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Satisfied Silence

August 22, 2014

Dear Reader, 

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been on in a few days.  There’s good news surrounding that, though: I got a job.  Hooray.

Seriously, though, I am excited; I’m back in the public schools like I wanted, teaching 6th grade English.  Sixth grade is a little young for me, admittedly, but I’ll adapt.  

The catch there is that I’ve never had a full-time, 40 hour plus a week job and written on this blog.  I’ve always been part time or had a cushy job like being a college professor.  I’m not sure what the implications are, really; I can’t promise to get things written on particular days anymore because I can’t really know what those days will look like.  I’m going to try to keep up the 3/day per week posting on M/W/F, but I just don’t know if I can.  Bear with me during this transition.

In brief gaming news, I beat Guacamelee!, which was very, very satisfying.  I didn’t like the very last boss fight, but everything else in the game was stellar.  I strongly recommend you give it a try, and, as a cherry on top, it kept my attention all the way through so that I actually finished it.  

Additionally, I beat deity level in a solo Civ game.  I had beaten it a couple times with a partner, but solo games are tougher since you’re really on your own.  It was a buzzer-beater, too.  One Civ had all but one other beaten in a culture victory, and another had all but one of the spaceship parts completed.  I won a diplomatic victory, which honestly are pretty easy victories, but on deity, I’ll take what I can get.  

So bear with me while I figure out what I still have time for, and we’ll see.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and exhausted; I worked as much in the last 4 days as I would in 2 weeks at the college)

Hope and Disappointment

August 18, 2014

Dear Reader,

A lot of my recent perceptions are being colored by my job search.  Those of us who’ve had to go through it recently know what a ego-crushing, self-confidence defeating procedure it often is.  This one has been no different, even though it’s been much shorter than my Illinois job search (so far).  For example, after being verbally told I was a “shoo-in” for a particular position and that I’d be called at 2 o’clock the following day, I never heard from the people.  That was of course a Friday, so I got to wait all weekend wondering what the heck happened.  Now, I’m not sure if I should call and appear impatient or wait and appear uninterested.  It’s a no-win situation.  Most of job hunting is, until the ultimate win, at any rate.

For that reason in particular, I’ve had a hard time getting my hopes up about things recently, whether they are tied to the job hunt or not.  It’s the age-old reason that not getting my hopes up means I’m less disappointed when things don’t go my way.  Sure, it sound particularly teen-angsty, and I’m sure it is, really, but still, there’s no point denying my emotions.  

I’ve not had any patience with situations that require hope to continue, meaning that in games, I’ve been quitting earlier than perhaps was necessary, believing that those games were sure defeats.  This has affected my Magic:The Gathering Online play, for instance, because I concede games as soon as it appears I’m going to lose.  Some of my buddies have been complaining about it, too, so it’s affecting their desire to play with me (not to any measurable amount, mind you, just on a general level).  

I’m not sure whether getting a job will solve these problems or not, but I suspect it would.  I said a long time ago, near the start of this blog, in fact, that I found it likely that my loss of being a public school teacher was directly tied to my inability to heroic raid any more.  The small, personal mistakes felt like larger failures, I had less patience than previously in dealing with others’ mistakes, and my drive to give it the old college try was diminished, all of which led to me deciding it just wasn’t worth the trouble.  My personal life being out of sorts affected my game life.

I suppose that’s no great revelation (especially since I noted it years ago), but it does bring up an interesting question: If I am successful getting back into the public schools, will I be interested in heroic raiding again?  I’ve discounted my capabilities for several reasons (age, reflexes, time, etc), but I wonder.  I suppose I’ll have to get a job first to figure it out.  Here’s to – trying – to hope for that.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and feeling blue)

Guacamelee! and other Gaming

August 15, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’m still playing all the games I listed before: Spelunky, Civ 5, WoW, MtGO, and ESO, but for good measure, I figured I’d throw another game into the mix.  I felt like I needed something to play alone (so ESO and MtGO are out) that was more manageable in small play sessions (so Civ 5’s out) that was new(ish) (so WoW’s out), that wasn’t constantly boning me with randomization (so Spelunky’s out).  All that really boils down to that I needed again that wasn’t likely to annoy the piss out of me since I’ve been on such a short fuse recently with the move and the no job and all.

I picked up Guacamelee! during the last Steam sale.  I’d seen it at PAX and was a little underwhelmed, but it’s hard to pick up a controller at a game convention with the play the game completely out of context and really understand what’s happening.  When I mentioned that I was playing it to my blind buddy, he was surprised, since what we’d seen wasn’t too impressive.  However, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised the with game as a whole.  It’s very visually unique, for one, as well as focusing on a unique character type: luchadors.  The story is rather predictable and stereotypically derived (save the princess, etc), but the game also makes fun of that very tendency; one of the bosses is, in fact, beaten by grabbing a golden axe, after which the floor beneath it despawns, causing the boss to fall in lava.  

The gameplay itself has been enjoyable; it’s very well designed to slowly ramp up the learning and difficulty as you gather new moves to use against increasingly difficult and protected monsters.  The game operates on a color scheme, too, which is very useful for players to help learn what move to use; instead of a subtle outfit change or a telegraphed attack, enemies can become coated in colored shields that indicate what the proper counter is.  I suspect it’s very visually-impaired friendly, but since my buddy has already written off this game as “bad” from the three minutes I played at PAX, I doubt we’ll ever know.

I think I’m about 33% of the way through the game, based on the map I can see, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly so far.  If you see it for a fair price and like side-scrolling action games with some character customization through “leveling” (with money, in this game), then I’d suggest you scoop it up.

Other than that, not much “life” movement is happening.  I keep up with my daily craftings in WoW, but not much else.  I missed the flex this week because I thought I might have an important “school hours” call the next morning, but it never came.  My Civ games are too easy on the next to hardest mode and seemingly impossible solo on the hardest mode.  MtGO continues to be a place where my buddies can take advantage of me and beat me into a senseless pulp unless I play one of my power decks, in which case they verbally berate me for being so cheap (to be fair, we all do the exact same thing to one another when we’re losing, so it’s mostly tit for tat).  I keep making it to the final boss in Spelunky and failing to kill him; I understand how, but there’s so many little nuances about standing near him that can kill you that I keep getting killed in ways I didn’t know I could.  ESO continues to be enjoyable, when we can play, but that time comes and goes based on people’s availability and interests.  We did the other two “starter zone” dungeons, both of which I really enjoyed and were largely a fair challenge to three players.  Those are by far the activities I like the most in ESO, so I look forward to more of them.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and playing the waiting game)

ESO and the Job Hunt

August 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

As I mentioned before, I’ve been playing a little bit of Elder Scrolls Online.  I’ve also recently moved, and, as a result, am job hunting yet again.  In ruminating about what to write today, an interesting overlap struck me about both these tasks: they can appear to be group tasks, but really, they’re solo.

My wife really wants to help me in my job search, you see.  I know she’s pained by the constant unfairness of the process.  As I’ve harped on before, my credentials are pretty good – even better, now, since I’ve got the community college experience, a conference presentation on motivation, and a co-directorship of a regional college readiness alliance.  Yet I don’t get called for interviews.  That’s the most mind-boggling part to me; if I got an interview but not a job offer, at least I could deconstruct it and try to figure out what went wrong.  When I don’t even get a call, it’s a lot harder.  Do I look too expensive?  Is it because I’m not a local?  Does my cover letter come off wrong?  I’ll never know.

So my wife watches this and wishes she could help, but really, there’s nothing she can do.  I know how to find the jobs, how to write the letters (or so I think), how to construct a résumé for a particular position.  Heck, these are some of the skills I’ve been teaching at my community college position.  All she can really do is provide emotional support from the sidelines, which helps, but isn’t really a direct influence.

Elder Scrolls feels a lot like that.  I’ve read plenty of reviews on the good and bad in the game, reviews that span from its excellence to calling it a “trash game.”  From my point of view, I feel like the combat is a little meaningless and slow.  I like the very open character development, but realistically, it’s only a matter of time before, like in every game, the “best” builds are “solved.”  

The crafting system is also quite open, which is good, but it’s also very tedious.  Each point becomes a grind to pick up enough raw materials to make an item, then break it.  I realize this describes a large majority of MMO crafting systems, but I’d just like something a little better, really.  Making 10,000 vats of bug soda don’t really make you a better cook, just better at making bug soda (yes, this is a thing in the game, though it goes by a more formal name.  It contains bugs and mash, though, so it’s bug soda).  

Exploration, which was one of the Elder Scrolls games’ selling points, is pretty meaningless, too.  There are mechanical rewards – skyshards – but they’re almost entirely in places you’ll go for quests, anyway.  I haven’t really found anything that’s out of the way and discovered only be exploring, but perhaps I’m just not far enough into the game yet.  Questing, too, is pretty tedious.  It combines the narrow focus of being able to only track one quest at a time, like Secret World, with the laundry-list questing of WoW, which is a terrible combination.  The game also lacks a minimap, but has a “normal” map screen, which makes little to no sense; it only forces players to stop more often and open the map screen, which does nothing but waste time.  

Most importantly, and most relevantly to this post, is that the questing feels like a solo game, like Skyrim, even.  There are many quest objectives that are not shared, including tasks (like cleansing altars), collections (like picking up gargoyle gall bladders), and NPC interrogations (like having to talk to a town guard about his meth addiction).  This creates an environment where everyone is questing in a parallel fashion but not really together, and since the monsters that inhabit the world have to be tuned to solo players, there’s no challenge in soloing them.  We often get split up during a quest and have to just wait for the slowest person to catch up, rather than being allowed to cooperate and stay together.

The one exception so far has been the 4-man dungeon, but of course that would require some collaboration.  Here, though, the tuning was so low that we were able to pretty easily three-man it, only wiping a few times to each boss as we figured out the mechanics and how to avoid them.  The last boss was the exception to that, but we found a way to deal with him, too, by dragging him away from where some healing mechanics were taking place.  I’m glad the game allowed for that creative solution, but that doesn’t offset the fact that a lot of the time I feel like I’m playing by myself.

So in that way, job hunting and ESO are pretty similar: they both seem like they should be group activities, but they’re not really.  That’s not a reason not to play ESO, by the way; it’s enjoyable enough, but be aware of the limitations of the system.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and hunting)

Post-move Gaming

August 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

To be honest, the title is a little deceptive; most of my pre-move gaming is the same as my post-move gaming.  I’ve been playing some Civ; I actually beat it on the hardest level, Deity (“Only the best players in the world will beat it at this level”) with Jacob/Burynerds.  Twice, actually, since my blind buddy wanted to be an ass and say the one win was a fluke.

I’ve been in and out of WoW; I’m getting the late-expansion boredoms.  I’ve been leveling my rogue ostensibly to do PvP at 90, but I just haven’t gotten over that 90 hump yet.  I really don’t want to quest, so I’ve been slogging along slowly, doing a few pet battles here and there, just killing time.

I played a little LoL the other night with an Illinois friend, too.  It was nice to be back in a familiar setting with a friend, but a lot of my skills had rusted up, so I played rather poorly.  Not badly, mind you; I was still about 4:1 kill to death ratio, but still.  I can do better.

Jacob/Burynerds jumped into Magic: The Gathering Online, too.  I predicted that within a month he’d be making decks too good to play against my buddy and me.  It took more like a week, actually.  Part of that is the persistent power creep of the new cards; there’s a lot of cards in standard right now that just seem like cheap bullshit.  I’m sure there’s other cards to counter that cheapness, but since my buddy and I don’t have those cards, we’re essentially screwed.

We’ve been playing three-way free for all games, too, which were much deeper than the typical one-on-one.  I won two of the three, but only because in one of them Jacob/Burynerds was forced to save me because he knew he couldn’t kill my blind buddy on his own.  In the end, though, I eliminated both of them.  That’s the kind of deeper strategy I’m talking about; are we sure he’d have lost if he didn’t save me?  Was it the right play, or was there even a right play for him at all?

The largest change has been Elder Scrolls Online.  I mentioned before that the three of us had started playing it; it’s been okay, so far, but I’d mark it below The Secret World for quasi-modern MMOs.  I said at the start I didn’t think we’d even get to max level with it, and frankly, I stand by that now, 15 levels in.  It’s not that it’s unenjoyable – it’s quite fun at times, particularly 3 manning the 4 man dungeons – but it’s really a solo game that you happen to have a few friends around you playing at the same time.  I’ll write more specifically on it later, but let it suffice to say that I like the game, but it’s not enough MMO-y enough.

So that’s what I’ve been up to during the move.  See you Wednesday!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and moved)

The Move is Complete(ish)

August 8, 2014

Dear Reader,

I am sitting now in my new office in my new house in Virginia.  All things considered, the move was very smooth; my only real avenue of complaint is the sheer exhaustive requirements of such a cross-country endeavor.  Other than that, things went pretty much as expected.

We did the drive in two days, stopping over Monday night in Lancaster, Ohio.  We drove through three big cities that first day: Indianapolis, Dayton, and Columbus, and I have to say that Indianapolis was a terrible hellhole while the other two were quite nice.  Get good, Indiana.

The second day was largely unexciting until the last two hours of the drive, which were entirely spent pumping the clutch as I went up and down the Appalachian mountains and around hair-pin turns while clenching my butt and hoping my brakes didn’t fail.  It was an – exciting – drive, but once it was over, it was smooth sailing into town.

The town itself is a tiny little nowhere except for the college at which my wife is to be employed.  We live on the campus in a standalone house owned by the college; my wife can walk 8 buildings down to her office each day.  The town is one of those throwbacks from the 1950s where you can – and many people do – leave their doors unlocked all the time.  In fact, in one of many misunderstandings with the property manager, the house was left unlocked for a week prior to our arrival with the house keys on the counter.  No families had moved in, nor axe murders hid in the attic, nor vandalism occurred.

It’s a lot smaller than the palace I used to live in; in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a room short of my needs.  But it’s not really a need to have a guest room; it’s a want, so when I’m being objective, I can say it’s a size I can live with.  It’s not terribly larger on the main level than my 1-bedroom New York apartment, which I was fine with the size of.  It has a few perks of its own, too, like ceiling fans in most of the rooms, a full-sized shower (I’ve been dealing with a standing-room-only shower for 4 years), and a pricetag reminiscent of my two-bedroom townhouse apartment I lived in in South Carolina a decade ago.

In the meantime, I’ve been unpacking and playing a few games.  I did get to do my flex on Wednesday, but I was so tired from the move that I just dpsed.  Against my suggestion, I was assigned the engineer on Garrosh, which I performed perfectly well – except I ran to the wrong side, since we use a different strat in flex than I’m used to in normal.  The raid very quickly shifted in response and no one died, until I completely failed to get the second engineer on either side and everyone died.  Ah well.

I’ve played some Civ 5, as well, and won again on Diety mode with Jacob/Burynerds/whatever he wants to be called this week, and he began to play some Magic Online with my blind buddy and me; three way games are much more strategically challenging, which is a nice change of pace from the usual blowouts one way or the other between my buddy and I.

I expect to return to the normal schedule next week, so keep an eye out on Monday!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and Virginian, now)

Guest Post by Anistazia on Good Moments in WoW

August 2, 2014

Dear Stubborn’s Readers,

I wanted to take some time to talk with you about some funny and good moments in WoW that I have had over the years I’ve played.  Of all the games that Stubborn and I play together, WoW seems to be the one that we come back to time and again.

As I play my boosted warlock (life is so much easier as a warlock, why did I never play one before?), I’ve been wondering what is so good about WoW that keeps drawing us back.

Visually, WoW is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played.  I remember this moment in Theramore waiting for the boat and thinking how beautiful it was waiting on this dock looking out at the ocean.  It was calming.  I recently have had that calming on Isle of Thunder when you hear the waves against the beach.  Growing up near the beach, it is nice to hear it again, calming and amazing in a game.

What draws me back is the friends.  I enjoy the social aspect of WoW.  I’m not an achievement junkie, I don’t collect, I just play with my friends.  I really enjoy solving problems in WoW, like a raid boss where we need some new ideas.  I really enjoy talking it out and discussing different options.  I have always enjoyed being a part of those conversations.  Every great raid leader often has people in the background who are problem solving.

I really noticed how much friends are important to me in games when I was talking about this amazing girl I used to raid with, Valerius.  She was amazing, funny, and a fellow girl who enjoyed downing bosses.  I enjoy the in-game conversations and the life conversations with people.  People make the game for me.  I enjoy the different personalities, how the same and different we all are.

So if I could recommend something to you readers, take time to hear the waves, take time to see the beauty and take time to have a genuine conversation with your fellow raiders or guildmates.

Sincerely,

Anistazia (Mrs. Stubborn, as she is occasionally known, though more often I get called Mr. Anistazia)

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