Saturday, September 15, 2012

MVM: Medic

I saw another guide for playing Medic on MVM recently, and it got me so mad that I had to write one:
  1. Kritz People
  2. Kritz more people
Seriously, a medic is good for keeping people alive, so the healing is useful, but the best way for the medic to keep people alive is to kritz someone who then kills all the robots attacking you.

There are two divergent strategies to getting a lot of kritz.
  1. Standard
  2. Ubersaw/Resistances
The standard build is all about upgrading your Kritzkrieg. Focus on Kritz duration and build speed. If you have trouble with people dying, increasing the heal rate is OK. This strategy is functional, but boring.

The Ubersaw plan is way more fun. Basically all your money goes into resistances and swing speed for the Ubersaw. You use your Kritzkrieg aggressively, and recharge it by sawing enemies. This scheme requires more teamwork than usual. If you can get your teammates to leave stragglers alone for you to kill, you can get a new kritz basically every wave. Another great target for the saw is the Sentry Buster. If your team has slow effects, (jarate, milk, etc.) and they should, slowing that Sentry Buster makes for an easy new kritz.

With two or three upgrades to explosive damage resistance, you can just run up to a solitary demo or soldier and melee them to death. Bullet resistance is good too, but heavies are still dangerous even with less damage. Once you've fully upgraded your resistances, move speed is nice to chase down stragglers/Sentry Busters.

With giant demos, you can just circle around them as your team shoots them. The demo will shoot at you and mostly miss, and the shots that hit will do little damage. This way, the demo isn't firing at any of your allies either.

Fire resistance is OK. You can charge up your uber off of pyros like any other robot, but pyros just aren't that important or frequent to waste money on.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Obamacare ruling question

So Congress decided to expand Medicare coverage. As part of that bill, they required states to pay for a (small) fraction of the cost of covering the newly insured people. This doesn't mean that the states were being forced to do anything; they could always opt out of Medicare altogether.

Oddly, the Supreme Court ruled this idea as unconstitutional, and allowed the states to "opt-out" of this expansion of coverage, under the idea that the option of losing Medicare entirely was too large a penalty, making the bill "coercive". I can't wrap my head around this entire idea. Does this ruling mean that the Federal Government is now required to give this level of Medicare to the states without any modifications for the rest of time? Common sense says no, but wouldn't any changes in the policy be just as "coercive" as this one?

Typically, with these rulings, we hear only the super-simplified versions of rulings, so maybe I'm just hearing a stupid version of the argument. As it is, I just can't understand why the states are entitled to Medicare now, and the Federal Government is no longer capable of regulating the rules under which it spends money if the states don't feel like it.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Society in a Post-Apocolypse World (BSG)

Theoretically, Battlestar Galactica tells us what would happen after an apocalypse. After all, most everyone is dead, everyone's "home" is destroyed, and the survivors must live as vagabonds with no safe haven. Unfortunately, the show spends almost all of its attention on the only people whose lives aren't significantly different: the members of the military.

It's true, the lives of the soldiers on BSG aren't what they would have been without the apocalypse and exodus. Some would have retired, or been assigned to another ship, etc, but these are people who were living on a battlestar both before and after the attack. Their lives were put into stasis, not a new post-apocalyptic series of crises. It's true, their lives are more strenuous and stressful than before, but this could have been the result of traditional space war. By focusing on the military life, BSG looks at people whose only change is a lack of any possibilities for advancement.

So what would be different for the society and civilians in BSG? Property, trade, industry, and money would be shattered. There is no traditional police force, and the military doesn't have the time, ability, or interest to resolve contests of ownership between civilians on another ship. Once people realized that the state as they had known it was extinct, all property would be up for grabs, and control of ships would be a literally a matter of life or death. The passengers of a transport may not have been concerned about the ship's commander for their two-day trip, but once they realize that this ship is going to be their home for a long time, a new form of ship's governance would be almost inevitable.

Unless the "federal" government run by the President managed to install a police force loyal only to it on each ship, each ship would essentially turn into its own government. The ships would be forced to follow the fleet, as following the Galactica is the only safe path, but the internal functioning of each ship would necessarily fall to the impromptu governments that would have to take shape on each ship*.

Industry is a point that BSG has never even addressed, at least as far as I am in the show. Everyone just has new stuff all the time, even though all the factories in the universe got blown up over two years ago. I sincerely doubt that the few ships in the fleet carried the facilities necessary to create and process plastics, forge new metals, armaments, and ammunition, and so on. This would mean that manufacturing would have to be improvised, and scarcity of everything would be the norm. Even simple things like clothing would wear out and need to be replaced, and even if that pleasure ship had some cotton bearing plants, it wouldn't be nearly enough to clothe hundreds of thousands of people. Trying to make a new industrial economy in a space fleet would be terribly interesting.

At one point, Tom Zerik points out that their money is now just paper, a meaningless symbol from their previous lives. It's true that money from before the exodus would have to be re-evaluated, but it could easily become the new currency of the fleet. Money is necessary in most any society that cannot operate between a few hundred people with resources whose value is fairly well understood. After the exodus though, a lot of people that thought of themselves as "rich" or "poor" would find a new reality. Suddenly, all those credits they had in a bank that no longer exist mean nothing, and possession of a firearm can make you king of a small ship without organization. The "sorting out" of a new fleet society could have been a great plot. For a brief time, each person could remake themselves, before the inevitable calcifying of a society in a small population.

Early in the show, the president points out that people "have to start having babies". This is true. Of course people do that naturally, so she doesn't have to make anyone do it, but I think she should have gone further to encourage breeding.
  1. It would be bad for the show, but any reasonable person in BSG wouldn't allow women to be involved in dangerous tasks, and especially be exposed to radiation, unless there is some form of artificial womb in BSG**. Women are the bottleneck in increasing the human population, and should be encouraged to have as many as possible with as large a variety of people as possible.
  2. Why a variety of people? Genetic diversity. If only one or two people carry a gene in BSG, it would be very easy for that gene to go extinct. A reasonable society would at least harvest a "DNA sample" from every human being in the fleet.
  3. Remember that episode where the president banned abortion, but allowed the girl in question to do it anyway? That was a weird series of decisions. Anyway, under the same logic of "humans need to breed, ergo we can't allow abortion," she would be a hypocrite to not bar contraception.
  4. There's an interesting sociological question embedded in all this: would people be more or less eager to have children in this post-exodus world? There are factors that point in both directions. After a crisis, people like to have kids. When there are fewer people, there is a natural instinct to make more of them. But reasoning people would have to look around the crowded halls of their ships, the bare cots that constitute their homes, and wonder if it was a good idea to bring a new soul in to this bleak new world.

Well, this isn't all I had to say, but it's long enough.

*This would have made for a more interesting show, I think. Imagine the federal government trying to force one of the ships to follow some law that they weren't interested in. What sort of negotiations might occur? What forms of government might each ship take? Could a democracy somehow form on a ship with only a couple hundred people, and survive despite all the stresses and tough choices that such a government would have to make? How could a democratic ship negotiate with another ship with a charismatic captain/dictator like Admiral Adama?

** Unlikely, given their level of technology throughout. I love the show's decision to have technology inferior to our modern technology. The show can never be made obsolete! Great idea.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Pyromania Thoughts

Meet the Pyro is a pretty good video, but not as great as Meet the Medic or Meet the Spy. It lacks a narrative.

Pyrovision is silly, but you don't have to use it, so everybody wins.

SD_Doomsday is tons of fun. Short games that would be good for competitive competitions. I've never seen a single game become a camp-fest. Every class has a role, but none are too powerful. (Heavy is very good when he gets on the lift.)

The new weapons are a big miss for me.

The Baby Face Blaster is OK, but starting out slow and being unable to jump are too harsh. Once you get going, it's pretty cool going at such crazy speed.

The new pistol is boring. I do approve of things that give fire vulnerability, though. Inch by inch, the Pyro becomes less terrible.

The new Sniper Rifle isn't much of anything. If you get some kills, you get a mild boost to your snipe speed. Less bodyshot damage. Not very interesting.

Cleaner's Carbine seems better than it is. I imagined being able to chain kills, or at least being able to get a kill with the crits, but it's very difficult to do much with the new SMG even when you're critting. If you get up close, the other classes are better than you. If you're far away, the Carbine will just miss.

The Beggar's Bazooka is actually quite fun. You really have to plan ahead to be effective. The major downside is the initial delay. When you press the button to fire a single rocket, you have to wait through the loading animation to fire anything at all. Despite this, the damage potential is huge if you time your attacks right. Being able to fire three rockets nearly at once can wipe out most classes.

The Scorch Shot seems incredibly weak. It does much less damage than the flare gun, and can't get the crit bonus on flaming targets. The knockback is nice, but doesn't justify a huge loss of damage. The taunt makes up for it though. It's amazing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"News" Still Sucks

I liked when the news was obsessed with the fact that there were now more minority babies than "white" babies. Apparently they are just trying to encourage whatever members of the Ku Klux Klan are still around?

Monday, June 04, 2012

Identifying Cylons BSG Season 1

I just finished Battlestar Galactica Season 1. There is a method of identifying Cylons that Gaius uses in the show*, but there are other methods that a reasonable person in the setting would be able to use.

First, we can assume that anyone really famous before the evacuation can't be a Cylon. This mainly applies to Gaius, and possibly Edward James Olmos, (who also probably isn't a Cylon just because he looks so distinctive**) it also applies to those newscasters from the episode where Gaius becomes Vice President, but I doubt they'll come back.

The first episode introduces a method of identifying Cylons: the radiation field that the fleet hides in causes the Cylons to become sickly and relatively weak. Then the show forgets about that method immediately.

Cylons are stronger, faster, and tougher than regular humans. It is impossible to have these traits without expressing them physically. Their bones would be harder to damage, if you punched them, they would suffer less damage, etc.

It hasn't actually been proven that they do it, but if Cylons do indeed upload their consciousness when they die, then they must have a mechanism to generate that signal. That mechanism could be relatively small, but would, by definition, be detectable by standard magnetic-style scanning.

Side note, if a Cylon was instantly and utterly destroyed by a bomb, like in the finale of season one, there'd be no body to generate a signal to upload any information.

Yes, I am aware that this is like a guide to detecting the luminiferous Ether published in 1880. Everything I'm writing is hopelessly out of date. It would be interesting to see what others thought at the end of the first season, but it's not worth the trouble of finding a time machine.

I'm getting a feeling that BSG is going to end up like LOST, where they don't actually have an excuse for some of the "mysteries" they've been generating, and we're gonna be annoyed at all the red herrings.

I'm curious what religious people feel at this show, since the characters can be deeply faithful, but they are faithful to the wrong religion. I guess my real question is, how do religious people feel about works that talk about "faith" in a generic sense, as though all religions were roughly equivalent? The point of religion is not to have "faith" regardless of what your faith is about, it's to have faith in a VERY specific doctrine. Do people feel like their religion is affirmed or mocked by a show that celebrates a different faith?

*There's no way Gaius would be personally doing all the Cylon tests, especially since he became VP. That guy at the helm was his science partner briefly, and he would have technicians assigned to do the grunt work of the test over and over. Of course, that can't be allowed because then the test would actually detect Cylons. (There had better be an explanation for why he didn't let people know Sharon is a Cylon).
**Speaking of looking distinctive, why in the world would someone make a spy-bot out of a lady that is six feet tall, and looks like an anorexic actress? Maybe not all those models dress like prostitutes, but they still look incredibly distinctive.

Also, why do all the Cylons of the same model have the exact same haircut?

Monday, May 21, 2012

blog update

This blog sure hasn't updated in a while, huh?

I got Netflix Streaming, that's a really good deal if you ever buy TV shows or movies. One season of a single TV show costs more than 8$.

That new Robert Caro LBJ book was really good. He's a master.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New Game Idea: Limited Mana

I had a neat idea for a video game mechanic. Make a character with a mana bar that doesn't recharge. Basically, your character can magic away any problem, you can change someone's mind, you can defeat any monster, you can steal any item, but it's all done with a finite pool of energy.

This has a large problem, most players would be too afraid to use their powers, since it's likely it'd be needed more in the future. Many players keep their most powerful abilities in reserve because they might be needed later, this would be even worse when your main power can do anything and can't be refilled.

So what's the benefit? It lets you skip parts of the game you don't like, with an in-game excuse. If you don't like fighting a certain enemy, or if you don't like fighting at all, you can make it much easier. It could also make for an interesting conflict in the character, since he's sort of infinitely powerful, but the character knows they can't just use it on everything, or they'd be helpless. This could either lead to a character that lives on bravado, or one that is deeply insecure.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Lawsuit

I think there's a legitimate legal case against EA in the way they advertised Mass Effect 3. Video game companies have been fraudulently advertising their games since almost the beginning; it's only now that someone is annoyed enough to seek a legal path to revenge.

Later I may do a post about my problems with Mass Effect 3. First the good parts: Bioware does great character and acting work. The story is mostly very good. The shooting is solidly done, although there isn't much variety for a game that's nothing but shooting.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending and Thoughts

This spoils ME3, etc.

I liked the ending to ME3. I know that's against the rules of whining on the internet.

Is it bad that the ending is essentially the same regardless of how you got there? Yes. But the ending shouldn't be about all the dumb people Shepherd messed with, it's about Shepherd, and that part is good. When she said, "what do you need me to do?" and that entire scene, I was very powerfully touched. It really shows what Shepherd is.

Yes, the flying away and landing in a jungle made no sense, but I edited that from my personal version of the story. In my version, I haven't decided whether the relays were destroyed, or where the crew ended up. I'm tempted to have Shepherd and Garrus go on adventures together, only interrupted by sexing, but there's something legitimate to them being separated at other ends of the galaxy, with only their brief time together as a memory they know they can never return to.

I would advise everyone to learn to make up their own versions of stories. Really bad things aren't worth the effort to "fix", but Mass Effect 3 is extremely good, and it's worth modifying a few seconds of the game to make the ending better. It's a lot easier to change something in your head than to start a stupid petition on the Internet, anyway. The ending that EA wrote is no more "real" than the ending that I have in my head.

It seems like Liara is the "Official" romance option, if anyone is, since she can be romanced by either Shepherd, she has the most developed dialogue, and she's the only person who actually gets naked to have sex.

And to the people who say that the destruction of the relays would destroy the galaxy, it's possible that there's more than one way they can break. Just because someone says something in a specific situation, it doesn't mean it's true for every situation. In fact, that's my solution to a lot of sci fi and fantasy "errors" people find in stuff. People say things that aren't exactly true sometimes, they take verbal shortcuts, or they don't know the full situation.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Saw a Miracle

I took a bottle of water out of a box, then set it in a cart. I dropped the box of bottled water into the cart, and the kinetic energy popped the single bottle right into the air. It landed in the slot that it had just left. It didn't go all the way in, but you can't demand too much from miracles.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What EVE Looks like

What my character looks like:
What space looks like:
What EVE looks like:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Hooray for Santorum

I thought that Florida was going to be the signal for all the Republicans to do what they do best: get in line behind their candidate. Turns out, Republicans genuinely don't like Romney. I think that he'll still get the nomination; it's far too much to hope that there's even a contested convention. If there was a contested convention, I suppose we could get a non-Romney candidate.

Anyway, anything that weakens Romney is good, and every state he loses makes him look worse. Therefore, for the only time in my life, I wish the best of luck to Rick Santorum.

I've said that the only way Obama's going to win this election is if the economy comes back, and, more importantly, if jobs come back. If the current job numbers continue into the election, he'll have it in the bag.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Introductions: Make Them Care

Just played the Kingdoms of Alamur demo, seems like a pretty ordinary Fantasy RPG of the modern age. It's clean and pretty, and probably better than Dragon Age. It's made by EA, so you know it's going to be obnoxious on several levels.

One complaint: The game opens by telling you about the evil king that started a war decades ago or whatever. DO NOT DO THIS. People don't care about a story until they care about the people in it. Introduce a character, not even necessarily the main character, then tell us the story by showing how it impacts that character.

It's odd; after showing the bad opening video, the game immediately moves into what the intro should be. It introduces your character as the generic blank slate of Fantasy RPGs, and leads you through a dramatic escape from a dungeon. By the character finding out what's going on in the world, we also find out what's going on. There are other ways to tell a story, but the good ones tell a story with characters, not just describing world events.