Agent Michael Scarn, FBI

I’ve started Alpha Protocol. It seems like a logical next step after finally finishing Deus Ex. The reviews weren’t joking when they said the character customizations were limited. The choices are hipster douchebag or hipster douchebag with a Castro beard. I went with hipster douchebag with a Castro beard. My first actual mission did not go well. I kept getting spotted or I was too loud or something because alarms kept going off and I had to shoot my way out.

Hacking in this game sucks. It involves matching patterns in a constantly shifting sea of characters. I am apparently not great at telling the difference between a quickly changing letter and a letter frozen because it’s part of a string. Thankfully bypassing electronics is not that hard and lockpicking is dead simple. Because this is a spy game, I feel like I should be more sneaky than destructive so I’ve been dumping my experience points into stealth, which is paying off. I’ve gone from setting off every alarm everywhere to being able to sneak up behind dudes and stab them in the throat. I only set off an alarm in the last mission because I failed on an electronics bypass.

Anyway, it’s not Deus Ex but it is pretty enjoyable. I’m playing it seriously but I kind of wish I could play it like a shitty James Bond.

Bullet sponge

I’m nearing the end of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I play it in between games because I can’t handle playing it for long. I can’t handle it because the game is beautiful and the weapons are mostly well done and the missions are almost fun but the main character is FRAGILE.

There are few things that really turn me off of a first-person shooter but instant death or quick death to the point of where I am forced to memorize where the bad guys are is one of them. I’ll get to a point in Bad Company 2 where I get stuck and die repeatedly in the same spot. It’s frustrating. I hate replaying sections and I most certainly hate dying from the same thing over and over. It’s even worse when I’m getting stuck on geometry.

Most recently, I kept dying in one spot on a level, as I do, and I noticed that my friendly AI companions were not advancing through the level with me. They were just kind of stuck in one spot and wouldn’t proceed past it for whatever reason. After inching through this section, because I hadn’t reached a checkpoint in a while and I did not want to repeat it all over again, I finally reached one (and more enemies) and my AI friends suddenly popped into existence right next to me! What the hell. Obviously they were supposed to be following me, and didn’t, so I fought through most of that section solo. It’s annoying.

I’m really only grinding through it at this point just because I’m almost at the end and I want to clear it off of my hard drive. I enjoyed the early game, when every encounter wasn’t absolutely lethal.

An Apology to Deus Ex

Dear Deus Ex,

I was wrong about you. So wrong. You and I were speaking different languages for years. This week I decided to listen before speaking.

Instead of trying to do everything and see everything and crawl through every nook and cranny, I accepted you for being a bigger game than one playthrough can encompass. Instead of trying to do everything in one run, I just did things my way. I blasted my enemies to death. I tossed out all non-lethal weaponry. I explored whenever I could but accepted that not every door could or should be opened. I dumped skills into computers so I could hack turrets and cameras instead of sneaking around, which I hate. I played you the way that I enjoyed the most.

And it worked! I finished you today, having put in almost 15 hours over the course of four days. It was awesome!

In short, Deus Ex, thanks for being you. I was wrong about you all along.

Love,

brian

Buried

I am completely buried under a pile of games that seems to be getting bigger. Just a couple weeks ago I was lamenting having something new to play (hence all the expansion pack playthroughs) but now I feel like my backlog is getting completely out of control.

A friend of mine went to PAX East and brought back a couple of t-shirts she didn’t need/want that she gave to me, one of which was a shirt for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. My love/hate relationship with Deus Ex is well documented. Nonetheless, I was interested in Human Revolution and now I am super-hyped for it. The front of the shirt says “The Truth Will Change You” while the back has a silhouette of the main character filled with a bunch of words and phrases relating to the game or series. My favorite of these is “it’s not the end of the world but you can see it from here.”

I’m giving Deus Ex another shot. I played through all of Invisible War not that long ago, and I’ve never finished the original despite owning it for 11 years. I’m doing this my way: save the good guys, kill everyone else. I think I’m doing rather well! My inventory is constantly full but I’m also full up on medkits and bioelectic cells and ammo for the two guns that I use.

I spent seven hours playing it today and I’m about to get out of Hong Kong. I will finish this dumb game.

This class is ridiculous

Tuesday I had my second plant bio exam. Now, leading up to this exam, I hadn’t gone to lecture between the first exam and now. I got an 86 on my first exam and attendance is not required because the points from attendance come from the same pool as the points for the quizzes posted on Blackboard. The quizzes are far more helpful than the lectures because the exams come straight out of the quizzes.

Going into this exam, I was a little worried! The study guide for the first exam had literally all the answers needed to pass the quizzes, and there was a practice exam posted that I could take over and over without consequence. It was great for memorizing questions and answers. This time around the study guide was not complete and there was no practice exam. I had to go through lecture slides to get through the quizzes, and then I studied off of the quizzes but I didn’t get that feedback of what I retained and what I couldn’t remember by taking that practice exam. But I felt confident that I at least passed the exam afterwards.

I got an 88. I did better on the second exam with an incomplete study guide and no practice than I did on the first exam. Obviously, I’m doing something right!

Countdown to FREEDOM

I’m insane and tonight I pounded out my last paper until after Spring break! Combined with finishing my assignments for Wednesday, the only obligations I have outside of classes are readings and two exams! This almost means my working obligations are over! I’ll sleep well tonight knowing that I don’t have anything due for at least two weeks! YEAH!

I finished up Dead Space 2: Severed. Here’s a brief cost analysis: $6 (560 ms bucks), two chapters containing just over an hour of gameplay (on normal difficulty), one altered weapon (patrol seeker rifle), one “new” enemy (the twitchy fast necromorphs from the first one), and I think they added two altered suits to my main campaign save. I think it was worth it because I love Dead Space 2.

If I didn’t love the game so much to begin with, I might be a little upset. The two chapters take place in a mining quarry and the medical wing of Titan station, both of which are settings I’ve been to before. It is completely self-contained and has in-game cutscenes and voice acting but since it’s so short, it’s hard to connect with the characters I’m supposed to connect to. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t play Extraction first, which is where they came from.

This compelled me to start up my New Game+ on Zealot difficulty. I’m up to chapter two already. Yep, I still love this game!

Expansion Packs

Between doing homework on my countdown to Spring break (2 assignments, 1 lab, 2 exams, 1 paper, 4 journal pages to go!), I played a some games, most of which were expansion content. Last weekend I finished F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, so this weekend I finished F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate.

That was… not great. It’s biggest offense is an enemy that can just soak up an unholy amount of damage and it’s just a dude. He can deftly sidestep out of the way, except it’s not that effective when I’m in slow-mo. He’s more of a nuisance than anything. There was, however, a great level in which I was pursued by a large robot through an office building. That was awesome. But the rest? Skip it. It just made me wish I were playing F.E.A.R. 2, which is so mind-blowingly awesome.

I also played a little bit of Dead Space 2: Severed. It gives you the pulse rifle, flamethrower, and seeker rifle from the start, which is great because I didn’t use the flamethrower or seeker rifle at all in the main campaign and I wanted to give them a shot. I really haven’t played much of it but it’s certainly more Dead Space 2!

Finally, all that Doom 2 I’ve been playing made me want to play a little Doom 3 so I loaded up the Resurrection of Evil expansion because it’s what I’ve played the least of. I think I’ve only gone through it three times. That is one slow moving game. For realz. Especially when compared to Doom 2. Even when compared to F.E.A.R.

The last flight

Today was my last amateur flight for the foreseeable future. It was one of those test flights where someone more important than my normal instructor evaluates me. It wasn’t a relaxing enjoyable flight and it was more of a nerve-wracking pain in the ass but I passed. I think now would be a good time to express a couple of the reasons why I got out of it.

  • I’m not a very good pilot. Out of four of these test flights, I’ve failed two for doing something wrong. Not a little wrong, borderline dangerous wrong. I don’t take failures lightly and it was very embarrassing to me, which is why I never talk about them. I know this is one of those things that gets better with time and experience but I am 28. I’m not old but I’m a little old to be stumbling through the entry level of a career when I already have a lot of skill in another field.
  • Aviation is not as fulfilling to me as working in tech. I can fly the airplane, and I can plan flights, and I can do some basic weather analysis, and I can interpret charts and graphs, and none of it feels as good as fixing a good computer problem. Maybe that will come with time, and maybe it won’t.
  • I care more about tech than I do aviation. I read and keep up on a whole lot of tech news. I tried to do the same thing with aviation and I just could not give a fuck.  It’s all business. The tech sector is so broad and constantly evolving. The aviation industry feels turgid and sluggish by comparison.
  • The aviation industry has been a lot of doom and gloom lately. It will bounce back to some degree but some of the problems in the industry for pilots, and especially new pilots, are not getting better. Pilots will continue to be stretched thin and overworked because the industry wants more flights, more passengers, less downtime, and less pay. Seriously, investigate the way a new pilot at a regional carrier lives. It’s worse than a private in the Army, and the private may even get paid more.
  • Finally, and perhaps the most important, pilots in the cockpit flying the airplane are not the future; drones are the future. Unmanned are where the growth in aviation is coming from, and you don’t necessarily need a pilot to fly a drone. In nearly every case I know of, drones are flown by people who aren’t pilots. They’re (more or less) Joe Schmoe, pulled off the street and given a bunch of training and sent on his way. The FAA does not have a drone pilot certificate. The FAA regulations don’t even cover drones, at all! Right now, unmanned are primarily used for military applications but a future in which drones handle most non-passenger carrying flights is coming.

So that’s it. There are a couple less important reasons but the short of it is that working with tech makes me happier and, in my opinion, has a brighter future for me. My time flying hasn’t been wasted, I do hold a private pilot certificate and all of my logged flight hours. I can still fly wherever I go, if I want to pay to rent an airplane to do so. It’s just not what I’ll be doing for a living, and that’s fine with me.

Tomb of Malevolence

You know, the first thing I did today was get Dead Space 2: Severed and the Nine Inch Nails track pack for Rock Band. I’ve played a couple of the Nine Inch Nails songs but I haven’t touched Severed yet.

I did, however, finish the Doom 2 bonus episode No Rest for the Living. What a brutal collection of levels. The levels are beautifully made and the challenge is always just a hair below what I was capable of beating. Seriously, Vivisection, halfway through it almost broke me. Now my avatar gets to wear the totally effing sweet Doom marine costume! And I get to grind through the rest of Doom 2 on Ultraviolence. And maybe I’ll get back into Thy Flesh Consumed if I want to die repeatedly.

Katie made the mistake of buying the Magic game off of XBLA and we played three games and I totally crushed her all three times. She blames it on the deck and cheating. You can’t cheat when the program is controlling the rules!