Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When MMOs Collide with Geekery

This past week has been insane. Getting kids ready to go to Grandma's house and arranging the travel then getting my husband's new computer, which was an adventure. Then the shopping trip to try and get the kids out of the house for a while which turned into another adventure. This year seems like it's just going to be full of adventure. This does not bode well as my adventures tend to include missed potties and whinging teenagers and me having to build something. Somewhere in there I did get time to play video games, because if I didn't I would go insane.

As a long time World of Warcraft player, I have a pretty soft spot for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. As a longtime nerd I just like RPGs. So, after mentioning them in a prior post, I ventured out and played both the Star Trek Online MMO and the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. I have discussed my feelings about Star Trek and Star Wars, so as a hyoooge geek for both I had some really high hopes. STO was first up as it was free to play and as I was just coming off of two weeks of a full on Star Trek: TNG binge. The character creation was amazing, I had tons of fun going through the myriad options, I could spend all day just making characters. Unfortunately, as it has gone free to play there are lots of things that you have to buy Cryptic points for, having more than one character is one of those things.

I might like STO if it wasn't free to play, but somehow I doubt it. I am still contemplating going back as it was at least more fun than The Lord of The Rings Online. I may not though as I really hate it when a free to play game totally milks it and I mean milks it so hard the poor cow is chafing. The movement isn't as responsive as I've gotten used to in WoW and the ship play was slow and rather meandering (granted this probably gets better at higher levels, I didn't stick around too long). I could get over all of that though if it weren't for two things that just pissed me off so badly I logged out right then and there.

The first time I rage quit was when I had gotten to the planet Vulcan to complete a quest. I was playing a Vulcan and when I was faced with some serious allegations of wrong (or at least weird)-doing I was given NO option to try and find out what was going on without having to go through with letting the overly emotional VULCAN ambassador onto my ship and then take full responsibility for him. Every single bit of rpg and Star Trek nerdishness in me was screaming "IT'S A TRAP!" I did it anyway because I didn't have any other quests or ways to get experience other than this quest. Fine, okay, I can fudge this little storytelling thing and carry on. I get to the planet and three warbirds come out of cloak. They hail me rather than blowing my very small and insignificant ship out of space. Great! an opportunity to talk a problem out. NOPE!! I'm calmly asking questions (really, I was searching for the, I test the damn ambassador, because it's logical and turn him over, again, logical) and when there was no option but to attack, and my tiny insignificant ship blew the warbirds out of the sky. I logged out with a vengeance.

The second nerd rage incident was less story driven and more just my irritation on having to pay in game money to do a quest. I mean really, not having to pay credits for an item to complete a quest, no, I got the quest but to travel to where I would have to do the quest I had to pay energy credits, the same thing I use to buy gear. This felt like such an arbitrary way to reduce the amount of money I had so I would have to buy Cryptic Points, that I again nerd raged and logged off.

Ok, so STO is a bust. Maybe if I had more patience or wasn't as much a fan so I couldn't point out all the inconsistencies or, hell, maybe if they were just subtle. I left my illogical Vulcan and deleted the entire program. I do have thoughts that maybe if I don't play my favorite race or if I just spend a little money... nah.

On the other hand SW:TOR is a thing of beauty. The game play is responsive and I love that there is so much voice acting. Hearing my character talk is awesome, I just wish there were different voices per race as well as class. I really can't complain about much, the story is consistent, I love the social options and the conversations are incredibly immersive.  I don't like some of the choices that were made for the Jedi Consular, for instance, I hate Qyzen Fess. Consulars are supposed to be diplomatic, concerned for the welfare of others and generally trying to avoid combat (their spec lines bear this out at least) unless absolutely necessary. My Trandoshen companion on the other hand, hates it when I care about others and really can't stand it when I think of an option other than let's just kill 'em all and let the scorekeeper sort them out. Gah! I really just cannot wait until I can get another companion, but I think I'm going to be waiting a while. To make up for this, all of the Sith are British and I can't help finding this utterly hilarious.

SW:TOR just came out in December and it is most definitely not free and it's specification requirements are rather high if you want to be able to run the game at anything but low. The ongoing fee is $14.99 per account, per month just the same as WoW. So far though, I made it all the way to level 13 and I'm still having a blast.

Happy Hunting,
A Big Fat Nerd

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Nerds

Once there was this group of people, a fan club, if you will, who used to pretend to be vampires, werewolves, changelings and other such things, usually on the weekends and mostly as an excuse to dress up.
It was called:

There was this girl, a big fat nerd, who not only pretended to be these things, she made up the stories and did the dirty work so that people could have fun not being whatever they were on the weekdays. There was also this boy, another nerd, although maybe geek is a more accurate term, who also liked to run the games and sometimes pretend to have crazy powers and do insane things. After many years of friendship they finally got together. They got a little townhouse together and things were very happy. Then this came up:


Just one little problem, the poor girl didn't have a fucking clue what this meant. It took a while and a bouquet of roses for her Tauren Druid for the message to come through.

Will you marry me?

Of course.
Then what was going to be a short engagement turned into a long engagement. Lots of things happened and finally something like this went down.

Except I don't know any of those people so it was only similar in that it was a wedding. It was sort of nerdy. In a Scottish, everybody wore kilts and drank tea sort of way. Why?

The wedding was not crap and was indeed Scottish and featured a highland heather cake. Because history nerds are a thing, too.

A few months later a wee lassie belonging to the now married lady came to live with this nerdiest of couples.

Probably not an accurate representation. Probably.
A few more months after that and a geeklet was shoved in the oven and left to bake for nine months.

AAHH!! ALIEN! No, wait that's a baby. I get them confused.
Now the nerdy girl and the nerdy boy have been married for almost four years and after homeschooling a teenager and taking care of a toddler, they both look like this:

Now imagine them much, much less attractive.

Four years married and seven years together. I am so lucky to have my Geeky Nerd Boy.

I love you, darling.

A Big Fat Nerd

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Miss My Blaster

Not too long ago in a galaxy right here I had a shiny replica of Han Solo's blaster. It looked something like this one. It was the best toy I ever got.

Like most kids who grew up when I did, I had a few Star Wars toys. I had to share them with my brother and they stayed in his room and the only toy I could play with without an argument was Princess Leia, but I still held some claim to them. I loved Star Wars so much and I thought Princess Leia was pretty damn awesome, or radical, or heinous, possibly bitching, except at five years old I couldn't use that kind of language. Years I was shoved into the Princess role for the very unimaginative reason that I was a girl. To hell with that! I wanted to be Han Solo.

Han had a ship, he had an amazing best friend and he had the courage to chase down Stormtroopers. It was practically love at first sight. And seeing as I was a year old at the time, that's saying something. Han was in short a badass. I wanted a little piece of that badassery myself only I had a problem. I was a girl.

Gasp, horror, Oh say it ain't so! Yep, I was and still am of the female persuasion. I was weird enough in school for being really into Star Wars, but to be a girl and like Star Wars, I might have been a purple unicorn being ridden by a transformer that tossed bags of chocolate at children. It's far more common now and I'm pretty sure that there were lots of girls who liked Star Wars when I was a kid, more than enough of them had seen it, but it was such a boy thing that much like girls being gently directly away from the shop class (I took shop) most girls were gently reminded that Star Wars was for boys. Unless you wanted to play Princess Leia because that would give Tim a break from having to talk like a girl.

I grew up with three brothers and other than on occasion acquiescing to my Mom's request that I wear a dress, I was not cool with being told I shouldn't like things my brother liked. I wasn't anti-girl but I was very anti-anyone-telling-me-what-to-like. I liked Star Wars, I liked Han and I fell in fucking love with that blaster. I would beg, I go stare at it when we went to the toy store. I would fondle it and touch it, I imagined ways to make a holster for it and dress up like Han Solo, so I could travel the galaxy in my Millennium Falcon.

My Father, ever the forward thinker went against my Mother and my Grandmother's wishes and bought me the blaster for my 7th birthday. I remember a moment of acute and exquisite happiness when I ripped off the wrapping paper and there it was. I remember now the sour face my Grandmother made but in that moment it didn't matter. I finally had it. I had the one thing I wanted most. I could now move away from my typecasting and become HAN FUCKING SOLO!

This was to last for about an hour. Maybe a bit more. It's been awhile so the exact details are fuzzy but my Grandmother caught me pointing the blaster at my brother (what the hell else was I supposed to do, he was the most annoying Luke ever) and she totally freaked out on me and took the blaster away. She put it on top of her glass display cabinet, where no one could see it, and told me to sit on the couch for the rest of the afternoon.

I had to go home without my blaster and for the next few weeks when I asked about it she would tell me, "When you've been good enough, you can have it back."
I was good.
I was very good.
I was super amazingly totally fantastically good.

I was told to stop asking as I was making her insane. I to this day maintain that her insanity was not my fault and the fact that she already had kids should prove my innocence in this case.

Months went by and finally one day after a deep cleaning of her house (deep cleaning meaning bullying the single celled organisms to vacate as there was never a speck of anything resembling dirt) that my precious blaster was found. I was so happy, I think I started bouncing. Then I saw the look on her face.
"How did this get up here? A plastic gun?" My Grandmother's puzzlement as to the toy's origin was genuine and it worried me. "Who does this belong to?"
"Me Gramma, it's mine." I said quickly hoping to have it in my hot little hands.
"Stephanie, it couldn't be yours, it's a gun and little girls don't play with guns."She then handed the gun to my mortal enemy (my brother, we, uh, didn't get along) "There you are Alex, go have fun."
"NOOOOOOOO!!!" I shrieked, "It's mine, I got it for my birthday, please, please don't give it to him, it's my toy, my blaster!"
"Alex, go on out and play, it looks like Stephanie will be staying inside. It's boy's toy Stephanie, no one is going to give you a boy's toy, stop trying to take away your brother's things."

After I sat through a lecture, and a whipping for lying, I was finally sent out to play. I hunted all over until I found my brother and started begging for the blaster back. He laughed at me, mocked me for wanting to play with a boy's toy. I didn't care I just wanted my damn blaster. About that point I noticed that it was gone. He didn't have it.
"Where is it? What did you do with it?"
"It fell out of my pocket in the woods, no big deal anyway it was just a gun."
"Where? Where did you drop it?"
"I don't remember, gone now."
"I...I..."I balled up my fists, marched inside and cried on the couch all afternoon.

I never asked for a "boy" toy again. It wasn't worth the heartache.
I wish I had kept the toys we had in better condition.
But mostly...I miss my blaster.

A Big Fat Nerd

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sci-Fi turned upside down

It has been nearly seven years since the last Star Trek: Enterprise episode aired and the last Star Wars movie came out in theatres. In the intervening years I feel like I have fallen into some Sci-Fi fan bizarro world. Star Trek has now been rebooted as a movie franchise and what was the most popular Science Fiction movie franchise has been changed into a TV series. If you hear an earth-shattering ka-boom, no worries, it's just my brain.

Star Wars and Star Trek both have immersive MMO video games. Star Trek Online, which has just become free to play, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I had the privilege to beta test, look like equally fun games. In fact I'm probably going to download Star Trek Online and see what it's like to be a federation officer for a while.  Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR for short) just came out and while I am chomping at the bit to play it again, money isn't falling out of my nether regions, so wait I will have to.

I'm not so sure I like this flipped over world. I am a huge, huge fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, I have owned (or currently own) lots of memorabilia from both franchises and have even gone so far as to be a member of the official fan clubs of both. Ok, you caught me. I really wanted to be, I made it to a few meetings of a local Star Trek "ship" and I filled out the Star Wars Official Fan paperwork, but fifteen dollars (or whatever, I don't really remember) is a hell of a lot of money to an eight year old. Probably wouldn't have accepted it anyway, my handwriting was awful.

Star Wars episodes IV through VI were my movies. I memorized the lines, pretended to be Princess Leia or Han Solo and recreated the movies with my brother. Put all together I could easily spend a day watching them all and still have time to try and get my hair into cinnamon buns. I had toys, books, records (did I mention I was old) and tried to convince my Mom to let me wear the costumes. I loved them. I think Star Wars is imprinted on my brain in some fashion as my Mom totally admits that she would pop the Beta tape in (see, old) and try to get a few minutes peace while my brother and I sat entranced by the sweeping music and glittery starscapes. To this day I honestly believe that massive buns are awesome and holding a blaster makes you the coolest fucking person ever. The best thing about them was that they were movies. I didn't have to wait until next week to find out if Luke was going to blow up the Death Star and there weren't any dramatic pauses in the action to show me a toothpaste commercial. It was self contained. The story started, swept you up, carried you along and then deposited you in a (mostly) triumphant place and then the credits rolled.

Star Trek was a stranger beast. At first there was Captain Kirk and his first officer Spock, traveling around the galaxy with their Star Ship full of scientists and engineers saving people and keeping the federation safe from Klingons and Romulans bent on conquest. I wanted to be as smart as these people. I would talk over theoretical science with my Dad and talk about the different technologies and how possible it was I would ever see a replicator or a warp engine in my lifetime. It didn't really end it went on and on. I wanted to live there, I wanted to be a federation officer, brilliant and noble, making life better for all good people no matter their shape or size. But, it didn't end, at least not quickly and a Star Trek marathon could take all weekend. You had to prepare for them. I would set up a sleeping bag in the living room, prop myself up on a pile of pillows and set up the air popper next to the TV. I would fall asleep to the sounds of the engine and Mr. Spock soothingly talking about a life form and wake up to the sounds of phaser fire. Then Star Trek: The Next Generation came about and it was like it could never end. I wasn't so sure about the show at first, but the uniforms and the ship (oh, that beautiful space ship, I used to have so many models of it) convinced me to keep watching and I fell in love. It really helped that there were kids on board and that one of them was a genius and I totally imagined that I could be just like him.

Star Wars was a thrill ride, the technology completely secondary and the same story could be told in any technological time. Star Trek needed the technology, you could tell the stories but they wouldn't make as much sense or be as exciting set in the middle ages. Now Star Trek is the thrill ride and Star Wars is the continuing story. I just don't know what to think.

The worst part of all of this? The absolute most terrible thing? I don't have cable so I can't watch the new Star Wars show to make any decisions about it and waiting for a new Star Trek movie to come out is killing me slowly. The answer? Star Trek marathon through the week and saving up to go see Star Wars 3D. It'll be just like old times.

A Big Fat Nerd

Monday, February 6, 2012

Too Advanced for Safety

I have recently been delving into my past and re-watching Star Trek from the beginning (hell yeah!, Netflix) and two nearly solid weeks (sleep happens on occasion) later and I have to say that I'm probably enjoying the show at least as much as I used to and I can certainly appreciate how the show was put together much better now than when I was a kid. I haven't gotten all the way through Star Trek the Next Generation yet and I have decided that through all the story holes and weird inconsistencies there are a couple of things that almost destroy my suspension of disbelief.

We are expected to invest in and believe that this ship is the culmination of 24th century Star Fleet technology. The flagship, the most advanced piece of single technology in all of the Federation, the Enterprise 1701-D, the latest in a long line of legendary ships crewed by legendary people and yet the startling geniuses who created this technological wonder couldn't seem to figure out fucking seat belts and Oxygen masks.

Think about it for a second. Seat belts, available in every car for decades, even when the damn original series was being made, some how got lost in time and didn't make it to the 24th century (or the 23rd for that matter). What do we have to replace them? Judging by the shows, flailing and being thrown around like rag dolls. Hell, you'd think after the sixth or seventh time of being jolted around on the nerd version of a bull ride that someone might have thought, "you know, I really think that maybe some sort of restraint a wide piece of synthleather or hell a cord around my damn waist tied to the fucking chair and maybe I won't have to deal with broken limbs and a bruised ass anymore." But no, in the Utopian future no matter how many times you're jerked around, using a seat belt would be like giving in and admitting that bad things happen to good people.

Oxygen masks something everyone who takes a commercial flight gets an introduction and demonstration of, seems to also be beyond the comprehension of our descendants.  The sheer ridiculousness of having vast unused space on the Enterprise and not devoting a few small pockets to the storage of a simple device that would save peoples lives in the all too damn common case of life support going out? Granted that would have destroyed the sense of danger in far too many episodes but you know what? I could have lived with that.

I still love the show and as of right now I still believe that Star Trek: the Next Generation is the best Star Trek. That could change as I watch the other shows a bit more continuously than before but I'm not gonna hold my breath. The lack of seat belts and oxygen (air) masks just means I pause the show, rant like a crazy person until my husband reminds me it's a TV show.

I really hate it when he does that.

I know it's a TV show. I am well aware. I just have a hard time understanding how people who write Science Fiction, you know, the people who come up with all the bad things that happen out in space, could just not think of all the bad things that happen out in space.

Maybe I'm looking at it wrong. Maybe I should just ooh and ahh at the special effects like a good girl, but it bothers me when a show overlooks the obvious. I don't know anything about astrophysics, and I haven't a fucking clue about how theoretical gravitational distortions would effect the surrounding space, but I know what a damn seat belt is and I know how to use an oxygen mask (thank you Delta Airlines flight attendants), maybe if they would just fucking listen for a second, I mean it's not like I don't shout, "Choking on an unknown gas? Try OXYGEN, IN A MASK! Landing on the floor uncomfortable? Try fucking SEAT BELTS!" I'm just not getting through. 

Of course, I don't have the appropriate time distortion to go back and time and gently remind the people who wrote and designed the show about these common life saving devices. Even if I did, I would probably use it in some other, much more fun way. Lottery numbers and pranking my exes comes to mind.

I can't really even trust myself to go to conventions it bothers me so badly. I would wind up going to see some of the amazing actors that brought the show to life and while in the middle of telling them how awesome they are, my voice would be taken over and in some sort of uncontrollable nerd rage I would shout, "WHERE THE FUCK ARE ALL THE SEAT BELTS AND AIR MASKS?" This would probably be a really bad idea. I don't know if I could live down being escorted from a Star Trek convention.  I can be unintentionally scary and don't dress like a Klingon, I would probably confuse people. As you can see, staying home is probably best.

Maybe I'm just too practical for the Star Trek universe. Back to watching more episodes.

A Big Fat Nerd