5-and-5 About Playing Video Games

A friend of mine told me to play one to two hours max of PS3 and/or PC games today and then write 5 positive things about the time I spent and 5 negative things about the time I spent.

So here’s the Positive 5:

1. Slowly expanding my knowledge of video games (design, gameplay, etc).

2. Getting more of whatever I needed in the particular game I played.

3. Sense of accomplishment for getting through in-game assigned goals.

4. Didn’t happen today, but I usually get to interact with other people I usually play with.

5. Unique to this hour of playtime I had, I did not get frustrated because no in-game elements greatly impeded what I had set out to do in-game.

and the Negative 5:

1. Spent an hour or two of the day doing that instead of doing something else.

2. Adds to spending money on games because once I get through a certain amount of time playing a game I usually play the next game.

3. Sometimes I feel completely bored with playing and just don’t want to do it anymore, which I’ve been cutting down a lot of game time and working on getting through other things.

4. Its a never-ending cycle with the game I play, there’s always something more to do.

5. It starts to feel like a chore if I start to do things I don’t want to do in the game.

I spent most of my day working on my web site and watching episodes of 24.  I started watching the show over the past couple days and I’m almost through Season 1.

I honestly feel that the positives of playing games for a shorter amount of time than say 3 or 4 hours outweigh the negatives for that period of time.  But after 3 hours, the whole day becomes wasted and the next is almost ready to start.

I am also currently pursuing a job opportunity with Blizzard and having a wide-variety of gaming knowledge as well as knowledge of their games will benefit me if they want to interview or hire me for a game tester position at their company.  I think it would be a pretty amazing opportunity to work at Blizzard, not to mention it would be an associative use for my major from college.

 

Mount & Blade: War Band (PC) Review

Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment / Publisher: Paradox Interactive || Overall: 9.0/10

Mount & Blade: War Band is a medieval combat strategy RPG developed by TaleWorlds Entertainment.  War Band is a unique blend of strategy, adventure, and mounted combat that makes it a wonderfully pleasant game play experience.  However, there are a few issues that plague the game, namely with its presentational and user interface, which can put a damper on its enjoyability.

War Band takes place on a medieval continent named Calradia.  On Calradia, there are six different factions, whose leaders all claim they are the rightful rulers of the whole of Calradia.  Who you choose to begin the game with has less to do than where they actually are on the continent.  Every new game starts you off being attacked by assassins in the trade district of the major city of the faction you select.  After you win or lose this fight, a tradesman comes and saves you.  He pleads with you to help him save his brother that has been kidnapped by the group of people who attacked you.  If you choose to save him, you aim to gain a small sum of money.  If you don’t, you’re able to do whatever you like in the game as you please.

War Band takes it upon itself to let you roam around the sandbox it has created as soon as it can.  In fact, most of the game itself is free form and there is basically no real story or stringent quest structure to be had.  Events such as tracking down bandits and recruiting new members to your party become the story itself, as you fight battles and run around Calradia doing the biddings of Kings and their vassals, if you choose to do so.  If you progress far enough in gaining the respect of a King, you will eventually be asked to become a King’s vassal, and be awarded pieces of land acquired from your enemies.  You can also be asked to fight alongside the King in raids on castles, or come to the assistance of your allies against mountain bandits or enemy armies.

Another way to play War Band is by going against the current political structure in a certain area, and supporting a suitor that claims ownership of a throne.  By supporting these suitors, you are able to work to overthrow a King and make the person you are supporting become King or Queen in their stead, along with all the benefits and consequences that go along with that.  You are also able to establish yourself as a King or Queen and attack castles, acquiring fiefs for your own purposes.

The basis of the game itself is very interesting for gamers who have played games such as the Elder Scrolls and Civilization.  However, the game play itself has a couple of issues.  There is not a lot of explanation as to how to do certain things in the game, such as establishing yourself as a King or Queen. It is hard to find much information on it.

A lot of quests are unnecessarily vague.  It may take Internet research to figure out what to do or how to do a quest.  For example, you are told to bring some cows to a small town that has had their herd stolen by local bandits.  The only way to get cows is by stealing or buying cows from another town and bringing them to the first.  However, when you get this quest, that isn’t mentioned at all.  They tell you to “get some cows” and are left to your own laurels to figure out how to do it.  Unless you somehow happen upon the prompt to buy cows, it can be frustrating to figure out how to do this the first time.  Another instance where the game can be unnecessarily harsh is when a local Guild Master gives you a quest to find a Bandit’s Lair and expunge the threat.  The Bandit’s Lair itself does not show on your map until you are directly above it.  Considering the map of Calradia is huge and your unit is very small, it can take a certain amount of luck to happen upon the lair.  Quests like these do not lend themselves to making the game user friendly.

Combat itself is quite fun, and the large battles that can be had are quite enthralling.  Most of the time you will be fighting in first-person, but third-person is another option, and depending on the situation it is easy to switch back and forth.  Your character is able to use any weapon in the game, so it comes down to personal preference. One handed, two handed, and throwing weapons are available, in addition to shields, bows, crossbows, polearms, and maces.  There are four weapon slots for your character, allowing you to have a variety of weapons for the different situations you might be in.

Combat can take place in a variety of places, but most happen in the open field.  The open field combat stages take place on a map that closely reflects the type of area you are in, such as a mountainous area or in the woods.  Smaller stages take place on the beach, a mountain pass, or in a town.  In all of these situations, you are able to bring allies along with you, and as you grow your party larger and they become more powerful, you will begin to trump your enemies with ease — until you eye larger and more powerful enemies.  Simply put, the combat is the shining star of War Band and is what keeps you coming back for more.

When in combat, you use your mouse to change the direction you are attacking from.  To hit someone from above, you bring your mouse back towards you.  To hit them from the right, you move your mouse to the right.  You move using the WASD buttons, but there is no sidestepping with Q and E.  Q will bring up your quest log and E will kick in front of you.  If you are used to sidestepping, this can be annoying.  The objective of combat is to basically kill or knock unconscious all of your enemies.  Once that is accomplished you win.  If your army is quashed in the same manner, then you lose.  If you are knocked out before the battle ends, your army will fight at a lesser capability, and become more susceptible to losing.  It is very important to not only keep yourself alive through the whole battle, but to also help your army in the fight.  This brings a delicate balance between risk-taking and being careless and running into a group of enemies with spears.  You are also able to give your army orders to follow you, to charge, or to flank your enemy, among other commands.  These commands allow for strategy to be built around the situation at hand.

Graphics can take a big part in whether or not someone can be interested in the game without knowing anything about its game play.  With that being said, the game is downright ugly, and is about ten years behind.  The character models aren’t animated very well, many textures are smudgy, and just about everything has sharp edges.  While good graphics and animations aren’t required to have a fun game, it definitely makes it less painful to look at.  The unequivocally worst characteristic of this game is its graphics.  The second is the user interface.

The user interface is sorely in need of improvement.  When selecting from a long list of responses, it can be hard to figure out or remember which option you had last selected, so if you had to talk to the person again to get something done you may be confused as to which you had selected previously.  When looking through the in-game reference manual, it can be hard to find what you are looking for, stumbling across many pages and guessing what you might be looking for at times – this ties into finding out what to do for quests.

While navigating the map, it can take a very long time to travel and to even find where you’re trying to go.  There are no user-friendly options for accelerating travel speed, and sometimes you’ll be travelling for ten minutes straight before getting to your destination.  Over time, this adds up, and less time is actually spent playing the more interesting parts of the game.  Towns are also designed in a confusing manner, making them hard to navigate as well.  Each town has one leader that you are able to acquire quests from, but they are very hard to distinguish from other random town members at times.  The absence of a mini-map with markers while in towns would make this an easier exploit – otherwise, you are left to run around towns and talking to random people in hopes that they are the Guild Master or Town Elder.

Another user-friendly improvement that is needed would be with party management.  As you gain heroes to tag along with you, they bring their own blank slate for you to skill them up as they level.  The point of your party heroes is to fill in the gaps as far as your party skills go.  While this makes sense in theory, the execution doesn’t lend itself to helping the player figure out which skills are actually going to benefit the party or which ones another hero already covers.  Some sort of interface that tells you which party skills you are missing or have covered already as you are deciding which skills to level your characters with would make it a much more pleasant experience.  Otherwise, you have to resort to creating a small spreadsheet to figure it all out.

Party management is also irritating when it comes to managing your heroes’ equipment.  Instead of having one simple interface to tab through each party member’s equipment screen, you have to talk to him or her individually and ask to see his or her armor.  If you came into a number of upgrades to compare to what your party members have already, it is very tiresome to click three times to see one equipment screen, and then escape out of it, and then do it again for the next party member.  Most party-based RPGs have solved this problem by making it easy to switch to the next party member’s equipment/skill screen without having to exit back to the party screen, and War Band should have had something like that implemented.  Wasting time on obstacles like these can detract from the game’s enjoyment.

The inventory system also suffers from user interface issues.  You have a certain number of slots for inventory that can increase via skills.  Once you get to a large inventory capability, it can be easy to overlook what you may or may not have in your inventory.  A sorting option is desperately needed to re-sort your items and fill in slots from top to bottom.  This would prevent having to manually move each item, one at a time, from the bottom of the list to the top.  Another missing feature is a “take all items” option after defeating an enemy.  Instead of stuffing everything you can into your bags, you must click each item, one at a time, to loot them.  This, again, wastes time and energy going through and clicking everything you may want without automatically looting everything you can fit into your inventory.  In addition, inventory squares are fairly huge and could have sized down a little bit to accommodate being able to look at what you have in an easier fashion.

There is a multiplayer aspect to the game, but the most common are deathmatch or castle sieges.  The multiplayer modes are more akin to Counterstrike or other objective-based multiplayer games. Some sort of a co-op mode for the single-player game would be nice, but would have unique challenges to overcome, considering much of the game itself is traveling and quest-taking, and that wouldn’t exactly be very fun to experience alongside a friend for very long.

War Band also allows for modding.  If you find an interesting mod available, you are able to import it into the game and run it.  While War Band doesn’t have as many interesting mods as the original Mount & Blade does, there are a couple available that may be worth a try.  These mods change the single-player game in ways that the overall objective changes, or new armor/weapons are added.  Like many other PC games that allow modding, it creates a community that is involved with making these mods and keeps people interested in the game itself, as its game play could radically change with a new mod.

As a cohesive whole, Mount & Blade: War Band has many interesting and fun features. But if one thing of the game needs to be said, it’s that it mainly suffers from user interface design.  An overhaul in its user interface would severely be recommended in any future game in the series, and would lend itself to making the experience much more pleasing.  War Band is an activity that you can sink many hours into, and not realize where the time has gone. At first glance, the game can give the wrong impression, but War Band is definitely a title to experience.

 

Cashier Lesson – Ways to Torture Cashiers

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Cashier Lessons

Let’s say you are in a supervisory position over cashiers.  Typically supervising is a boring and monotonous exploit.  Babysitting other people to make sure they’re doing their job correctly can bring out the worst in people, especially when you do it day in and day out.

Why not put a little sadistic fun into your life by torturing the people you are supervising?  Here’s a few suggestions:

1. Funneling customers to one cashier’s register (or just away from you).

Nothing says “I’m lazy” more than rejecting any customer that comes your way.  But there’s a reasoning behind that.  It’s because you want that stupid cashier with the tacky blonde highlights or that other cashier with the excessively form-revealing biking shirt (can anyone say man boobs?) to have pleasure of taking another customer after the one they’re already ringing up.  Who says you need to endure the crappy money jokes customer’s always seem to think are funny when you can just deflect them to the next guy?

2. Musical registers.

Nothing wipes the hopeful look on a about-to-close-out cashier’s face than to make them close-out later by switching them to a register that closes later.  The best part about it, is that its all random and “pre-ordained to fate” because they chose a bad number.  To set up a game of musical registers, write the names of the registers on a piece of paper and cut them out.  Fold them up and then toss them into a small box or cup or something like that and have the cashiers draw a piece of paper.  These papers will tell them where to go for their registers, and if you’re lucky you’ll have a situation where a cashier who was happy they were about to close closes last and an overzealous cashier cheers that they get to close first instead of last.  Then you can revel in the pain of the cashier who just had the power play to being put into the penalty box.

3. Inventory.

Nothing is more sadistic than forcing people to count millions of Scantrons, pens, pencils, sweaters, or large amounts of random shit for hours on end.  If you get a chance, make sure they count the roundabout fixture full of dusty stickers that look alike.

4. Stare at them.

Nothing will make a cashier more uncomfortable than getting every move they make scrutinized upon by their superior.  When they mess up, you can stare at them even harder and make grunting noises and tell them they’re doing something wrong with little to no explanation.  You’re doing your job, after all.

5. Leave them with no change.

Oh, the cashier just called for pennies?  I think you should wait another twenty minutes and let them sweat a little.  Especially since they called for change five minutes ago and conveniently didn’t tell you they are about to run out of pennies.  Leave it to them to explain to customers why they don’t have three pennies to give back for change.

6. Mindless policies.

Making up policies that do not make any sense is a subtle way to make life hard for a cashier.  Nothing pains the soul more than to have needless red tape and hurdles to jump over to do even the simplest of things.  Need some more ones?  How about you fill out a cash request form which you will evaluate the reasoning for before getting the money?  How about requiring extraneous, useless information on checks to make the transaction take longer, and if they forget something, then you can punish them for doing so.

This requires some creativity, obviously.  Just think up the most ass backwards ways to frustrate your employees and execute.

7. Hidden supplies.

If a cashier is able to easily get the pens, pencils, staplers, or whatever they need easily, then you fail at torturing them.  You need to make sure that any of the office supplies they may require to finish transactions are in hard to reach or practically inaccessible areas.  Make sure these supplies are always a few steps away and limit the amount of efficiency they can possibly have by maximizing the annoyance factor.  Make sure the stapler is on the other side of the room from the pens and pencils.  Why would you ever want them to be in the same place?  It’s not like you want anything to be convenient for anyone.

 

Cashier Lesson – Being a Receptionist Without a Chair

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Cashier Lessons

Everyone knows that when you’re a receptionist or manning a desk you either are standing up, sitting down, or leaning against whatever can hold you weight.  But what people don’t know is how to cope with being a receptionist in a situation where the desk is made for sitting but there is no chair!  It’s supposed to make you look more approachable when you’re standing around looking like you’re straining to do everything you’re trying to do rather than sitting in a chair using the desk that is made for sitting in the way it was designed to.

So you are forced to stand, but lo and behold, you’re not four feet tall, so 85% of the surface is out of reach and the other 10% is unusable due to line of sight issues.  That leaves approximately 2.5% of the desk you used to be able to use for use.  The other 2.5% is taken up by the normal useless junk that you’re required to keep on your desk, such as business cards and phones — you never had that to begin with anyway.

There are a number of solutions to tackle this problem.  Pick the most viable solution for your situation:

1. Bring the counter to you.

This solution requires you to engineer the desk or counter in such a fashion that it rises approximately three feet into the air.  You can use anti-gravity machinery or exquisitely stylish cherry-wood wedges to accomplish this.  It’d be like you’re sitting… but you’re standing!

2. Bring you to the counter.

This solution requires you to invent the marmalade that Alice drinks in Alice in Wonderland.  Just make sure you drink just enough to shrink to the size of the desk.  But I guess you can drink enough so that you can swim around in the tears of lazy receptionists who don’t like to stand up while being a receptionist.

3. Pretend like you’re sitting.

Who says you can’t sit without a chair?  You can crouch or sit on an imaginary chair, or develop a jet engine system to keep yourself comfortably levitated at the elevation of your counter.

4. Get a new counter/table.

The most sensible solution of all is to get a new counter.  But sensibility is more expensive than a new counter, so you’ll most likely have to forgo this solution nine times out of ten.

5. Bring the surface of the counter to you.

I suppose this is most sensible low-cost solution.  But this means you spend money on ancillary items when you could just solve your problem by using the chair you already bought instead of raised surfaces to solve a problem you didn’t need to create.  But, who cares, it’s just money, right?

Another challenge that is presented is your ability to be sneaky about things.  While in a chair, you would be able to sneak a snack or a peek at your cell phone just to holla at your homies.  There are only two presentable solutions available to tackle this problem:

1. Hide under the counter/desk.

Hiding under the counter/desk allows you to temporarily shirk any responsibilities you may have been forced to do.  You can hide from customers, managers, other employees — its like a safe haven for about five minutes while you sext that hottie you met at the bar last night.

2. Make the counter into a fort.

Nothing says “fuck you” to customers better than stacking up large amounts of random shit so high into the air so they can’t see you anymore.  Who says you need to help anyone but yourself?  You need some alone time randomly during the day after you’re creeping on the hot guy/girl trying on a shirt in front of the fixture instead of the fitting room?  Time to get some boxes and staple a handwritten “Do Not Disturb” sign so people can’t see you anymore, and don’t come-a-knocking.

 

Quote #21137

This entry is part 16 of 26 in the series The Retail Report

::davepoobond rings up a Scantron for a girl.  It comes out to 27 cents and she dumps her crap on the counter, digging through her huge purse trying to get change.::

Girl (in a seemingly joking manner): “Sorry, I’m so disorganized”

davepoobond: “Oh, it’s okay.  I charge five dollars for overnight parking.”

Girl (really angry all of a sudden): “I’M NOT GOING TO BE HERE THAT LONG!”

::Girl pays for her Scantron and leaves::

– at davepoobond’s job

 

The Cashier Quiz

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Cashier Lessons

The Cashier Quiz is the quiz that contains all the Cashiering questions created.  Test your know-how of how to be a cashier by answering these questions.  Any new questions created will be added here.

How do you know when to apply the breakfast discount?

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If someone who doesn't work at the store comes to you and asks you to give them pens to use because there is an event and they keep losing pens because people take them... What do you do?

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What do you do when a customer has an old gift card?

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The White Board tells you how to do something new, so you...

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What do you do with the register slips in your drawer during the day?

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There's a frantic bird in the store and no one can seem to catch it. What do you do?

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A customer comes to your register and would like to rent out one rental textbook. So you...

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A customer would like to return a t-shirt, however they do not have a receipt with them. So you...

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There are 10 minutes left and you run out of dimes. The next transaction requires dimes as change. So you...

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When an elephant wants to buy a scantron for 35 cents with an ATM card, what do you do?

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Quote #21126: The Stars

A while ago, davepoobond drew some star thingies on the table at high school and the next day, there’s something written under them.  This all takes a really long time, because each message is on the table every other day.

Guy (that wrote on the table): “who drew these damn star thingys?”

davepoobond (writing on the table): “a hot girl, duh!”  (There is a heart over the I and as the period in the exclamation mark)

Next day…

Guy: “o shit.  that kicks ass
kinda at least”

davepoobond: “I take it in the ass, too!”  (There are hearts on the I’s and the exclamation mark)

Next day…

Guy: “that’s nasty but I’ll still do you =)”

davepoobond: “ok it’s a date.  Whats your name?”  (There are hearts on the I’s)

Next day…

Guy: “Mike, you?”

davepoobond: “Last name….?”  (There is a heart for the question mark’s period)

Next day…

Guy: “MIKE Andrews/whats ur nm”

At another place on the table there was a green marker mark, so I made it into an “I” and put “love youuuu” after it.

“Mike” puts “I Love You, too” below it.

davepoobond doesn’t respond to the main conversation this time, so the next day, the guy darkens in “whats your name?”

Mike (writing again): “what’s your name”

davepoobond doesn’t say anything for a long time.  After a while…

davepoobond: “my name is Candy Cane.”

The last part gets erased. Next time, davepoobond doesn’t see it.

Below all this writing davepoobond wrote “gay” with an arrow pointing towards the seat and under it.

“Mike” says…

Mike: “so? you got beef wt gay ppl?”

davepoobond: “who? You?”

Somewhere else on the table, someone wrote…

MM

davepoobond then puts “is gay” under it, so it looks like:

MMgay

And then the “STFU” appears, then “BLOW ME” appears.  It looks like…

stfublowme

davepoobond: “SUCK ME OFF!”

Next day…

Mike: “ok!”

davepoobond: “your MOMS ok!”

Next day…

Mike: “SWEET!”

davepoobond: “and sour…”

Next day…

Mike: “cream…
cheese!”

It got stupid, so I didn’t write anymore.

 

Quote #21118: You Like That Engine?

::davepoobond is driving his car, which is a 1982 Mercedes Turbo Diesel.  The passenger window is open, and a white truck stops at the window. This is at a stop light. The guy in the truck says something, but davepoobond’s music is too loud.  davepoobond looks outside at the guy::

davepoobond: “Huh?”

::davepoobond turns the music down, the guy says it again, but davepoobond can’t hear it well enough, so he turns off the stereo::

davepoobond: “what?”

Guy: “do you like that motor?”

::davepoobond didn’t really understand his question the first time::

davepoobond: “excuse me?”

Guy: “do you like that motor?”

davepoobond: “um…yeah, its alright”

Guy: “diesel, right?”

davepoobond: “yeah…”

::davepoobond is freaked out at this guy now.  There’s silence for a few more seconds, but seemed like at least a minute.::

Guy: “yeah, I’m going to pick up a diesel motor today…”

::Guy says something else, but davepoobond isn’t really listening anymore::

davepoobond: “oh…..ok….”

::davepoobond scooches his car up, and the light turns green, davepoobond drives away as fast as he can — thinking the guy was gonna try and get his motor or something::

 

Quote #21115

::davepoobond pulls a Kleenex from a Kleenex box and candy wrappers come out, as he pulls more, more and more come out, and falls on the desk next to the box::

davepoobond: “someone put trash into the Kleenex box…”

::Dr. OldNBald silently comes over and picks up the trash and throws it away::

Dr. OldNBald: Don’t worry, I did NOT think you were smuggling candy into the room…”

– from davepoobond’s high school