Mount Up

 Posted by at 16:44  No Responses »
Oct 012010

As it stands right now, Jakosta has 51 mounts. Cody and I are gunning for the Mountain o’ Mounts achievement, which itself rewards a mount for obtaining. The road from 51 to 100 is largely a matter of rep-grinding and spending “money” (be it gold, badges, honor points, or whatever else). Then there are the remaining few that have to be obtained through RNG1.

Why do this? With a few exceptions2, a variety of mounts doesn’t afford you any material benefit. They’re vanity rewards, offering little more than a wider selection of things to look at while you flit from place to place, and dubious bragging rights. The honest answer is…because accumulating stuff is fun, even if it’s virtual stuff.

Right now, I’m running dailies for the Argent Tournament, the Hyldnir, Netherwing, the Sha’tari Skyguard, and pursuing the Mag’har quest line. The latter three are in pursuit of reputation-dependent mounts; the mounts cost gold, but you can’t buy them without an Exalted reputation. The Tournament dailies reward Champion Seals, which are then used in purchasing mounts. The Hyldnir daily is RNG from the quest reward. After that, it’ll be on to the PvP-based mounts, which are fairly uniform in price and fairly quick to obtain. The most expensive mount cost 50,000 honor points. It’s a trivial matter to get over 35,000 honor points through a single Wintergrasp victory coupled with turning in the weekly Wintergrasp quests. The remaining 15,000 points can be gleaned from repeating Wintergrasp or doing other battlegrounds.

Continue reading »

  1. Random Number Generation, or chance. Think of it like a die roll. You have some percent chance to see something drop on any given occurrence of a particular event, such as a mob dying. The game “rolls” this chance when the mob dies. What you get from the mob in loot is the result. []
  2. There are a handful of very difficult to obtain mounts that are faster than the “normal” epic mounts. “Normal” epic flying mounts afford a 280% speed increase over the character’s base running speed on the ground. “Extreme” epic flying mounts afford a 310% speed increase. []
Oct 232009

I despise commercials. On TV, the radio, or some other format, I resent their existence. Some of them are amusing the first time you see them, but they quickly become overplayed and obnoxious. More than just the individual commercial, I especially despise commercial breaks, when we’re subjected to five, six, or more of these tedious ads in rapid succession. I mute the TV, leave the room to get a drink, or do some other activity to avoid watching them. In other words, their objective—selling me something—is not being achieved.

TV shows live and die by their ratings, compiled by Nielsen Media Research (“the Nielsens”). These numbers boil down to a certain number of viewers for a given show, and also what percentage of all viewers in that time slot were watching that particular show. For networks (and shows), higher Nielsens are good, because it means more people are watching the advertisements, more advertisers will have their products seen, and thus will continue financially supporting the show.

This, to me, has always been a stupid business model. It places shows at the mercy of advertiser’s whims. Technically speaking, cable TV is completely unregulated. They can show whatever they want: horrid vivisection, full-on nudity, copious vulgar language. But they don’t. Why? ’cause they don’t want to turn away advertisers reluctant to support a show containing those elements.

So, in short, we have an entertainment system funded and censored by people with no creative interest in the product, and who achieve their support by annoying viewers.

Does anyone else think this is ridiculous?

I think we should do show-based subscriptions. You only get the content you subscribe to, you only pay for that content, and there are no ads. The money goes directly to the “bank account” of that particular show to fund future endeavors. There are no “networks” in this world. There are no advertisers. There’s you, the cable company (which holds the repository of shows), and the creators. (Promotion of new shows would be a potential issue under this system; not a problem I’ve thought through.)

Let’s use the example of Firefly, the series beloved by many but ultimately canceled because the network (FOX) continually shuffled its timeslot, preempted it for baseball, ran the series out of order, and so forth. I can’t find a list of the ratings for each episode that aired, but I do know that the first episode had a 4.1/8 rating, meaning 4.1 million viewers watched it. Suppose the subscription cost for a show was $1.99 (the cost of a song on iTunes) per episode and further assume that the cable company gets the change portion. That’s $4.1 million in the bank for the show, or basically enough to pay for that one episode. (This is technically true, but not practically true. The pilot episode cost $10 million; the first aired episode, however, was not the pilot, and cost $3-$4 million.)

This is using dirt-simple, ultra-basic hypothetical numbers. I’m sure television accountants could cook up a better, more-sustainable number. Crank up the cost for shows with higher viewership, until they stop watching (American Idol, anyone?) and allow the actual viewership revenue to dictate how much money a show can spend.

The downside to losing both networks and ad revenue is that you need start-up capital from somewhere. I imagine this is where something like product-placement enters the picture. For shows where this is impractical, perhaps a small, static, and soundless ad in the bottom right of the screen every so often (much like networks now emblazon their logo on the screen at all times).

(This entire rant was prompted, rather paradoxically, by the news that Hulu is switching to subscriber-only model in 2010.)

Fun with Telemarketers

 Posted by at 14:52  No Responses »
May 212009

I’ve been receiving the obnoxious car warranty scam calls for quite some time. I added the number they call from to my phone’s address book so I would know at once that it was them calling. I accepted the most recent two from them. The first time, I asked them to remove me from their list. The second time, which came the same day, I demanded that they remove me, lest I go to the “authorities.”  Later on, I read about how the FTC is investigating this very scam, so I felt pretty good about life.

Then, I started getting calls from the same number, but with a different pitch.  However, since it was the same number, I treated it as the same bunch.  Here’s how our first chat went.

“Hi, is this Ryan?”
“Who’s calling please?”
“My name is Anthony from Specialty Travel.  Our records indicate you bought an Orlando Disney vacation package a few years ago and never took the vacation.”
“Aren’t you people being investigated by the FTC?”
“Excuse me?”
“Aren’t you people being investigated for scamming by the FTC?”
“…THIS IS THE KGB!!!!” <click>

I relayed this story to my coworkers, who had overheard my end of the conversation, to much amused and astonished laughter. Today, they called me again! After exchanging some pleasantries, the following:

“How often do you get a chance to travel?”
“Oh, about every other week or so.”
“I mean travel outside of Boston.”
“Yeah, every other week or so. Cross-country.”
“Cross county? That’s gotta take more than a week. Do you fly?”
“Man, that’s gotta do some great things for frequent flyer miles.”
“Ohhh yeah.”
“Well, I have an Orlando vacation package for you. How does that sound?”
“Well, to be honest, it sounds like a scam.”
“A scam? It’s not a scam.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“It’s not.”
“Come on. We both know it is.”
“Well, how do you feel about what Orlando did to Boston? Was that a scam?”
“Eh, I don’t really follow sports.”
“Yeah. Kicked the Celtics’ ass.”
“Say, are you guys still with the KGB?”
“The KGB?”
“Absolutely. <click>”

I’m honestly starting to enjoy it when these guys call. It’s entertaining, at the very least.

Writing Professionally

 Posted by at 10:20  No Responses »
Apr 072009

The first career path to which I gave serious consideration was authoring fiction.  The driving motivation behind this idea — telling stories — drives a disproportionate number of my hobbies: independent film-making, movie/TV-watching  and game-playing (on the receiving end of told stories, in this case), role-playing games.  Every other career I entertained the notion of pursuing held storytelling as a key component: acting, directing, visual effects for film, and now game development.  Within the last year, I decided that having a “day job” by no means precluded professional writing.  Author John Scalzi, internet-famous for his Whatever blog, cemented this decision by restating my own conclusion in as many words.  This led to my involvement in NaNoWriMo 2008, which I completed within the designated timeframe.  Though the resultant short novel is not something I feel is worth publishing (contrary to prior statements I’ve made about it), the simple fact that I wrote it armed me with the confidence that I can write a novel.

Pursuant to my goal to be a professional writer, I decided yesterday that I would take another page from Scalzi’s playbook and try to write a blog entry every day from now on.  My morning routine includes perusing a number of websites (a task made much simpler thanks to Google Reader and the wonder of RSS), which often have several interesting stories worth pointing out.  My hope is that readership here will grow beyond the small circle of friends that now read it and that it can become a community unto itself.

What do I mean by professional writer?  I don’t mean quitting my day job.  Scalzi (yeah, you’re going to see him name-dropped quite often) makes the observation that unless you can guarantee annual income from writing that’s 30% above what you make at your current day job, your financial situation will be worse if you quit your job to focus on writing.  The only reason to quit your job for writing is that if holding the job impedes the income you could otherwise make from writing.  

Professional writer, in this sense, is synonymous with Stephen King’s definition of a talented writer: if you wrote something and someone paid you for it, you’re talented.  It doesn’t matter if the writing was technical, analytical, editorial, or fictional — if you wrote something and got paid, you fit the definition.  Take it as a forgone conclusion that my ideal world would have me waking up at noon to eat breakfast and surf the internet for an hour, writing fiction for the next five, eating dinner with Cody, and then spending the evening on entertainment, all while making much more than I make now.  It’s not an unrealistic fantasy, but it’s not one that will come without time and effort.  

Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to elect to do things you otherwise might not choose to do.  To that end, I stopped procrastinating last night and bought myself a copy of Writer’s Market 2009.  This book is the ultimate go-to resource for writers, listing every publishing outlet for every topic available.  I plan to find a small outlet that publishes articles I might be able to write about with some intelligence, and submitting.  Without some incredible luck, it won’t be fiction.  I would be more than happy, however, to be paid for writing movie reviews, technical reviews, game reviews, or any other number of topics on which I tend to pontificate anyway.

As with every other industry, you first need to get your foot in the door.  Prove that you’re publishable in a small way before you can hope to hit big.

Savage Worlds

 Posted by at 14:52  No Responses »
Jun 042008

I had the opportunity to play my first Savage Worlds game last night. I am an instant fan! The GM utilized the ruleset to run a game based on the Japanese Ultraman TV show and we all had a blast playing it. Savage Worlds uses several of my favorite mechanics in clever ways.

Savage Worlds replaces the common dice mechanic — something I often champion — with a variable dice mechanic. Larger die indicate greater skill (i.e. d6 is more skilled than d4). After playing with it, I see merits to both approaches. However, only one die is rolled and this often conjures up feelings of nerd rage.

Savage Worlds abates that rage with a second die factored into every roll: the wild die. In addition to your normal roll (be it d4, d6, d8, etc), you also always roll a d6 and take the better of either die. While not as preferable as a bell curve, the mechanic is interesting enough that it alleviates the normal d20 problem of “I’m an expert, but rolled a 2!”

Also included are die explosions, like one finds in Storytelling and 7th Sea. Any die can explode when it rolls the highest number (i.e. d4 explodes on a roll of 4, d6 on 6, etc.), which results in rolling that die again and adding the new roll to the previous one. This can happen indefinitely, and we saw several double- and triple -explosions last night. This also applies to the wild die, and you can decide after rolling all your explosions which of the two die you wish to keep.

Savage Worlds includes a mechanic by which excellent role-playing, cool actions, and so forth are rewarded by the GM with a “benny” that may be later traded in for a re-roll, avoidance of wounds, and so forth. This mimics the drama die of 7th Sea and hero points of Mutants & Masterminds, and is a mechanic I favor. Dare I say that systems lacking such a mechanic are outdated? I do indeed.

There are a number of smaller interesting quirks to the system, too. The usual target for a check of any kind is 4, and beating the target by multiples of 4 results in raises, which yield better results. Damage is either sustained or avoided based on your toughness, and may be soaked via use of a benny. A simple hit with no raises results in being ‘shaken.’ Another shaken result produces a wound, and any raises on a hit can result in wounds, too. Wounds are crippling and can pile on very quickly, making avoiding damage at all a major strategy (as it ought to be!). Each wound imposes a penalty on every roll you make.

All in all, it’s a lot of fun to play and contains a number of neat ideas that I might try and adapt for my own homebrew mechanics.