WoW Hackers are strange…

I received an email that was completely random last night. The email was an offer for a bunch of free stuff, if I was willing to retry World of Warcraft. It was from Blizzard, but triggered by someone in the game who I never heard of.

Apparently, someone had managed to get my Battle.net password and was using my account to get some time in WoW. This is now the second time this has happened to me, which is a bit strange because the first time was due to gold farmers looking to sell gold in game for real world cash. After learning that my Blizzard account was banned, I had to go through a process to confirm that I was who I said I was, and they reversed the ban. Oddly, the ones who hacked my account didn’t take the 370 gold that was on my main character… Lazy farmers I guess.

This time they just created a new character on a server I have never played before, and joined a guild. Timing is everything in these, because ironically they were trying to play it at the exact same time that I was. I kept getting booted off the game, so I figure we were fighting each other to be online. Now, since they probably would have no use for actually adding game time to my account, I can only guess that it was an effort to steal all of the stuff Blizzard gives you after they “quick-level” the chosen character to level 80. They were mid-flight when I finally got permanent access to the account (by adding an authenticator, and a VERY strong randomized password.) So I may have caught them just before they were going to make the trade. Again, they left my main character alone.

I just don’t see the purpose in all of this, because if your goal is to make money, why limit yourself to one side of things and not take it all? One could argue that I probably wouldn’t notice if they left the base characters alone, but with an offer like this hitting my mailbox, how could I NOT try and claim it? It was called a Scroll of Resurrection. So if anyone was wondering if this is a legit offer… It is!

Here’s what I was told I would get:

  • Free permanent upgrade to the Cataclysm expansion (along with the 2 prior ones)
  • Choose one character to auto-level (or quick-level if you prefer) to 80, which apparently came with all the gear you would need to get started at that level
  • Free transfer service: You can move the selected character to the same server as the person who invited you.
  • Free faction change: You could change to the faction of the invitee if you needed to.
  • 7 days of free game time

When I saw that, I was like “Cool, I can make my character on Skywall level 80, and actually be able to play the game; and I get the 2 expansions I don’t already have for free. Let’s go!”

With the account secured now, I am hoping to get the hacker’s character deleted and have the quick-level put on my main character. At the very least I am hoping they will move the new character to Skywall so I can at least have it on my original world.

Sorry, not something I would usually write about, but this whole process baffles and annoys me. That’s why I don’t have all the pictures like I normally do, I had to say something and this is more of a rant than a real post… Speaking of which, I should probably change my WordPress password too.

Games and Gamers…

Everyone has an image in mind when they think of a gamer. You know the one; living in his mom’s basement, with no job or life to call their own. Perhaps even fat, lazy, and dirty. There are those who fit that description, but the reality is most of us are actually quite functional members of society.

I guess the thing to figure out is what makes a gamer. You can try and define us by the types of games we play, but if you know more than one gamer you’ll know that we can argue about the dumbest aspects of a game. The tiniest thing can mean loving it, or hating it. So we can’t be put in that kind of a box. Simply, a gamer is someone who enjoys playing video games. This means that the Grandmother who plays Wii Sports is a gamer. Anyone who plays solitaire at work, is a gamer. The lines are blurring, and society is finding it more and more difficult to keep up their shunning of this new age of human entertainment.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

The world has changed, and video games have become the new books; that fact will frighten some and sadden others, but it remains true. If you go around and survey people between 20 and 30, asking if they’ve ever read Moby Dick, they might answer yes only because their parents read it to/with them as a child. Ask the same group if they’ve ever played Mario, and I would be willing to bet 90% or more would say yes, and then be able to go on describing their favorite part. The success of recent games like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” is not just because there’s more kids playing video games, but because their parents are playing them too. An entire industry has grown up, and almost nobody has noticed. The ones who have noticed have been trying to deny it, or capitalize on it; there really seems to be almost no middle ground.

The beauty of games is that they come in so many styles and types. No two are the same, even if they share some of the same elements. “Battlefield 3” and “Modern Warfare 3” are direct competitors in the shooting genre, but ask any gamer which one is better and they can go into great detail about why one is better than the other. Same type of game, two completely different styles of implementation. I prefer “Modern Warfare 3,” because of the better response from the control system.

Sephiroth - Aerith scenePeople ask me why I like games so much, and I have never really taken the time to consider it in great detail until now. If I had to sum it up, I like them because of the complex things that make it all work; and because they can be just as effective, as an escape, as a good book. In truth, many games now have more involved and developed story lines than modern books. The process of getting your attention has gone far beyond simply making it fun to play.

They have to engage you mentally as well. “Final Fantasy 7” still has thousands of players around the world (including your writer) even after 2 new console generations and countless graphics improvements in the industry. The story captured peoples’ imaginations and took us to a place no book can… A place where we actually get to make choices in the story. Sure, they have choose your own adventure books, but those just encourage you to spend more time organizing a system, to reach every possible ending, than actually enjoying the story.

Creating a game is a very time consuming and complex thing. It seems that most people think they just sit in a room for a month or two and crank one out like a movie, but it is vastly more stressful than that. You have to code everything so that when you press “A”, you jump. You have to have extremely talented artists to make it all look amazing while you play it (even a game as simple as “FEZ” took immense thought and creativity.) There are people whose’ only job is to make sure that a single level works the way it should.

The easy tileset for the Gnome games version o...

The process of fixing a bug in a game is very misunderstood by most gamers as well. If you browse the forums for any game, you will find people complaining about things that they don’t have in game, or that are broken. Often they just demand immediate solutions, but they don’t understand that it takes time and many people to get there. First someone has to identify where the problem is in the code, then they have to either fix it or write a new feature (which could break something else) and send it off to the artists. The artists make sure it appears to belong in the game, because if the menu shows Mahjong tiles in a solitaire (Klondike) game, it confuses the player. That’s an extreme example, but true enough.

After the code is implemented, and the art work is done, the testers take over. Their job is to find as many bugs in the new system as possible, and report any they find back to the coders. One new feature can run through this circle many many times before it’s ready to be given to the gaming masses, and even then it might not be perfect. It’s easy to say “fix the bugs before you release a game” but the number of different possible actions are magnified thousands of times once it reaches the public. If I have 10 full time game testers, they may be able to execute a few million actions in a month. Millions of gamers will execute billions upon billions of actions, and can uncover a lot more errors simply because of the number of them going through the game; and that’s not even mentioning the ones who deliberately try to break the game in the search for exploits.

As a person who’s interests lie in writing and graphic design, I love games of all kinds. I’ll take a simple game with interesting graphics and a great story over a super complex game with a bad story every time. Role Playing Games are among my favorite, and Resident Evil types are the ones I despise most, because they are great examples of what I am talking about. Resident Evil started off as an intricate hybrid of a shooter and a puzzle game, with elements of a “find the object” game. The story left a lot to be desired, and I found myself never going back to the series after the first one. Role Playing Games put almost all of their eggs into the story aspect of the game, so they draw you in and make you want to know what happens.

I’m often asked why I want to go to school for graphic design and photography; I usually end up being honest… “I want to work in movies finding shooting locations, or making video games. I know that even if I never get to do that people will always need someone to design their web pages, logos, fliers, and advertising materials.” Graphic design can help me get to a dream job, but it will also allow me to continue with a viable career even if that doesn’t happen, which is a win win. Photography can also help me get a dream job, but it can be done freelance, which will help boost my income no matter which direction I end up going in.

I went off in a few directions here, so thanks for putting up with my late-night ramblings. I guess that means everything above is useless, and the lesson here is that gamers have short attention spans. I have a short attention span, and I am a gamer. I just can’t figure out if I have a short attention span because I’m a gamer, or if I’m a gamer because of a short attention span.

Expansionism.

Right! So I am going to begin a new blog. I am going to play a video game and tell you if it’s brilliant, or crap. It’s all very not-technical with lots of personal opinions and absolutely no scientific studies about seizures, statistics, psychology, and all the rest of the stuff you don’t care about.

You can get all of that stuff from people who actually get paid to do it. I simply don’t have the paycheck to make me care about that stuff, and I have a feeling that you don’t either. I may or may not actually finish the game before I write a review, because if I’m honest, most games aren’t worth beating.

One other thing; because I’m not paid to do this, don’t expect every game to be a brand new game. I can’t afford to keep up with it. Over the course of the year, I may get to all of the biggest releases, but do not count on it happening the week the game is released. Some exceptions may be, titles and huge franchises that I personally can’t wait to play.

This blog will not end, but I think the crowd for game reviews will be quite a bit different than the crowd interested in the stuff I feature here. It’ll be like a sister-blog.

I’ll post a link once I get all the important bits finalized, and a first review down.

Sunday Stupidity…

I think these pictures speak for themselves! I really don’t understand what kind of parenting brings you to do this to something you spent your hard-earned (or ill-earned) money on… Maybe it’s the exhaust fumes.

I wonder if they think that actually makes the car any quieter.

Image

I really, I mean REALLY, hope this is a Photoshop job.

I actually laughed! Would it even be possible to get any more pointless?

This Week Was Interesting…

Weird!:

Massachusetts men can get a free pizza with a vasectomy operation. This has got to be one of the most ridiculous things I have heard of in a long time. Apparently if you like sports, you also want to sleep around and avoid having babies with 300 different women.

Sci-Tech stuff:

NASA released map of nearly the entire night sky. This is really cool just to look at, even if you don’t have much interest in the scientific knowledge that can be gained from all of this. They also managed to map 90% of the near-earth asteroids, and Earth’s very own “Trojan Asteroid.”

Apple releases new iPad today. Thousands of people have lined up outside Apple Stores around the globe, all hoping they got there early enough to spend $499 or more on one of the new devices. With a better display, faster processor, and improved camera this will likely be the first iPad that you will be happy to keep for more than a year.

Image via ny.racked.com. Will be removed if requested.

I cannot say anything bad about the people who wait in line for Apple products, because that would make me a hypocrite. I stood outside the West Towne Mall Apple Store in Madison, WI, for 7 hours to get my iPhone 4 the day it was released.

I do have to admit that I was only doing it because my iPhone 3G had decided to stop functioning properly after updating to iOS 4.0. Choosing to wake at 2 am, drive 2 hours to stand in a line and have a chance, was far better than the guarantee of having to endure a barely functional phone for as long as two months.

Why did I stay with Apple after that? It’s simple really… I have hundreds of dollars invested in my iTunes music, and more invested on the apps. I really didn’t want to have to go through the trouble of making the music work on an Android device, or repurchasing the apps I used most.

iPod, Cell-Phone, PDA, Hand-Held Game System, GPS… All in one device. It’s really worth the investment in a smartphone of some kind if you don’t already have one.

Entertainment:

‘Luck’ horse trainer says ‘Sometimes S**t Happens.’ “Luck” is an HBO series starring a lot of big names, which is focused on Horse Racing. The thing about horses is that they are quite panicky. Naturally they have to have a stable of horses to have a show, and those horses sometimes panic. There has been a lot of contraversy over the care of the show horses due to the three that have died during filming. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and AHA (American Humane Association) are both supporting HBO’s decision to cancel the series.

I don’t really understand what the fuss is all about. The show had 50 horses, and almost all of them appear in running sequences or staged races. Accidents happen in that world, and they really can’t be helped. I do not support euthanizing animals just for not being able to race any longer, but I also would hate to see a horse not be able to even walk. So, while the deaths are saddening, I don’t think it calls for the cancellation of the series. I am sure they received top care.

The trainer could have chose better words than “Sometimes shit happens” regardless of how true it may actually be. With groups like this gunning for the show, he has only added fuel to their fire. A shame really, because it is a pretty good show.

Jermaine Jones was given the boot on American Idol. Apparently he “didn’t know [he] broke the rules” by having outstanding warrants for his arrest in New Jersey…

Fine, claim ignorance on American Idol rules, I’ll let that incredibly insulting statement slide (because it implies that Americans are stupid enough to believe that.) What I want to know is, how did you forget that traveling across the country would be breaking LAWS? Idiot.

TV Connections…

English: The title card for the musical comedy...

Have you ever gotten “invested” in something that you have no control over? Sure you have, we all have. Politics is one thing we have at least some control over, but entertainment isn’t. We all have our own loves, and hates, in this area… Some like sitcoms, others prefer crime-drama; some like Rap, and others like Country.

Today I got around to watching the latest episode of Glee on Hulu. Take it or leave it, I have to admit that this show is one of my “guilty pleasures.” Something not everyone will understand, and may earn me a bit of ridicule by my friends. They covered an attempted suicide by one of the side-characters, a decidedly masculine one, who was outted at his school. It was all a bit… After school special. Enemies became friends, everyone was sad, but nothing really changed, except Sue Silvester.

English: Chris Colfer performing "I Wanna...

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like Kurt. It’s not the gay part I take issue with, it’s the overt femininity that annoys me. I don’t understand how being gay has to mean acting like a woman with no self control, on cocaine. If you like guys, wouldn’t you want one that…  Acted like a guy? I am not gay, so correct me if I’m wrong.

I’m not really a Rachael Berry fan either, or Fin… I watch for Sue, Mercedes, Santana, and Quinn. Is it strange that all my favorite characters are women? I find Brittany strangely entertaining. I don’t want to give it away, in case you haven’t seen it, but the end really pissed me off. I think the predictability of it made it all that much worse. Now, for over a month, I will have to wait and stew about what came of it.

What is it with the mid-season breaks? Why do we have to have mid-season finales? Why can we not just enjoy our normal weekly slice of faux teen dramedy, House-isms, and White Collar cons? Do these things actually increase the ratings, or are they just there to give writers enough time to refine a story arch before the season finale?

Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase

I know there is nothing I can ever do about it, I can rant and rave from here to the end of the world. That doesn’t stop be from being very annoyed by it all. I am guessing that they do it to ensure that they get higher ratings when they return to the air, but in this world of online viewership, DVRs, and DVD collections, do the ratings even matter? I don’t think so.

I feel cheated, and I’m not really even sure I know why. I can say that in the grand scheme of TV history, Glee doesn’t come close to shows like Seinfeld, MASH, Cheers, and House. Yet, I still look forward to it for some unintelligible reason. That is especially surprising considering the fact that I LOATHE musicals.

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**Just to explain, because I may get a lot of nasty comments on the second and third paragraphs, I am not trying to diminish the seriousness of suicide or bullying. I know that there is a real problem with cyber-bullying, especially with regards to gay teens. That said, I didn’t really find it “moving” in any way, nor was it convincing in it’s “solution.” They took a very serious subject and almost glossed over it, so I decided not to spend a lot of time focused on that. I will probably make another post dedicated to the subject later.**