Saturday, March 13, 2010


And another thing...

I'm about a third of the way through Guillermo Del Toro's "The Strain" (loaned to me by Adrian). The villain is described as a sort of ghost-vampire that sires zombies. I think. It's early in the book. Well anywho, the main bad guy is described as sort of a moving inblot, with long toe/talons that scrape along the floor as he walks, and a long tapered head with leech-like skin, glowing eyes & a slash of a mouth, which opens to lots and lots of teeth. Basically, it's a childhood scared-of-the-dark-thing-behind-the-wardrobe description.

My brain showed it as a combination of Inque, a shapeshifting villain from Batman Beyond, and Candle Jack (don't say his name) from Freakazoid. While Inque is not portrayed as scary, just a dangerous mercenary, and Candle Jack is played for comedy (he even sponsered a meme), the combination hit the "Scary" button in my head that hasn't happened since Stephen King's IT when I was 14.

Think of a Candlejack head on top of a sinuous, Inque-type body, and that it attacks you hen you're asleep, and feeds upon you, so you're found dead with a tiny bloodless superthin cut on your neck (and maybe rise up as a horrific zombie thing 3 days later).


See also Squick, Body Horror, and Orifice Invasion.

Commitment And More Lands That Border

More Lands That Border

More things that are satisfying about Borderlands:
1. The World is HUGE. I keep discovering new outposts with different mission, some as trivial as "collect 5 mission recorders and bring them back" to "collect 50 crystal samples, defeat the two giant monsters guarding the samples, refine the crystals into an artifact."
2. The Sorting Algorithm of Weapons: The weapon that was your best friend and most trusted problem solver will be nearly-useless later on, as all the enemies around you level up as you do. Even the ones with comically low levels (a Lvl4 Skag attacking you, a Level 30 Gunslinger Hunter) can still nearly kill you if you ignore them. Sure, they die comically in one hit and you get little to no XP for them, but if there's a pack of them, you can still croak.
3. Different experiences. I was discussing this game with Luke at work, and I had an experience I haven't had since Fallout 3: We were discussing the game and the environments, and we had had completely different experiences. He played as a Bruiser (a Tank class, with a berserk ability and a love of fisticuffs and rocket launchers, quite the opposite of my Hunter's love of ranged weapons and one-shot kills), and as such had a different playstyle and strategy, and in the end, got a different result.

This segues me nicely into the unsatisfying thing about Borderlands, though, the more I think about it, it's something that's wrong with me. I had the same issue with Fallout 3, and in discussion with Ted, that many people had with Diablo. The inventory.

Now, in Borderlands, you're given twelve slots in your backpack for weapons, shields, grenade mods, health kits, and class mods (which give bonuses to skills). You also have two equipped slots (later four), which are mapped to the D-pad. You can complete Claptrap side missions to increase your carry capacity.

Here's my issue. I'm a hoarder, and a worrier. I try to carry a mixture of weapons, so I can be covered in any situations. My twenty-seven slots are filled with, currently:

-6 revolvers (two normal, one with zoom, one without & four elemental)
-6 sniper rifles (two normal, one with a stupidly huge zoom, one with massive damage, and four elemental)
-3 shotguns (two elemental, one automatic and fast-firing)
-2 submachine guns (one with scope, one that does 4x projectiles & reloads super-fast)
-2 repeater pistols (one with Shock damage, and one with a scope)
-3 combat rifles (one with large magazine for support firing, two elemental)
-1 rocket launcher (after much deliberation)
-2 shields (one high-capacity with corrosive resistance, and 1 medium capacity with fast health recharge)
-1 grenade mod (changed often, depending on the situation)
-2 Class Mods (Gunslinger & Ranger)

Now, where this gets frustrating is that when I find a piece of loot that I like (or just one worth a lot that I can sell), I then get to spend loooooooong minutes, staring at my inventory screen, agonising over what to leave behind, the distance to the nearest shop ("If I pick this up, then drop it, then run to the shop to sell something, can I make it back so that the thing I dropped is still there?")... I'm also a cheapskate, so the idea of dropping a weapon that's worth four thousand dollars bothers me. I'll occasionally do an inventory cull, leaving a few spots open for sellables, but the minute I find something decent, it becomes "Well, I have a Shock Revolver already, but this one does more damage, even though it's got a lower fire rate and only holds three bullets... it has a higher accuracy and zoom, though... I could do more damage more accurately, but if I miss, I'm screwed..." For ages.

I was the same with Fallout. Most people I talked to customised their character with a persona, based upon the upgrades they took and the skills they developed. My overarching ability? I could carry a lot. I took every Strongback upgrade to the pount where I was carrying 300 pounds of gear on my back (mostly weapons and armour, with some space for things I wanted to sell). Doesn't make for a memorable character.

Think of it as a video-game based fear of commitment. "Do you take this sniper rifle, to have and to hold, in sickness, and when something better is dropped by a dead Rakk?"

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Forced typesetting

I spent most of today (well, the parts not spent having brunch and walking back from brunch) locked in the spare bedroom, writing an assignment.

"But Lucas!" I hear you posit. "You aren't taking an courses or classes! What gives with the assignmenting?"

That's true. I'm actually finishing assignments for a course put on by work that I began in early 2008. It's a course whose last assignment was due in May of 2009.

Now, when it came to assignments in school, or university, or the various tertiary courses I've taken (be it work-based, or my advertising stuff at TAFE), I alays try to be my best. One memorable work-based-course-presentation was supposed to be 10 minutes. I overprepared and went for 25, although if they hadn't had a stopwatch, I don't know if they would have noticed (no bragging, that was my feedback). I like being able to pit my brain against something and put a project together.

But I don't know. Something happened with this course. I liked the presenters, the subject matter was relevant to my work, but somewhere along the line it stopped being important to me to do the assignments. I got the knowledge, I participate in class, I took notes, but once I was home, I had no motivation or drive to complete things, let alone complete them well. The last assignment I turned in late, incomplete and didn't think about it again.

That is, until the presenter showed up at work in June with a paper full of notes and corrections with a big legend across the top saying "Not Competent". I took it, saying I'd try again (I couldn't even lie and say I had tried. We both knew I had half-assed it).

I put the assignment on my desk at home and there it sat for 8 long months. I didn't think of it again. I'd occasionally look at it, but the only emotion I could raise was a sort of impotent anger towards "fake assignments about fake meetings" that even I know what bogus and childish.

Eventually, as they were wrapping up the course (they're revamping it next month), the presenter got around to marking some of my old assignments and emailing me the results, full of glowing praise about my written composition, the structure of my arguments, and my in-class participation. I do not pretend that ego did not play a part in what followed. Guilt was also there. It had snuck without paying while the show was starting and snuck in a bag out outside peanuts to throw at the screen.

I responded to the email, thanking the presenter for his marking my paper, and complimenting him on his new beard that I had seen him sporting.

Should have seen it coming.

He responded with thanks, then... "Oh, by the way, I'm still waiting on Module 8, as well as parts of Modules 4 & 6. It's been months If you don't turn them in by the end of this week (it was Monday), we'll be forced to mark you not competent and you'll need to start the course over again."

Well, shit. Part of my new slacker personality wanted me to just go "Fuck it, let 'em fail you." but there was enough of the old overachiever in me to respond in the affirmative, asking for a list of what I was missing from each assignment, so I could sort them out by the end of the week. Yes, by Friday.

The presenter responded by explaining that I'd missed out on small-to-medium bits of 4 & 6, but all of 8 needed to be redone, preferably using his notes.

"No problem", says I. "I still have the copy you gave me in June." He took the opportunity to tell me that he was rather disappointed in me, since I was clearly good enough to do this, and I was the first to hand the assignment in, and now the last to finish. Thanks, Dad.

So Tuesday night, I sit down and I clear off assignment 4. Then I prep assignment 6 to do later at work (since that assignment is about meetings and one-on-ones and I had based my prepartion and reflection on imaginary meetings, the part I was missing was, you know, the meetings).

I also noticed that I couldn't find the copy that the presented had returned to me with his notes. I also couldn't find the book of data from that lesson that was necessary to do the report. Non-plussed, I emailed the presenter, saying that if he could, could he bring me a copy with his notes and another booklet, or I could go pick it up before work.

Felt good about myself.

So good, that when I came home from work Wednesday night, I sat down with Tanja after dinner and watched a bunch of Madmen. I remarked on the way to bed that I hadn't done any assignment work, but it's okay, I'd do the hard yards Thursday night, and hand it in to the presented on Friday, right on time. I put the stuff I'd finished into my bag to bring to the presenter at the other office in my lunch break sometime this week. He hadn't emailed me about the booklet/notes, so I sent him (and another presenter, for good measure) another email saying that if he wanted the assignment done by Friday, I was willing, but I needed him to help me out.

Oh yeah, and did I mention? On Wednesday I got a flu shot.

Thursday I was sick. Really sick. Like wake up at 4 am to throw up kind of sick. II didn't go to work, I didn't think about the assignment, I just laid in bed and literally (with no hyperbole, superlatives, or exaggeration) cried, and willed myself to stop hurting and not die.

Friday arrives. I've shaken the flu. My immune system for the freaking win. I go to work and find an email from the presenter saying "Hi Lucas, yes, you can come get the booklet and my notes whenever you like." Also, the second presenter that I'd emailed, whom I've known for longer, stopped by the office to needle me about the assignment, um, I mean, to say hi. Actually, I'm making it sound callous, he was actually really nice and cool as he always is, and just gave a gentle reminder that these assignments should be a snap for me (again, ego). I called the first presenter and said I'd be over in my lunch break to get the booklet & notes. I head over there (about a 20-minute walk, in the rain. He calls when I'm just outside his office to say "Don't worry, I'll be over at your office, I'll bring it."). So I get the details from him, and give him assignment 4, completed. I make an offhand comment about how it's really quite tough filling in the blanks on an assignment I did in June of '08, and frankly, didn't give my best effort to then. I found it hard matching the more-complete answers with some of the sketchier stuff I'd put in earlier."

Should have known that was laying it on a bit thick.

"Well, you know, Lucas, I'd prefer if you you didn't write stuff out of context. I mean, if you need a few more days to rewrite it all and make it good, then that's fine."

*deep breath*


It's okay, I'm calm. He put the guilt boot in a few more times, and I left.

I wrote up his comments in Lucas-speak on Saturday, so I'd know where to start. I would have done more work, but Tanja had decided she felt like cleaning and was doing this thing where she talks to what she's cleaning. "Oh, well, that's no good, is it. It's so dusty!" It makes it hard to concentrate.

Also, I was distracted by internet.

Anyway, wrapping up, I sat down today and did it. The whole thing. And it was fine. Actually, now that I knew I was writing for content, I expounded a bit more than I usually would on a business-report-style format. The questions that had frustrated me previously were much easier, thanks to the practice I have now with handling metrics and strike rates at work. Frankly, as I said to the presenter, I'm a different team leader now than I was then. Admittedly, the math I used was different to what they wanted, but I got there in the end.

So now I'm in a frenetic writing mood. I left two loooong and one longish comment on blogs, and now I've written one of my own. It's not too long, though.