part of their ranks, I guess I should say “we” are all over the place out here.

Okay, even I have to admit, you’ve seen one Durmand Priory camp, you’ve seen them all.

This is the first green I’ve seen in a while! Nearing the base of the mountains looking back towards Human territory.

My first video game experiences

I’m 30 years old, and for as long as most people have known me, video games have been a part of my identity.  It’s a passion that waxes and wanes through the years, but for the most part it has always been there.  Well, not always.  You know, there was a time before games, before Nintendo.

My VERY first memory of video games involves the NES.  I had to be around 5 years old.  It was at least 1987, because I remember a friend and co-worker of my Dad’s bringing over his NES to our house.  If I recall, his name was Kevin.  This was a long time ago, so that may not be accurate, but for the sake of the story, we’ll call him Kevin.  He and my Dad set up a small 13″ TV in our dining room and strung out all the cables and connected the NES to the TV.  I really had no idea what it was.  But I remember Kevin was excited to show it off.  They were playing The Legend of Zelda, which I distinctly remember because of the gold cartridge and I remember watching Link walk around killing creatures.  I never did play it though.  To be honest I was more interested in this totally awesome firefighter board game he brought for me and my sister.

Not the same TV, but a very similar setup to what I remember.

Not the same TV, but a very similar setup to what I remember.

To side track just a minute here.  That board game by the way, was freaking awesome.  I completely forgot what it was called, but thanks to the internet, I actually was able to find it!  It was called “Oops & Downs”.  You actually assembled several pieces of cardboard together to create a 3 tier game board and you raced to the top.  Sometimes you’d land on a tube though, and you had to slide your fireman down the the level below.  It made a funny little “waaaah” noise as the game piece slid down the tubes.  It was about as complicated as Shoots & Ladders, but it was so much fun!  I hadn’t thought about that game in forever!

Oops & Downs

Okay.  Back  to Nintendo.

So while Kevin’s NES was my first exposure to video games, I didn’t have a real meaningful impression until some time later.  Sometime in 1987 or 1988 I remember visiting a friend of my Mom’s.  I can’t remember what her name was.  I’m 95% sure my Mom knew her as a co-worker from her days at “OK Video” in Dodge City.  I want to say she had a somewhat uncommon name.  At any rate, her son had an NES in his room.  He would have been a few years older than me.  And I remember vividly, his room was small and cluttered.  It was dark, lit only by the glow of a small TV and the light that bounced in from the open door to the hallway.  I remember watching him play Super Mario Bros. and thinking, “This is amazing!”

Any impressive technology provides a bit of disbelief that you are actually able to do what it allows you to do.  I still marvel at smartphones, and that I’m able to get my e-mail, navigation and even video chat from almost anywhere.  It still baffles me a bit to know that all that is capable in a device you can slide into your pocket.  If you weren’t there at the time, it’s hard to imagine the NES as “amazing”, I’m sure.  But the Nintendo Entertainment System really felt like something new and cutting edge.  When you saw it sitting on the shelf, you marveled at the technology inside.  It looked sleek and very “now”.  The NES has become such an icon of retro culture that it’s difficult to believe that we once looked at it the same way we look at the PS3 or iPad now.  It was an expensive advanced and fancy pants machine in its day, that’s for sure.

Today this looks "retro".  In the 80's this looked fresh and cutting edge.

Today this looks “retro”. In the 80’s this looked fresh and cutting edge.

I remember watching this kid in his room, pluck-ing fireballs, going down pipes, and exploring this amazing world inside the television.  He let me play a bit.  I of course was terrible, but I was compelled, just wondering what could possibly lie just off to the right of the screen.  What adventures did each next level have in store?

My Mom came in and told me it was time to go home.  I actually cried when it was time to leave.  I wanted to badly to stay and keep playing.  In the weeks after that, whenever Mom loaded us up in the Astro Van to go run errands, I always hoped in the back of my mind that we would make a stop at that house so I could play more Mario.  To this day, I still remember that house was on Avenue C.

This is quite possibly the house I played my first Nintendo game.

This is quite possibly the house I played my first Nintendo game.

The weeks and months that followed may possibly have been some of the most annoying days my parents ever experienced.  I don’t remember nagging them for a Nintendo, but I do remember REALLY wanting one BAD.  So whether I deserved a Nintendo, or they got one just to shut me up, I’m unsure.  When  you’re 6 years old, you have a significant lack of perspective.  Whatever the motivation we eventually got our very own Nintendo Entertainment System.

Here’s what I remember… I don’t recall it being a particularly special occasion like a holiday or birthday.  I just remember my parents saying we were going to Wal-Mart and we were “Going to get a Nintendo”.  I couldn’t believe it.  I don’t remember going in the store, but for some reason I feel like I remember seeing the box in the car on the way home… that memory is really fuzzy though.

As a note, this is not our first NES. Our FIRST NES was destroyed by one of my careless friends (Daniel D.) who ran across in front of the TV while I was playing. He yanked the deck right off the shelf, onto the floor, never to work again. I still have 2 copies of Super Mario Bros. to show for it.  PROOF that this wasn’t our first NES… the Quickshot controller on the bottom shelf under the TV in the photo.  Why would I have that, if I didn’t already have an NES?

One thing I do remember rather clearly is my folks saying it was going to take 30 minutes to hook it up once we got it home.  30 MINUTES!  I couldn’t believe it!  What an eternity!  I might as well just wait until I’m RETIRED!  Sheesh!  Time is certainly a relative perception, and if you have kids, don’t underestimate the difficulty little people have waiting for things to happen.  When you’re a kid, if it’s not happening now, it may as well be 100 years away.  The funny thing is, now hooking up a NES takes about 2 minutes.  But it sure felt pretty complex back then.

I also recall being chiefly aware that this was expensive.  I don’t know if I respected that fact then as much as I do now.  It was definitely a lot of money compared to every other toy I had.  I figure the NES probably cost around $150 then… the equivalent of almost $300 in today’s money. That was a lot of money just to shut me up!  Ha ha.

After that, my clearest memories involve me being supremely frustrated with Super Mario Bros.  There was so much rage when I couldn’t even clear the first jump in World 1-1.  Time and time again, I would approach that hole… jump… and die.  Mom had to try to calm me down, I would get so mad.  I even tried thrusting the controller up in the air, hoping my muscle movements would help propel Mario over that chasm.  Little did I know someday that would actually be possible.  But with patience… okay, maybe not patience, but practice… I finally cleared that first jump.  After that I never looked back.

The NES continued to bring so many great memories.  Excitebike, Punch Out, Galaga, Rad Racer, Ice Hockey… all early experiences that felt completely amazing.   And it began a love for games that continues to this day, even if I spend more time reading and writing about them that I do playing them it seems.

What were your first gaming memories?  Post ’em up in the comments!

Biebs Bytes – Hangout 2

Had a lot of fun again.  One of the guest’s audio was really laggy, so makes for lots of awkward moments for you to enjoy.

I was going to write something this morning…

kotaku-balancing life and video gamesI got about 500 words into a post this morning and bailed… I felt like I was just rambling and I didn’t see any resolution to my thoughts in the near future.  The post was based on this Kotaku article posted a few days ago, titled “How to Balance Video Games with Real Life”.  It resonated with me on a very personal level. Gaming is something I’ve been passionate about from a young age, and finding time to make it a part of my adult life is a daunting task.

So if you get the chance, read it. It apparently expresses my thoughts clearer than I can this morning. Guess I need more coffee.

Some light adventuring, and profits!

Biebs turned me on to a method to buy/sell stuff on the Trading Post in GW2 that has been somewhat profitable in the past day or so.  Basically just buying stuff cheap and selling it high, no super big secrets or anything.  But the thing I love most about GW2’s trading system, is the Trading Post itself.  I can search the TP for some good deals, order them up.  Then go off and do something else while I wait for the items to come in (you have to wait for other players to sell the item you are requesting at the price you want).  Then when I have some stock, I list them at the new price, and wait for the coins to roll in.  (Again, you wait for other players to buy your stuff)

So I can stack up a whole bunch of stuff… then go to work, hang out with the family, or heaven forbid, actually PLAY the game!

I did spend a little time adventuring towards my next objecting working my way through Lornar’s Pass.

In the Durmand Priory.

Lots of floating tablets. Thar be LORE in those tablets!

See, told ya.

The path is pretty treacherous down there. Lots of spiders.

Hanging meat makes a Charr hungry.

A Priory campsite.

 

A roaring campfire in the frigid mountain trails.

 

 

 

 

BiebsBytes – Hangout 1

I was invited to a hangout with Josh Bieber from joshbieber.com for an episode of Biebs Bytes.  We talk about:

  • The Evolution of Geek Culture
  • Bullying
  • Guild Wars 2

My Philosophy on Collecting

Geeze, how many copies of Madden are in that picture?

I like watching videos on YouTube of other people’s video game collections.  There are so many different ways to collect games.  Some people go for every game ever released.  Some people collected sealed, never opened games.  Some collect only for a particular brand.  Some like to import.  Some people like collecting merchandise.  And some people go for the really rare and expensive stuff.  Every collector is probably a little bit of all those things.

I appreciate the most extreme collectors on a preservation level.  I respect the people that try to collect games and systems that are complete with all the boxes and materials that would have been included when new.  Without their eccentric obsession, knowing exactly what documentation came with the original Atari 2600, for example, would be impossible now.  99% of people will say, “Who cares?” but if you want to know what something was like “when it was new” as opposed to “when it was garage saled”, then keeping this stuff intact is the only way.  It’s the nuances of history, but it is history none-the-less.

I’m not sure when I began considering myself a “collector” of video game junk.  For the most part, my stuff is just amassed through purchases over the years and I’ve never gotten rid of it.  The only game I’ve ever gotten rid of purposely, was Yoshi’s Story for the N64.  But for the most part gaming has just been a past-time I have enjoyed and blown my disposable income on.  Over the years I have ended up with quite a bit of stuff.  To me it just shows that I’m old.

But I guess I crossed over the line to collector when I started hoarding all these brand new Nintendo 64 controllers.  Since I bought them they have done nothing but sit in their boxes on my shelf, never being played with.  Dissatisfied with third party N64 controllers, my original plan was to use them as my current wore out.  Most of them I acquired for around $30 which is about what they costed back when they were on the market anyway, so using them wouldn’t feel that bad.  But it’s like that nice bottle of wine.  The one that you’re saving for some really special occasion, and every special occasion that comes along, just doesn’t feel quite special enough… so that super special bottle never even gets drank.  That’s when I realized what I was.

So all of a sudden, my 25 years of video game purchases are now a “collection” so I’ve labeled it.  Now I feel like I have to establish some guide lines.  Mostly to set some limits for myself.  Because when you are a “collector” that just means the amount of money you can spend on old junk instantly loses all reason.  If you’ve got the cash to blow, you can buy a certified, sealed copy of “Pinball” for the NES for $19,999.99.  That’s only $19,999.00 more than I paid for my loose cartridge of the same game a year ago.

It's yours for $19,999.99!

It’s yours for $19,999.99!

It’s yours for only $00,000.99!

So what’s the difference between the two?  Well, there’s only one difference that matters.  You can ACTUALLY PLAY one of them.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the $20k version for what it is.  A pure un-altered time warp.  Maybe the only one left in the world.  Sealed behind a plastic enclosure that just as well be a temporal barrier that is impossible to traverse.  And if only two people decide they want it… then it has value.  But one thing is for sure.  If you want to play the game you definitely don’t want that one.  And when it gets right down to it, I’m all about playing my games.

So whatever it is that I happen across, whether its the Vectrex, NES Pinball, or the Wii U, I want to make sure it’s something that I feel like I or anyone that comes over, can pickup and play.  So it should work reasonably well, but not be so pristine that actually using it destroys what it is.  To me the nostalgia of this stuff comes from playing it, not looking at it.

I like to make sure things are as original as possible.  I never got into emulators, because there were always little differences that took away from the experience.  Don’t get me wrong, you could go to great lengths and get very close to the original experience.  But nothing replaces blowing in a cartridge, sliding it into an NES and hearing that springy click as you push the cart down into the system.  The feeling of the original controller in your hand and knowing you don’t have the ability to quick save at any moment.  For me it’s all about being able to shut everything else out, and fore that brief moment, you might be able to convince yourself that it is 1987 again.

That’s where the worth in my collection comes from if you ask me.  Not in its monetary value.  But it’s ability to transport you to another time.  To actually pass through that temporal wormhole and at least let a part of you exist in that world that used to be.  When you’re playing an old game, you remember how simple life used to be.

I really enjoyed growing up, and I have vowed as I get older, to not forget what it was like to be a kid.  Now that I have a little guy of my own it feels important to me that he is able to do the same thing.  I don’t expect him to care about the same things I care about.  I want him to make his own memories.  But I do hope he learns to value his experiences the same way I do.  You can easily get caught up in the desire for more “stuff”.  But in the end, it’s only the experiences that really matter.

So maybe I should finally open up the box on one of those N64 controllers and lay down some blistering Mario Kart 64 times.

I’ll think about it.

Self Improvement

SIC

The time change totally kicked my butt yesterday.  I vaguely remember my alarm going off at 5AM.  I’m pretty sure I remember hitting snooze, but definitely don’t remember finally dismissing the alarm.  Sure enough I wake up and look over at the clock which reads 7:07 AM and a notification on my phone that says, “You missed an alarm ‘Get Up & Go To Work'”.  Whoops.  So that means I slept through 10 minutes of my alarm going off before my phone finally gave up.

So I resolved to make some changes.  I updated the alarm on my phone to be louder.  I also picked a new song as my alarm sound.  I’ve found that I can’t use songs that I like as my alarm.  Because after a couple days of that song waking me up… I grow to hate it.  It totally ruins the song for me.  So I try to pick a song that I sorta like so it’s still pleasant to wake up to, but I’m not too attached to.  Thus I arrived at Frank Sinatra – “Summer Wind” as my new alarm.

retro-coffee

I made a point to set up the coffee maker the night before and set the program.  So that when I wake up, piping hot coffee is waiting for me.  (Which I am enjoying its full robust flavor now).  It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed if you have something warm and waiting for you rather than knowing the first thing you have to do when you get up is a chore.

The third change I’m trying to make is getting cleaned up and dressed right away.  Usually I lounge around in my bathrobe until the last possible second before I have to actually start getting groomed for the world beyond my front door.  And I’m usually groggy and lethargic all morning, until I actually start getting dressed, then I feel like I finally wake up into “day mode”.  So I thought, “What if I just get dressed right away?”  So far… seems to make a difference.

snooze

The final change I made is the most foundation rocking one of them all though…  I disabled the Snooze feature on my phone.  I am a chronic “snoozer”.      I will literally hit snooze for an hour in the mornings.  I just hate waking up.  HATE it.  Once I’m up, I’m good.  But if snoozing is an option, it’s an option I take every time.  So I decided to take that option away from myself.  Today… it worked.

But it’s going to take weeks to see if this move is successful.  “Sleepy Me” is a sneaky bastard.  I have been known to solve the two compound equations that my phone requires to turn off my alarm, go into the other alarm on my phone and set an alarm for T+1 hour, and go back to sleep.  Sometimes with only vague memories of it even happening.  “Sleepy Me” is committed to not giving up on the night.

All I really want is to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night, but not sleep more than I have to.  Sleeping is just time wasted in my book.

Does anyone actually wake up feeling refreshed and energized with a zest for life?  How do you do it?  I’d love to know your secrets.

Backlog

Decided that it was a day for some retro fun.  I picked up Final Fantasy III off eBay a while back.  Weeks ago actually.  I just today finally got around to beginning a file.

While I’d call myself a fan of the Final Fantasy series, my experience with this game is essentially zero.  I’ve heard it’s awesome.  And many people think it’s the best Final Fantasy game of them all, and some people even think it’s the best game ever made.  Again, I can’t comment on any of these claims because until today, I’d never played it!

So far I’m about two hours in and I have to say I’m enjoying it thoroughly.  Even in 2013 this game is compelling.  I can see how in the early 90’s this game would have been epic.  Not that it isn’t epic now, but it’s not really fair to compare this game’s presentation with something from today’s hardware with HD, surround sound, and fully orchestrated soundtracks.

It hasn’t been too difficult, but I have to confess, I really didn’t understand how to use save points AT ALL for a long time.  I thought just walking over the save point activated it… nope not so much.  A fact I only found out after I got my but kicked in the Vargas fight.  It was pretty obvious to me I was supposed to use Sabin’s “Blitz” command, but I failed to notice any explanation on how to use it!  I kept getting “Invalid Blitz Input”.  I died… then found out all those save points I thought I saved at… didn’t.  But after some brief frustration and going all the way back to the first arrival at Figaro Castle… I regrouped myself.

After an event like that, most games I put away and think, I’ll come back to it when I’m not so pissed (Metroid Prime).  But this time, I was so thoroughly enjoying  the game, that I really wanted to get back where I was, and see where it was going.  It took me about 45 minutes to get back to the Vargas fight (ACTUALLY saving frequently along the way this time).  And I made it a point to pay close attention to where it explains how to use that Blitz command.  Only it DOESN’T!  I can only assume in the instruction booklet it explains how to “Blitz”, because no where in the game did it even hint at what to do.  And as far as I can tell, that’s the only way to win that fight.  I had to seek the guidance of the internets to figure out what I was supposed to do there.

You know, there was a time when all you had was an instruction booklet and maybe a friend that had played the game before you to help when you got stuck like that.  You might be able to go buy a magazine with some hints in it at the store, but that would require your mom taking you there, and you know darn well, Mom wasn’t going to take you to the store solely to buy a magazine for a video game you were stuck on.  So you had to REMEMBER you wanted that magazine the next time you happened to be there.  And even then, you were lucky if begging her to buy it worked.  So thanks for the Internet, I guess.

I think for the rest of tonight, I’m going to play some Guild Wars 2 before it’s back to the weekly grind of work and my 1.5 hours of free time each night.  Man, being a grown up is grueling sometimes.  Remind me to write that blog about how I vowed to make gaming a priority for life back when I was 15.