Category Archives: Off-topic

Filling Another Stable Slot

If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you know that I recently got a new puppy.

Lily at 12 weeks

This is Lily. She’s an adorable little mutt. Her mother is a beagle/bulldog mix and her father is a husky. She’ll be 3 months old on January 15th.

Since I’m a proud new puppy parent, I thought I’d take the opportunity to inundate everyone with an excessive amount of pictures.

Lily at 6 weeks old

This is Lily the first time I saw her, when she was only six weeks old. She was so sleepy and calm. I fell right for that bait & switch.

Lily and daddy

Lily with her daddy on her first night at her new home. At 8 weeks she was still so tiny! Only 10lbs when we got her.

Max and Lily's first meet

After we got her home and settled, we introduced her to her kitty siblings. Momo, who is suspiciously absent from all these photos, was not (and still isn’t) impressed with the new addition to the family. Max was more curious than anything.

I love the look on Max’s face during their first meeting. “What the fuck is that?!”

Sleepy puppy with her cow toy

Sleepiest puppy. On her first night at home we were too wimpy to put her in her crate so she slept under the bed.

I never had a puppy before. The first night was fun. The next few days were overwhelming. She was peeing everywhere, chewing everything, biting everyone. She had me in tears by the third night. I was so used to quiet, low maintenance cats, and puppies are so needy and need to be watched constantly.

Max watches Lily

Max proved to be a good puppy watcher, and followed her around the house all the time to try to make sure she wasn’t causing trouble.

Lily learned to play fetch pretty quickly.

Sleepy puppy

The nicest thing about puppies is that they sleep a lot. We finally got into a pattern where she would be awake and get to run around for 60-90 minutes, then go into her crate for a nap for 90 minutes. Once we started this pattern I felt a lot less exhausted and overwhelmed. (And finally had some time to sit down and play the video games I got for Christmas).

Lily and her bone

She’s still pretty crazy though. She has so much energy and sharp little razor teeth, I can’t wait for those to fall out. My biggest source of frustration right now is that she is so bitey. Hands, feet, clothes, she wants to chew them all. And it’s not just nipping, she’ll latch on to my hand and try to bring it to her bed with her. Ouch. I’ve tried all kinds of things to get that to stop, but am not having too much luck so far. Hopefully it’s something she starts growing out of soon.

We try to distract her from biting us with toys and delicious marrow bones, but nothing seems to keep her attention for more than a few minutes when she’s riled up.

Banana thief

She also steals Max’s catnip toys because she’s a jerk and verboten chew toys are the most fun chew toys.

Lily on Max action

Not only does she steal his toys, but she also likes to try to mount poor Maxmoo. Max doesn’t seem overly pleased with this, and Lily tends to get bit shortly after. This week they were approximately the same size (18lbs each), but she’s going to outgrow him fast.

Last night Lily had her first puppy socialization class. I was afraid she was going to be awful and unruly since she can be so wild at home, but she was actually very good! She did the best out of all the puppies at the obedience stuff. She played nice with the other puppies. I was worried because she was twice the size of the rest of them (the other puppies where much smaller – a pomeranian, a shih-poo, a greyhound and a shiba inu), but I only had to step in to intervene once. She actually seemed a little intimidated by the little 7lb greyhound (man, that thing can run). As an added bonus, the class wore her right out. She was a very nice, sleepy puppy for the rest of the night.

Still fooling people into thinking she's good

She can be infuriating, but she sure is cute. Over the last few weeks I’ve come to accept that she’s just a puppy, and not a little demon in disguise like I first thought she was. I love this bad puppy.

Offline Co-op

Remember the days when playing a video game with a friend was an easy thing to do? Just pop a cartridge into your NES (you may have had to blow on it first), plug in the second controller and go. It was a simpler time. No internet connection was needed. There were no headsets, cameras or motion controls. There was no Facebook integration (to be fair, there was no Facebook). Just you and a buddy, sitting on a couch, playing a game.

Gaming has come a long way. Games now have amazing graphics and sound, stellar storytelling, seamless UIs. Games can make us choose, can make us think, make us feel, make us react, or just let us hijack cars and run over pedestrians.

Gaming can be even more fun when you’re playing with friends (says the girl who always wanted everyone to leave so she could play the Goldeneye campaign rather than playing yet another round in the Stacks with grenades.) Big strides have been made to let people play games with others – but only in certain ways. Want to sit at your computer, group up with 24 other people from all over the world and take on a dragon? You can pay WoW, Everquest, Rift, Aion, FF, LOTRO. If you’re more into spaceships than swords you can play Eve, SWTOR, Starquest, Phantasy Star, or Star Trek. Want to join a team of people to shoot terrorists or aliens and listen to strangers who sound an awful lot like 12-years olds call each other fags? Then Counterstrike, Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo are all there for you. Want to collaborate or compete in large scale strategic battles? You can always find someone online to play DoTA, LoL or Starcraft with.

Want to play a console game with someone who is in the same room as you? Well, then your options are much more limited. Especially if you’d rather cooperate than compete. The majority of games seem much more concerned with enabling you to play with strangers online than allowing you to play offline with your S.O./roomate/sibling/parent/child/friend/dog who is sitting beside you on the couch.

My boyfriend and I have been trying to find console games that we can play together. It has indeed been a trying experience. There aren’t too many games that advertise having an offline co-op mode. Plus, when local co-op is actually included in a game, it often seems like more of an afterthought. We went out and bought games that advertised having local co-op. We tried Madden 25. It has offline co-op but, aside from the fact the game basically plays itself for you, playing on the same team was pretty dull for whoever wasn’t the quarterback. We got Tales of Vesperia. A multiplayer RPG? Sounds awesome. In practice, not so awesome. Player 1 basically plays the majority of the game by themselves and player 2 gets to jump in and control one character during combat. Yawn. We turned off that one after about 8 minutes. We picked up Call of Duty: Black Ops. There is offline co-op, but only for 2 specific modes – zombie survival and playing against bots. You can’t do the campaign or play against other people online together. My bf was going to buy Dungeon Siege 3, but was talked out of it by the cashier at Gamestop. It features a drop-in co-op that doesn’t allow the person dropping into the game to save any of their progress or items. Considering the game is a dungeon-crawling loot grind, this seems like a pretty serious issue. Some games even advertise having offline co-op when there actually is none.

Offline co-op

Offline co-op? Not so much.

There are a number of arcade style games that feature decent offline co-op. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Castle Crashers, TMNT are all games I’ve enjoyed playing with friends in the past. However, they’re all fairly mindless (and very short) side-scrolling beat’em ups. Those have their place, but sometimes you want to play something a little deeper.

In terms of AAA titles, most console developers seem to consider offline co-op a waste of time or something to be thrown in at the end, in a completely underwhelming way. There are exceptions.

Valve in particular has added some very good co-op play to their games. Portal 2 features the most complete co-op experience I’ve had and was definitely not an afterthought. It adds a whole extra campaign and hours of playtime to the game. Left 4 Dead also lets you play through the campaign with a friend (or three). Both of these multi-player games give you a choice too. You can play with someone sitting beside you offline, or you can connect with people online and play through the game. Other developers should take note – this is the way to do it. The only small complaint I have about these games is that co-op mode is not very intuitive to access.

Left 4 Dead start screen

Play campaign? No… Press X to Play with Friends? No…
Oh! There it is in small, barely contrasting text in the bottom left corner.

Diablo 3 also makes it easy for people to play offline co-op and we played that a bit on PS3. A nice thing about D3 is that you don’t have to deal with split screen, which I really liked from an aesthetic standpoint. However it has some serious drawbacks too. If you get items or level up you need to take turns with the menu screen to examine and equip new gear or choose new talents. This brings the pace of the game to a crawl. Also I had already played through it when it came out a year and a half ago on PC, and starting from scratch on console wasn’t all that appealing.

There’s a site called Co-Optimus, which is dedicated to all things co-op gaming. I’m hoping it leads me to some good games. A quick search for Xbox 360 Couch Co-Op games shows 256 results! That seems positive. However, once I filter out the genres I’m not really interested in (like Sports games), the party games (there are dozens of music/dance games), the games whose co-op is a half-baked afterthought, and the games that are generally just bad, the list isn’t that long. The Lego games, which have been recommended to me, look like a good option. Hopefully I can find a few more.

I’m hoping that the games for the new generation of consoles take into account that people may actually want to play video games together in the same room. So far, it’s not looking too good though. Dead Rising 3, the game I’m most interested in on the Xbox One, is online co-op only. Same with Ryse and Black Flag. Call of Duty: Ghosts has “co-op specific” content.

This is a plea that game developers make more games that can be played with others offline. I love video games and I’d much rather share my gaming experiences with someone I like enough to live with, or at least invite over, than some random online gamers.

Follow Friday and Other Baffling Twitter Phenomena

I’m feeling a little ranty today and I figured I’d take it out on social media since it can’t defend itself, and WoW has done nothing to provoke my ire lately. I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I love it more than hate it since I’ve ‘met’ so many awesome people on it who I like to chat with. But certain Twitter behavior can irritate me to no end, especially when I’m kind of grumpy in the first place. Here are the top offenders. They’re all related to filling my Twitter feed with a bunch of crap I’m not interested in seeing.

Follow Friday

Alright, I can understand this conceptually but, practically, most #ffs are duds. If I see:

#ff @Serrath_ @RunningTracy @ThunderRodent @WTSHeals @healiocentric @Therya_EJ @Rezznul @Restokin @Smmoke_ @SerrinneWoW @Kaleri_ @kurnmogh 

You know what the chances are that I’m going to follow any of these people? (Pretend that I don’t follow all of them already :P ) Zero. Why would I follow these people? Who are they? Why should I want to see what they have to say?

However, if I saw this:

#ff @Serrath_ because he’s taken over as the new healing lead of Apotheosis (sucker). He’s an awesome holy Priest, even though he plays a gnome.

Then I might actually follow, assuming I was interested in Apotheosis, healing, or Priests; and not too turned off by the gnome part.

If you really want to get someone some new followers, put in a little more effort. Otherwise, why bother?

The worst thing people do is when they post 12 big blocks of #ff tweets that list every single person they follow. Please, stop.

Thank you

I admit this is a strange one and I could possibly be the only person bothered by it. It’s especially odd considering I’m Canadian and all about being polite to strangers. However, it bugs the hell out of me when people say thank you for RTs. Yes, it’s great to be appreciative, but it’s also great to not clog your other followers feeds with 12 tweets that say “ty” to various people. That said, I do appreciate when people RT my blog posts! I just do it silently.

The worst Twitter thank you behaviour is related to Follow Friday. If someone mentions you in one of those big blocks of names in a #ff and you feel the need to thank them… for the love of god, just thank the person who wrote the #ff. Do not reply to everyone. Argh! (Reply All is a function that many, many people can not handle. Not just a Twitter problem.)

Auto Tweets

Worst thing. I seriously find these more annoying than DMs telling me about how you lost 10 lbs with Garcinia. So many sites do this auto posting BS – I find YouTube, FourSquare, and Raptr the worst offenders, and it’s the quickest way to make me unfollow someone. I don’t care that you liked a video on YouTube. I don’t care that you’re at the Tim Hortons on 4th and Main (and it’s kind of creepy that now everyone knows where you are). How twitchy my unfollow finger gets when I see these depends on my mood, but if I see more than one or two of these in a day from a person, I’m probably not following them anymore. It’s really annoying. There are a few people who I really want to follow so that I can see their actual thoughts on things, but then 25% of their feed is: “Played World of Warcraft (PC) in the last 24 hours. http://raptr.com/” and I don’t want to see that. I generally wind up following and unfollowing these people every couple of weeks.

PSA: Help control the auto-tweet population – check your settings on these websites and turn them off!

Alright, I think I’m done ranting. Oh wait – Get off my lawn! There, now I’m done.

Because I don’t like to write posts that are totally whiny, self-indulgent and negative, here’s a cool screenshot of Jasyla rocking her legendary cloak proc. Four wings are better than two.Dual-wing

Where is the love?

There was a time when I loved to write a good guide post. How to Resto Druid, How to use World of Logs, how to kill raid bosses. Then one day, in the not too distant past, it went away.

It went away?

Went away? “I dwell in darkness without you” and it *went away*?

Sorry, tangent.

My interest in talking about the nitty gritty WoW stuff – stats, gear, when it’s better to use Incarnation instead of SotF- has declined. I first noticed it on Twitter. New patch notes would be datamined and people would be all atwitter (see what I did there?) about what the spell changes meant, how it would affect our stat priority or spell casting. Whereas once I would be right in there speculating with them, I started to find following those discussions more annoying than anything else. I didn’t care about people’s quick napkin math or what trinkets they thought were best.

Then one day I got a DM asking why I was still gemming for Intellect instead of Mastery. Perfectly reasonable question. Honestly, I didn’t have an answer. Habit, I guess? Not wanting to look like a dummy, I fired up the TreeCalcs spreadsheet for the first time all expansion. As I looked at all the numbers on all those worksheets it struck me that I had no interest in doing WoW math. Pulling out my fingernails would be more interesting to me than calculating at what ilvl 2 points of Mastery outperform 1 point of Intellect.

I can’t help but think this game would be more fun if it were more about playing and less about spreadsheets.

Obviously, no disrespect to the people who have discussions about these things on Twitter or are doing class math. These are the things that probably made me follow you in the first place. I want to take part, but I just don’t care enough to.

I can’t really say what happened to cause such a distinct lack of interest in things like gear and class mechanics (actually, I’ve always found gear to be a very boring topic and only made gear lists because other people like them). But I’ve lost the drive to even pretend to be interested.

Maybe the love will come back one day. But for now, that’s why the blog is quiet.

Project Fedora

I just wanted to take a minute to spread the word about a project currently going on that is near and dear to my gamer heart.

One of my favourite genres of games is adventure, and one of my favorite adventure series is the Tex Murphy series. Tex is a Private Investigator in post-apocalyptic San Francisco. The games combine a detective story, film noir-style and science fiction, with engaging puzzles and witty dialogue.

I still remember the first time I discovered the games. It was 1994 and I was in a Radio Shack. I remember seeing the box for Under a Killing Moon and being astounded by the description on the box and the presence of real people in the game (it’s Full Motion Video). I convinced one of my parents to buy it for me, brought the game home and did the 4-disc DOS installation. As soon as I heard James Earl Jones voicing the intro (and quoting Poe!), I was hooked. I played the hell out that game and enjoyed every minute of it. This was the game that made me appreciate noir and cynical characters and fueled my love of video games. When the next two games, The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy: Overseer, came out in the following years I eagerly played, and replayed, those as well.

Then, after a cliffhanger conclusion to the last game… Tex disappeared. After 1998 no more games were made in the series. It seemed the whole adventure genre sort of faded away after a while.

But now, Tex has a chance to be battle-rezzed. The creators of the series have started a new adventure game company and are planning on making a new Tex Murphy game – but they need help. On May 15th a Kickstarter project started for Project Fedora, looking to raise money to partially fund the new game. So far they’ve raised almost $250,000. The goal is $450,000 and there are 24 days left.

I wanted to spread the word about this for 2 reasons. The selfish reason is that I really want a chance to play a new game from one of my favourite series. The less selfish reason is that I like the idea of supporting independent game developers.

So, if you also love the Tex Murphy series; haven’t played but think they sound fun (you can check out all the previous games at GoG.com); like to support indy developers; or just have a little extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, you should go check out the Kickstarter page. If the new game looks like something you’d want to play, you could pledge $15 (or more) and you’ll get a digital copy of the game when it is released (and warm, fuzzy feelings from knowing that you helped get it made).

PSA: Twitter, Communication and Manners

Imagine this…

Someone on the Internet has pissed you off (I know, I know, this is an outlandish situation I’m suggesting, but bear with me). Maybe they’ve disagreed with something you firmly believe in. Maybe last night in Dragon Soul they wouldn’t get out of the fire no matter how many chances they got and kept wiping the raid. Maybe they’ve just been an absolute jerk.

Despite common practice, the appropriate course of action is not to go on Twitter and snidely make vague, undirected comments about the situation. This doesn’t fool anyone. Anyone who has been privy to the situation will know exactly what you’re talking about. The person you’re making the snide comments about will know exactly what you’re talking about. I suppose that’s the point. However, acting this way is passive aggressive and tacky. At best it accomplishes nothing. Likely, it makes everyone involved more angry and draws more people into a situation they don’t really need to be involved in.

Try taking the high road. Directly tell the person in question that you’re upset with them and why. If you feel like being super mature about it, you could even do it in private rather than on Twitter. The situation has much better chance of being resolved this way.

Communication tends to work better when you say what you mean, to the person you want to hear it.

/soapbox

Overwhelmed

Disclaimer: This post is completely non WoW-related, highly self-indulgent and a little on the emo side. Feel free to skip right on by and go read something about the MoP beta. Actually, it’ll be easier to hit publish if I think no one is reading this.

It’s March 22nd and this is only the second post I’ve written this month. I feel bad that I’ve been ignoring my blog, but I just haven’t been in the right mindset to write (or even play WoW) most of the time.

I feel a little odd writing this post. I don’t really like to talk about personal stuff too much, but I feel like I need to say something – need a little catharsis.

I’ve been going through a lot in the last few months. I’m way over 300 on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. I’ve gone through a break-up, sold my house, had to find a new place to live, moved to a much smaller place, lost a few friends, been gkicked, have been without my kitties for far too long, and in 8 days I’ll be unemployed. At times I feel like I could be the subject of a bad country song. I’m glad I don’t have a dog, because it probably would have died.

I’m trying not to feel too sorry for myself, as the responsibility for many of these things falls squarely on my shoulders. I’ve also had some really great things happen over the last while. But as someone who has never handled change very well, it has been overwhelming at times.

The worst part has been moving. I hate moving. Nothing makes me want to hide in a closet, curl into the fetal position and cry like packing my life into boxes and moving it some place else. I should have planned better. I should have just hired movers and got everything done in one fell swoop. But I didn’t. Instead I’ve drawn this process out over a couple of weeks, moving a few boxes at a time. I’ve made so many trips between my old house and my new loft, carting over whatever I could fit in my car – my dolly has become one of my best friends. At the end of each of these trips I’ve usually been an exhausted, emotional wreck.

Cleaning out my old house was stressful, as was getting rid of all the things I knew wouldn’t fit into my new place. I donated all my books to Goodwill. I loved the library I’ve built up over the last decade or so, but my new place really doesn’t have room for so many bookshelves. They’d just have to go into storage and then I’d have to move them again when my lease is up. So I got rid of them all, along with everything else I didn’t see an immediate need for.

The process of selling a house is funny. You put so much work into it – cleaning, touching up paint, decluttering, rearranging furniture and making it look good – then you leave and don’t get to enjoy any of it yourself.

On the bright side, it’ll be over soon. Last night I moved the last of my stuff out of my old place. The sale of my house closed today; my lawyer just called me to tell me that everything was done. I also got one of my kitties back this week, who happens to be the best at snuggling.

Momo snuggles
There is still lots to do. I need to unpack and finish furnishing my new place, but that’s not too stressful. I like the thought of putting everything in its proper spot (once I find it) and making the place my own. I’m looking forward to having people over to my new place for a housewarming party and lots of wine nights. I’ll also be writing a lot more cover letters (not my favourite thing to do) as I search for a job. To be honest though, I’m not in a huge hurry to get a new job, I could use some time off. I feel like I need about a month of sleep to clear my head and stop feeling so exhausted all the time.

It’s been an ordeal, but I’m looking forward to April.