A milestone

Today I achieved a significant milestone in my dissertation journey; I submitted my first three chapters to my committee. Twelve months in the making these first chapters act as my research proposal, they are intended to prove that I am intimately aware of my field and my specific topic of research. If approved, I will only have two more chapters left, simple in comparison.

The first chapter in any dissertation is the intro chapter, a smorgasbord that summarizes the entire research. The topic of research, the question that defines what the research will do, the research design and methodology. The second chapter is an in-depth literature review, not just on the topic but all of the surrounding research and literature surrounding the topic. The third chapter is a detailed review of the methodology for the research, describing how data will be collected, and how it will be analyzed.

So, now what? Well, there is a bit of a wait while my committee reviews the proposal and determines if it meets their requirements to be approved for research. In the meantime I will be working on the analysis process. I have a large data set to curate and I need to learn some “R” to conduct the statistical analysis. Since my research has nothing to do with humans, I don’t feel particularly unethical in my pre-work; particularly because it will make the next two chapters move by faster.

On to the next step…

The Italian Agenda

Leonardo da Vinci

Over the next two weeks I have the pleasure of traversing south through the beautiful Italian countryside, visiting some major cities along the way and generally enjoying life.

As I type this blog, I am sitting on a train crossing the Tuscany countryside, looking at the Alps. It is stunning, and the aesthetic is exactly what I was hoping for. The only think missing is a glass of wine. Tomorrow, I will fix that by taking a winery tour. My hope is to find a comfortable chair, a tasty bottle, and my laptop to work on my dissertation while surrounded by the gorgeousness of this country.

If you ever find yourself with a desire to see the world, I highly recommend you look into the travel costs. In my experience it cost far less than I thought it would and I certainly would have traveled more had I been aware.

Tolerating the Intolerance of the Intolerating Tolerant

Honestly, I have no idea what I was getting at with that title.  The point of this evenings content is to discuss something that came across my Facebook feed recently.  A FB Friend (A) had referenced another FB Friend (B) noting that B was an intolerant sexist bigot (or some such thing) and that anyone who remains friends with B should just unfriend A.  So, first things first…. whatever.  Now, for some reason I was thinking

‘Yeah, B has had some seriously wacked perspectives on politics lately.  Like, I knew he was conservative, but WOW’

I seriously considered dropping B.  But then I thought about the “Echo Chamber” — which s a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system — and while I certainly no longer want to tolerate the intolerant, I feel by dropping B from my FB friends list I am only empowering their Echo Chamber.

By losing site of their posts I will no longer be able to refute or argue the conspiracies they choose to believe and share.  I will no longer have the chance to look at some link to REAL fake news and force them to be a critical thinker.  I will allow their intolerance to grow and fester in a social bubble of their own creation.  I feel by doing this I am allowing this insidious set of beliefs to just hide under the surface.  I don’t want to do that.

I want to face intolerance head on.  I want to refute their claims, push back on their ridiculous beliefs, and force each one of them to question what they believe.  I don’t want to remove FB friends and leave them in a cesspool of bigotry and ignorance.  I want to try and be that guide toward critical thinking and enlightenment.


In an odd twist of events I found a way to attend BlizzCon this year.  This will be my first time attending the event and I’m pretty excited.  The travel so far has been a pain in the ass.  I had a connecting flight to get to, but my initial plane decided to do donuts in the air for 20 minutes because the weather was bad aound the airport.  This lead to a very close call getting on to my connecting flight as I squeezed in just before they closed the doors.

Now, you don’t know me, but I’m a 6’3″ tall guy.  So, the exit row seat is nirvana when it comes to flights.  BUT, because I was so late to the plane (and its Southwest), i was relegated to some back-woods seat where my knees press up against the seat in front of me.  Needless to say I will probably need some painkillers when I get to LAX.

As for BlizzCon itself, I’m really only interested in a few things: 1) Overwatch, 2) Diablo, and 3) after parties.  I’m meeting up with some friends who have scoped out the voice-actor and party scene so (with luck) will get to some good stuff over the next couple of days.  I look forward to my post-BlizzCon post.

Party on, ladies and gentlemen.

Game of [Dice] Thrones

Some friends and I were at a local coffee shop recently, this particular coffee place hosts 300+ board (like) games. This particular visit we were all ambivalent on what game to play so we asked the Game Guru (yes this is an actual job name at this coffee place). The Guru brought over this anime looking dice game called Dice Throne.

Now, I’m not much of a board game player, for some reason I just find them boring. Still, I was with friends and figured we’d give it a go. The game offers six heros, each with their own set of abilities (think Overwatch or even King of Tokyo). The game is played by rolling five dice and matching icons or numbers to make sets. Whatever set you can make will allow you to use the appropriate ability. With six heroes to work with you can mix and match game styles (i.e. 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, Free-for-All). Each play style has its own adjustment to the rule set to make it challenging, fair, simple, etc. I can honestly say it was a lot of fun, so much so that I ended up purchasing the game that night and jumping on the kickstarter for Dice Throne Season 2.

Yeah, Dice Throne, a table-top game that feels like Overwatch and plays like King of Tokyo (another great game BTW). It’s easy to jump into and really fun to test out hero ability sets. Go check out the website to get some details. Head to your local game store (or whatever) and give it a go.

Crowfall – The Murder is Coming

Crowfall, a self-described “Throne War” game.  A rather ingenious little concept in MMOs that pits players in full on PvP combat within 14-ish months, then resets.  Basically the gods of the universe pick and choose Crows, or “heroes”, that they grant eternal life (of sorts) to fight for them and gather resources from world throughout the multiverse(?).  Each player is granted an “Eternal Kingdom” or a place they can build, harvest, create an economy, etc.  Then a Campaign world is generated, in this Campaign world players are pitted against each other to harvest resources from the world in an all out war before the “Nothing” (for those Never Ending Story fans) destroys that world; which will take about 14 months (real-time), then rinse and repeat. Like I said its a rather interesting idea, so interesting that I chose to back it through Kickstarter and I became an investor.

The rumor-mill says the initial alpha build release will be coming later this year (4Q2018), and I am supremely excited.  I’ve been playing off-and-on throughout pre-alpha development, and while I generally dislike playing games so early, I can say that I am impressed with the progress.  Sometime in the next couple (?few?) months the Guild I am in (Reavers) will be doing some Twitch streams to show off progress and generally push interest for the game.  If you have not checked out Crowfall, I highly recommend it.  Watch the streams, regardless of who it is, read the lore, check out the mechanics.  Let me know what you think.

My name is Mister Smith…

And I am a Hanzo main. Yup, I said it, and I meant it. I will admit I wasn’t at first, the aim of the bow and the arc of the arrow just frustrated me, so I started out with Reaper.  However, after watching YouTube videos of some impressive Hanzo players, I was like “I can do that shit”.

In short, I can, sort of.  I feel I am an “alright” Hanzo player.  I went from a 10% accuracy to 20%, over the course of 140-ish hours; my average damage output is 5-6K (not the best by any means).  Now, I am not a competitive player, so I don’t torture comps by playing Hanzo, but I can only imagine my Quick Play group gets really tired of me playing him (damn near) all the time.  Even I admit its a bit ridiculous.  But I am trying to get better, get the muscle memory of the aiming and the awareness of the arrows arcs.  Given that my time-to-learn has increased over the years, it’ll take me longer than some.

Word is Blizzard is looking to get rid of Scatter Shot (Scatter Arrow). No doubt some are up in arms, some are rejoicing; I can see both sides.  As a Hanzo player, with his lack of real mobility, the ability to target (inaccurately) around corners is a pretty big deal to me.  And, given that he is noted as a defensive hero, the fact that the Scatter can (if aimed appropriately) take out a chunk of a tanks health is also a big advantage.  On the other hand, having been on the recieving end of both of those scenarios it is incredibly frustrating.  The “one-shot” ability of Scatter is a bit ridiculous, and to take out a tank (reliably) within two shots (Scatter+head-shot) is equally bullshit.

So with that it looks like Hanzo will be getting two abilities with the loss of Scatter.  A Withdraw power which will let him quickly “double-jump” out of a close-quarter fight (similar to tracers ‘Blink’).  And a rapid-fire shot, which will allow him to fire up to 6 arrows (at full draw) within a 6-second window.  I really like the Withdraw ability, desperately needed to (maybe) make Hanzo a viable in meta.  And I think the Rapid-shot will bring some skill to his alternate shot (versus the some-skill/mostly luck involved with Scatter).

The beauty of Subnautica

I picked up Subnautica about a week ago and I have been submersed ever since.  I had seen vids and streams of the early access stuff and I had chocked it up to another survival game; honestly I didn’t have much interest as The Long Dark and Near Death just frustrated the crap out of me.  However, a friend of mine raved about it so I picked it up.  I was an idiot!  This game is beauty!

Subnautica, like the Long Dark (TLD) and Near Death (ND), forces you to look for resources to survive a harsh landscape.  Unlike the other two though, Subnautica doesn’t maintain this consistent pressure of the environment.  In TLD and ND, the player is incessantly (and brutally) accosted by the weather of the environment.  There is no real chance to take stock and work out the situation, you must hit the ground running and pray you figure it all out in time.  Personally, I found ND to be the most frustrating survival game I have ever played, but I’ll talk about it in another post.  Subnautica, on the other hand, gives you a safe place to figure out what you need to do, plan, test the plan, and move on to the next problem.

Beyond the basic need to figure out how to survive on an alien planet comprised (almost) entirely of water, the game teases you to explore and learn of an underlying mystery.  And it’s the tease of mystery which really makes this game shine.  Because Subnautica doesn’t force its story on you, it gives you all the choice to partake in it, if you want (and I recommend you chew it all up).  Further, as you progress through the game, it becomes apparent that the player can push beyond mere survival and actually live on this planet.  Not everything is rosy, you are on an alien planet and there is a food chain of which you are just a (very) small, and unexpected, part.

Subnautica is a beautiful surprise of a game, part survival, part RPG, part base-design, part exploration.  The graphics are amazing, save for a rather niche complaint concerning the HUD.  I have dived in, head first, and clocked in about 36 hours in the last week and I can only imagine I’ve scratched the surface of this experience.  I look forward to exploring the oceans of Planet 4546B.

So… I Tried PUBG…

TLDR; Not a fan.

I had put off trying PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for months, for a couple big reasons:

1) I’ve been burned on pre-release/still in development games via Steam.
2) The premise just didn’t hype me.

Still, being the gamer I am, I felt it was a moral imperative to give it a shot. Now, I’ve been watching PUBG come across YouTube vids for a while and all the glitches just proved my first issue; even after the release. I figured, however, I should give it a fair shake to see if the ultimate finished product was any good. Upon release, I picked it up and gave it a good 20-ish games.

Nope. Still not a fan. The Battle Royal is (arguably) already covered in games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or even Star Wars Battlefront. Yeah, get those are still team-based, but I just don’t see a huge difference. And, while i don’t mind a good Overwatch Deathmatch, the solo PVP gig just isn’t my style.

In my limited PVP experience, I have found, I simply enjoy the team aspects of MMO PvPs, Overwatch, and even Battlefield and Battlefront. I like charging in with teammates and winning or losing together. Further, I think the delineations of tank, healer, and DPS help push the idea of real strategy and tactics. With the battle royal games, its just you trying to survive.

And, I guess, this is where the appeal is. One person, on their own, trying to survive an all out war against 99 other players is (no doubt) an adrenaline rush. Just not the rush I’m into I guess. And that is the point of gaming, to find what you enjoy and play the shit out of it.

So enjoy PUBG players, I wish you all the chicken dinners in the world.

The Gaming Hierarchy

For years now I have had this idea of a gaming hierarchy in my head.  As I’ve wandered through different gaming groups I have brought it up with a laugh and mixed agreement about where particular game-types reside.  I have never received flak about the hierarchy in, and of, itself.

Basically, the hierarchy is a construct which shows where I rank game-types (i.e. table-tops, LARP, board games, CCGs, etc.) in the world. To me it represents, at least, my perspective on how gamers from one area view gamers from another area.  The hierarchy changes from year-to-year, but some types of gaming  just never change.  Below is a little graphic of the hierarchy:

The premise is table-tops, which comprise RPGs like DnD, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, etc., is the grand-daddy and has earned the top tier.  Board games and LARPs come in just below, because each of them comprise pieces of table-top. Specifically, board games provide the dice and table-top factor, while LARP provides the in-depth role-play factor.  From there you have CCGs under Board games, then Boutique and Boffer under LARPS.

I will get into my perspective on the psychology of RP gamers in a different post. Suffice it to say I generally get a lot of nods on this structure.  Regardless of whether you agree with my hierarchy or not, or perhaps you have your own, the point is to enjoy what you play.