Saturday, December 6, 2008

Coding for the Weekend

Sometimes I feel like I'm not living up to my potential as a programmer. All too often I find myself wishing that I were in a situation where I would be expected to write better code. I feel like there is still so much for me to learn, but I've somehow missed the boat.

I've got a pretty good job. I'm glad to have it and I've got some terrific co-workers. The trouble comes in two flavors. Our company has deep seated custom of doing what is needed at the moment without planning ahead. Being flexible is one thing, but we spend days and days resolving problems which could have been fixed by planning and writing the right code in the first place.

The other trouble I find is a bloated Frankenstein's monster which we dubiously call our legacy code. It is patched together into a terrible tapestry. Some pieces are wonderful gems of ideas and well-written code. But for every pleasing morsel there are seemingly dozens of fetid carcasses. And they are all tied together. Nothing is separated, all is unclean. I cringe at some of the security issues that are just glossed over.

I realize that this scenario isn't exactly uncommon. But the combination of the two problems (at least from my perspective) leaves me in a place I do not want to be. I find myself doing a lot of mediocre work just to get the job done. I never feel like I'm taking ownership of my code, as the kids say. But I can't justify taking the time to fix many of these problems. Those kind of decisions are not part of my job description.

But there are a few rays of light that peek through the dark clouds from time to time. We have a relatively new manager who seems to value most of the software practices that I do. I'm hoping that eventually he will be able to change things. And I always look for little places where I can write better code.

I'm trying to keep abreast of many best practices and new ideas, but it can be difficult. One issue that I worry about is that I have little to no work experience with things such as:

  • Unit testing (let alone having a testing group / phase!)
  • Development life-cycles (Agile, XP, Waterfall, etc.)
  • Design and documentation
  • Code reviews

So I'm trying to learn on my own and incorporate things into my work as best as I can. But my recurring lament is the lack of time for working on my own projects. I'd like to participate in some open source projects and work on my own projects. But they always get pushed to the back-burner.

So I guess for now I'll just keep plugging along like good ol' Charlie Brown. I'll try to do the best I can, but I know that there will still be many days where I'm still coding for the weekend.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


As I've enjoyed this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I have had time to reflect on many things for which I am grateful.

The first and most important thing I am thankful for is my beautiful wife. She is amazing. There is never a day that goes by where she doesn't do something for me. Some days it is wonderfully new. Other times it is just the multitude of little things. But every day she lets me know that she loves me. And I love her too.

I am grateful for my family. On my side of our family, I have people whom I have loved all my life. I have an adorable little nephew. On my wife's side, I have people who have taken me into their homes and lives.

I'm grateful for our home, our cars, and our jobs. Although sometimes expenses or frustration can cloud my view, when I stop and survey what I have, I am content.

There are so many things I am grateful for. Some are small things like playing Rock Band or watching a movie. Tasting delicious food. Or just sleeping in under a warm blanket.

Sometimes the holiday season can feel cliché, but I am genuinely thankful for the reminders the season provides for me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


They say that one should be ready for when Opportunity knocks. I thought I was. But he is elusive, and is known to be a consummate doorbell-ditcher (albeit he knocks rather than rings). I flung the door wide open and saw him there.

He seemed a bit startled to see me. I think the door opening so quickly had caught him by surprise. I motioned for him to come in. He hesitated. I reached out to grab him. He bolted.

It was sad to see him go. But I'll be ready for him when he comes around next.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"Mr. Spock, scan that book!"

I am not exactly sure what started it, but recently I have been in the mood to be reading again. I have not done much reading for my own enjoyment since before I graduated from college. I suppose you could say that I've been busy doing other things. I have certainly gorged myself on a virtual buffet of video games and DVDs. But I feel like I should be reading more. So I eventually got around to it.

Typically the biggest challenge I face regarding reading comes (ironically) before I even set my eyes on a page. I have trouble choosing a book. For some reason or another, the selection process hampers my progression until I strongly resemble The Thinker -- complete with a stony expression.

However, this time around I had a helpful jump start. I've been listing to the Security Now Netcast and they recommended an author by the name of Michael McCollum. I've always been a big sci-fi fan, so I wandered over to his site and checked it out. As I read some of his short stories, I felt the electricity start to flow. Pretty soon my engine turned over and started running on its own. I was ready to really start reading again.

Now I just need to get my hands on some books. I looked on my shelf, but only found a lonely handful of novels. Only one of them was science fiction. My wife has a few... but no science fiction. So I devoured the single Star Trek book over this weekend. My goal this week is to get my hands on a few more books to read.

Another influence for reading that I've had has come from my work. Occasionally my co-workers will talk about the books they are reading. Then one of them invited me to try out a site called Goodreads which is sort of a social networking site about books. So if any of my friends out there are on it, or choose to try it out, let me know what you think. Currently I'm using it to cull a list of books to read.

I'm excited about reading again. It seems like a good thing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Goliath Says, "Comm-link Online."

Last week I decided to test the waters at my work concerning instant messaging. When I started my new job I was told that instant messaging was discouraged, but that our department had been cut some slack. I was given the impression that it would probably be alright for me to use one.

But I chose not to. I thought that as a new employee, I didn't want the first impressions I would make to be exploring the edge of what was allowed. Also, I thought it might be good for me to focus on getting to know the new job. So I decided to wait.

Fast-forward to last week. Coming off a busy week of putting in extra hours, things seemed slow and laid-back. Plus management was gone on a retreat, so things were really quiet. I installed my IM client.

I chatted with a couple friends. It was really nice to be able to communicate again. Especially since some of them are people whom I rarely see in person. And it was nice to see the list of friends there and know that I could chat with them, if I wanted to.

But somehow I didn't feel quite satisfied. Being plugged back into my psychic-like connection wasn't all that I thought it would be. And in the back of my mind, I felt a nagging doubt start to grow. What if this is not okay? What if I get in trouble?

So since having installed the client, I've only been on intermittently. This morning I asked my manager about it. He said it should be fine, just keep it on the down-low. Phew!

I'm back.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crashing More Than Just Castles

With the recent release of the game Castle Crashers, there has been some controversy about bugs in the game. This has led me to think about the difficulty of programming.

This topic has been exacerbated by a recent event at my work. I've been learning how to do iPhone/iPod Touch application development. It is really interesting. It's also very nice to be learning something new. Development has been going really well, but then yesterday I hit a nasty problem. The program is crashing due to a memory issue I cannot find. (For those interested: somewhere something is trying to free an object which has already been freed.)

I spent several hours wrestling with this problem. The debugger was of no help, nor were the tools for tracking objects and memory leaks. I tried all of my usual techniques, but just couldn't find the problem. After I had spent an extra two hours at work, I decided that the best thing to do would be to go home. On Monday I plan to go back and take the component completely apart and start from scratch. Very annoying.

There is a tried and true method for fixing really confounding problems like this, and I'm hoping that it will work in this case as well. The method is this:
  • Go home.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Get the problem out of your head for a while.
  • Go back and take a fresh look at it.

I am sometimes amazed at how complex programming can be. Computers are complicated enough to begin with! After taking a class in which we built an 8-bit computer from CAD tools, I often think it is a miracle that computers work at all! Then on top of that you add OS software, all sorts of libraries, and your own code... there are many layers.

Unfortunately, one of the truths of programming is that there will be bugs. For non-trivial programs, it is asymptotically hard to find and fix all the bugs in a program. Luckily, like a squeaky wheel the worst bugs usually reveal themselves and are subsequently fixed.

But despite the many bugs and occasionally rip-out-your-hair problems, I love programming. It is a euphoric experience to be able to see the results of well-written code.

P.S. Castle Crashers is a great game!

UPDATE: I figured out the problem with my iPhone program and had it fixed within an hour of showing up to work. Like I said, tried and true.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

With a Ph.D. in Horribleness

A few weeks ago I found a little gem that you may have heard about: Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. I realize that I'm late to the party of telling everyone about how great it is, but if you somehow haven't seen it yet then click that link already!


This blog will still be here when you're done.

Dr. Horrible is a great example of how to tell a story. It really just gets in there, tells the tale, and then is done. And it doesn't hurt to have some clever humor either. It really helps establish an opinion of mine which I've held for some time (and I believe I've written about it a little before) which is basically this:

A good movie (or show in this case) is mostly determined by the writing and storytelling rather than special effects, attractive actors/actresses, or other gimmicks.

(By the way, I'm a fan of the old-school way of calling them actresses instead of actors... although heroine can be kind of a problem.)

There are actually several awesome examples from Dr. Horrible, but to avoid any spoilers I'll just focus on the setup. Within the first 5 minutes of the show you learn basically everything you need to know:

  • Dr. Horrible is an aspiring villain who desires social change (amongst other things) and wants to rule the world.
  • The Dr. has a video blog.
  • The Dr. is an inventor. His current project is the "Freeze Ray".
  • There is an "Evil League of Evil" which the Dr. wants to be accepted into.
  • The Dr.'s nemesis is Captain Hammer.
  • Dr. Horrible has a crush on a girl, but he's too shy to talk to her.

Additionally it provides a nice setup for Bad Horse and Captain Hammer, gives the viewer with a general feel for the show, and has plenty of humor. And it does all this exposition within the regular context of the show. No need to have an intro sequence or some other sort of contrived method of getting the message across.

I guess what it all boils down to is that there need to be more Joss Whedons in the world, and they need to be writing in Hollywood. No one will miss all the drivel-spawning clowns who currently claim to be screenwriters.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Never Ask That Question"

"Could you help me to understand you?"
"Can you help me to understand you?"

(Image from here.)

As a by-product of my recent job search, I've begun to ask myself a question which I haven't yet found a good answer for. It lurks in the back of my mind, growing seemingly more ominous each time I think on it.

"What do I want to being doing in my career?"

It doesn't help that Haylee and I have been watching Babylon 5 recently. My mental Kosh doesn't like the question. Perhaps the Morden-esque nature of the question lends to part of the ominous feeling. But putting that aside, I'm just not sure what I want.

When I was looking at jobs out there, I found that there are many which I'm not very well qualified for due to lack of work experience. I've only been out in the work force for 2 years, so that's not too bad, but I worry that my skills are too focused in the web development sphere. I feel like I've got an excellent education and aptitude, so part of me wants to be branching out more. Proving, perhaps, that I'm a well-rounded programmer capable of much more. So in my search I looked for places where I could get a Java or C/C++ based job.

But that didn't pan out. My most promising leads were in web development. Not that I mind terribly; I enjoy it well enough. But I feel like I don't want to be typecast (what a great programming pun, by the way. heh).

Looking for a job is one activity which I really dislike. In fact, I don't know anyone who feels otherwise. It's the sort of thing that you do out of necessity, and yet try to procrastinate it as much as possible. But I did try to grab hold of one ray of hope I found: getting a job in the gaming industry.

I think that being a game programmer is something I'd really enjoy. I'm pretty sure of it actually. I've certainly spent a lot of my free time over the years doing it for myself. But there is a nagging bit of doubt in my mind about some details, such as: not being in control of the project, having to work on stupid games, etc. On the other hand, it would be a good chance to get out of web development city... or at least live in the suburbs.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet found a chance to get into the industry. Again the lack of work experience in relevant areas hinders me. But it could still be a possibility in the future.

All of this has led me to think about what I would do if I could choose. What programming projects have most interested me? Mostly games that I've worked on. (Ironically, my Imperium game was built in a web development sphere.) So I've been wondering if there is something there that I could do. Is there a way that I could take one of my projects and make money with it?

I'm scared to take a leap. What I do for now has to be a side-project -- I won't quit my job to try something like this... not now, not without some promise of success. But then I find myself in a dilemma: when would I actually work on it? I really don't want to spend what little free-time I have these days doing more coding. It's almost as if I need it to be my job.

I shall have to think more on this...

"I will teach you."
"About yourself?"
"About you. Until you are ready."
"For what?"
"To fight legends."

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Here at my new job I've been introduced to Pandora Radio. I find it very interesting, especially with its ties to the Music Genome Project. It is very nice to have something to listen to at work, especially with the variety of music available.

The timing of this find matched up with the new iPhone update which brought the new 3rd-party apps. I haven't really used the iPhone app much, but it seems to work pretty well even over the EDGE network. But the coincidence of timing piqued my interest in the service.

I really like the idea of finding new music by matching qualities with songs or artists which you like. I rarely listen to traditional radio because they play so much junk that I don't enjoy (and that's not to even start talking about commercials). But on Pandora I can control the experience enough to get music that I like.

Of course, playing music that I own on my iPod trumps Pandora overall because I have full control. But then I'm not finding new music.

Now I just need a way to find / review movies and games in a similar way. It's a little bit like what you see on online stores: "People who bought what you bought also bought these things you might like." But the power here is that you aren't just limited to one (well, maybe a few) variables to compare against.

It makes me wonder what kind of algorithms they use to create the playlists...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I am feeling pretty isolated these days. As I've indicated in my previous posts, things have been changing a lot over the last few weeks. But one change that I did not expect was a drop-off in my level of communication, especially with friends.

Changing jobs seems to be the crux of the matter. I had made friends with people I worked with at my last job, but now I'm not seeing them every day. I like the guys I'm working with now, but we don't have that established relationship.

But the biggest difference is my lack of online presence via instant messenger. Like a psychic cut off from his power, I feel incomplete without my ethereal connection to my friends. I used to sense the presence of my friends and I could communicate with them at will. But now it's gone.

The policy at my new job discourages the use of instant messengers and the like, but our department has been cut some slack. For now however, I don't feel like installing one would be the wisest choice I could make. I've got to get to know my place a little better first.

I've only recently become aware of how this is affecting me, and I'm interested to see how widespread the symptoms and changes will be. I'm wondering how I will adjust to the changes, but perhaps the more interesting question is whether I've been unconsciously adjusting already.

A corollary I find of interest is how people adjust to communication technology in general. I often think that my sister-in-law doesn't need to be so obsessed with her phone. We joke that it would have to be surgically removed. But now I start to wonder if without her phone she feels cut off as I now do?

So for my friends out there who are missing me on your contact lists, if you felt like someone was crying out and then was suddenly silenced, it was me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back In The Saddle Again

Over the last few weeks my life has been turned upside down, stirred up, and basically changed completely. But now things seem to be settling down pretty well, so I figured I'd giddy-up for big post #50.

(Speaking of posting #50, since it's been just about exactly one year, this means I've averaged almost a post per week. Not too bad, says I.)

Married life is excellent. The biggest adjustment I'm finding seems to be related to how I spend my time. It used to be that I scheduled my time around when I could be with my fiancé. Now we're always together and I'm having to figure out new ways to schedule my time. It feels like I haven't spent nearly as much time playing games over the last few weeks. I actually get to bed at a decent hour now!

I'm also settling into my new job. Two weeks after being laid off from my old job I had a new job offer. I felt pretty good about it, so I accepted. Now I'm getting to know the people, learning about the existing code I'm working with, and basically finding my place. I feel like I have to ask a lot of questions, but they are all related to how things work here. So I think that's pretty good.

Another interesting thing that has found its way into my week is Dungeons & Dragons! My friends recently expressed interest in playing again, and we've scheduled time to play once a week. I've taken on the role of DM and we're continuing the campaign I started about two years ago.

Thus overall things are going really well for me right now. The dust from the major life events is clearing, and I feel like things have turned out really well.

Friday, June 20, 2008


My wife and I are having a wonderful time on our honeymoon! It still seems a little strange to realize that we are married, but I'm very happy that we're husband and wife. Being on vacation with my best friend and lover is fantastic!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Disregarding Signs and Portents

Today I was laid off for the first time. I've never been fired yet, and hopefully I won't ever have to find out what that's like. Things have not been great at work lately, and the company is laying off a rather large percentage of employees.

I'm not particularly worried. I'm sure I'll find a good job soon. In fact, over the last few months I had been thinking about finding a new job anyway. There are several reasons for that, mostly for new and different experiences.

But the thing that concerns me is how I've ignored all the warning signs. I've been walking in the midst of Shadows for some time now. I've known that things needed to change. The writing on the wall has been visible and even read by me for some time. But I failed to act.

Luckily I was jarred out of my inaction before finding myself at the point of no return. The timing isn't great with my wedding next week, but luckily my financial situation is stable enough to handle it. Now I just need to move forward.

If there are any of you out there who know my secret identity and are willing to lend a helping hand, I'd greatly appreciate it. If you hear of any programming job openings, or if you have some people I should show a resume to, please let me know.

Bonus points if you caught the references.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One May Post

One may or may not post. But I have chosen to do so. The last month has seen my blog enter a state of dereliction, quietly drifting in the ethereal tide. But now I'm bringing her out of mothballs for an update.

To say that all is well would be an understatement. I'm at a great place in life. I'm happier than ever, thanks to my amazing fiancé whom I shall marry in just three weeks! It feels like it's been forever since we were engaged, now the time is almost at hand.

Our house is shaping up quite nicely. After my roommates moved out, we labored for a week cleaning this place and moving all her stuff in. It was quite the ordeal, but things are looking great. There are still boxes all over, but we are slowly bringing order out of chaos.

Those things have occupied most of my time. But I should mention two other awesome little things that happened recently:

  • I saw Iron Man. This is a great superhero movie. One of the best I've ever seen. Besides having a truly glorious suit, he also has an AI to be envious of. Nor would I mind a personal assistant.

  • I finished my $100 Babylon 5 collection by picking up Season 1 when it went back on sale at Best Buy. This is still one of my favorite TV shows of all time. I'm hoping that my soon-to-be wife will enjoy it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Say Uncle!

I became an uncle this week. It seems a little unreal – it still hasn't quite sunk in yet, I guess. He's a cute little guy! I'm happy for my sister and her husband. They seem to be doing pretty well.

My family is changing so fast! It's crazy! But it's great. And I even got to hold the baby.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why I'd Rather Play D&D, But Don't

I feel like I missed out. I never really tried "classic," pen-and-paper role playing until just last year. Prior to that I had little exposure and never really gave it a chance. But once I did I was hooked!

Unfortunately I was fated to only get a small (albiet delectable) taste. My friends introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons but then orphaned me. Now I wander a dreary wasteland of unfulfilled dreams and scattered tetrahedrons.

I think my favorite aspect of role playing is the freedom. You can be spontenanious, creative, and inventive. There are no rules so hard and fast that they cannot be bent or broken. Although there are books and books (all of which being tomes) of rules, everything is ultimately left up to the GM and the players.

That kind of freedom isn't found in video games. You can try to add it yourself, but it doesn't affect anything. You are just playing your own imaginary game -- the rules are rigid and the environment fixed. And as a programmer I respect the difficulty of trying to make games with increased freedom. The only interaction you get is between other players who are also bound to the game's system.

So all in all, I'd much rather play a role playing game with friends than video games.

But video games have one great allure: they can be played by yourself.

That's the biggest problem I've had. It seems nigh impossible to schedule my own time to really play a role playing game, let alone try to get any friends to commit to such a schedule. Maybe one day I'll get my chance. I know there are some dedicated people who play at the local game stores... but I don't know them. It's much more fun to play with people you know.

So for now, I guess I'll keep playing my video games.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Electronic Pony Express

In the last few years I've read articles now and then describing how easily the intention of our electronic communication (email, instant messages, forum posts, etc.) is misunderstood. Tone is especially hard to get across. For example, something written sarcastically is often taken as harsh or offending.

I've experienced this myself on occasion. From time to time I have written things which I had believed to be well thought out and non-hostile, yet people took up arms about it. I find myself having to go out of my way to expressly and overtly state my true intention of not wanting to offend.

This problem has caused me to wonder how written communication has been interpreted in the past. It seems like it used to take a woman to start a Trojan war. Now you just post a comment on their blog. But was it always that way?

Letters were a common and important form of communication for many years. Did these written communiques have this same problem we see today with email? Or has the problem manifest itself due to differences in how electronic messages are sent and received?

If Ben Franklin wrote a letter to George Washington, would George have flown off the handle? "How dare he imply such a thing! Forsooth!"

It seems like one big difference is found in the effort and care taken in the art of writing letters. I say art because when you compare a handwritten letter with an email there tends to be a big difference. In our age of instant, prolific, electronic text have we abandoned the craftsmanship which carried our intent? Or do we just save time now, because letters never were any better?

In any case, it certainly seems like the world could greatly benefit from increased numbers of wordsmiths.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paving My Road With Good Intentions

It has been almost a month since I started working on my game again. I feel like I've made some good progress on it. And yet, when I look at the long list of things to do I feel somewhat discouraged. I suppose it is mostly due to not having worked on it much these last two weeks.

For about the first ten days I was really excited. I stayed up a little too late and thought about it a little too much. But I kept plodding along until I got to one of the first complex parts. That's about when life stepped in with other matters which required my attention.

Nevertheless, I still am interested in working on my game. I plan to come back to it. Despite the title of this post, the plan is to pour some actual development asphalt down on this road. Intentions alone just don't have the requisite traction. It will take time (quite a bit of it actually), but I plan to keep working on it. Time will tell.

Still, my primary goal was to start a programming project for myself. That goal has been met so far. So I can console myself in that fact.

In a way it is sad to think of the various projects (programming or otherwise) that I've embarked on yet never finished. Some barely got out of the starting gate before collapsing on the ground, victims of a premature death. Yet life is always full of more important things. I believe that for the most part, I've been successful at setting priorities and getting the necessary things done.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meeting My Successor

Today I left work early to help judge a science fair. I really enjoyed it. But little did I know that I was about to meet my CMESC successor.

When I was in high school I worked for a place called the CMSEC (I won't bother explaining it... that would be a very long post). I enjoyed that job like no other. I still think about it sometimes. I wish I could make a living working there. If I could I'd be back in a heartbeat.

So imagine my surprise when I'm talking to this kid and he turns out to be the head programmer there! It was so much fun to talk to him. It was like meeting a friend I didn't know I had. It's nice to know that the CMSEC is in such capable hands. When this kid gets into a CS degree there will be no stopping him!

In some ways I envy his position. He's doing some of the things that I always wished I could do there. But who knows? Perhaps someday I will be able to work with him on some amazing projects. I still know how to dream.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wiki While You Work

I've known about wikis for quite a while now. The poster-child is Wikipedia which has all sorts of interesting information. But until recently, I never really did anything but read them.

At work we installed a wiki on our internal server. It seemed like a good way to let employees add their own documentation and other important company information. And then suddenly I found that I was enjoying it. The wiki made it easy to put up content, and being empty it cried out for me to start adding pages.

Before I knew it we had stared documenting all kinds of things. Then we installed the Trac project management tool to help us manage our main project. Lo and behold, it has a wiki too! Now I'm finally getting around to adding documentation for our project!

This week I decided that I would go ahead and start working on my game (see my previous post). So what did I do? I created a wiki on my home computer for my game.

I think I've got some kind of wiki fever!

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Galactic Empire

A couple years ago, I set my mind to creating a game. I worked on it a little during that first summer, but really didn't get around to making it work until that winter when I was on break from school. It seems strange to think how long it has been since I created it.

The game was one of galactic conquest. It involved exploration, researching technology, and fighting over systems with other players. You could even design your own ships (according to the rules of the game).

I had a lot of help from my friends to build it. They gave me some great suggestions, and I programmed it. We had some good times playing that game.

Every once in a while, I get the desire to make games. But programming a game takes a lot of time and energy. Lately I've been thinking about this game. At one point I had met with some friends and hashed out ideas for a second version. I really like the direction we were headed with it. I think the game would be greatly improved, and we even had some ideas to fix some fundamental problems with the game.

I've tossed ideas around for a little while, but there are two main things holding me back:
  • Time
  • Players

    It took me a good while to build the original game. I'm not sure how many hours, but I'm sure it was in the hundreds. Right now, I just don't feel like I have that kind of time.

    The other issue is who would I play the game with? I'm sure that I could get some friends to play with me for a while, but in the long term I'm not so sure. But part of me just wants to build it anyway. Even if it is just for my own satisfaction.

    Sometimes I wish I could just work 4 days a week at my regular job and then work 1 day a week on my own projects. The weekends are too busy with other things to devote a whole day on a project like this. But perhaps I can start getting up earlier on Saturdays (wait, no sleeping in?) to work on this project for a couple hours a week.

    I've toyed with some ideas for it. I've thought about buying some web hosting to run the game. I could build a site for it and see if anyone wants to donate to the project. I've also thought about building it in a different way so it wouldn't require a central server. I've even thought about making the whole thing open-source... although that idea makes me cringe because I want to retain control!

    If you have played the game with me (you know who you are) and would like to see a new and improved version, let me know! But for now, my plans are still up in the air.
  • Saturday, February 9, 2008

    The Lost Arts of Spelling & Grammar

    Recently I've been noticing errors in spelling and grammar popping up everywhere. Now I know that I'm not perfect in these areas (punctuation has always given me an especially hard time), but I keep noticing these things.

    I see them all the time at work. Sometimes from co-workers, many times from clients or other companies we are working with. It seems like people just don't look at what they write anymore, let alone toss it to a spell checker.

    A bumper sticker on my co-worker's car stood out to me the other day, its poor grammar diverting my attention enough to ruin the joke. "Caution: I drive as bad as you," it said. And all I could think about was, "Shouldn't that be 'as badly as you'?"

    Another example comes from some local signage. I have seen this same message at both at the local IHOP and rec center. It reads, "Open door slow." At the IHOP, somebody had tried to add the requisite "ly" to the end. I imagine this must have been done by some kind of traveling monk who had been carefully trained in the old ways.

    Your and you're; its and it's; there, their, and they're -- how is it that these words are so confusing as to lead everyone and their canine to get it wrong?

    Is it really that hard to do things right? Is English grammar just that difficult? Or maybe no one cares? It's just hard for me to take something seriously when it's written so terribly. I see this on the Internet all the time. People write their opinion on some topic or another, but all their points are immediately diffused when I see such travesties as "omg ur so dumb. lol." But the Internet has a lot of issues when it comes to language, authorship, and editing. So I'll save that discussion for a later post.

    Now, on occasion, I find it humorous to sarcastically pervert the English language. But I worry that sometimes I step out of the realm of satire and enter the desert of lazy incompetence. You must first know the rules and adhere to them in order to know when to break them for dramatic emphasis.

    I just find the whole situation appalling and sad. I'm afraid that the future holds a post-apocalyptic wasteland -- linguistically speaking.

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    To Vote, or Not to Vote?

    I don't really follow politics. I just don't find it very interesting. But sometimes I think I should know a little more about what's going on in government.

    In any case, the recent developments in the Presidential campaigns has brought me to an interesting question. What do you do when you don't like or can't support any of the candidates? When it comes time for me to vote in the national election, what should I do? In the past I've taken up the stance of voting for the lesser evil, so to speak. But if I really have no preference, should I even vote at all?

    I've grown up hearing that everyone should vote. There are always various reasons presented, such as:
  • "Your vote matters!"
  • "You should involve yourself the the democratic process!"
  • "You are expressing your opinion! It's your voice in government!"
  • "It's your civic duty!"
  • "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain about how things are!"

    But the problem is that my vote (in this instance) probably does not matter! The candidates I would have voted for are all gone! There are so many voters, but only a handful of candidates. And even if my vote does matter, it will only matter in my particular area of the country. My vote will either resonate with the popular vote in my state or will be drown out by the majority (there are precious few times where this is not the case).

    In some ways I feel it would be more of a statement to not vote for a Presidential candidate. I'd be basically saying that I don't approve of any of them. Silence can be a method of communicating too... unfortunately it is very passive. In voting it cannot be distinguished from apathy. But what would happen if a great number of people all abstained from voting for any candidate? Would that send a message, or would it just be an interesting statistical fact overshadowed by the drug addictions of the current pop star?

    Of course I will still complain, no matter the outcome. I feel I do have that right. I'll just file it here under "free speech".

    Now I'm not advocating that people shouldn't vote at all. (You can all put down your torches and pitchforks.) There are other issues and candidates for other positions to vote for. If no one voted, or if the general trend was not to vote then our democratic republic would quickly break down. But in this particular situation, what is to be done?

    In our government, our leaders are supposed to represent us. But what happens when they do not? I suppose that the current candidates represent a lot of other people in the nation, so there must be more that agree with them than agree with me. I just hope that they are average citizens, rather than vocal minorities or lobbyists.

    In the end, I trust that the check and balance systems of our government will ensure that one terrible President will not single-handedly destroy the Union. If things are all that terrible then in four years we'll get a new President. So for now I'll just have to ponder whether 'tis nobler to cast a vote callously, or to remain silent and uncounted. Ay, there's the rub.
  • Wednesday, January 30, 2008

    The Color of My Eyes

    I learned my colors when I was young;
    the skies are blue and grass is green.
    Though they have different names in every tongue,
    everyone seems to agree on what colors they've seen.
    But could it be that the red you see,
    looks quite different to me?

    Now we'd agree that the color of the school bus
    is quite obviously a yellow hue.
    But if you could see through my eyes without a fuss,
    you might find that same vehicle to be a rather brilliant shade of blue!
    Are skies of yellow and grass of red
    things you see daily in your head?

    Although we might see different colors with our eyes,
    we've been brought up calling each by a certain name.
    And thus we wouldn't ever realize
    that our views are not the same.
    For if you call it blue,
    I will too.

    Sadly we may never know
    if color is really a matter of perception,
    for there is no way to show
    the brain's interpretation of the eye's reception.
    But it's fun to think that you might see a purple orange.

    Set Phasers to Fail!

    Recently at work I've been getting the short end of the stick. Or at least it sure seems that way. Things have been spiraling out of control on one of our projects. We had been working on it for quite a while with no known deadline. Eventually we set a deadline which I believed to be internal only and also contingent on getting a merchant account set up. But through some miscommunication and forces outside my knowledge (let alone control), said deadline got a lot more emphasis on the dead part.

    I know that there is more I can do to let people know when a project is not going to make it on time. I can do more to be involved. But even when I am letting them know, it seems like I get no slack. There is no one supporting me. It's always, "Well we promised the client, so you'd just better do it because we aren't gonna cover for you at all."

    Sometimes I feel like the boy who cried wolf... except that every time I cry, "Wolf!" there actually is a wolf there, its wild fangs sinking into my flesh.

    In any case, last week was a crunch week. We worked and worked but with no end in sight. What needed 2 or 3 weeks to do correctly had to be done in a couple of days. It all culminated with my project manager, the owner of the company, and the client all standing around my desk. Luckily they decided on a way to save face for themselves while giving me a little more time.

    I just don't understand how things tend to get so out of control all the time. And it's not like this project has been some special exception. I'm just glad that these issues aren't a regular occurrence. It just seems to me that if you are going to launch a software product, you should at least try it out yourself first! There needs to be testing time! And it should just be expected that software development will have delays.

    Oh well, I guess I'm just ranting now. I know that many other companies have similar software woes. It's just hard to play Scotty on every single episode.

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    All the Live Long Day

    I had to work today. Working on a Saturday is no fun. But when I chose to become a computer programmer, I knew there would be times when I'd have to work more than 40 hours in a week. I'm just glad that it hasn't become a regular occurance. Maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to avoid it altogether.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    It's a Long Way to the Top

    I love to play Rock Band. It has everything that was great about Guitar Hero and then some. The only thing that it needs now is more songs. And apparently Harmonix is more than happy to provide.

    There are quite a few songs that I would love to see in Rock Band. But if I could choose only one song, I think it would have to be Follow You Down by the Gin Blossoms. That song would be so much fun.

    Anything by They Might Be Giants would be much appreciated. A lot (okay, well almost all) of their songs wouldn't translate directly, but I think they could be converted pretty nicely. I'd love to be able to play Snail Shell.

    There are a bunch of songs from the first two Guitar Hero games which I'd like to see come to Rock Band too:
  • Stellar, Incubus
  • More Than a Feeling, Boston
  • Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie
  • Surrender, Cheap Trick
  • Carry On Wayward Son, Kansas
  • Strutter, Kiss
  • Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet
  • Killer Queen, Queen
  • I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones
  • You Really Got Me, Van Halen
  • All Of This, Shaimus
  • Even Rats, The Slip

    Anything by AC/DC would be great too. It would be fun to have Highway to Hell, Back In Black, or It's a Long Way to the Top.

    Some other songs I'd like to see:
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's, Deep Blue Something
  • Roll to Me, Del Amitri
  • The Impression That I Get, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
  • Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, The Police
  • Beautiful Day, U2
  • Vertigo, U2
  • The Middle, Jimmy Eat World
  • Breathless, The Corrs
  • Eye of the Tiger, Survivor

    There is a ton of game music that would be fun too. I mean, the Black Mages are enough proof, aren't they? But sadly game music typically doesn't have a vocal track.

    There are some anime songs which would rule too... if only I could sing the lyrics correctly.

    So there you go. I'm sure that there are others, but these are the ones I could think of right now.
  • Saturday, January 12, 2008


    Last night I proposed to my sweetheart, and she said yes! So now we are engaged to be married! We are planning to get married sometime mid-June.

    Thursday night I told her that I wanted to go out to dinner on Friday. Then on Friday I didn't call as I usually do when leaving work because I didn't want her to come over to my place. Instead I picked up some roses and showed up unexpectedly (well, not completely) at her door. I took her to her favorite restaurant for dinner.

    Then after dinner I took her up the canyon to the place we went for our very first date. We've also had some other great times up the canyon, so it was a special place. I told her it could be the site of one more important event as I turned on our song on the CD player, then I got out of the car and went around to her side.

    I knelt down there and proposed. With tears in her eyes she said "yes".

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    This Was a Triumph

    I finally got to play Portal this week. It is one of the best games... ever. There's really not much I can say that hasn't already been said in other reviews, so I'm just jumping on the bandwagon here.

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    .:/= ;MH/, ,=/+%$XH@MM#@:
    -$##@+$###@H@MMM#######H:. -/H#
    .,H@H@ X######@ -H#####@+- -+H###@X
    .,@##H; +XM##M/, =%@###@X;-
    X%- :M##########$. .:%M###@%:
    M##H, +H@@@$/-. ,;$M###@%, -
    M####M=,,---,.-%%H####M$: ,+@##
    @##################@/. :%H##@$-
    M###############H, ;HM##M$=
    #################. .=$M##M$=
    ################H..;XM##M$= .:+
    M###################@%= =+@MH%
    @################M/. =+H#X%=
    =+M##############M, -/X#X+;.
    .;XM##########H= ,/X#H+:,

    Wednesday, January 9, 2008

    Building a Better World... of WarCraft

    In my previous post, I mentioned some ideas that I have some ideas to improve World of WarCraft. Well, improve it in my eyes at least.

    Improved Itemization

    My biggest problem with the itemization in WoW is that it is so linear. Especially in armor and weapons. Everything you get tends to be better or worse than what you already have. Occasionally you'll stumble across an item where you aren't sure which is better. But that doesn't happen nearly enough. And once you hit the level cap it seems like everyone is using the same items. Everyone is trying to get the same items, basically.

    There are a few things I'd like to see changed. The first is equivalent items. There need to be more items which are basically equivalent, but look different and have different stats, or better still, abilities. (Oh, and in sets too... it would be nice if it were easier to run around without looking like you got all the family hand-me-downs.) For example, perhaps there is a quest reward where you can choose between a fire and ice sword. Both do the same amount of damage, they proc the same, identical DPS. But one does fire damage while the other does ice. Now you suddenly have an interesting choice. Players wouldn't just choose the one they want based on which does more damage. Now they are wondering which element type they want. Or with armor, which resistance do you want?

    The second thing I'd like to see is different damage types. Basically the same idea as in WarCraft III or the upcoming StarCraft II. Currently, every weapon type is basically the same. Sure they look different, but other than stats and possibly a talent, they are the same. An axe is just a slow sword. A dagger is a fast sword. A staff is a two-handed sword is a two-handed axe. But if there were different damage types then staves could be blunt weapons. Swords could be slashing. Daggers could be piercing. And then your armors could have different resistance types! Cloth, leather, mail, and plate would suddenly be different than just the amount of damage mitigation they provide.

    Another thing that needs to be changed is that resistance types need to be used more. They already have them in the game, but usually you only build up resistance gear if you are raiding, or maybe for arena PvP.

    Finally, one change that I think could work pretty well is if each item had a slight range of randomness to its stats. So for example, one Spinal Reaper might have a slightly higher DPS than another. These stats would be finalized for the specific instance of the weapon upon creation (i.e. when it drops or is made). If the stats for items overlapped a little then sometimes people would be using weapons which are typically worse because they got lucky and it's better than usual.

    More Classes (Or Maybe None?!)

    Adding more classes is pretty obvious and has been called for across the board. There are still a lot of good ideas out there. I can understand that it's hard to flesh out a full class, especially for level 70 or 80 characters. But when you're Blizzard raking in tons of money and have a history of incredible creativity, it seems like you could figure something out.

    But perhaps a more interesting idea would be to get rid of classes altogether... or at least how they are currently implemented. I think it would be awesome if you could mix and match class abilities. So you could be a warrior with healing abilities. Or a warlock who can wield a two-handed axe. Or a healer who can polymorph! There would have to be some rules of course; some limitations. Maybe each level you choose what class you want to level in (similar to D&D). Or perhaps you can train the various abilities, but you can't be good in all of them. Maybe the more you train in warlock-type abilities limits how much you can train in priest or rogue abilities. I won't go into detail about how I'd implement it, but it would be awesome!

    Under that system, there wouldn't be whining about "my class has worthless abilities," or "class X is overpowered, class Y needs buffs." You could choose how you want your character to turn out! And you'd still need different types. Guilds would need some specialists (like tanks and healers and DPSers) and they'd need some hybrids. Ideally there would be a way to change your abilities over time. Not just a quick stop-at-the-trainer-and-respec, but something where you can change it over time. Maybe based on what types you use.

    Meaningful Professions

    First off, there need to be more professions in the game. Secondly, they need to matter a lot more. It would be great if you needed crafters to create the weapons you get in dungeons. The drops would be components (many of them quite simple) and you'd need to take them to a crafter to get forged or otherwise assembled. There has been some of this in WoW, but there needs to be much more.

    Also, crafters should be able to create better, more useful stuff. I played for 70 levels as a blacksmith, and for most of the time the stuff I could create only was useful in order to skill up. Going questing was how I got gear, because it was almost always easier to get and better in stats.

    One of my favorite ideas for crafting is for these professions to be able to improve existing weapons. And I'm not just talking about adding an enchant, or a gem, or weapon chain. I'm talking about re-forging the item. For example, let's say you got a sword from a quest. You could take it to a smith and have them improve it. It would take mats of course, and to make it interesting there would be a chance the item could break permanently in the reforging. At first the risk would be low, but it would get higher each time you reforge the weapon until a max of 99% or so. So after a few times reforging, you'd be questioning if you want to risk improving its stats again.

    Another interesting component could be a time based risk element. For example, alchemists could create potions and then put them in storage. Over time the potion could improve. The longer you wait the more potent it could get -- but there would be risk here too. If you wait too long it would go bad. And you could check on it from time to time.

    My final idea about professions is to have stores built into the game. There are many ways it could be done, but the basic idea is that players would have a way to show what goods they have to offer. They could list what items they can craft, and how much it would cost. Maybe they could put up items for sale. Buyers would also have a way to go to a store and put an item up for improvements. Leave an item to get enchanted. Leave some mats to be turned into an item. This way players could come and go from the store as they want and don't have to search so hard for people to do stuff for them. Also it would be safer, because the system wouldn't let you steal items. This would also be a cool way for players with high skill or rare patterns to gain notoriety.


    One thing that would be nice if Blizzard made it so players of various levels could quest together more easily. There were many many times when I couldn't really group with my friends because I didn't play for a day or two and suddenly they were past me. Honestly I don't know how this would be accomplished though.

    Dynamic Factions

    It would be great if there were more player factions. Especially if your status could shift with them over time. First of all, I'd break Night Elves, Blood Elves, the Forsaken, and Dranei off into their own factions. Now the Forsaken might have a tendency (i.e. an easier time) joining up with the Horde. Same with Night Elves to the Alliance. But even within the Horde you might have a much greater attachment to Orc, Tauren, or Troll than the others.

    As you quest and make choices your faction statuses would change. As some go up, it causes others to fall. It would be great if there was a way where you could even cross faction! So you could roll a human warrior and eventually be a champion of the Horde! But it would be a hard struggle to get there. Before you could be befriended by the Orcs you'd have to be outcast from the Humans. There could be language learning and all sorts of fun stuff. Role players, eat your heart out.

    Battlegrounds and other faction-specific things would still be in the game. You'd just have to have a certain reputation level to access those things.

    Improved Story Elements

    To make the stories better in WoW is a difficult task. Each player still needs to have access to everything... it's not fair to miss out on killing Onyxia because some other guild did it first. With so many players, it's very hard to create compelling story that draws you in. I mean, not everyone can be the only person who can save the world.

    But there are two elements which could really help things out.

    First of all, decisions you make need to matter. There need to be consequences for your actions and choices. And for that to happen, there need to be choices to make! It would be great if quests gave you some choices. So when you find that gem the NPC asked you to recover, you'd have the choice of keeping it for yourself or giving it back.

    Secondly, your character needs to matter. When you talk to NPCs it shouldn't just be a form letter every time. If you've killed certain bosses, you should have more respect or infamy, especially when talking to quest givers. Say you're talking to an NPC general or warlord. If you've killed Nefarian or Kel'thalas he should respect you more (and maybe give you different quests) than if you haven't.

    One excellent idea that my roommate told me about could incorporate both of these elements. The idea comes from an article he read, and unfortunately I haven't seen it as he hasn't been able to find the link again. But basically the idea is to make quests lead into each other in webs.

    An example may be best to illustrate the idea. Blacksmith O'Malley wants you to recover a sword which was stolen from him. But when you find the thief, he tells you that O'Malley is secretly helping the Black Hand cult. The thief belongs to a group called the Silver Sword who have sworn to fight against the Black Hand. Then you'd be able to choose to help the thief or take the sword back to the smith. Based on which decision you make, you get different outcomes. If you help the thief you can get quests from Silver Sword members. Maybe even become a member yourself. If you help the blacksmith you can get in with the Black Hand. But by choosing one you are denied the quests and benefits from the other.

    These branching decisions would spread outward widely. Certain quests would be needed to get other quests, forming big web-like chains. Decisions you make early on could affect you for a long time thereafter. Now actually there is a little bit of this in WoW (like the centaur quests in Desolace), but it needs to be more important and affect you much more in the long run.

    Wrapping It Up

    So those are some of my ideas. Personally, I think they would make the game much more interesting -- much better. They would add a lot of customization, role-playing, and variety to the game. I've just outlined them here, but there is a lot of room to expand on these ideas.

    Sunday, January 6, 2008

    From WoW to Meh

    From time to time, I get in discussions with my friends about World of Warcraft. Most often, these discussions revolve around the things that we wish the game designers at Blizzard had done differently. So after a recent discussion about it with my roommate, I decided to commit some of my grievances and ideas to paper. Please note that if you've never played WoW, following discussion may be a bit hard to follow.

    To start off, I should note that I played WoW for quite a while. I first played it during the open beta, and then I played frequently for the next 2 years. I did take a few breaks though... school and WoW don't mix very well sometimes. I was in a guild with my friends where I raided in MC and BWL (pre-BC), and although we were never really pushing the new content, I do have a good grasp on the end-game. I also played for a few months after the BC expansion came out, so I feel I know the game pretty well.

    I should also say before I get started that I really enjoyed playing the game. It kept me hooked for a long time. I've yet to see another MMO as good. But still, there are things which bother me. Things which tarnish an otherwise great game.

    Putting Aside Our Differences

    I guess I'll start with what I consider to be the biggest mistake that Blizzard made: giving Shaman and Paladins to the opposing factions. It really, really bugs me. That change itself bugs me, but it also bugs me inasmuch as it is the poster-child for lazy game design. There are many reasons cited for why this change was made. But they are all pitiful excuses. What it comes down to is this: Blizzard catered to the complaining of thoughtless, asinine whiners instead of doing the hard thing of making the game better. The game needed more diversity, not less! There's no good reason, not one from a game design standpoint to make that change to the game. It's just a cop-out. It was just easier for Blizzard to make everything the same.

    In fact, I believe they should have done much more to make the races and factions different. The racial traits are a joke. Yes, some of them are pretty useful. But overall it makes little difference what race you choose. Everything revolves around what class you chose. They should have added more classes! There are a lot of good ideas out there for adding new classes! Instead of giving Shaman and Paladins to the opposing factions, they should have said, "We know there are some complaints about the differences between the Horde and Alliance. But it's the differences that really make the factions unique and fun to play, so in that spirit we are introducing two new faction specific classes for the Burning Crusade!"

    But instead Blizzard bent over like reed in the wind, kowtowing to the infantile demands of the player base. Now, I'm not saying they should ignore or try to irritate the player base. Rather they need to act like a wise parent and not give in to every little demand of children wailing in temper tantrums. Typically it's a very vocal minority which stirs up the forums asking for changes. And like children, these players only think of themselves and what would best suit them. They have no idea what makes a good game. They never seem to consider the game balance or direction as a whole.

    A perfect example is the differences between classes. Probably 50% of the forum is full of threads like this: "Class X is overpowered, class Y (my class) needs buffs!" In my opinion, each class should be fun to play and be well designed. But if one class has trouble beating another in 1-on-1 combat, so what?! Why should that matter so much? Instead of focusing on how we can make everyone equal, focus on the differences! If one class is scissors, just accept the fact that they will beat paper and rock will in turn beat them. Things would be much more interesting that way.

    I guess that's enough on this subject. The bloody mass on the ground which once was a dead horse has been utterly pulverized.

    Customization & Itemization

    On a related note though, one of my other grievances with WoW is the lack of customization. Sure they give you a choice of race and hair and what-not. Sure they give you a talent tree. Sure there are a bunch of different weapons/armors to get. But in practice, these make very little difference.

    First of all, there really aren't any big differences between race. It's just a shell. It's just how you look. And that's not much of a customization... especially when you cover up with your armor. As I mentioned before, the racial traits are very insignificant. What I'd like to see is some major differences! Here's an Orc, he's really strong! Here's a Dwarf, very sturdy (stamina)! Here's a Night Elf, very agile! But no, that's not how it works. It all depends on the class you chose. No one cares that you are a female Tauren or an Undead male. They care that you are a hunter or a rogue.

    So since class is the important thing that matters, how can you set yourself apart from others of your class? Talent trees. Except that most players tend to create similar builds. In fact, they get online and discuss which builds are best. Oh, and don't forget that you can change your spec anytime you want! There's just a minor charge... and with all the gold in the BC expansion, you could change your spec a couple times a day!

    Okay, so you aren't set apart by your race or your class or your talents. So... how about gear? Yes. This is one way you can customize you character... just so long as you are willing to wear inferior gear. Because the good gear is pretty narrowly defined. Everyone tends to wear the same stuff! And if they aren't wearing the same gear, it's only because they can't get what the others are wearing! The itemization is pretty ridiculous. Instead of branching out with various items which are similar or equivalent, everything is either better or worse than what you already have. So just look on your WoW website of choice to see which one is mathematically better. Oh, and if you make a mistake, you can always go back and trade in your quest reward for the other one!!

    So no matter how hard you try to customize your character, in the end you're still cut from that same cookie cutter.

    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat...

    The Burning Crusade expansion and numerous patches brought a lot of new things to the game. Or did they? Although there are some very cool things in the game, everything you do can be narrowed down into a few categories.

    Dungeons - Whether you are in a 5-man or 40-man instance, the gist is basically the same. Go in, fight some trash mobs. Fight some bosses to get their loot. Maybe we'll even attune ourselves for more dungeons!

    PVP - Fight with other players. Need I say more? You can even fight in battlegrounds or fancy-pants arenas.

    Quest - Turn in 3 lion pelts, 4 zebra hooves, and 2 bug eyes? Run to some other place! Kill 30 guards. Bring me some mats. Escort some guy. There are a few more, but basically you'll be doing the same quests in your first week as your 152nd.

    Farm / Grind - You need 100,000 dark iron bars to make this thingy which will be made obsolete in a few patches. Better get mining. You need gold for a mount. Mats for all kinds of items or professions. Want some potions for your raids? Better start picking those flowers.

    Explore - There are a good number of places to visit, and Blizzard has done a pretty good job of making places unique. But there aren't new (or different) things to do when you find that neat little place.

    Socalize - You can chat with your friends and guildmates! That's great! Oh but that's not really playing the game, per se. Nevertheless, you'll spend a lot of time doing that, so fire up your Ventrilo!

    Run In Circles - In place. Literally. Jump around on your mount. Oh, now you can fly in circles too!

    So really, most players do the above things to level up and get better gear. Unless you just like PVP for PVP's sake.

    Lack of Consequences

    It really doesn't matter what you choose in the game. In fact, I recently heard that you can even go back and exchange your quest rewards if you don't like the one you got! I suppose the worst you can do is to get hated with all your factions. Then it will be a long road to get back in their good graces... but still possible in most cases.

    Passive Storylines

    There is a lot of text in the game. In fact most every quest has a good amount of ... *click*. Don't need to read that crap. Just need to see what kind of quest it is. Kill some murlocks, got it. Who cares why.

    My biggest problem with the storytelling in WoW is how passive it is. It never takes you by the collar and throws you into a compelling story. I never found myself suddenly aware that I was just playing a game because I had been drawn into a story. If you want story, be prepared to read. A lot. If you're lucky, you might even find a quest that has some story to it (along with some very slow walking NPCs).

    Oh, and one other little detail... the story is rarely about your character. It's always about some WarCraft lore. And if, by chance, you stumble onto a quest that says it's about your character, it's also the story of thousands of other players. You brought Thrall the head of Onyxia? Great! Wait around Orgrimmar long enough and you'll hear about somebody else who's done it too!

    Now I understand that everyone needs a chance to do the quests. And you can't really expect Blizzard to make unique quests for all the millions of players. But it means that you have to make your own story, for yourself.

    It's sad that most of the stories in WoW are carryovers from WarCraft I, II, and III. Now those games had some great stories. It makes sense to me though, because in those games you could tell the stories about important characters. The decisions of someone like Arthas had huge impact! But in WoW, the only "important" characters are the NPCs... and those are killed and respawn all the time. All the important or interesting characters from the WarCraft RTS games are either faction leaders or bosses.

    Time Investment

    World of WarCraft eats time like Unicron eats planets. Now I'm a big fan of the idea that some things should take time in the game. Instant gratification is lame, because then you never care about what you did. (Incidentally, that's why getting a kodo mount for my Orc warrior was one of my crowning achievements.) But it takes forever to do anything!

    Now in a lot of cases this problem doesn't really come from the game design. But it's hard to be able to log in for just a half hour (or just an hour for that matter) and accomplish anything. Supposedly you can get on for a short time and finish a quest or two. Except that you have to travel there because you hearthed back to the inn. And you have to wait for the zeppelin or boat. And you may have to wait for your group members.


    So I guess I'll end my ranting and raving now. I'm sure if I thought about it for a while I could come up with some other laments about the game. In my next few posts I plan to outline some ideas that I've had which I think would make WoW a vastly better game.

    Overall I think that World of WarCraft is one of the best games of its kind. It kept me hooked for a long while, and even now tempts me to play from time to time. But it may well be the last MMO that I play. Although I have ideas to improve the game, there are some fundamental problems which make me skeptical of all MMOs.

    New Year, New Beginnings

    It's a new year. I'm excited for the things that this year will bring. The thing I'm most looking forward to is marrying my sweetheart. I believe there will be many other wonderful things that happen this year as well. I feel like there are some good changes in store for me this year. Hopefully one of the first ones will be that I actually get out and exercise.