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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Beta Review

How stoked was I that i got into the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta last weekend?  Super, is my answer.  I have been waiting to play this game for 8 months, and I finally got to see what the fuss was all about.  Which, by the way, was totally worth it.

My MMO past is varied, mostly dominated by World of Warcraft for the past 4 years, when I killed my account to save the money to play this game.  No, I don't consider SWTOR a "WoW-Killer", but it comes real close. 

The artwork is pretty good - buildings and vehicles all look well thought out - but it lacks the polish that WoW has.  The colors are muted, and characters look a bit blocky.  I will mark this up to it being a beta test and hope the dial the colors up to 11 for release.  The HUD is interesting, the mini-map being the oddest.  It takes some time to get weened off of WoW's great navigation and trained in the ways of SW, but once you do, things are pretty straightforward.  

Game play was what I was really interested in, and SW held up to my expectations.  The quest system is probably the thing I was most impressed about, though I will say the cut-scenes got a bit old.  When you accept or turn a quest in you get a short cut-scene that gives you background on your mission, your race, or other things.  What I really dig is what happens next - you get to choose a response from one of three choices.  Some give you Light Side points (lame), and some give you Dark Side ones (fuck yeah), and the choices are usually pretty good.  Seems like SWTOR wants to do you a favor by not making you scroll through text of your quests, and opted to actually give you footage of it.  Good choice. 

One thing the dev's got right is story line and its impact on questing.  I rolled 6 'toons, and not once did I feel like I was grinding out quests, which from a WoW background is something to be happy about.  I enjoyed doing some quests twice, and the environment is so new yet almost familiar.  The story is good for each character line and I really got immersed in what was going on.  It's interesting when you are actually rooting for your character as you would if you were watching a movie.  Or maybe I'm easily entertained.

What will be hard to deal with is the chat.  I'm not sure why MMO's get the most bitchy people playing, but there is always someone crying about this or that, and usually two people teasing that person.  And you have to read it because any in-game text appears in the chat window.  So you don't want to miss anything.  Sigh ... whatever.  Deal with it, I suppose. 

Any complaints I have about the game I can chalk up to the beta and my shitty 4-year-old laptop - at times the graphics needed a few seconds to render, which was interesting watching these characters in the cut-scenes have layers added to them while they are talking.  Some quests were buggy, and sometimes characters didn't perform as expected (my Sith had issues with a very specific set of stairs ...). I'm still waiting for this thing - pre-order all set, $15 a month ready and willing (sort of).   

Overall, this game will fucking rule your life.  Play it.

This post written under the influence of Pavement - Cream of Gold

Monday, November 28, 2011

For A Better Society

There are certain things in the world that exist simply to pollute the stream of consciousness, turning it into a river of bile and filth.  What does this mean?  I have no idea.  But I tell you why I wrote it - Memes.

Fucking internet memes.  You've seen them, even if you don't know what they are.  Ever see a kitten with words written underneath, like it's saying something "funny"?  A car in a ditch with the word "fail" below?  Yeah, you get the point.  Occasionally, some of these can be humorous, perhaps even earning a low, quiet, singular "heh".  But instead of them dying a quick death, some asshole somewhere pulls memes into their every day language and ruins it for everyone.  Examples:

Ok, seriously.  Stop saying "Fail" when something happens that you don't like.  It's not clever, nobody likes it, and you just come off as a douche - inserting yourself inside a conversation and spraying your awful brand of humor into it, cleansing it from normalcy.
"Yeah, and then the door fell and broke my hand."
" ... idiot."
That's how the conversation goes.  Stop it.

Fuck those of you who use LolCatz when you post on the internet.  "I can haz free of dems?"  Fuck you right in the face with a fucking car, dude.  You are an adult, a grown-ass person, the least you can do is talk like one.  How dare you try to be cute online talking like a reject from a mental ward.  Enough already, let this die.

Pirate Talk
Hey, I like pirates just as much as the next guy, but Talk Like A Pirate Day is for idiots and their children.  Let's continue to identify a low IQ by leaving the pirate talk to idiots, ok?  It's not funny, it's not fun, it's not even slightly ok.

Om Nom Nom
Don't even attempt to think you are being endearing when you use this shitty meme when describing someone eating.  Just be a man and call them fat to their face.  This belongs online in a photo, and even then it's as old as dirt, and about as funny.  Om Nom Nom ... fuck you.

No, that video of the double rainbow guy was not "epic".  It was nothing of the sort, nor was the last episode of Jersey Shore, or anything else you like.  The only epic things are porn and video of things blowing up.  And a meal made of bacon.  And the subsequent heart attack. Which you deserve to have if you have this word in your vocabulary.

Chuck Norris doesn't ______, he ______.
No he doesn't.  Sure, I get that you are making fun of how tough the guy was in his movies, but just stop it, please.  It's fucking old, and just makes you sound like an idiot.

I heard someone say this out loud once. And not in a shitty hipster ironic way.  They used it instead of actual laughter, and fucking meant that shit. This person is no longer around anymore.

Get my point?  Just because you see it on the internet doesn't mean you can bring it into your life and try to be the hip kid in the room.  Just be normal.  Use full words, not their inbred, deformed abbreviations.

You aren't cute.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Are Beer Bars Hurting Craft Beer?

There have been several new beer bars in my area, something that would be cause for much dancing and carrying-on for most of you.  But at the risk of being predictable, I frown upon these new havens of beer, and for a few good reasons.  So set aside your thoughts and feelings (good or bad), and journey with me as I tell you why that latest craft beer bar could very well destroy the thing you love.  Beer.

Craft beer already has an air about it of pretentiousness.  "What's wrong with the beer I drink now?  It was good enough for dad so it's good enough for me."  Yes, us with our colored malts and hoping rates you can taste have moved in and just destroyed what the average person describes as "beer".  And this average person already has a hard enough time dealing with the concept of triple-hopping, so why would we want to turn this person so far away from real beer with our Beer Pedestal that is a craft beer bar?  One bar close to my house doesn't even use the widely-accepted and easily recognized unit of measure known as the Ounce.  On their board they use Centiliters - not pints, not ounces, but centiliters.  They might as well draw some ironic facial hair on their beer board with that one.  Put the board in a vest and buy it a fixed-gear bike.  Nothing will separate the common man faster than using a language that is foreign to them in their home town.  So what's the point?  Well I think that it a great way to be able to over-charge for beers and chalk it up to the experience.  You, the beer drinker, assume that 30 cl must equal a pint, right?  I mean, most normal bars use that language, and most craft beer makers have tried to market their beers by using the word "pint".  Little do you  know that 30 cl is about 10 ounces.  This is a fact only revealed to you after you get your tiny glass of local beer that you paid $6 for.

Knowledge is important to spread our little craft.  But at what cost?  I recently got in a discussion with a friend of mine over the topic of beer cost, and how much of that cost goes to off-setting the training of beer servers who know what they are talking about.  This is probably the worst excuse for over-charging I have ever heard.  Listen, if you want to start a business that caters to knowledgeable folks as well as people who are just learning about something - anything - then it is on you to train your staff properly.  Who pays for it?  The same one who reaps the rewards - you do.  You are the one who is teaching new customers about craft beer.  You are the one who will pour them flights of beers in different glasses.  You are the one who will teach a new customer so much about beer that they will come back to your place because you have the info they need.  THIS is the payoff for you.  Loyal customers.  Returning customers.  Customers who bring their friends.  What is wrong is charging me more money because you decided to have some folks trained.  It's rude, and kinda snobby - which is what we are trying to avoid here, right?

Now, having been in the retail world for almost 15 years, I know a thing or two about price points.  I understand supply and demand.  And I get everything about price point leaders. But what I don't get is charging more for a beer that is made locally than a beer that is made in Belgium.  I had a local beer at a place for $4 for 8 oz.  Not even a full beer, and I paid almost full beer price.  Why?  Because that establishment decided that was the price point they wanted to serve at.  They felt they had to make up for the lower beer prices on their imports by gouging me on the local stuff.  The same goes for the bar that refuses to use ounces.  Don't you dare overcharge me simply because your server knows how to pour a proper beer.  That is what I expect.  That is your business!  You don't pay extra for an oil change simply because the person knows how to change your oil - because that is what they are paid to do in the first place!  So why pay more because someone knows how to put beer into a glass?  If these places decide that the only way they will make money is by pricing beer at what the market will sustain, then perhaps they should re-examine their business plan.

These all point to a dangerous rise in snobbery within the world of craft beer.  Isn't this what we accuse the wine field of?  Isn't this why craft beer even exists - because it is the true common mans drink?  Why are we wrapping ourselves in these blankets of "I-drink-better-beer-than-you" when it comes to buying our beer?  What we are doing is driving people away from these places in the long-term - people who want to learn and who want to drink good beer.  As Craft Beer Loyalists, we should be promoting good beer at a good price, and as suppliers of Craft Beer, bar owners should be doing the same.

And why are we satisfied with paying these outrageous prices for kegs of beer that bars sell for over 300% profit on?  It really is enough to drive me out of the bars, and it has.  I no longer go to these bars I have loosely mentioned because I value my dollar.  I want to get the most from it, and if I can lay that buck down amongst it's friends and get a pint of beer without having to do any guesswork, then that is the bar for me.   Is it the same for you?

Do you have any beer bars like those described above around your area?  Been to any like these?  Tell me I'm off-base here.

P.S. - I realize I made this sound like all beer bars are as shady as the ones above, and that is not the case at all. So please don't think I am hating on all of them.  Just ones that price gouge.