Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tagging Along

Andrea and Mom have been playing more Guild Wars 2 lately, and I’ve been kinda tagging along in there quests to help them along.  It benefits me, because first of all… the more I help, the faster they get to where I am in the game and we can play on together.  And second, because GW2 is so awesome, I get rewards appropriate for my higher level, even though I’m helping them in areas that are many levels below my own, so there’s no reason NOT to!

And as always, I appreciate all the details that go into this game.  Enjoy some fresh screenshots!

Wielding the legendary Fiery Dragon Sword from Guild Wars. One of the perks of playing the original game.

Catapult defense on a fort at Earthworks Bluff.

Distant view of Earthworks Bluff.

Resting at a camp in Manefire Hills.

The Tamini (Centaurs) are a real pain in this area. Here we are off to mess up a few more of ’em!

Fort Salma

Most of the cities and outposts feel very brimming with life. This outpost was pretty quiet in comparison. I guess nobody wants to be this close to these stinky centaur.

That can’t be good.

The List: One Simulation Game

No, I haven’t completely forgotten about this feature!  Sorry that it’s been so long!

This is not the beefiest genre in my collection.  I like Sim games.  But usually I get hooked on them for a few months, I’m hopelessly consumed by them and nothing else, then for whatever reason, I quit playing them for ages until I get the urge to start over.  So I guess you could say I’m not much for the endgame in Sim games, but like the initial experience of creating something.

So here’s the list for the one Sim game I’m taking with me:

One of the most amazing games in the list above is Orbiter.  There is SO much in that game that I completely don’t understand.  But one thing that is pretty cool is that not only can you fly spacecraft around, but you can traverse the entire solar system which is set to scale.  For instance, I’ve taken off from earth and flown to Jupiter.  But that trip took about an hour at 10,000x Simulation speed.  And parking yourself into orbits takes at least a rudimentary knowledge of physics, so it’s super geeky.

Sim City 2000 is still incredibly fun.  It’s hard to believe it’s about to be 20 years old next year.  You gotta love re-naming all your buildings.  Taxing the ever loving hell out of your citizens.  And the gratuitous use of llamas in the news paper are all very satisfying.  The music is iconic… if you ever played Sim City 2000, you will remember those tunes until the day you die.  It’s not without it’s flaws though.  I can’t even have an airport in my city because of the weekly plane crashes which cause fires and destroy neighborhoods.  It has difficulty being completely compatible on modern operating systems so some of the sound effects and animations are a bit off.

Sim City 4 doesn’t have the same nostalgia factor, but if takes the joy of “playing god” to the next level.  That game is so granular, it’s amazing.  You can fine tune your cities finances, utilities, services, etc.  It’s a micro manager’s dream come true.  You can enjoy the building and laying out your city like always, but it’s the tweaking that makes magic for me in this game.

I put Gran Turismo 5 on this list because I do feel that it’s a pretty darn good driving simulator.  If you are used to racing games where the brake button is just because they had an extra button left over on the control mapping, then Gran Turismo games are a bitter dish.  But if you can appreciate taking a machine and finding out what it’s limits are, then this game really starts to open up before your eyes.  It’s a challenge of driver skill to see how much you can get out of your car.  And what I love is that you aren’t always racing super cars, you can drive anything from a PT Cruiser, to a Dodge Viper, to an all out race car.  All the while you are shackled by the realities of momentum, gravity and friction.

The Sims 3 is another game from Maxis, the makers of Sim City.  I actually remember this game being somewhat controversial when it came out the first time around.  There was some questions about the ethics of taking these human characters and subjecting them to the cruelties of things like… building a house without a bathroom in it…   But let’s face it, things like that are the best part of this game.  I only owned up to the Sims 3.  And while it’s often assumed that the demographic for this game skews female, I still love it.  I love that I can build my dream house.  I love that I can roleplay good or evil.  And I love that I can get all my pets to get jobs to support me financially.

I guess probably the oddest inclusion in this list is Flight Simulator 98.  It was one of the first “3-D” games I really remember playing.  And this was on our old 200MHZ PC back in the day.  Yes, it chugged.  But I took a lot of pride in taking off and even landing (sometimes).  I’m actually a bit saddened that the airfield in Chicago which was always the default airport for the game Meigs Field has been razed and turned into a park.  Even though I’ve never actually been there in real life.  Another amazing feature I remember was being able to actually build your own aircraft.  Plugging in values for the wings size and position.  Then I’d take off an see how absolutely horrible it would fly!  Ahh, it was the golden age of PC games for me, and a lot of virtual adventuring was had.

And the decision is….

Sims 3 Screen

The Sims 3

I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I love The Sims.  Epicly huge houses, and putting your sims in ludicrous situations.  I get the most gratification from playing “legit”.  No money cheats.  I play honest… and by that I mean getting six cats and dogs and getting all of them jobs so my Sim can sit around watching TV and maxing out his happiness meter!  I could play this game through generations and generations of Sims!

Phones

I think it made #1 in my list of Top Ten Most Annoying Technological Advances… the Cell Phone.  I cringe every time it rings or I get a text for fear that I’m getting called into work… But most of all it has fundamentally changed how we interact with each other and not for the better.

This past weekend we went to Andrea’s sister’s house.  It’s about a 2 hour drive to get there.  At one point in the evening we are lounging around in the living room the TV is on and I’m vaguely paying attention what is on… when I stop and realize that nobody is talking.  There we sat, Andrea, her sister and her niece… all on their phones.  We’d traveled all the way down to see each other… and none of them were even looking at each other.  Sure they were aware of each others’ presence… but each in their own little bubble.  I was as alone in that room as if I were literally alone…

Now, I’m sure I’m guilty of it at times too… so I don’t want to say I’m holier than thou…  in fact, I partake in it with all the mundane crap I post on Twitter.   But I think there’s definitely a huge issue when we’re missing what’s really happening right in front of us, because we have our noses buried in an LCD screens.

Since that moment, this is another thing that I’ve grown to appreciate about Luke.  He is EVERYTHING about what’s happening right now in the real world.  And if there isn’t anything happening… he whips up something in his imagination… or just screams to let you know he wants to go play and DO something.

We should all be screaming though.  I can’t believe we allow ourselves to be pacified by these short little bursts of “intestingness”.  Yeah, I made that word up.  But really, you check to see if there’s anything new…  What’s interesting?  A quick smash and grab emotional fix.  But the gratification burns out as quickly as it was consumed.  So you come back for more quick hits, again and again.

What are the long term consequences of this behavior?  At best, we’ve just wasted hours and days of our lives on something that has absolutely no lasting value.  How many things can you remember that you read on Facebook today?  Yesterday?  A week ago?  A year ago?  How much time have you spent using social media in those same time frames?  At worst I think we are robbing ourselves of true life experiences.  The kind of experiences that shape us as a person, give us our personality, and make a richer and more meaningful existence.

Maybe I’m just being over dramatic.  But I struggle daily with trying to find the time to not only be a responsible adult, parent, husband, co-worker and friend… but also to do the things I truly want to do.  I place a high value on my own time.  To think of that time gone, lost forever, never to have back… bothers me a bit.   The fact that others have such disregard for what their own time is worth… frightens me.  I don’t want to be 85 and wish that I’d taken the time to write a story, or build a project car, or whatever it is you’ve always thought about doing.  Because someday for you… for me… for every one of us… it WILL be too late.

Please don’t settle for being pacified.  Be amazing.  Be awesome.  Be happy, justified by your own measure and expectations, and not by what others have “pinned’ or how many “likes” you’ve received.  Start something today.  Because if you don’t, you’ll blink and wish you had a decade ago.

Getting the Car

For those out of the loop, this ’79 Caprice is my first car.  Not a lot like my first car… this IS my first car that my Dad is letting me keep for a while… I say that because I still say it’s his that he can have back whenever he says the word.  Until then… Hells Yeah.

I have a lot of respect for those who can proudly proclaim they bought and paid for their first car.  I’m not one of those people.  My parents 100% bought and paid for my first car.  I remember seeing the car sitting with a For Sale sign on the west edge of Cimarron, KS.  At the time I thought it was a Monte Carlo.  It had the same curved back glass I’d seen on many Monte Carlos before, and it just looked too darn sporty to be a regular old Caprice.  Cruising through town in the back seat as Mom karted us around, I remember thinking that would be a cool first car.  But I never really thought it would happen.

A week or two later, Dad said we were going to go look at a car for me.  We pulled up next to that exact car.  I remember thinking “THIS might be MY car!  Hells Yeah!” Dad was busy talking to the owner, a guy we had actually met before as he ran a limo service that we had used a couple time for birthday parties or whatnot.  They were negotiating, but I was circling the car and daydreaming.  Eventually the deal was done.  For $1,000 I had my first car.

So I didn’t buy it.  I STILL have never paid for that car!  My responsibilities were everything that came after that.  Gas, insurance, parts, you name it.  It was my job to keep it running.  The first couple weeks, the car was literally on blocks in our driveway.  Dad took me too the parts store, he told the guy everything we needed and I paid for it.  Not knowing what the heck to do with brake cylinders, spring kits or calipers, I spent a lot of time holding flash lights and just trying to figure out what the heck Dad was doing, why he was doing it, and wondering, how the hell he knew how to do all this stuff!

Once the brakes were fixed, we could finally actually drive it.  I remember taking the car out south of Ingalls and going around some of the curves on the county roads.  The shocks were so bad it felt like you were on water more than you were on solid ground.  So that was obviously the next task.  That was one of those nights I remember Dad staying up probably much later than he wanted to.  I remember he ran into some problem replacing, I think the rear shocks and it took a lot longer than he expected it to.  But he got it done.

The exhaust was shot on it, but instead of taking it to a shop to get it all re-done, Dad and I took it to the shop at the feedyard and took some old fence pipe and welded up some pipes with some “cherry bomb” mufflers.  It definitely had a unique sound, and you could see the bright red mufflers sitting under the floorboards from a distance.

The radio either didn’t work at all, or barely worked.  It was the original cassette deck and I know the tape deck didn’t work at all.  For either Christmas or my Birthday I got a Pioneer CD player and some Pioneer 6×9 speakers to go with it.  One thing I did understand fairly well was how to hook up a stereo, I’d been playing with that stuff for years already in my room in the basement.  So we got that hooked up and from that point forward, it was the car I really remember.

I seem to remember some confusion early on about whether it was an Impala, or a Caprice.  Despite saying Caprice Classic on the dashboard, the insurance and a lot of the other documentation said Impala.  But it certainly was a Caprice.  I’m sure the confusion was mine alone.

As I look at it now, there’s a lot of stuff that’s broken, missing, or not working… I don’t really ever even remember giving it a second thought back then.  It was a cool ride, that was loud, and got me where I wanted to go.  That’s all I ever really wanted.  And I suppose it shouldn’t bug me now.  There’s a lot of things I want to do, like replace the carpet and put bucket seats in there.  Stuff that I’m sure I talked about at some point when I was younger too.  And now that I have the means, I’m sure I’ll get around to it.  But for now… I’m going to keep enjoying it, and driving the heck out of it just like I did back then… only this time with some bite to back up the bark!

Behind the Glass

Andrea and I had some fun Saturday night.  She bought two tickets behind the glass at the Wichita Thunder hockey game.  They’re just a minor league team.  Probably minor minor league but it was still fun.  We’ve both been getting into hockey over the last season or so, and she bought these tickets as a surprise.

We’ve been to a couple Thunder games before, and they’ve always been fun.  But we’ve always talked about how it would be exciting to sit up close right behind the glass.  It’s one of those things that is probably kinda like Nascar.  You get up close to some of the action, but the best view is most likely higher up.  There were times at the far end of the ice, it was difficult to see what was going on.

Offside Faceoff right in front of us!

But it was pretty cool being able to feel the puck smacking the wall right in front of us, and seeing the fights right there.  There was one occasion where I went to go grab another beer, and Andrea said a fight started right in front of her.  She said she was on the big screen with her mouth just hanging open as the two dudes were dukeing it out.

The game started out with Wichita getting its butt kicked.  They were down 0-2 at the end of the 1st.  But came back to tie it up with 0.3 seconds left in the 2nd period.  The game ultimately went to overtime and Wichita lost.  Still a good game though.

Luke stayed with Grandma while we went out, but by the time he’s 3 years old or so, I could see him really enjoying a game like this.  He gets excited when we watch hockey at home, and with the mascot there throwing out prizes into the seats and the “Chuck-A-Puck” contest during the 2nd intermission, he’d probably have a blast there.  There were a lot of other kids there and it was just neat to see all of them yelling and having fun.

I could totally see myself getting season tickets to something like this if it were closer.  We had a lot of fun, and had about the best seats you could get and it wasn’t terribly expensive.  I certainly spent more in beer than we spent on the seats.

No Sense

Here I am, sitting in a room literally surrounded by all of my favorite games, and yet, I can’t decide what I want to play.

I’m not sure if it’s that I’m overwhelmed by all the choices… I could play Super Mario Bros. 2 on NES, or I could play Final Fantasy X on PS2.  How about Mario Kart 64?  That’s always a solid choice.  Or I could play F-Zero GX on Gamecube for some fast and futuristic racing.

But I don’t feel overwhelmed.  I look at all these games and I see the memories I had from playing them.  And it’s that feeling that is stronger than my will to pick it up and either start again, or pick up from where I left off.  I’m sitting here in this retro room and surrounded by all these artifacts of my childhood.  It’s as moving to think about it all as it is to play it all.

For instance, I was looking at the Gamecube, and I couldn’t help but recall the time I was most royally ripped off in my life.  I had deeply desired a Panasonic Q, which was a flashy Gamecube/DVD player from Japan.  I completely over extended myself in my quest to get one.  It was right at the time that Super Mario Sunshine was coming out.  The first 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64.  I was consumed by previews, and a daily stream of information on the game for weeks before its release.  The game first came out in Japan.  I even went as far as to import a Japanese copy of the game.  Only, my Gamecube wouldn’t play Japanese games.

What better Japanese gamecube to get than the Panasonic Q!?  Unfortunately they sold for about $450.  Ouch.   But lo and behold.  I found one on eBay for $250!  What a deal!  I purchased it straight away.  I was giddy with excitement.  Soon I’d have the flashiest Gamecube anyone had seen, I’d have the new Mario game before anyone else, and I would be in Nintendo nirvana!  I even went as far as to look up the eBay seller on AOL messenger and tell them how thankful I was they were selling it and how happy they’d made me.

q

I didn’t have the cash for it.  I put it on my credit card.  It would be okay, I told myself… I was going to sell the Gamecube I had for $150 and then all I’d really have to pay for was $100, which wouldn’t be a problem by the time my next paycheck came in.  And I did sell my Gamecube too.  After all, the Q would be here in just a matter of days.

Those days came, and went.  Each one more excruciatingly long than the last.  After two weeks had gone by, it was clear… my Panasonic Q wasn’t coming.  I tried doing my own detective work, I called the police department from the city the seller supposedly lived in, but the address they used was the address of a gay exercise club… I had gone from great joy, to complete desperation.  I had been ripped off for $250 bucks, and on top of that, I didn’t even have a Gamecube anymore since I’d sold mine to pay for the Q.

How I came to own the actual Gamecube I own today and sits in this room, is just as ridiculous of a story.  Of course I didn’t have the money to go buy another Gamecube, but sometime after the eBay fiasco, I was involved in a traffic accident.  I was coming up on a stop sign, not quite paying attention, and noticed the car stopped in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes!  I stopped just short of the car in front of me, but there was an S10 truck behind me that didn’t stop in time to avoid my sudden maneuver.  We got out and he asked why I stopped so quick, and I asked him why he was following so close!  Long story, short… he left after I got his license plate and insurance number and I waited for the police to come so they could make a report.  Turns out the guy had a suspended license.

After the accident, I then received a check from the other person’s insurance company.  Instead of fixing the car… I bought my replacement Gamecube.

I’m not particularly proud of that story.  It was a time in my life where I was just plain stupid.  I’d let my desires for what I had lusted over drive me past the breaking point.  I would skate so close to the edge that any little tiny bump in the road that wasn’t expected could completely throw me off course.  And they did.  Time and time again, to the point I felt I was so far from where I wanted to be, that I would never get to that place.  I started to stop even caring, and tried not to think about any of it.  The whole time, games were my escape.  They were as dangerous to me as any drug could have been.

Not every memory in this room is as somber as those (just the Gamecube ones really, haha).  Most of the memories in this room are quite cheerful, actually.  But I think there lies my problem when it comes to actually sitting down and playing these games.  I find myself here in the midst of it all, reminiscing about the good times and the bad.  To the point where playing the game might just serve to distract me from those thoughts.

Maybe I just need more time.  Enough time to sit and conjure those thoughts up, but then time still to sit and enjoy the games, because if I skip all the existential crap, these are all some amazing games that were made to be played.  I feel like too often I approach what I’m going to play in such a methodical way that playing anything else besides what fits into my system is like I’m cheating. I miss the days where I would just sift through the games until I just decided to play one… or even more than that, I miss spending the whole day anticipating being home so I could play the one game I’d been thinking about all day.  That’s the biggest part of me “as a gamer” that is missing today.

Halloween 2013

Sorry for the delay getting the pictures up, and just a general lack of writing as of late.  Been super busy at work and I’ve been going to bed about the same time as Luke the past few days, so that didn’t leave much time for anything else!

But here ya go. Luke was a Train Conductor!  We just stayed here in Albert.  The night started out kinda slow, but we walked all over town (which doesn’t take too long here) and Luke did pretty good!