Life & Love, & Other Irrelevant Stuff

Life is an illusion – lucky you if you can mould it into a delusion working in your favour.

Love is a form of cancer – it devours you from inside and slowly decays.

Religion is a tool – making profit for the greedy and keeping the foolish in line.

Despair is a pale rider – it chases you all day to tire you and strikes you down at night.

Death is a number – the zero of all concepts.

Thoughts Concerning Human Non-Understanding

Nothing is definite, but these days, it seems, many people are defiant. If we took this seriesly, how many episodes should we have to watch?  I wonder, furthermore, whether we should have to take the arrival of the new ‘your – you’re’ (k) in Old York into account. For who’s to say whose idea it was to say that they’re staying there during their holidays?

Regardless, in the United States of America’s attempt to create a definite world order, they keep encountering unexpected defiance by the primitive, communist, homosexual barbarians (all non-American peoples in the world). Apparently, the ingenious underestimated the ingenuous, although applying the concept of innocence to either side would, at least for my money, be nonsense. You get a rapper for 50 cents, but sadly, only a dollar or more will save a child’s life. Unserious attempts in series to do so are legion. In other words, all attempts to change the world – and especially the human condition – in a positive manner have been either illegitimate or hindered by legislation. Legal corruption to a society’s core whose core principle consists in burying the answer to the question, ‘Who’s who?’, under a mountain of public apathy, assissted by a pathetic horde of mindless zombies worshipping the demigod irrelevancy. Their sermons are everywhere, here, there, and they’re not going to stop there till their infestation drowns the voice of conscience beneath the towers of death and despair which support the tops of abundance and decadence.

Where eating is a sin and not eating a disorder, where fake and fact become synonymous, where shallowness surpasses personality in esteem, happiness is sacrificed at the altar of conformity. – And we acceptantly pay the price.

Gaming Then and Now (Part 2)

In the first part of this article, I wrote about people’s attitudes to video games and about the way video games used to be. I now shift the view to the developers’ and publishers’ side of the equation.
Video games have doubtless become far more complex than anyone could have dreamed in the 1980s and 1990s. Many modern games feature fancy graphics, easier controls, and streamlind mechanisms. On the other hand, many, if not most, of the aforementioned games suffer from unacceptably high amounts of errors (mostly known as ‘bugs’ or ‘glitches’), including continual crashes (due to a variety of issues, often enough without any explanation; the notorious crash to desktop [CTD] without error message comes to mind), clipping errors, detection errors, physical object/line of sight/cover issues, and many, many more. While clipping errors may be funny unless they happen too often, game breaking issues are annoying and frustrating. If, for instance, a game keeps crashing, while it does not even save your progress, or video settings keep being automatically reset to levels a computer’s hardware cannot handle, not only is there no point in playing, but also does it mean that you wasted your money unless these issues get fixed – which, often enough, they do not, or if they do, long after release. To be sure, I am not referring to indie games, which are often surprisingly good and polished, so much as to the so-called AAA titles. The latter are developed by professional developer teams and published by big publishers such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Sony, Sega, Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namico Games, and others. It is quite ironic that especially these games suffer from the most and the most devastating issues. Now, I do not claim for the following analysis to be completely correct. I consider the chances of its being correct very high, however. (Feel free to disagree, either in the comments or via private communication.)
Being professional (that is to say, doing something for a living, which does not necessarily entail competence) and highly funded unfortunately by no means guarantees a good, let alone a great game. The major resources are time and money, yet it is obviously quite easy to mismanage both. And this is, so I claim, the case with AAA video games.
On the one hand, the developers get a very small amount of time for developing the game, with some series, such as Assassin’s Creed, getting a new title every year. Considering the amount of time it takes to program a video game, a year is next to nothing. And at this point, we have not even included profound alpha- and beta-testing. Although every year, the hardware requirements take leaps of faith, since the graphics (attempt to) outdo everything that has been there before, the result more and more often will be an unplayable, broken mess instead of an enjoyable activity. Huge parts of the budgets are directed into graphics development and hyping the games long before release, on pain of the games’ mechanics being neglected due to lack of profound testing. It usually (and at best) takes months to get such games into playable, albeit still broken, states, which many people sourly and justly so call ‘paid beta testing’. In other words, people pay full prices (50–60€/$, up to more than 100€/$ for special editions) for an unfinished product.
In order to comprehend how absurd this is, just contemplate the following. People pre-order a car because of the promises made in advertisments. When the car is delivered, however, the customers notice that all the fancy stuff is somehow there, but the car has several malfunctions as to its basic equipment. The brake shoes are insufficient to stop the vehicle at a speed higher than ten miles per hour, the steering wheel is somewhat loose, the fuel tank is leaky, the headlights are dead, only the left indicator works, and a tyre is missing. Our customers paid the full price for an unfinished and broken product. Would anyone accept the manufacturer’s weak apologies, accompanied by the promise to fix these issues within the next six months, and that this would not happen again in the future? I think not. In most cases, we should rather demand a refund, and the manufacturer’s reputation would be severely damaged with economical consequences. With respect to video games, different standards appear to apply, though. Publishers can deliver broken messes of a products repeatedly without people actually ceasing to give them money. Furthermore, jurisdiction seems to be far behind the status quo (correct me if I am wrong). Not only is false advertisement as to video games not persued and punished as the fraud that it is, but also can vendors get away with no-refund policies (yes, I am looking at you, Steam/Valve, even though you are certainly the best platform out there right now). This is basically like saying, ‘As soon as you give us your money, it will remain ours regardless of what you get in exchange’. So, buying video games has become some kind of gamble – you never know what, precisely, you will get!
To be fair, developers cannot win, anyway. Unless they side with a big publisher, they will need to find another manner of funding their project, which not only may take several years but also may end in the middle of nowhere, the project being abandoned in the end. At the same time, if they do side with a big publisher, they will be given deadlines of which they know in advance that they cannot meet them. And there will always be those who complain regardless of the content of the game: either people complain that the developers did not make the same game twice, or they will complain that the developers did make the same game twice. If game mechanics are as they used to be in other games (or similar to them, for that matter), it is considered a copy-and-paste project or a rip-off; if something new is introduced to which people are not accustomed yet, it is considered stupid or inconsiderate. There certainly is no solution to this particular problem. There is, however, a solution to the aforementioned problems, I dare say. It is high time for people to put their money where their mouth is – that is to say, keep your wallets shut in order to punish those who have deceived you time and again. Do not pre-order, let alone pre-purchase, especially not from those who delivered video game atrocities like Total War: Rome 2 and Assassin’s Creed Unity (yes, I am looking at you, Sega and Ubisoft).

Draft for Chapter 1 (Part 1/many)

The following is the first part of many to come of a draft for the first chapter of my planned novel. This chapter is supposed to follow the prologue I previously posted to this weblog. I have literally just written this within a few minutes, so it is very rough and unpolished. I am not particularly happy with it right now, both because of lacking descriptions of the surroundings and because of the dialogues. But perhaps it this will change when I return to this. Any kind of constructive comments and suggestions are welcome.

Fifteen months earlier.

‘What is this place, Damien? I thought we were heading for a monastery… This looks rather like a fortress’, produced Carlisle, a girl of eight and ten, taken by surprise, as their cart slowly moved towards the entrance gate.
‘It is a monastery, to be sure, though not of the religious kind.’
The guards at the gate stepped aside when Damien and Carlisle approached it without so much as a look.
‘Are they not supposed to…’, began Carlisle.
‘Look you in the face, ask questions such as who you are and what your purpose may be?’, interrupted Damien with a slight smile which was barely visible under the hood of his robes.
‘Aye, is this not what guards do?’
‘Nay,’ replied Damien calmly, ‘guards do not ask questions or investigate. Guards guard. At least that is what they are supposed to do here. They know me, and thus it is out of the question for them not to let you enter while you are in my company.’
‘So, you said this were a monastery, but not of the religious kind’, continued Carlisle while they headed for the inner courtyard of the monastery. ‘What, exactly, did you mean by that?’
‘My brethren and I are, for want of a better term, scholars. Within these walls, we do not concern ourselves with faith so much as with knowledge, knowledge passed on through the ages by those who would rather look for truth than comfort.’
‘Oh, but will neglicence of the godly not bring about godly wrath?’
‘I assure you, the perils for this world are of and in this world rather than from any place outside it – if that is even an intelligible concept. Yet I did not bring you here so as to make you a new apprentice. I promised you a warm meal and a bed for the night, and those you shall have.’
They had barely spoken these words, when one of Damien’s brethren came running across the courtyard, almost tripping over his own feet with every other step because he was a bit too short for his robes. Excited, with a red face, and completely out of breath, he cried:
‘Mentor, mentor! Mentor, I… Mentor, we have found… we have found… we have found…’
‘For goodness’ sake, Cain, would you mind catching your breath and then tell me that which you wish to tell me?’, interrupted Damien, but it was meant in a friendly manner. He lifted Cain up and supported him, while the latter tried to catch his breath.
‘We have found… ah, that’s better, thank you, mentor. We have finally found the scrolls for which you were looking. It was hidden away in one of the elder archives behind a secret…’
‘You are aware that we have a guest standing ride beside you, brother; and though she is certainly most welcome here, I think she need not be concerned with the details of our research’, interrupted him Damien again, this time in a less friendly tone.
‘I beg your pardon, mentor, I did not intend…’
‘We shall discuss this topic further once we are inside.’
‘Aye, mentor, as you wish.’ He was about to back away.
‘But before we go inside, brother Samuel here will guide our guest to her room for the night, will you not, Samuel?’
‘Aye, brother, that I shall do’, replied Samuel, coming forth from the shadow in which he had stood for some time now, without being noticed by Carlisle.
‘How did you… Whence did you come?’, asked Carlisle in a tone between surprise and fear.
‘I watched you come from one of our towers. I noticed that Damien had a companion with him, so I gathered he had promised you the usual.’


I am currently working on a draft for the first chapter of the story I began with my entry ‘Draft of a Prologue to a Possibly Longer Story’. It will take some time, however, before it will be ready to be published (I had almost accidentally written ‘punished’ – for whatever reason). Should you wish to make suggestions, feel free to do so either in the comment section or via private communication, as you have done so far.

Part 2 of ‘Gaming Then and Now’ will be published within the next couple of days.

Gaming Then and Now (1)

It clearly is a truism to say that a lot has changed as concerns video games, some things for the better, some for the worse. What is not so clear is at what end, of which there are at least three – developer(s), publisher(s), and player(s) –, to look for the faults.
Yet let us start by taking a look at and in due course comparing the designs of video games then and now.
Old video games used to rely heavily upon the player’s faculty of common sense. There was not much of an instruction not to run into pointy things or avoid falling into chasms. To be sure, depending upon how far we think back, many, if not all, games were easier inasmuch as they were two-dimensional or at best pseudo-three-dimensional. There also used to be fewer buttons to press.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that developers have gone too far with their hand-holding in modern games. When I start playing a new game, I often think that I am bad at it. Then I go take a look at how other people play the game – for instance on YouTube – and am baffled by many people’s incompetence. Of course, we need to take into account different genres and difficulty settings. Still, I cannot help the impression that many people suck – no other term expresses this adequately – simply owing to the following aspects:

1. Failing to read.

It may sound incredible, but in many games it is helpful to read instructions, and in old-school games, especially surival horror (SH) or role-playing games (RPG), it is essential to read and explore carefully and thoroughly. Being accustomed to fully voiced games with excessive amounts of on-screen instructions and maps with objective markers, people fail to make progress and often enough just quit a game because of frustration. Instead of searching an entire room and reading notes, people make haste to jump through all the rooms or reach a certain point. This in its turn makes them miss important, sometimes even vital, information including valuable hints as to what to do next, how to get out of a situation, or even what the next objective is.

2. Failing to meet the challenge.

If you play video games regularly or even have done so for years, you will know what I mean when I talk about rage-quitting trolls complaining on every forum remotely connected to video games. The complaints can usually be summarized like this: ‘I didn’t bother reading instructions or searching for clues or explore the map or upgrade my gear, but I want the game to let me win, anyway. AND IT DOESN’T! IT DOESN’T LET ME WIN! HOW DARE IT? I walk along a path in a hostile area with my weapons sheathed, and then an enemy actually attacks me! Guess what, I DIE! Well, I’m a level 10 character with level 2 gear, and the enemies are level 20 with level 20 gear, SO WHY CAN’T I DEFEAT THEM?! WHY, GOD DAMN IT, WHY?! Fuck this game! Fuck the developers! Fuck everyone except me! It can’t be me! Not my fault! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! NO!’ *rage-quits the game for good and all, then takes on the next game to repeat the process*

3. Failing to comprehend even the simplest things.

Yes, it does not have to be diffuclt to understand for people to fail. How often do you see people repeatedly jump or drop into lava, while completely ignoring hints or even on-screen instructions. Walking straight into powerful enemies is not a good idea either. And who would have thought that walking through acid might hurt, especially without any protection. No, don’t take the knife against an armoured boss. And yes, his shield blocks your attacks. No, you’re not supposed to run into his minions. And don’t you run into his missiles! Yes, getting hit means getting damaged. If a non-playable character (NPC) at the entrance to the next area tells you that you shouldn’t enter before you have levelled up appropriately because otherwise the enemies will be five levels above you, you should most probably heed his advice.

[To be continued.]

Draft of a Prologue to a Possibly Longer Story

As the title says, the following is a draft of a prologue to a possibly longer story. It certainly needs some polishing, perhaps a few more details filled in. In any event, let me know what you think of it – especially whether it could make a worthwhile read – in the comments. Thank you very much!

‘I feel so tired, Damien, so incredibly tired and exhausted,’ produced Samuel, as they made their way up to the snow-covered top of the mountain. ‘Pray, tell me, you feel it too. You must feel it too…’
His hands shook as he spoke.
‘No,’ replied Damien in a dry voice. ‘But little does it matter, and little it would matter if both of us died.’
‘Wha… Why… How you can say that? How can you even think that? After all we have done, after all we have accomplished, after all these endless struggles, you’re telling me…’
‘… to save your breath if you would get where we are headed. We are close. We are almost there, brother, just a few more steps. But if we would get there, we need to keep going.’
‘A few more…? I only glimpse this shadow – there, in the distance.’
He pointed his finger vaguely, but where he was not even sure himself.
‘Each step I feel the desire to lie down and sleep grow stronger. I don’t know if I can keep my eyes…’
His voice trailed off and he leaned on his staff with exhaustion, a pitiful, emaciated figure of whom it would have been anyone’s guess how he was even still alive.
As Damien tried to support his brother who was on the brink of a breakdown, the wind began to rise again, stronger, harsher than before. Swirls of snow threatened to bury the brothers alive.
‘We cannot stay here, Samuel. We must press on.’
‘My senses…’, Samuel whispered in a hoarse voice, ‘they are on the wane, Damien, you had better…’
‘Think of the others, Samuel, think of the others, think of their sacrifice! You cannot die, not until our quest is finished!’
‘Yes, the others… where… where are they? I cannot see properly, where… I cannot see Carlisle… is she tending to the mount?’
He coughed violently during his speech.
‘The others are dead, Samuel. We are the only members left of our party, the only ones who can still complete our quest. Do you understand? I need you in there!’
‘Dead? How… I… I cannot take another step, Damien. I am sorry… please… forgive me, brother…’
Yet even as his brother prepared to give in to his desire for sleep, Damien still had enough strength within him – both physically and mentally – to carry his brother onward. It truly would not matter if they both died after finishing their quest, yes, but if they died before… He dared not think of it. And he needed his brother for the completion of their quest, it required two at the very least.
Even though Samuel had devolved into this barely recognizable shadow of his former self, each step took all the strength Damien could still muster. The snow reached his ankles under his robes, yet it was the shadow in front of them that sent shivers down his spine. His sight was blurred, yet still he knew exactly where to go. His will had always been the strongest, and had reached legendary status a long time ago. At the beginning of their journey, none of them could have known what they were about to encounter, but as weeks and months crept by, it became ever more clear that not all of them would make it to their destination.
The sacrifice of the other four former members of their party now gave Damien the strength he needed to carry on, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As he approached the large wooden door of the tower, it suddenly flew open, as though their arrival had been anticipated. And as they passed through the door, Damien still carrying his brother Samuel on his arms, the brothers vanished in the darkness that appeared to spread throughout the tower.