A continuation from yesterday, formatted just as poorly:
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May 2nd, 2012 by Cassie
I want to share something with you.
A little while ago, a blogger by the name of Spinx posted a review of Diablo 3 wherein she said she thought the female demon hunter’s costume design was pretty ridiculous. She posted a followup here. I became aware of it because I blogger I followed decided she was wrong. (I hate that I might drive more traffic to this guy’s site, but what he says in the comments are really… backwards, and insulting. I decided to send him an e-mail explaining that I was insulted, and while I enjoyed his blog in the past, I wouldn’t be reading it any longer. I expected that to be the end of it. Instead, I got this (and I’m apologizing in advance for the awkwardness of the formatting; I’m just going to put his stuff in blue and mine in red): (more…)
Have you been watching The Guild? It’s a fantastic web series created by Felicia Day centered around the life of a young woman named Syd Sherman, aka Codex, and her guildmates from a popular online game. While a lot of it has to do with nerd things – the current season takes place at a gaming convention – it’s really more about Syd’s insecurities and attempts to pull her life together, and forge meaningful relationships with the people she meets through the game.
While most of the characters are exaggerations of gamers – the guy who never logs off, the guild mom, the teenage rogue* – every time I watch I think of the people I’ve met playing games. I started playing online games with MUDs when I was 10 back in 1993. Yes, that’s 19 years of online gaming. There are plenty of kids now who are growing up playing online games, but I don’t meet too many people my age who have spent their formative years and adult life online, in part because in the mid-90′s the technology just wasn’t that accessible to a lot of people. I was lucky to have had access to a computer since the time I was 3. I’ve heard a lot about how people are worried that so much focus on technology and online social networking is bad for a child, or about the evils of Facebook and Twitter and whatever else. I don’t buy it, but that’s a whole other post.
I am telling you all about my history with gaming and computers so you understand that when I say I don’t know how to exist without them, you understand why. It’s not an addiction and not a fad. To me, the online world and the physical world** have existed together in harmony for most most of my life. As a result, there’s something about The Guild that has really resonated with me. Like Codex, I’ve made poor decisions. Like Codex, I have on occasion retreated into gaming to escape the awful things in my life. Also like Codex, I’ve made life-long friends through gaming, and my guildmates have often been a better support network than anyone could ever ask for.
Some of my closest friends are people whom I’ve never seen in the physical world. The relationships we have are not fake relationships. I have heard people claim that because you never meet, it’s too easy to hide who you are. Bullshit. When you first meet someone online, it’s true that they could be putting up a false front. But it’s the same in the physical world, too. How many times have you met someone you thought was nice, only to watch them laugh and not help when someone gets hurt, or gone a date with someone who claimed to be laid-back who them verbally abuses the waitress? People (who are not trained spies, I suppose) are simply not good at hiding who they are over extended interaction. Granted, when you meet someone in person, it’s usually *quicker* to find out more about them, but the same thing will happen over time in the online world. And just like in person, you start to learn how to read the signals and cues people give off online.
I’ve physically met up with a number of guildmates, too. Every one I can. Especially since, through some odd coincidence, a lot of them are awesome cooks . The first time I ever met fellow players, I was 13 and meeting up with other MUDders in Manhattan. My dad came along to chaperone. And guess what? They were the same people I knew online. Friendly or goofy or shy. In the end, we went rollerblading in Central Park, and my dad even enjoyed himself. I’ve dated guildmates, too, and while that has a whole host of issues attached to it – really, the same issues you face dating someone you work with – it was good while it lasted. No, not every guildmate or online buddy has turned into my best friend, but I wouldn’t hesitate to offer any of them a place to stay if they were in town, or any help they needed, because we are a community. A real one. With love and fights and friendship and nights spent drunk off our asses, enjoying each other’s company and sharing something we all like to do: play games.
My life, like Codex’s, is far from perfect. But it has never gotten better because I ignored the gaming world. It *has* gotten better because of my guildmates. So thank you, Felicia Day, for showing that world what I’ve known for years but couldn’t say to such a large audience: Guildies are awesome, and we should all be so lucky to have some in our lives.
*Actually, I suspect this one isn’t that much of an exaggeration, because I had a guildie just like him. JUST. LIKE. HIM.
**I refuse to think of it as “virtual” and “real” worlds. There’s nothing any less real about what happens online. If you watch a movie and discuss it with your friend, is the conversation less real because the movie was fiction?
Stay a while, and listen.
We’ve been together for such a long time. More than 12 years, I think. I remember when we first met playing Starcraft in high school. I played a lot of Starcraft. A LOT. The Zerg were always my favorite – just look at the arms on those hydralisks! They just wanted to give you a hug. I lived for the swarm in those days. I admit my first copy of the game was a bootleg my friend made of his copy, but I loved it so much that as soon as I could I bought it for real, and then jumped at the chance to buy Brood War when it came out.
In college you introduced me to Diablo 2. I have many fond memories of you and I and a gaggle of my closest friends playing over the college LAN (hey, this was the year 2000 – LANs were new to most of us). We skipped more classes because we just had to get that item identified than any of us would care to admit. To this day, even with a whole new group of friends, we all remember the rush with a new character to get the Horadric Cube, the cow level, and Wirt’s Third Leg. We didn’t even mind the carpal tunnel we all got from spam-clicking. I’ve bought the game three times over the years, because I am clumsy and scatterbrained and lost my first two copies, but the game was so good I wanted to keep playing. Hell, I want to play it right now.
When World of Warcraft came out, I joined in. I’ve been playing for something like 6 and a half years. Every so often I look back on old screenshots and smile the way someone would looking at pictures from their 16th birthday party. I can’t imagine my life without some of the people I’ve met playing that game. Some of my best friends are people I’ve never met in person. I championed your cause with every expansion, and tried to see the upside in changes I didn’t like. I’ve seen it all, Horde and Alliance, and hated every time I had to cancel my subscription for a month because of money.
I even bought all the d20 tabletop RPG books that you did with White Wolf’s Sword & Sorcery division (except the Monster Manual, because it’s always out of stock). I ran a campaign for a year and a half about the cleansing of Felwood. I became so enamored with the lore of the world that I went back and bought Warcraft 3 and played through that.
I am telling you all this, Blizzard, because I want you to see that I loved you and I was loyal to you. I’ve given you so much of my time and money, and I didn’t regret any of it. Until Starcraft 2.
You see, Blizzard, I loved playing LAN games with my friends. And I loved being staff at a convention with a LAN room. We bought 8 additional copies of the original StarCraft to put on our machines, Blizzard. We didn’t use our own copies, and neither did our patrons. These were 8 copies dedicated solely to letting people – most of whom owned the game at home – get in some face-to-face play (and the accompanying trash-talking). Hell, I used to LAN party Starcraft with my roommates or anyone else I could shanghai into playing. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat in the same room as your opponent. But in StarCraft 2 we couldn’t do that anymore. We can’t even let people bring their own machines with their own authenticated copies, because we need a constant internet connection and we can’t get that in our hotel. The worst part, Blizzard, that you rectified *somewhat*, was that I could no longer play with my Australian friends. Thankfully, they can now jump on the American servers, but I can’t go over there. It’s not ideal, since it’s several of them making the region jump instead of just one of me, but I was willing to put up with it.
But now there’s this business with Diablo 3 having no offline mode, no LAN support, and a real-money auction house system. The auction house bothers me. No, I don’t intend to really use it, but I want you to consider some things, Blizzard. By putting this system into place, you’ve pretty much guaranteed that a lot of the good items will only go up for real money. Let’s face it, if you had the choice to put up an item you’re pretty sure would sell for real or fake money, which would you choose? And maybe this is your plan: in the end, everyone except the people playing on hardcore mode will be using the auction house with real money, and you’ll be raking in the dough from all those fees you’ve attached to it. You probably don’t even care about all the possible problems with item ninjas that will make grouping up with new people a shot in the wallet as well as the dark. I could kind of live with it, I suppose, because those fees will probably help keep the servers running, but I’m not sure you’ve thought through all the repercussions of this decision – or worse, that you have but you don’t care.
No LAN support just makes me sad, but the real issue here is no offline play. At all. Why? You’ve said over and over it’s because you’re trying to prevent cheating. You’ve tried to tell us it’s to give us all freedom – but by giving us this “freedom” to use all our characters on Battle.net, you’ve taken away our decision in the essential thing. Even still, that’s not the real reason, is it? You’re trying to prevent piracy. You’re trying to prevent people going over to their friend’s house, installing the game, logging in once with their account, and then their friend plays for free offline. I understand that. There are other ways to go about it and still let us play offline, though. I’ve seen several good suggestions, and I’m going to toss mine into the ring: What about a limited number of computers that can be authenticated using one account, like iTunes does it? Say, two or three machines? Yes, you might still get pirated copies, but since the only multi-player will be over Battle.net, if those people who loved single-player want to play with their friends they’ll have to buy the game anyway. And who knows? That one pirated copy might turn that person into another me, who bought all your games, gave you subcription fees for years and years, and even bought associated merchandise like t-shirts and toys.
I can pinpoint when this all started, Blizzard, and it was when you got into bed with Activision. That hussy has turned you into someone else, and it’s someone I no longer want to be with. So I’ve let my WoW sub run out, and I don’t think I’m going to buy Diablo 3. I’ll probably still play Starcraft 2 – that is, unless Activision convinces you to make Battle.net a subscription service, and I think we all know that’s where this is going.
Goodbye, Blizzard. Thanks for the fun times, but you’ve changed so much, and I no longer love you.
Doesn’t Dragonite look so friendly? Don’t you just want to hug it and cuddle it? Look, it’s even waving at you!
DON’T FALL FOR IT.
Dragonite is death incarnate. Dragonite is in the category known as pseudo-legendary, which means it has the stats of a legendary pokemon, but it can be caught multiple times within the same game, and doesn’t require attendance at any special Nintendo events. The Dragonite, along with its pseudo-legendary brethren, have a stat total of 600, which means an average of 100 base points in each stat. This is as high as any pokemon can get without actually being legendary. To add to that, the Dragonite is (as you might have guessed) a dragon type pokemon, which means it has very few weaknesses, many strengths, and the possibility of learning some of the most powerful moves in the game.
Why doesn’t everyone just use Dragonite, then? A lot of people do, really, but the rules of some leagues do not allow pseudo-legendaries. Also, one of the major weaknesses of dragon types is, ironically, dragon. If you load up your team with dragons, you’ve created a majorly exploitable hole in your strategy. Still, a well-trained Dragonite can be a terrifying opponent to face.
I face a Dragonite constantly, and the sight of it still sends shivers up my spine. You see, I have this
friend enemy arch frenemy. His name is Kelesk, and we met playing World of Warcraft six years ago. He was a tank, I was a healer, and it was a match made in hell. We have gotten into terrible flaming rows over and over, year after year, that have made everyone around us not want to talk to either of us for days. Have you ever had a screaming match over Ventrilo? (For those who are unfamiliar with Vent, think of it like walkie-talkies; you have to hold down a button to talk, and let go to hear the other person.) I have. It was possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve done it, with him. There’s never been a time when we have not been in direct competition with each other. Ever since Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver, one of our arenas has been pokemon battling, and the cornerstone of his team is his beloved Dragonite.
It might seem like we hate each other, but that’s really not the case (anymore). Somewhere along the line, we both realized that the reason we’re always in competition is we both see so much potential in the other. Competition is a way to try and coax it out of each other. If we didn’t have this fundamental respect for each other, we wouldn’t have bothered to keep in touch all these years. I’m even drawing him a little comic to explain all that stuff about EVs and IVs I talked about in the Blissey post, because he’s bad at math. I could keep the information to myself, of course, and gain an edge in our battles, but that wouldn’t be right. It’s not a real victory unless we both start on equal footing. That’s the crux of battling in Pokemon, and in life: we should all strive to be our best, and help each other along the way; if someone doesn’t have what we do, we should endeavor to change that, so all our victories can be celebrated.
Every time I see Dragonite, I think of Kelesk, and I think of everything we’ve gone through together. Friendship, hatred, struggles, respect, love; all these things are Pokemon.
Ah, Celebi. Celebi is one of those special legendary event pokemon. It’s cute, isn’t it? And of course, powerful. It’s a psychic/grass type, so it has about a billion weaknesses. Still, a smart player can work around those. Though the Japanese spelling of its name – serebii – is the inspiration for one of the more popular Pokemon fan communities, serebii.net, that’s not why this particular pokemon is notable.
Cerebi is like a gateway drug to the world of special event pokemon. Event pokemon are limited-release pokemon; they were originally handed out at physical events (hence the name) before the advent of wi-fi on the Nintendo DS. These days, for a few weeks you can go to certain retailers and connect to the Nintendo wi-fi there, and then you download these special pokemon. Celebi was the first one available for the most recent game, Black & White, though it is a reissue from many years ago. Many of them have some additional purpose beyond being awesome; a trio of pokemon released over 2010 allow you access to a special fourth pokemon in the new game, for example.
In case you missed it, the tagline for the Pokemon series in the English-speaking world is “Gotta catch ‘em all!”. As you might imagine, the existence of special event pokemon can make catching them all particularly difficult. I missed all of the 2010 event pokemon, despite living across the street from a GameStop. This irritates me to no end. Of course, event pokemon can almost never be bred, so you can only ever obtain one per copy of the game you have, if you manage to make it to the event.
So how might you go about obtaining these rare pokemon? You can trade, of course, but people aren’t likely to just give them up – though there are some people who will go out of there way to obtain multiple copies of these event pokemon specifically to trade. There’s a darker side to all of this, a seedy underbelly, and it is filled with hacked pokemon.
Yes, people care enough to hack copies of their games to give themselves extra copies of these pokemon. Worse, if you manage to trade for one, you might never know. Most competitive leagues don’t allow legendary pokemon anyway, but even still, you’ve got a little black market pokemon on your copy of the game, and you never know if this will cause issues down the line and ruin all your hard work. I might not take that risk, but plenty of other people will. That’s how far this goes, people. Folks out there are willing to risk losing access to all the pokemon they have for a shot at obtaining something like a Celebi. If you suspect you might have a hacked pokemon, you might want to check out this thread on the Serebii forums.
Blissey is the final evolution of a chain that starts with Happiny and then moves to Chansey. Chansey was originally the only one, but later games added the Blissey evolution and eventually the Happiny pre-evolution. It’s focused on healing and defense, and in the anime its Chansey form hangs around Nurse Joy in the Pokemon Center (for you non-pokemon people out there, the Pokemon Center is basically a pokemon hospital). It’s pretty notable for having the highest potential HP (the amount of damage it can take before it faints) in the entire series of games.
Note I said “potential”. Blissey must be trained properly, and that begins from birth (hatching?). All pokemon have two types of traits they’re created with: their nature, and their individual values (IV). Think of it as genetics. There’s six stats, the minimum and maximum values of which are raised or lowered by different natures (except for the HP stat). This works out to a possible twenty-five different natures. In addition, their IVs can be anywhere from 0 to 31, and that’s the additional amount of points each stat has. Breeding a pokemon, or just catching a bunch, to obtain the correct nature can be annoying, but in the end it might take you at worst an hour. IVs are a different story. There’s pretty much no such thing as a pokemon that has perfect 31′s across the board, but through clever item trickery, breeding, and a few spare hours you can usually get one that has a 25 or higher in its primary stats.
Primary stats? Oh yes. See, much like people, pokemon are naturally predisposed to certain talents. Blissey here has a naturally high life score and special defense. Getting 25 or more IVs in those stats is great! But Blissey has a really low attack. One of the lowest in the game, really. So a high IV in attack is pretty useless – even 31 extra points, bringing its total to around 40 (depending on nature), isn’t worth it on a playing field when pokemon have stats in the 200+ range. Blissey doesn’t really do damage. What Blissey does, and does very well, is stand there, take hits, and protect and heal her* team. She’s killer in a 2v2 match.
That’s just the first part. You’ve heard of nature vs. nurture, I’m sure. Well, in addition to the genetics of the pokemon in question, you can train it to raise specific stats even further. Every time your pokemon participates in a battle, the defeat of the opposing pokemon grants something called an effort value (EV) to the victor(s). Each pokemon has a set number and type of EVs they will grant: defeating a Blissey, for instance, will grant the winner 3 HP EVs. You can’t just load up on one stat, though; the game has a hard cap on how many points can be earned this way. It works out to an additional 63 possible points in two stats.
Let’s put it all together. Blissey has a base HP stat of 255. HP is 110 + double the base stat, since there is no nature that boosts HP. The formula gets a little trickier from here, because of the order in which the game calculates things. Double the stat: 510. Now add 100, (no, not 110, told you it gets weird). 610. Now add the IV; let’s say our Blissey is awesome and has 31: 641. Now the EVs: 704. Now multiply by level, divide by 100, and then add 10. This brings us to 714. In case you’re doing this with another stat, instead of adding 10 at the end, you would multiply by .9 for a hindering nature, 1.1 for a beneficial nature, or leave it alone for a neutral nature.
Did all of this go right over your head? Does it suddenly seem like the world of Pokemon got a lot more complex? Happened to me the first time I saw all this. I thought all you had to do was level up and pick some cool moves. Turns out there’s a lot more to the game, and that’s what keeps me interested. The world of competitive battling is cutthroat and takes a lot of preparation, planning, and math! Oh yeah, and a little bit of luck, too.
Monday: Celebi, and a dip into the seedy underbelly of special event pokemon. Tuesday: Dragonite, love, and hatred.
*Yes, many pokemon have gender. Some have no gender, most can be male or female, and there are a handful such as Blissey that can only be male or female.
For the life of me, the only theme I could think of at first for this challenge was “Pokemon A-Z and Why They Are AwesomeZ0rz.” I’m still going to do that, but I’d like to try something with a bit more substance as well. The whole point of this challenge is to blog every day in April (except for Sundays) about something that starts with a different letter of the Alphabet, and there are plenty of Pokemon to choose from! My other thought is to attempt a write-up of a steampunk character, with accompanying illustration, for every letter, but that might be a bit too ambitious. We’ll see how it goes.
Arbok is one of the original set of 150 Pokemon. It’s the evolution of Ekans, a snake-like poison Pokemon, which means it’s weak against ground and psychic types. It’s not really amazing against anything but grass, and it sucks against a whole mess of stuff. The description in the new Pokedex of Black & White is: “The pattern on its belly is for intimidation. It constricts foes when they are frozen in fear.” Its stat spread isn’t too terrible and it’s pretty well-rounded, which makes it not too shabby for going through the game. It’s really kind of a “meh” Pokemon, all things considered. So why did I choose it?
I still remember the sound it made in the TV show when Jessie of Team Rocket summoned it. “Arrrrrrbokk!” with a hard, hissy k-sound at the end. Along with Koffing/Weezing and Meowth, it was one of the three iconic “villain” Pokemon, all fangs and poison and pain. That I still remember its cry is testament to the extent to which that child’s cartoon permeated popular culture. I was not-yet-16 when it first broadcast here in the states, and the Pokemon craze was in full swing. So many of my peers watched it with glee, and it was one of the few things I had in common with many of my classmates. Who among us can’t still recite the Team Rocket speech?
Arbok, I’m sorry you got such a bad rap. I’m sorry I never really went out of my way to catch you in Pokemon games. When I get the National Dex in B&W, I’ll come find you, and we can go beat up Ash for old time’s sake. We can recite the speech together. Say it with me, readers! You know the words. I’ll even start you off.
Prepare for trouble…