Category Archives: Personal Nonsense

Anything about me and anyone I care about. Personal garbage.

Getting Dumber

I’m probably going to ditch my fitness tracker within the next six months. Maybe this is a 40 thing, but I’ve been examining why I use “smart” things I do and if they’re worth it. I was super early on Amazon Echo, pre-ordering the first model, and we ditched it a couple years ago. We were using it for a kitchen timer and a music speaker and nothing else, but it was listening to everything we said. That’s sort of an awful trade.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my Fitbit. It’s annoying. I wear it all the time, but I have to charge it twice, three times a week. It always starts doing something I don’t want it to when I shower. If I run in sleeves, the sleeves cause it to stop tracking my run and do all kinds of things that aren’t tracking my run. I’ve been putting up with these minor annoyances for quite a while, and now I’m asking myself why. Let’s run down why I started using it to begin with, and see if those reasons are valid.

The reason I got any non-dumb watch was to track my runs with a GPS. Several years ago, I wanted to know how far I was going, how long it took me to get there, and what my heart rate was. I was a less experienced runner, and I thought these things would help me train. And they did. But nowadays, if I run, I know where I’m going and I have other tools to map distance. I could know how long it took without a GPS. And the heart rate is nothing I really use. I’d lose some interesting stats like number of steps and elevation and whatnot, but that’s not really helpful. I don’t need to wear a fitness tracker every day to track runs anyway. I could do that with a running watch, or just my phone.

The next use was tracking my steps. This is something I started doing after I got my first running watch, but not the reason I got one. Tracking my steps helped me stay active in that first year of the pandemic, and it helped me start losing weight. Today, if I don’t hit my step goal, I don’t really care. I know I’m going to have days where I’m more active and days when I’m less active. Missing my step goal isn’t the end of my world, and I make no effort to hit it. I could replace this with some sort of exercise calendar.

I’ve used my Fitbit to check out my daily fitness stats, like heart rate and sleep and stress. These are all useless. Looking at them has done literally nothing for me. I look at this stuff maybe once a month. I don’t really need this.

Now that I type this all out, I can say that I need to know what time it is, and I’d like to be able to track my runs, and that’s about it. Both of these things could be done with my phone, and both could be done with a running watch that I don’t wear and charge and wash and sleep with everyday. I thought I’d enjoy some of the social aspects of having friends on Fitbit but that never coalesced. I can stop feeding all my daily PHI to Google.

Is Microsoft Buying Activision Good?

When I heard that Microsoft was buying Activision/Blizzard/King, my first thought was “oh, I hope that means Heretic 2 comes to GOG soon.” My monkey brain went straight to the many, many games in the Activision back catalog that are no longer available to purchase and harder to play because of that. But is Microsoft buying Activision actually a good thing?

No. No, probably not.

Market consolidation is a bad thing for consumers. When MS buys Acti, they’re removing competition from the video game market. If three games come to Xbox (one from MS, one from Acti, and one from EA), but I can only afford one, I’m going to buy the one I perceive to be the best. With all three competing for my money, they’re each going to do their best to make a good game. My money allows the publisher I choose to buy a game from to fund future games and their continued existence. This is all super basic stuff.

If three games come out on Xbox, and MS is publishing two of the three, those two don’t have to compete against each other. They just have to be better than third. It doesn’t matter if I buy the MS or Acti game because the result is the same; MS gets my cash. I’ve gone from three choices to two, even if the illusion is that I have three choices.

It’s not a secret that Acti has a reportedly toxic work environment. Arguably, being purchased by MS could make swift and meaningful change in a way that leaving Acti independent would not. Once the purchase is complete, MS could rip and replace the leadership at Acti on a whim and show the door to abusers or those who don’t fall in line. But whether I have confidence in Acti’s ability to change their workplace or not is meaningless. If Acti remained independent, their reputation would catch up to them. Like Ubisoft, they could find themselves having a hard time retaining employees. If, over time, the lack of change results in poor revenue, the board at Acti would take action to preserve their business. This isn’t a problem that is solved by a buy-out, nor does the buy-out guarantee it will be fixed.

This buy-out could, and definitely will, result in more Acti games on Xbox Game Pass, a service I already pay for. I will get more games and that service will become more valuable. But that also didn’t require a buy-out. No one forced Acti games off of Game Pass; they chose not to participate. MS didn’t make the decision for them.

But will this get me Heretic 2 on GOG or any other digital distribution service? Maybe. MS probably has all the rights consolidated in their ownership for that particular game. That doesn’t mean they’ll do anything with them. That doesn’t mean the two companies couldn’t come to some sort of deal to republish Heretic 2 without a buy-out. That back catalog of Acti games could just remain in digital deep freeze forever. Given how many of those games are based on licensed properties, that seems pretty likely.

There are things to look forward to. Maybe MS lets Call of Duty escape the annual release cycle. Maybe MS lets studios like Raven Software be their own thing and not just support vehicles for Call of Duty. Maybe all of my favorite Acti games are re-released for modern platforms. But none of these things were impossible before the buy-out, just choices by Acti’s current leadership. That current leadership isn’t guaranteed to change with the buy-out.

Now there’s one less competitor in the video game market. If everything stays the course, I’m still not interested in what Acti makes. Now the financial impacts of that disinterest make less of an impact on that company.

Stray Avengers thoughts

  • None of the purchasable costumes seem to be based on anything preexisting. That’s really weird. One of the fun things about Marvel is that there’s just mountains of existing stuff in comics to mine. I would’ve expected to see a lot more recognizable stuff in this game. Legally distinct characters, not based on MCU, yes. No comic book costumes? What in the world are you doing?
  • There are fewer recognizable Marvel villains than heroes, and that’s real weird. They’re not really treading new ground here either. I can count three bosses/villains and two of them are movie retreads. It’s a real surprise considering how Spider-Man was throwing villains at me every hour. This game doesn’t even namedrop, and it’s not an origin story. The player comes into it with an established Avengers team. They’ve fought villains.
  • This game is distinctly separate from the MCU, but I can read into it that they intended to keep it in MCU canon. Let’s just say the plot has a ton of overlap with things that were big themes in MCU adjacent properties four years ago. That’s around the time when the game was teased.
  • A surprising amount of the game is HARM, which is the training room. Every hero has a HARM training mission. There’s a string of HARM missions that are just wave-based combat scenarios in a small room. I guess it’s a good way to pad out a big, pretty, expensive game.
  • I’m working through the story expansions, so I may have more to add here.

Today’s Gripe

A common problem I have with starting a new game is that it takes way too fucking long for the game to get started. Between tutorials and world building and exposition, too many games won’t just let me play it. This is particularly frustrating when I want to play something like a JRPG. They all start with long cutscenes, lots of establishing of the world, walking around and talking, and then maybe it might drop me into one fight where my options are hobbled because I haven’t completed the fight tutorial yet. Sometimes the tutorial is so awful that I can’t tell what I need to do to get through it. I drop so many games after only 15 minutes of playing them.

Hey video games. Get to the fucking point. Please let me play you within the first 15 minutes so I can figure out if I even want to keep playing.

Cruelty Thoughts

Something I learned really quickly was that death is expensive. In my first mission, I busted in the front door, shot a couple guys, and got mowed down by their friends. Barely got started and died immediately. Then I noticed that my respawn fee is $500. I didn’t have any money, so my balance is in the negative.

Alright, back into it, round 2. I slink around. I don’t go in through the front door. I manage to get a couple kills that drop organs. Yes, organs. Kidneys, livers, intestines, etc. And then I die. My balance is -$1000.

This game has a stock market. One of the tabs in it is “parts”. This is where I can sell those organs I found. Neat! After an even slower and even more cautious run, I finish the first level. I’m paid $1000 for my troubles. Considering the cost of implants and upgrades, this is a pittance. For $1000, I can’t buy anything worthwhile. All the cool stuff, higher jump, grapple, armor piercing ammo, is way too expensive for this. I’m going to have to sell these organs if I ever want to get cooler stuff.

On the second mission, I am a ghoul. I’m not making money completing missions. I’m making money harvesting and selling parts. I don’t know of a more reliable way to get to parts than kicking corpses, so I’m football kicking these dead motherfuckers all over the place. When I kick a corpse over a wall, I curse. Fuck, there goes my parts! Civilians got parts too, so they’re not special. I’m going to get their parts. What passes for dogs in this game have parts. Give me those parts!

I’ve walked into a residential neighborhood, killed a lot of people, and walked out with a sack full of intestines, livers, pancreases, brains, and kidneys. I got paid $2000 for three of those kills, but I made four times as much selling parts. And look at these jump boosters I just put in my legs! I can leap right over fences now! Makes it easier to get to those hard to reach parts.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about Cruelty Squad. Trailer below.

Pause

I went hard on FFXIV for a couple days and stopped playing. Why?

In short, I have other games to play. Wow, such a revelation, right? But that’s the beauty of a demo. I can try out something that sounds good and see if I want to put more time or money into it.

Playing FFXIV made me recognize that I wasn’t really doing anything I couldn’t do better in a single player game. I have every other Final Fantasy. I’ve only finished XV. I could even play FFVII Remake.

I will give FFXIV credit for being a better single player MMO than ESO. The world’s prettier, there’s a lot more meat to the narrative, and actual cutscenes. It’s fun, just not so fun I’d spend $15 monthly on it.

Adventures in FFXIV

I finally got out of my starting area.

I’ve read that tank and healer classes have an easier time finding groups. I experienced a bit of this when the story sent me to an instanced dungeon. My current class is lancer, DPS. I went to start the dungeon and it put me in a queue, waiting for a healer and a tank. The wait time was estimated at 6 minutes.

Now that I can go to any of the starting areas, I decided to swap classes to a tank class. That’s when I found out that there are very few non-DPS classes.

As I learned, if I want to play a tank, I can pick gladiator (which leads to paladin), or marauder (which leads to warrior). Dark Knight and Gunbreaker are advanced classes (level 50+). Likewise, if I wanted to play healer, I could go conjurer (leading to white mage) or arcanist (leading to scholar), which astrologian being an advanced class. I was really close to the starting point for marauder, so I went with marauder.

Side note: look at this wild class imbalance. Four tank classes, three healer classes, eleven DPS classes. No wonder DPS classes have to queue.

I went to the marauder quest giver. It turns out switching classes is as simple as switching weapons. He gave me an axe so I equipped it.

Immediately, I’m standing there in nothing but my underwear with an axe on my back. All of my armor was either specific to lancer, or too high level. I was a level 1 marauder.

I didn’t keep any low level gear. I had to run around in my underwear until I could find an armor vendor. Even then, his only level 1 armor was a shirt. Oh well.

It did not last long because I was able to level up to 5 (the next gear level) fast, but it was pretty funny and definitely unexpected.

Making Mistakes Online

I know MMO games are not really my thing. It doesn’t stop me from playing them.

It started with Everquest. I saw one of my friends in high school playing it and I thought it looked like nothing I’d ever played before. I bought my own copy. But I was in high school, and broke, and had a short attention span. I played it for all of a week under the 30 days of game time it came with, uninstall, and never played it again.

Since then I’ve picked up and played some Champions Online (free), a lot of Star Trek Online (free), some Guild Wars (one time purchase), some Guild Wars 2 (one time purchase), a little Star Wars: The Old Republic (free), a little World of Warcraft (free trial), and a lot of Elder Scrolls Online (one time purchase). I’ve never considered playing a subscription MMO since Everquest. I don’t count WOW as I was never going to pay for WOW, I just wanted to see what the fuss was about long after it was on the decline.

Final Fantasy XIV gets a lot of positive reviews though, and it’s a subscription MMO. Every time I’ve considered it, I’ve installed and played ESO instead. But ESO is bad. It’s just an ugly, dreadfully boring game. I call it my depression game because I can only play it when I’m depressed. I demand too much for my time to play it otherwise.

This time, though, I’m giving FFXIV a shot. It has a generous free trial. I can get the full game + a month of subscription for cheap if I enjoy it. And so far, maybe two or three hours in, I’m enjoying it.

The mistake here is that I could be playing any of the hundreds of games I already own. But here I am, starting an MMO that will takes hundreds of hours to “complete”.

Support your independent creators

James Stephanie Sterling is a youtuber whose work I’ve been following for several years. They recently came out as trans-feminine non-binary. Since then, they’ve lost thousands of Youtube followers. Part of this is because Youtube’s algorithms routinely punish and de-value works from LGBTQ creators, and part of this is simply that bigots who are intolerant of Jim’s identity are leaving. As they say in this video, it’s a good thing their livelihood doesn’t depend solely on Youtube, because Youtube is a terrible platform. Without Patreon supporters, like myself, they’d be in a much worse position.

Likewise, May Leitz from the Youtube channel Nyx Fears also finds her videos being de-prioritized or hidden by Youtube’s algorithms. She put a lot of work into this touching and personal video about childhood neglect, and it’s gotten less views than a week-old video about her DVD collection. It’s sad.

In one of her videos, she started it with (paraphasing) “This video is sponsored by no one. Nobody is going to sponsor me. I’m a trans youtuber talking about weird horror. No one is going to pay me for that.” And she’s right. That was the day I subscribed to her Patreon. Corporations might be scared to sponsor a trans youtuber, and Youtube is definitely fucking with her videos, but I can throw her some of my money. I like what she makes and I want her to keep doing it.

Another Youtuber I love whose work isn’t completely supported by Youtube is Patrick H Willems. He makes fun, thoughtful videos about movies. He’s been connecting the last year+ of videos with a side story about an evil coconut. He’s going to dedicate a whole video to wrapping up the coconut storyline with a mini-movie. But instead of his youtube channel, he’s putting it on Nebula. He had to take to twitter to elaborate on that decision because some people were mad about it.

It’s pretty clear to me that Youtube isn’t enough. Maybe when you’re at the tippy-top it’s enough, but everyone else isn’t getting enough out of it, especially queer creators. So please, if you have a favorite youtuber, find ways to support them outside of Youtube. A couple weeks ago, Youtube recommended a Jon Tron video to me, and today they showed me a Prager U ad. This thing sucks and I’d sure love it if these folks could all make enough outside of Youtube to leave it entirely.

https://www.patreon.com/jimquisition
https://www.patreon.com/nyxfears
https://www.patreon.com/patrickhwillems

The End is Near

I think I’m coming to the end of my interest in continuing to play Fallout 76. Xbox tells me I’m just past the 49 hour mark, with maybe 10 of those being played before this most recent stretch.

This is a huge game and it lands in the same place for me as playing a solo MMO like Elder Scrolls Online. I can walk around this endless world and see the sights, read some stories, and barely interact with it. It consumes my time. Even though I’m having some fun with it, at some point I want to “finish” it. But that’s not the point of this game. The point is for me to play it forever.

I could go back to Nier Replicant and continue my Ending B run, but that’s turning into a bit of a chore. I know what needs to be done and I’m not looking forward to doing it. I’ve run out the fun in playing it.

I have The Quiet Man. I know The Quiet Man isn’t a good game. But I also know The Quiet Man is a short game. I can run through this bad game and get to an ending and feel that satisfaction in finishing something.

I’ve also gotten a sudden urge to complete Resistance 3. I never finished Resistance: Fall of Man. It was a bit too early PS3 for my taste, a bit too rough and boring. I did finish Resistance 2, but I had to check my PS3 trophies because I sure don’t remember that at all. It’s a bit funny or sad that the Resistance games didn’t get caught up in the wave of reboots, remakes, restarts on PS4 or PS5. I think of them as kind of a tentpole of Sony exclusives that kept the PS3 going, but it seems they were less important to the platform than I thought.