Monday, March 23, 2015

The Death of the American Labor force

The American job market wasn't always what it is now. It used to be measured by experience and gumption and the person's individual drive to get things done with a can-do attitude. A person could walk into an auto shop with no applicable skills, be trained while working, learn to fail and at the same time learn to appreciate the value of their successes through learning to overcome their failures.

That is not the case in today's job market. These days everything is very comfortably padded. Everyone gains a textbook knowledge of the skills they're expected to have hands-on experience doing in the job field. These textbook smarts come at the cost of the appreciation of successes and the experience of failures. The biggest scare a aspiring worker has these days is getting a failing grade in their college class and being delayed a semester from their degree or having to pay an extra thousand dollars to retake the class, but that's not really failure in the same way it used to be. There's no other lives being affected by this type of failure, there's nobody yelling at that person for their mistakes, save for perhaps the person's parents or whoever is financing their college tuition.

It's like J.K. Simmons says in the critically acclaimed movie Whiplash "there are no two words more harmful in the english language than 'good job.'" While his methods in the movie border the extreme because he is trying to forge something supremely excellent out of the people experiencing the modern day job market, it still carries weight. It is entirely worth the viewers time while watching that movie to ask themselves: is it entirely possible that we've become a country of yes men and should the new united states motto be "it is what it is?" the universal way of saying "you're fucked?"

We as a country have a tendancy to say good job too often. Educators cut corners to get rid of the undesirable students and make the more mediocre ones feel better, but what happens is we pump them up with all of this hubris about what the world actually is, then when they get out into the working class, all of that knowledge they received has no application and they have no work drive which means they genuinely suck as their job. But they believe they're good at it.

So why is all of this the death of the american labor force? Because there are immigrants from other countries who have the old drive. Who learned how to do what they do by trial and error. By ruining a few people's lives for a month or two and then desperately trying to recover from it afterwards. If you're in the southern states, the immigrants from mexico are a prime example. It doesn't matter what they're doing, whether they're working blue collar jobs or white collar jobs, 90% of them have a work ethic that puts any upstanding modern american to shame. They work hard, they don't complain, they get the job done and they get it done right the first time.

We've trained a society of people who hate to work but need the money. So we teach them how to work in an educational environment for 16 years mandatory to get a decent livable wage, and then release them on their own into the wild where it's the polar opposite of a classroom environment. There is no grade outside of performance reviews, It's not a cumulative review process. Often times, the employees will not get any feedback unless they did something wrong multiple times. In a generation where we've raised people on understanding that people will hold your hand and tell you how you're doing, good or bad, every step of the way, this makes for some very bad chemistry. People slack off and think they're getting away with it until the day they're boss comes up to them and tells them their services are no longer needed. Doing hard labor has become something of an amusing pass-time for channels like Discovery, History and Travel Channels to make a quick buck off of. Meanwhile the american household is sitting on their machine-made furniture going "wow, i'm sure glad i don't have to do that!" and the people being filmed get paid peanuts compared to what middle-class america gets paid.

We have systematically turned the entire job market up on it's head. Experience doesn't matter, it's all about the paper. A man can walk into a job interview with a Doctorate in whatever the subject is, and not have held a single job in their entire life and chances are they're get the job over the person with 10 years tried and true work experience but dropped out of high school. In the end the 10 years physical experience is more valuable, but that person doesn't have any paper credentials saying "Hey! Look at me! I know shit and have mounds of college debt!"' The reason hard working immigrants are getting a leg up in the market is because they have the gumption to start their own businesses by cutting the corners wherever it fits and making riches to rags on their own terms.

So while people stand and complain and boycott their own jobs at places like McDonalds and other fast food chains for not getting paid a livable wage and demanding $15/hour, I can almost promise you that those people will be removed and replaced by someone equally qualified but harder working and more concerned with living than being lavished in the workplace.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Video Game High School Season 3 Review

I've been an avid follower of Video Game High School from the beginning. I fell in love with the characters in season one and it has been an interesting journey growing with them. In season one we introduced all of the characters, underlining some of the real world challenges every freshman has when going into high school through the use of hyperbole and ironic comedy. During the second season it's all about the game. The show began to explore it's boundaries. Seeing where it could go and get away with things. also expanded on the relationships that inevitably form between classmates in high school.

This brings us to Season 3. On the surface, season three promises to be as cheery and goofy as seasons one and two but in it's own, more mature and developed way. This however is a facade. What lies beneath the surface is a boiling cauldron of problems. The people in the show don't realize it, the viewers don't realize it but the stage is set and the players are driving a car at 100mph towards this explosion of massive proportions.The developers and script writers i think were aiming to prove that there is more potential in this show to be taken seriously than it is to be considered as just a light-hearted cavalcade through an alternate universe where sports like football, basketball, and baseball have been replaced with professional gaming.

They do it successfully, A lot of the worst scenes for the characters are beautifully scripted and perfectly acted. The tears in their eyes are real, the tension is thick and you empathize with the characters in ways that are usually specifically reserved for the final episode of the final season for usual TV. Where you've grown attached to all of the characters for 7 or 8 seasons and now they're all parting ways, maybe someone does and you along with all the actors have to cope with that.

I felt the tension in the room grow and get so incredibly thick that i could smudge it with my finger, in some of the most disheartening scenes i wanted to stop watching and just give up for a little while. And some of the saddest scenes made me cry... hard.

The reason for this is the masterful script, acting and filming skills of everyone involved in the project. the script that has been written has attained a new level of reality that i don't believe I've seen in other fictional works. For a world where reality is turned on it's head, the pain is relate-able and real. They're not afraid to pull punches.

Understand me when i say that with it's fair share of drama it also has it's fair share of fun times. The night is darkest before the dawn and while the season brings you into the darkness it also leads you right back out. All in all, i have found a new respect for VGHS through season 3. They have proven that not only is the show something fun and entertaining to watch, it also has what it takes to be a continuous show and to take itself seriously.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Game Dev Chronicles - The Seed

Greetings everyone. Lately a good friend of mine and I have been working once a week on a little board game project that we've given life to, and the development process was so much more radically different than anything i could have anticipated that i figured i could provide my insight to people who might also be interested in developing a board and/or card game. Please keep in mind this will be a series of blog posts that will come out every other day just like my normal blog posts. Regardless of how long or short it is, i hope to make this as insightful as possible.

So you want to design your own game, do you? First thing you're going to need is an idea. It doesn't need to be anything grand, and it most certainly does not need to be the final cut and dry game concept from start to finish. What you're looking for is going to be a seed. Think of making a board/card game like growing a plant. You first need to plant the seed, then nurture it and if you do those things you will watch it grow into something beautiful right before your eyes.

Your seed could be somethings as simple as "game where players play as trash collectors during a post-zombie apocalypse."

Once you have your seed it's time to start growing it. You will do this with a good old fashioned pencil and paper. Growing this idea will involve answering some of the following questions:

  1. What is the play style i want?
    1. card game
      1. Collectible card game? (think even balance with very, very rare cards that are abnormally good in very narrow circumstances)
      2. Trading card game? (think Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic the Gathering where most cards are low in monetary value and capable of fine-tuning strategies based off themes)
      3. Living Card Game? (Think static card game with regularly schedule expansions that all contain 100% of the expansion set. Netrunner is a perfect example of that)
      4. Plain card game? (think games like Uno, Love Letter, Citadels, Colossal Arena, Etc)
    2. Board Game
      1. What type of board?
        1. Static board (think risk or monopoly)
        2. Dynamic board (think Betrayal at the House on the Hill or Descent)
      2. Will there be miniatures?
        1. Plastic detailed miniatures
        2. press-board tokens
        3. combination of the two
      3. will the board game have cards?
        1. how important are the cards?
        2. is there room to grow in the cards? (not really a necessary questions but one worth asking if you're interested in releasing expansions later down the road)
  2.  Will there be combat?
    1. If yes, how do i approach hits and misses?
      1. Make them automatic?
      2. approach with dice and modifiers?
      3. use a card system?
    2. If no, how will the players interact with each other if at all.
  3. How will movement be handled if at all?
    1. Static value for everyone
    2. skill based movement (don't let yourself get lost in stats and numbers. Remember the KISS adage.)
    3. Unit Based. (think small world. finite unit resources used to conquer territory, partial regeneration at the beginning of the next turn.
Once you have these questions answered you should have evolved just that little seed of an idea into what appears to be a pretty solid platform to build upon. Next you'll figure out what all assets you need to get a functioning prototype. Remember the less materials you need to play a game the more naturally simple it's going to be. These items will be listed as the following. Game tiles will fall under the same heading as themselves as long as it makes sense. individual decks will be listed separately, and any visual aides will be listed individually (dice, miniatures, meeples, whatever).

with this, you should be ready to start the next step... Designing revision one of your rule book.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Game Review: Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe

So Thursday i had reviewed a game called Redshirt a Narcissistic view on the Star Trek universe, well today i'm going to review a tongue in cheek satire to the Star Wars universe just so i can keep all of your fanboy knickers twist free. If there was a doctor who, Lexx, Stargate, or Battlestar Galactica video game worth playing i'm sure i would have to make a whole series out of this type of thing to quiet the masses. But alas, Doctor Who has not been adapted to video game, thankfully; Lexx was too R-rated at the time to be made into a video game, i don't care enough about stargate to look for games and Battlestar Galactica Online is a sorry excuse (in my opinion) for a game that fits into the canon of the re-imaged series.

I digress. Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe knocks out two birds with one stone, for those who have always said "man, i sure love star wars with such a firey passion that i still own the star wars white-y tighties that i had when i was 4." and the people who have always said "man, i sure love air hockey, the video game industry is really missing out on something special by not making an air hockey simulator!"

Yes folks, that's right. This game is a science fiction air-hockey simulator, featuring low-poly high res models of parodies of all your favorite star wars characters and even some they made up on their own.

Overall the game is very fun for a short period of time. Depending on how quick your reflexes are and how much time you want to invest into the game will determine how far into the "story" you get before undoubtedly walking away from the game or downloading Cheat Engine to just get the game over with already.

Basically you are a United States astronaut who crash lands his command pod onto the surface of an alien world whose only building appears to be a multi-story space casino. Instead of the normal earth casino games they have one game and it's a matter of pride for everyone, even a negotiation tool at times. That game is Air Hockey or Shufflepuck as they call it.

The objective is to build a new space ship to get the hell off this strange planet but in order to do so you need to play and win at air hockey against 13 different opponents spanning across 5 floors each opponent has their very own special move that they can employ upon you. When you beat them you gain reputation, credz and sometimes tokens. Tokens are for these machines that potentially give you credz, reputation, tokens, pucks, mallets, biographies and artwork. With the credz you can buy pucks, mallets, artwork, or biographies on the characters. The biographies are the most important piece to the game as every time you manage to unlock/purchase all 19 biographies of a certain NPC, you unlock their final quest which always involves dueling someone else, when you complete that, you get one part to the space ship.

Overall the game was pretty cool. there was an interesting variety of characters inside the Cantina that represent all of the major character from Star Wars as well as some superfluous ones that have nothing to do with Star Wars.

As i stated earlier, the amount of fun you get out of this game is strictly dependent on how much you're willing to do the exact same thing over and over and how much time you wanna blow on one of the more obscure simulation games out there.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Game Reviews: Redshirt

Space... the final frontier. these are the voyages of some random space station and it's 160-ish day mission to detonate with all of it's crew still aboard except for senior officers.

In a land where social media is the most important meal of the day and your friend count is all that matters, Redshirt is the definition of casual gaming and satirical work on two things the world loves equally, Star Trek and Facebook. With that being said, is this game worth a buy? I'm not entirely sure what it's worth but it sure amplified my Narcissism for the 12 hours it took me to play it twice to get the desired victory outcome that i wanted.

In redshirt you play a generic redshirt in a faux-star trek universe. You're deployed to a station out in the middle of space and one of it's most important features is spacebook... oh yes, you best prepare your anus, because this game is going to throw all manner of Space-puns at you in record speed. Anyways, in the game, you have a job, you have friends and you have activities to do with your friends. How you decide to balance all three of those is entirely up to you and will probably define how your endgame looks.

My first playthrough i decided to climb the social ladder a little more than i wanted and the career ladder a little less than i wanted, what ended up happening was i was 1 day away from the end of the game, without a girlfriend and i was 1 step away from the cushy position that guarantees you get off the station alive. My second play through i went with the fuck bitches make money route and ended up in the highest job in the game with another 70 or so days left before the station explodes.

The game has a tiered job system, each tier except for level 0 and level 7 (the minimum and maximum) have at least three jobs, and levels 1-6 all have 6 jobs, those would be the lowly peasant jobs and the managerial jobs for those lowly peasant jobs. Each job requires a different set of skills which you can acquire through personal activities, purchased goods and other jobs. Each job has a hiring manager that you can get in good with and they'll hire you so long as you meet at least one of the criteria, but be careful how you tread because you could very well end up going out with someone who is the hiring manager for the position you want and achieving that 100% positive relationship only to apply for the job too soon and be told that you're a horrible person for trying to sex your way up the career ladder and never have a chance at that job again.

The entire game runs of karma credits which are the game's currency and with them you're faced with a lot of equally silly named purchased goods that give you certain bonuses. Like, for instance, the robocat which gives you experience in handling small animals and children and comforting voice. But it also increases your happiness daily which is good, because if you're sad you make less in your job.

I think overall to fairly evaluate this game i should probably just tell you that for a better and more grounded life simulator, you should probably aim for Kudos 2 which in my mind is far superior and much more challenging but equally as addicting and capable of wasting your time.

So should you buy this game? probably not. The humor is too exaggerated to be funny to most normal people and the gameplay is narcissistic to say the least.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Video Game Review: Elder Scrolls Online Beta 2/28 - 3/2

So recently i wrote a review on the Elder Scrolls Online Beta for last month shortly before the PVP beta. This week i'm going to write a review for the beta that took place on Febraury 28th through March 2nd. And to tell you the truth not a whole lot has changed in the game itself but what has changed is how much of the game i have experienced myself.

To begin with i'm a huge crafting fanatic. I love crafting with a burning passion and this game does it in a very unique way that feels right and comfortable. It's interesting now because i actually took the time to look at all the dfferent styles of gear, of which they added a few more from the last beta that i reviewed, and they've finally implemented more than one tier of crafted equipment, so i looked at all those, and this is what i can gather. They've removed recipes and tiered equipment knowledge. There are no "let's hunt the world for how to make *Insert item name here* and there is no "oh man i can't wait till i get 3 more levels in *insert craft here* so i can make the middle of the road version of *insert piece of equipment here*. This is an amazing revelation in the crafting world because you're not blowing your incredibly limited crafting supplies in an attempt to reach maximum level so you can start farming recipes/blueprints/whatever to make the not-fail versions of the equipment you want. Everyone starts off with the knowledge of how to make all basic armors which means there's none of the WoW style questers that obviously try to craft their gear (where they're running around with 2/6 pieces from a craftable set because they either don't know how to make the rest or they're too low of a level to wear it.

This raises me to another point i'd like to make: You can fully gear yourself at any level you like granted you have the materials. All Tier 1 armors (iron armors) come in almost every even level from 1-14 the only difference is the number of materials it requires to craft and the stats on the actual armor. This, i believe, is incredibly important, because i actually spent 2-3 hours of solid game time just hunting for iron ore veins so i could craft. And you know how many i found? two. And you know how much ore that gave me? 6 pieces. When it requires 10 to even craft a set of ingots, those numbers mean every resource you have is valuable.

Seeing as i covered crafting pretty extensively in the last blog about it? I'm just going to move forward from here without hesitation.

Combat in this game is very fluid. It has the appropriate look and feel of an Elder Scrolls game. you can traverse the world in both first and third person to your hearts content. There are "recommended" weapon and armor categories for each class but that doesn't stop you from playing a rogue using a restoration staff if you wanted to. The downside to that is: the skills you get are dependent on the class you take, so while you could be said rogue using said restoration staff, it wouldn't do you a damn bit of good because the damage is terrible, the swings are slow and all you skills expect you to be normal and use either a bow or dual-wield 1h weapons of some form. I think this is also equally fantastic because it pays a huge homage to traditional Holy Trinity style gameplay without defiling it and bringing a new balance to the new style of MMO's that are quickly taking over the market by storm. No one person can be proficient at every single thing as it has been in RPG's since the dawn of pen and paper and should be until the day the genre dies.I say this because if everyone could be proficient at everything? you'd just be better off playing the non-MMO version of Elder Scrolls. Where there are no real classes you just pick up some magic and magic away with a sword in the other hand.

Questing is also equally fluid which is perfect for an elder scrolls game. While wandering around the country side for quests, i managed to stumble across a small hamlet who's chief production is mining. Well sure enough there was a quest in the town, picking that up, i followed and entire campaign-sized quest line puts you in the middle of a sticky situation with the plague and a pair of questionable alchemists. This was all just looking for resources. Aimlessly wandering some more i found a cave that was inhabited by insurgents of a renegade High Elf syndicate. Fighting my way through those masses i managed to discover a note on a dead body that sent me on a quest to another major city in which i actively took a part in thwarting some major war between the true high elf monarchy and this renegade syndicate. The world is as close to living as they could possible get it in an MMO that demands structure and i think that will majorly benefit them in the long run.

The official game comes out on 4/4/14 and for those who pre-order the game they will get early access to the game which starts 3/31/14 and as with all traditional pay structures, you get 30-days free with that purchase. They've got two different versions of the pre-order. There's a standard edition, and there's a imperial edition which unlocks the race of the imperials for you to play in whatever faction you choose AND some additional cosmetic features that are not normally offered. None of which, i felt, justified the additional 20 bucks that they're asking for the imperial edition. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who's willing to shell 60 for the game itself (i know it's total bullshit [if you've read my other blog post about the price of video games]) and another 15 a month for the account. I imagine the game will eventually become free to play, and i'll welcome you just as happily when that day comes, but i would love to see you all on release day so we can play it up together.

Questing is another big thing of interest

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Game Review: Trine

Once again i'm waay behind the the curve on this game review, but i figured why not? I just finished playing the game for the first time and i figured it inspired me enough to write a review on it.

Trine is a side scrolling platformer with mild fantasy combat and full 3D effects with some wonderfully basic sprites that actually go pretty well with the overall art style that the developers went for. Basically you play a trio of people whose souls are bound together by a magical artifact called the trine, and together in the process of trying to get their souls unbound, they stop some evil plot to destroy the world. pretty run of the mill but it is strangely addicting.

The game doesn't take itself seriously. There's a lot of tongue in cheek humor referencing to previous stereotypes of the fantasy genre as well as a lot of the characters don't take themselves seriously. The whole story starts off with a thief, attempting to steal some magical artifact from the mages guild which just happens to be the trine. Then a mage overhears a ruckus in the other room, and comes out to investigate. Well the knight comes barreling in... well... because he's a knight and he likes to come barreling into places. they all touch the trine at the same time and their souls become bound.

SO, what of the gameplay? Each character has 3 abilities that they  can use in which you need to unlock as you play through the game by discovering secret and plainly obvious chests. Each ability has 3 levels with which you need to level up, each level has an level cost of either 1, 2 or 3 points. You gain those points by killing skeletons of different armor quality and armament, and finding earlier mentioned secrets and random XP bottles that happen to just by lying around.

Overall this game was addictingly fun, and for only having about a dozen or so levels, it managed to keep me entranced for a good 15 hours. That combined with the special bonus level they give you for completing the game which is a mirror of the final level in the primary story line only with different obstacles and no fancy ohh-ahh's at the end was a pretty neat little incentive package.

I did however find most of the puzzles to be a little less than challenging. Once you got certain items and certain skills the obstacles became more routine than anything. Like a scale that lets one of your characters breathe under water indefinitely. skeletons die when they hit water. So solution = jump into water and keep bobbing your head out from under to trick the AI Pathing into the water. Skeletons are dead, you're untouched and 5 experience up. All in all it was a fantastic game and i enjoyed it, but now that i've lived and seen the first game, i'm having a hard time playing the second game, but i'm sure i will get to it eventually. The humor in trine 2 seems to be even more cynical and more tongue in cheek than the first as well as a stepped up compliment of graphical enhancements.

I would recommend Trine for anyone who happens to come across it on sale and curious about it. It's definitely something you want to experience at least once and at a discounted price lol.