Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yes, But Is It A Cloverleaf?

The other day Roger Ebert declared that videogames are not, and can never be art. I love ya, Roger, but you're wrong on this one. Really, though, we're arguing about the meaning of a word, "art".

Wilhelm of The Ancient Gaming Noob, takes issue and gives a fairly broad definition of art:

Art is more about having a message, about communicating something to people, than about the medium the artists chooses. Anybody who declares something “not art” because they object to the medium is kidding themselves. Art is not the medium. Art is the message, the intent.

I have an even broader definition of art, one I got from my kids' high school art teacher (and host of a couple of art appreciation trips to the orient that I went on with him).

Whenever humans alter their environment, art is there. Any decision made with an eye to someone's reaction (not necessarily pleasing, no no) there is art.

"Is this art?" is the wrong question. It's always the wrong question. The right questions are "How does it affect me and others?" and "How successful is it at achieving its aims?"

And yes, I do believe that freeway overpasses are art. I do not believe that all freeway overpasses are equally successful art, though. And its true that I find a painting by Magritte more interesting. Mostly.

Roger says that Bobby Fischer didn't consider his chess games to be art. Well, maybe not, but lots of people who play chess and replay his games most certainly do think of them as art. I think maybe its best that creators not be too self-conscious about their art, even painters and filmmakers. "Is this art?" is at least one step away from what you ought to be asking yourself when you are creating something. Maybe more.

Ok, here's five games I think are pretty interesting and influential pieces of art.

  1. Adventure. By Will Crowther and Don Woods. Seemingly simple minded, this was the first text-adventure game and succeeded in capturing the imaginations of a lot of us. Simple descriptive passages evoked a quite particular mood.

  2. Myst. Who remembers Myst? It was Mac-only, a complete pig in terms of resources, and a completely compelling multi-media experience.

  3. Super Mario 64. The importance of this game is that it explored 3D not just in terms of visuals but in gameplay, too. Succeeding wasn't about finding the exact timing and sequence of button pushes, but to find one solution among many.

  4. Portal. This game has more to say about our life, alienation and freedom than most paintings. Could the ideas in Portal really be communicated any more effectively as a film? I don't really think so.

  5. Rock Band: The Beatles. Derived work at its finest. Models, sets, audio outtakes from studio masters, fantasy sequences. All of it distills the essence of the Beatles in the format of a video game. It's an impressive piece of work, and it engages one utterly.

So, in the end, I think Roger needs to either play a few more video games or shut the hell up. And I say that with the greatest affection.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

But I Still Have Fabulous Red Hair

I am a d10

Take the quiz at

You are a d10: You are analytical, rational, and logical. You see the world around you as a succession of problems that can only be navigated via insightful and elegant solutions. You insist on precision are often forced to waste valuable time correcting others. Your attention to detail is extraordinary, and will sometimes focus all your attention on details that others consider unimportant. You are not so interested in doing the right thing, as you are in finding the best way to do it. In other words, you're a complete nerd.

Seriously, for those of you who cross paths with polyhedral dice on a regular basis, the quiz is a hoot. It might be fun even if you don't, but who am I to say? I think the best way to handle this would be for y'all to post your dice in comments. Be detailed and specific.

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Does Killing 10 Rats Make You Smarter?

Probably not. But there are other computer games out there which are specifically designed to make you smarter. However, a recent study throws a big lagspike at the claims of these games.

They compared spending half an hour playing some of the games with spending a half an hour surfing the internet and found no difference. Of course, the game manufacturers have their own studies that show that it does help. And at least on manufacturer's games seem to help a little bit, according to a third party neuroscientist.

I learned a lot of geography and history from board games and wargames over the years, though the popular titles now don't have so much of this content. But in terms of raw IQ, general intelligence, I think I have to agree. There's no doubt that we get better at playing a game, but that doesn't seem to translate from the game to the world. Or even to another game. Or else I'd have billions if ISK by now, instead of feeling like the perpetual noob in EVE that I do.

I really got a chuckle from this quote:

Other experts said brain games might be useful, but only if they weren't fun.

"If you set the level for these games to a very high level where you don't get the answers very often and it really annoys you, then it may be useful," said Philip Adey, an emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at King's College in London.

So I guess that leaves World of Warcraft right out then.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Lucky in Love, Unlucky in PVP

My mom always used to say, whenever I would lose at a family board game or card game, "Unlucky at cards, lucky at love". Which was supposed to comfort me or something. But I wanted to WIN, dammit!

I've been very lucky at love. I've been married to the same woman for 22 years, most of them have been wonderful. And I'm not too bad at card games and board games.

All my bad karma seems to be coming out in EVE pvp.

A couple weeks ago, my corp, SKYFORGER, put up a pos in or near enemy territory, in a bit of a freelance pvp move. Well, it got found, and put into reinforced mode. So we had a call-to-arms (CTA) to defend it and try to repair it when it came out of reinforced. We had a few friends of the corp, but when the time came, we didn't have enough. Our Fleet Commander (FC) Flaming Ogre said, "The POS is already gone, we're just hoping to get some kills". I brought a couple of Incursus, to tackle for the group.

We were early and camped a station in a nearby system for a while. I blew the first tackle because I was confused about which end of the station was the exit. Miraculously, the guy who got away came back, and we got him that time.

Then we went on to the POS. The timer expired and we started trying to repair stuff. A few reds were in the system, but there was no sign of the enemy around the POS. Once the shield of the pos is back up to 50 percent, it comes back online and operational, the POS can't be destroyed this cycle, but must be put into reinforced mode again. So naturally, they waited until it was at about 45 percent, then showed up with a fleet that outgunned us. Some of us fired back with POS guns or their battleships. I couldn't think of much to do. I was popped, and when the order came to scatter, I jumped to a celestial and logged out. Or so I thought.

When I logged back in later, I found that I had been podded, 15 minutes or so after my Incursus was exploded. I'm still not sure how that happened. Did they scan me that fast? As it happens, it was no big deal for me as I was using my PVP clone, it cost me the price of a clone upgrade, and gave me free transport back to my base in Deklein.

On to yesterday's fleet action in the war between NC and IT. One of my corpmates, Ginta had been showing me the very impressive killmails he'd been getting in on from fleet actions in and around X-70MU. Each of them had multiple capital kills, both dreadnaughts and carriers. And many other ships.

I've been wanting to be more involved, but I seem to have a time-zone problem. The larger part of the NC seems to be based in Europe (There are some Aussies and Kiwis in my alliance, but that isn't really any better), 8 hours ahead of me. So my play time is their sleep time. And their play time is my work time. Except for weekends.

Sunday was my shot. I got into a fleet with a newly tricked-out Brutix. I have four of them now, so I was willing to risk one. I learned two things in that fleet: I suck at this fleet game, and my luck isn't too great either.

My Brutix seems to have been fitted all wrong. I had short range guns, long range would have been better. I have a hard time looking at fleets in the finder and figuring out which one to be in. I'd like to feel useful after all. I was camping a gate while the battleships were pounding at a POS, a couple of reds came through, but I was still locking them when they exploded. So I'm not feeling useful.

Then at some point the FC decided to drop what we were doing and go on a mad race through several systems where we finally jumped through into a gate camp and got massacred. Or so it seemed to me. The FC loaded the grid first, called one target, then was popped. The next FC calling targets was popped before I managed to load the grid. The 3rd FC didn't have much left to work with. I couldn't find the targets, let alone lock them. I have an overview window that shows only enemy ships, but it kept wanting to reset to the top of the list whenever I'd scroll it down to look for a target. I think I can set it so that the closest ships are at the top, I'll do that next time.

Someone called for us to warp to him, I did so, or so I thought, and ended up at a planet alone. I warped back to someone, and was maybe 50km from the nearest anything. Except a drone, that shot at me. I killed it. Eventually, they turned their attention to me and popped me. I logged off.

I still have no idea why we rushed off to jump into a gate camp with well-positioned, and evidently superior forces. That's the unlucky part. But really, I suck at PVP.

The good news is that losing a ship is no longer a big emotional hit. It's really more of a "business as usual" thing now. I've got plenty of cash to make up the loss, and lessons learned. They are:

  1. Fit long range guns unless told specifically otherwise.

  2. Rearrange your pvp window to have CLOSEST ships at the top, not FURTHEST.

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