amanda_lodden: (so long and thanks for all the fish)
[All names are pseudonyms, and often they are shortened pseudonyms at that. This is largely on purpose, as privacy matters.]

7 years ago, in a hotel room at GenCon, a friend of mine introduced me to City of Heroes. Paladin had been trying unsuccessfully to get me to buy and play the game, and I had resisted based solely on "I have enough games, and I don't need to pay a monthly fee to play them." But in that hotel room he did what all good drug-dealers do, and offered me the first taste for free by letting me create a character on his account and explore the game world. I was hooked.

Today, NCSoft announced that they would be shutting down City of Heroes at the end of November.

Over those 7 years, City of Heroes has had a major impact on my life. No, I'm not talking about hours wasted that could have been spent doing something productive, though there were certainly plenty of those. At first, I tended to limit myself to teaming with just people I knew in real life... but even that led to expanded friendships. Shad and I had had an adversarial relationship for a decade-- acquaintances who didn't really like each other but put up with each other at social events when we had to. Only it turns out that in that decade, we had both grown up and mellowed out, and once we started politely chatting to each other in game, we realized we didn't hate each other anymore. Now, he's someone I actually consider a friend, though I confess that I have been "meaning to call" for far too long. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Eventually, those teams expanded as one or more of us joined random teams and found players we liked. (This was frequently Paladin, frankly.) Chief among them was Dood, who dragged us kicking and screaming into a chat channel full of awesome people. There, I met Tal, Dire, Tian, Hobo, TKat and Shiden. (There are others, too, but it's late and their names don't reduce down as well.)

TKat and Shiden became close enough friends that they came out to visit for a large social event I hosted, and I routinely visit them. During one of my visits, I met a co-worker of TKat's named Cyrano. Cyrano and I hit it off. Through him, I met RNeko and PEMTEK. Through PEMTEK, I met DKitty. All of them are now real-life, offline friends. All of them I ultimately met through City of Heroes, even though some of them never played a day of City of Heroes in their lives.

Unsurprisingly, the chat channels on City of Heroes right now are filled with people reminiscing. For many of them, their favorite memories are of the first time they saw a game feature-- one of CoH's strong points is the gorgeous graphics.

For me, my memories are all of people. I can't remember the first time I saw one of my characters flying in a cape, though I do recall a bunch of us spending a lot of time in a mission with a rave theme, bouncing around and watching the capes flutter. I remember the first time we did certain Task Forces, not because of the Task Force itself but because we were unprepared for the new challenge and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to beat it. I remember the scorn that bled out from Ryan (who spent 7 years on a "don't call me by my chat handle" kick, and thus gets to have an actual name) when he showed us how to do it, and it turned out to be pretty simple if you actually read all the mission text. I remember the night a group of us tackled one of TKat's harder missions, and ended up dying repeatedly... and how it became a war of stubbornness, in which we just kept dying and resurrecting until we wore everything down and beat the stupid thing. I remember carefully collecting addresses to pass a card around for everyone to sign, in order to cheer up one of our number who was going through a rough time.

And I remember the night we learned we had lost one of our own, claimed by a heart attack while at his computer. He had introduced his step-son to us, who woefully told us what had happened. My eyes still tear up at the thought of never talking to him again.

Nothing lasts forever, and I always knew that there would come a day in which there would be no City of Heroes. I just didn't realize it would be so soon. I often tell Paladin that it's all his fault, but the truth of it is that I wouldn't change a bit of it for the world. Well, except the ending-- I'd move that out a few more years.
amanda_lodden: (geek girl)
Catching up on things in the hotel room. One of the links from Facebook is to the announcement of the next City of Heroes expansion.

Show Last Objective: This UI improvement lets you find your last objective on a mission map, making it easier to find something you've missed.

*swoon* I am in love.

Now, I just have to wait for the expansion to be released.

*wait*

*wait*

*wait*

Is it released yet?

*wait*

How about now?

(Remember that old store commercial, with the woman who got there at 2 in the morning the day of the big sale, and was plastered against the store window chanting "open, open, open"? Picture me instead of her, a laptop instead of the window, and "update, update, update" as the chant.)
amanda_lodden: (geek girl)
Catching up on things in the hotel room. One of the links from Facebook is to the announcement of the next City of Heroes expansion.

Show Last Objective: This UI improvement lets you find your last objective on a mission map, making it easier to find something you've missed.

*swoon* I am in love.

Now, I just have to wait for the expansion to be released.

*wait*

*wait*

*wait*

Is it released yet?

*wait*

How about now?

(Remember that old store commercial, with the woman who got there at 2 in the morning the day of the big sale, and was plastered against the store window chanting "open, open, open"? Picture me instead of her, a laptop instead of the window, and "update, update, update" as the chant.)
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I've been sort of sitting on this particular post, because I have a picture that I took of my Girl Scout sash that I'd like to put in here. Unfortunately, what with the myriad of photos and documents sitting in a hundred different places courtesy of the "scan it and get rid of it!" project, I can not actually locate that particular photo. (We all know that because I've opted to post this without the picture, it'll turn up tomorrow in the least-expected place, right?)

I loooooooove badges, achievements, etc. It doesn't matter what they're for, They Must Be Mine!

When I was nine, that meant Girl Scout badges. I remember poring over the manual, figuring out which ones I could obtain easily, and how to go about getting the other ones with the minimum amount of work. It wasn't about doing something well, it was about maximizing the number of little round patches to be sewn onto my sash, which bytheway just happened to count towards the sewing badge.

In my teenage years, I didn't have anything to collect, really. The flood of "your kid achieved something!" certificates died out somewhere in middle school, and was never satisfactorily replaced. Until video games, that is.

I'm terrified to play the XBox 360, because as it is my life gets sucked into video games that feature collecting things. I can't fathom the amount of time I would waste just trying to get that elusive "you rescued the princess (you know, the one that required 50+ hours to get to)" achievement. I prefer to play my little flash-based browser games on kongregate.com, not because it's inherently better but because they give out badges (which give you points, and points give you levels! Granted, levels give you absolutely nothing, but dammit, I've made it all the way up to level 15 already), and I've often clicked on a game that looked kinda fun and then gone on to something else when I saw that it had no badges to earn.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I've been sort of sitting on this particular post, because I have a picture that I took of my Girl Scout sash that I'd like to put in here. Unfortunately, what with the myriad of photos and documents sitting in a hundred different places courtesy of the "scan it and get rid of it!" project, I can not actually locate that particular photo. (We all know that because I've opted to post this without the picture, it'll turn up tomorrow in the least-expected place, right?)

I loooooooove badges, achievements, etc. It doesn't matter what they're for, They Must Be Mine!

When I was nine, that meant Girl Scout badges. I remember poring over the manual, figuring out which ones I could obtain easily, and how to go about getting the other ones with the minimum amount of work. It wasn't about doing something well, it was about maximizing the number of little round patches to be sewn onto my sash, which bytheway just happened to count towards the sewing badge.

In my teenage years, I didn't have anything to collect, really. The flood of "your kid achieved something!" certificates died out somewhere in middle school, and was never satisfactorily replaced. Until video games, that is.

I'm terrified to play the XBox 360, because as it is my life gets sucked into video games that feature collecting things. I can't fathom the amount of time I would waste just trying to get that elusive "you rescued the princess (you know, the one that required 50+ hours to get to)" achievement. I prefer to play my little flash-based browser games on kongregate.com, not because it's inherently better but because they give out badges (which give you points, and points give you levels! Granted, levels give you absolutely nothing, but dammit, I've made it all the way up to level 15 already), and I've often clicked on a game that looked kinda fun and then gone on to something else when I saw that it had no badges to earn.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I've long been a fan of a number of the games from Everett Kaser Software. They're small little logic-puzzle type games, and make an excellent way to wake up your brain in the morning. So much of a fan that I shelled out $90 a few years ago for his "All Products CD", and not regretted it.

Well, not regretted it much. In the intervening years he's put out several new games, and I want those, too. But at $20 a game, it's more cost-efficient to buy the All Products CD, and I felt a little like I was getting gypped by having to buy it again when I've already bought it once.

So I sent him an email this morning, and got a reply back this afternoon. While he doesn't have an official "upgrade" price for the CD, he did offer to cut the price for me provided I send him a copy of the email when I order it (to remind him, which I can understand. And while he didn't ask for it, I do plan on sending him the license key from my previous purchase, to prove I'm not trying to scam him.) Now I'm even more of a fan.

If you like logic games or short diversions that aren't as mind-numbing as Solitaire, definitely go check out http://www.kaser.com . Every game has a free downloadable version that has a very limited puzzle set, so that you can try it and see if you like it before shelling out cash. My personal favorites are Sherlock, Honeycomb Hotel and Occam's Quilt, but everyone I've ever shown the games to ends up liking different ones best.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I've long been a fan of a number of the games from Everett Kaser Software. They're small little logic-puzzle type games, and make an excellent way to wake up your brain in the morning. So much of a fan that I shelled out $90 a few years ago for his "All Products CD", and not regretted it.

Well, not regretted it much. In the intervening years he's put out several new games, and I want those, too. But at $20 a game, it's more cost-efficient to buy the All Products CD, and I felt a little like I was getting gypped by having to buy it again when I've already bought it once.

So I sent him an email this morning, and got a reply back this afternoon. While he doesn't have an official "upgrade" price for the CD, he did offer to cut the price for me provided I send him a copy of the email when I order it (to remind him, which I can understand. And while he didn't ask for it, I do plan on sending him the license key from my previous purchase, to prove I'm not trying to scam him.) Now I'm even more of a fan.

If you like logic games or short diversions that aren't as mind-numbing as Solitaire, definitely go check out http://www.kaser.com . Every game has a free downloadable version that has a very limited puzzle set, so that you can try it and see if you like it before shelling out cash. My personal favorites are Sherlock, Honeycomb Hotel and Occam's Quilt, but everyone I've ever shown the games to ends up liking different ones best.

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amanda_lodden

January 2015

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