Archive for November, 2010

In the Doghouse? Me? Yus!

If you know me at all, you’re probably familiar with a company called Doghouse Systems. I bought a gaming laptop from them some time ago, but I’d been talking with the owner for a while before that.  We met when his company did a big advertising push with Scott Johnson’s “The Instance” podcast, which at the time I was an active contributor to. We’d talked about what his company was going, and I gave him some ideas he might consider looking into, like having an actual laptop line.

I’ve met up with John and some of his other employees before. We’ve gotten together for lunch on a few occasions, talked on the phone several times, and the one thing I feel about these guys is that they’re real. They love gaming, and they love putting together systems that make PC games look incredible. And they go above and beyond to help people, not just their own customers. If you have a hardware question on a PC that isn’t a Doghouse, they will do their best to help if they can (and usually they can!). Personal example, John told me about a couple of tools to determine what kind of RAM I needed to buy for my desktop. That wasn’t a DHS machine, either. So, yeah, I really believe in this company. They’re real people, folks who’re legit about their gaming love and PC hardware. They want to be a part of that kind of community. People like that, I can respect.

So in order to connect with the established gamer community and to start building their own part of it, they started a podcast. Not about just their products, about hardware in general. What’s good, what works well together, sharing benchmarks, how to do upgrades and test your improvements, that sort of thing. Over time it’s evolved into covering new PC releases in depth, discussing overclocking, answering listener submissions, and the like.

The problem they have is consistency. The podcast could go anywhere between two weeks and four months between updates. Twitter updates became fewer and further between. Facebook page updates suffered similarly.

This is completely understandable. They’re a small but growing company. The word’s getting out and more folks are getting impressed by what they have to offer. So needless to say, they’re busy as heck!

But they really wanted to stay with this, to be more consistent in their offerings, and to continue being a part of the wider gaming community in the web.

And that’d be where I come in. Myself and a gent named Jeff Baender.

Jeff, like me, digs what DHS is trying to build. He’s been contributing his insane amount of knowledge concerning overlocking, benchmarking, and hardware knowledge in general to their forums and the podcast.

So John and the DHS guys have asked us for help. We’re now both fulltime cohosts of the Doghouse podcast. Jeff will bring his knowledge, and I’ll bring my organizational skills and gaming enthusiasm! I’ll be preparing shownotes and researching possible topics for the show. Jeff and I will also be collaborating on a new gaming review segment called Left and Right Brain that will be featured every other podcast episode, as well as having a place for it on the web. And there’s lots more ideas we have for how we can help that aren’t ironed out yet, but we’re working on them!

I’ll also have access to their Twitter and Facebook accounts as well, to get more postings out there to the fans and greater community.

So yeah, I’m incredibly stoked about this. I can’t wait to see where it goes, and to have some of my own content out there for you guys to check out. So keep an eye on Doghouse Systems on Facebook and Twitter, and if you’re into PC gaming and hardware, give the podcast a listen over. I think you’ll dig it, I really do.

When does evil in gaming get too real?

So as you can tell, I’ve kinda failed in updating every day for a month already.

Turns out that most of the prompts that nablopomo.com has come up with are actually pretty insipid. We’re talking high school english class “I’m-giving-you-this-writing-prompt-so-I-can-grade-papers” busywork here.

I’m going to get a little more esoteric, and pose a question to you all. A fairly geeky one, I’ll admit. It’ll require you to think a little.

One truism I’ve found in reading sci-fi and fastasy books, playing video games, or even just watching movies, is that a truly great hero needs some truly despicable evil to fight.

My question to you all is how much would you agree with this?

In films or books, sometimes a villain performing truly horrific acts of evil is a little easier to digest. You’re observing it from an outside perspective. You always have that viewpoint of the story that it’s not happening now, and you can jump out back into reality.

In games, especially role-playing ones, you don’t always have that luxury. You’re taking part in the story. You take on the perspective of one of the characters, and depending upon the specific game, you even impose your own perspective upon the character.

Now let’s say within this story, you witness the villain do something awful. Wipe out hundreds of people. Viciously assault someone. Rape. Torture. You get the idea. How comfortable are you with this? Does it galvanize you to want to defeat this madman (or woman) even more, to avenge those wrongs? Or do you push the whole experience away, because it makes you uncomfortable?

In a D&D game I ran for my friends, I wanted them to have a truly great evil to fight. I created this cult, centered around a madman who had lost everyone he’d ever loved. That loss drove him to master necromantic arts and turn young lovers around the world into various forms of undead. In his mind, he was saving them from the hurt and pain he felt. Anyone who opposed him, he turned them into the more mindless sorts of zombies and skeletons any player of a fantasy RPG is familiar with. Eventually, people gathered to him, following his beliefs, and formed his cult following. The cult began plotting ways to mass murder entire cities and raise them into unlife, with the ultimate goal of the entire world in this state, so that no one would ever be seperated from their loves by death.

Now while you can say his motivations might be halfway decent, his methods are no doubt purely evil. The guy. had the heroes not stopped him, would have released a virulent, deadly plague that would have wiped out an entire city of people, and forcibly returned them to life in their decaying bodies.

I had planned to devolve this guy into being less and less sane, ultimately to the point where he would essentially lose all empathy, state that the entire cult had been a pretense, and that he simply wanted to kill everyone to punish the flawed world that allowed him to hurt so much. By this point he would have succeeded in one of his mass-murder attempts, creating a graveyard city of undead…and calling the attention of something horrible. A god that was itself undead would enter the physical realm, coming through as a small moon, and use it’s horrifying power to finish what the elf started.

Heavy stuff. But the point was to give my friends, the players, something to fight against. Something to defeat and become heroes. Something awful that they, by destroying, could be seen as incredibly good.

How do you feel about this concept? Do you appreciate this sort of evil in your games to fight back against? Or does it get to be too much? What’s your line, if you have one?

NaBloPoMo. Say THAT six times fast.

So it’s apparently National Blog Posting Month. Or as the website calls it…”NaBloPoMo”. No I’m not making that up.

http://www.nablopomo.com

Basically, it’s a challenge to update your blog every day for a month. So I think I’ll try to participate. They actually have writing prompts up if you don’t know what to post, and today’s sounds interesting, so I’ll go for that one.

The prompt is “Tell us the story of a piece of jewelry you own. Where did it come from, and what does it mean to you?

Well I don’t own many pieces of Jewelry. I have a few rings, but I don’t wear them often because they tend to annoy me after a while. I’m going to have to get over this when I get married, of course, but for now, I don’t wear them a lot.

I had a necklace that I wore a lot back in high school. It was designed to look like a bottlecap with “God Rules” engraved on it. It actually became something of a symbol of mine then, which is kinda funny given that my Christianity wasn’t actually “real” for a good portion of it. I have no idea what happened to that thing though.

I have some recreated WWII dogtags that I had made for an art project of my friend David Butler. He’s a huge war history buff, as well as an incredible artist, and I took part in a reenactment he staged of a WWII infantry squad. The tags were part of the costume, as well as a takeaway piece to remind us of the good times we all had. I don’t wear them, but they are hanging up in my room.

I think perhaps the item with the most amusing story to it would be my replica Blue Lantern ring. Okay, if you’re not a comic fan, you have no idea who the Blue Lanterns are. If you’re a modest comic fan, you might know who Green Lantern is, but the Blue Lanterns are a mystery to ya. More hardcore comic fans will recognize them, I bet.

The basic idea is that there exists a spectrum of emotion. Each emotion’s “power” creates light in one of the colors of the visible light spectrum. Each color of light has a group of “Lanterns” who harness that light and use it for the group’s own ends, be they good or evil. The Green Lanterns light is based on Willpower, a “neutral” emotion (since their color is in the middle of the spectrum). They use their light to bring order to the galaxy, essentially serving as a well-recognized galactic police force. Further “up” the specturm, where Red, Orange, and Yellow are, you get the negatively-associated emotions of Rage, Avarice, and Fear, respectively. Futher down to Blue, Indigo, and Violet, the emotions of Hope, Compassion, and Love are tied, respectively.

I won’t go further in to the details of each Corps, but the basic deal is that each of them uses a ring to project their light’s power, and these rings have a set charge, which is used up as they use the ring. To recharge their ring, they summon a battery, which looks like a lantern, and recite an oath, unique to their corps, proclaiming their mission and the like.

One day while I was shopping in Hastings, I found some plastic replicas of each of the different color rings. I got a blue one for myself (blue is my favorite color, and as Christ has given me the greatest source of hope, it seemed apropos), and decided that a violet ring would be ideal for Karen.

So I took her ring to her apartment, and acted as though I was a Blue Lantern myself, and that I had been appointed to induct her into the Violet Lantern organization (which is called the Star Sapphires). I even pulled up their “oath” and got her to say it out loud! She loved it.

Happily, months later, I got her another ring that would symbolize love: mine for her and hers for me. I am still thrilled that such a beautiful woman loves me, despite, or even because of, my geekiness!!