Why I Hate Rushing- My Thoughts on RTSes

Sorry for the tardiness, my power was out and I couldn’t write :(. -Cat.

I hate rushing. It’s true.

For those of you who don’t play Real Time Strategy (RTS) games, a “rush” is when you dump every resource into making a group of your most basic offensive unit and “rush” it into the opponent’s base. The idea is to get the units in before he has a chance to build something to repel them. This applies in most RTSes, but Starcraft made it famous with the Zerg rush, since the Zerg have quick-building units called zerglings that are basically paper with claws. The lings could be run into the enemy base and cause havoc if they weren’t repelled. Nowadays I think that Protoss is more infamous for it with the Zealot rush.

Before someone starts calling “noob” on me, yes, I know that I suck at Starcraft. I am simply horrible. Yes, I know that it’s relatively easy to repel a rush if you work quickly and skillfully. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’ve always viewed RTSes as complex thought games in disguise, or as I like to call it, “Exploding Chess”. A proper player needs to have an extraordinary sense of awareness and must be able to use everything at his disposal to defeat his enemy. It’s really an elegant game, if you look past the gore.

This elegance is what drives me mad about rushing. It’s such a barbaric tactic, one that leaves no room for alteration if the plan goes wrong. A proper player would never put every chip into a single hand unless he was positive that he would win, something that a rusher never knows. In short, it’s a stupid tactic.

However, that’s not the biggest problem. I view it as if a chess player were to simply attack with every single non-pawn he had, regardless of the consequences, in the hope that he might win. Yes, it might occasionally work, but it usually won’t and you’re a complete dick for even trying. The name of the game is strategy, you’re supposed to make a clever, longer-term plan to trick your opponent into letting you win, not simply taking everything you have and throwing it at them. In fact, that is the reason why I like Starcraft: unlike every other RTS, where most of the battles are simply building up the most offensive units and throwing them at each other, SC requires a lot of thought and manipulation. It’s the smart man’s RTS.

And yet, these rushers defile it, and it drives me mad. I don’t care if it’s a “legitimate tactic”, or if it’s “avoidable”, it’s still utter crap. For all you “normal gamers” who stick to the MW2-alikes, think of rushers as the guy who sprints around knifing everyone. Yes, it works and you could stop him, but he’s still a dick for trying.

It’s funny. I actually enjoy losing, if I fall victim to a clever plan. For example, I was playing in the beta oh so long ago against a Protoss player. Of course, I was worse at SC then than I am now, an amazing feat of failure, and didn’t keep a unit to watch my base entrance. The player was able to sneak a Gateway (Protoss unit-producing building) into the front of my base and started popping out Zealots, completely unknown to me. By the time I had blocked off my ramp, it was already too late. I got cocky and got screwed. I applauded the man on this cleverness, said “gg”, then surrendered.

This is, of course, different than the guy who simply built three gateways and popped out a ton of zealots, destroyed one of my supply depots blocking the ramp (I play Terran, obviously) and overwhelmed my Marines that I had made since I had sunk money into building a factory instead of a thousand marines. I just told that guy to learn how to play a real game and quit.

In short, rushers, fuck you.

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Things That Are Hard

No penis  jokes, I swear.

Guess what, guys! Starcraft II comes out at midnight! Today! In the immediate future, I’ll be playing SCII in a non-beta format!

Starcraft, for those uninitiated few of you, is a real-time strategy game that is the pinnacle of RTS development. It features the Terrans, Protross, and Zerg, three drastically different races that are beautifully balanced. It requires consideration of both tactical and strategic (“micro” and “macro”) problems and, get this, pretty good reflexes. I lovingly call Starcraft the “twitch shooter of RTSes”.

I love it, I do. I also completely suck at it.

Starcraft is a game that requires a lot of thought. Unlike games like Supreme Commander or Warcraft, where the game is basically a fancy version of Rock Paper Scissors Nuke, every resource and second must be utilized in order to win. For gamers that are used to the “mass up and army and click attack” RTSes, it’s incredibly difficult. Things like constantly building new units, build orders, scouting, all of that may seem silly, but it can get you killed if done incorrectly.  Whether you are going for a rush attack or a drawn out battle, it’s hard to play.

Yes, kids, Starcraft is hard. Very hard. I’d like to say that I’m a halfway decent gamer and it bends me over like a businessman with mommy issue visiting a dominatrix. And I love it for it.

Video games should be one thing and one thing only when it comes to difficulty: Easy to pick up, difficult to master. Nowadays we have one or the other, there’s no middle ground between Mario and Demon’s Souls.

Starcraft rectified this. At a basic level the game can be played like any other RTS, with the player simply massing units until the end of the game where they’re a dick-waving contest to see who wins. However, play long enough and the player must start learning the intricacies of the units and races, working more on the micro than he did before. He also learns effective build orders, to spam miners, and so on. This is how the game should be played, with a natural progression of learning.

This really is refreshing. Everyone who’s sick of being knifed by a sprinting noob in Modern Warfare, hands up. Anyone who’s had to kill off a tank because he pulled too much aggro, hands up. All of you antisocials who play single-player exclusively because everyone else is a massive dick (dammit), hands up. All of you will enjoy the difficulty of Starcraft for two reasons. First, it’s not the easy bullshit that everyone plays, so you know that you’ll be facing a decent gamer. Secondly, it’s much like winter in that it weeds out the weak and slow. If you can make it to the top of the leaderboards…you are a god.

Am I trying to make a point? Perhaps. If I were, it’d be that “hard games are more fun”, but that idea has been beaten bloody. Frankly, the main reason for this is to give Blizzard a thumbs-up for their designs. Warcraft, World of Warcraft, and especially Starcraft, they have all had decent learning curves that were actual curves. There was none of that flat-line bullshit, and no sheer cliffs, just gentle slopes. It’s hard to make a game that is difficult and still fun, but you did it, and for that I salute you.

Omake Theater

Omake Theater

“Mr. Onii”

09-10

Updates randomly

“Omake” is a term applied to the extra content supplied with animes. Typically they are done in a silly, exaggerated format compared to what may be a stylistically “clean” format.

Omake Theater is a simple comic done in the same style, a daily work that has no cohesion between the stories. It usually deals with boobs and boys of some sort, but hey, that’s anime for you. Since I still consider this a “new” comic, I won’t go into too much detail with the tearing apart, but one thing really bothers me.

Folks, it’s perfectly fine to revisit old comics. In fact, sometimes it’s entertaining. However, there’s  a key thing about nostalgia that Oniisan seems to have missed: time has to pass before your revisit things in order for them to be funny. This author apparently thinks that his first comic was the absolute epitome of comedy because he revisits it multiple times in a very short archive, changing it only slightly each time. It’s not funny, Oniisan. Not funny at all.

Also, he seems to have adopted the Reaction Guys viral completely, pulling it out repeatedly for little to no effect. Hell, he made a t-shirt entirely based around the Guys. Of course, that viral was not of his own making, so it seems like a bit of intellectual theft to use it so much…

In short, Omake Theater is good when it’s good and bad when it’s bad. Hopefully Oniisan can get his act together and cut out the crap.

Social Networking Isolation

I’ve always found “social networking” curious. Most of the world treats it as the flagship of utter socialization mostly because of two features, the constant and instantaneous flow of information and the ability to converse with people that you probably would not have talked to in the first place. In short, you can sit in a cafe in Boston and hear all about your aunt’s day in California without effort. This has led everyone from CNN to my grandfather to adopt Facebook, Twitter, and the like into their everyday lives.

Both features hold true for some people, some only one. However, we can group most people into three groups.

1. The Socialite

You know this person. It’s the girl with 5000 Facebook friends. The guy that follows you on Twitter and then gets pissed when you don’t follow him back. Every non-bot Twitter-er that has followed a bot. This is the person who latched onto the “general idea” of social networking that I listed above and rode it as far as it would go. This is probably the most active user, it’ll update its status or tweet frequently. Comments on anything that is viewed, even though he isn’t leaving anything useful behind. If the internet was a sitcom high school, this would be the stereotypical cheerleader that made sure that everyone knew exactly how popular she was.

I hate these people. Why? Because, believe it or not, they are not social networkers. The idea of internet friends is to make a connection with people that you can’t be with in meatspace (I love that word, it’s more appropriate than “real life”. I think that I’ll use it more often.). A person with 5000 friends is not going to find the time to connect with a single one. Instead the “communication” is left to vague updates or tweets. Frankly, this person is more focused on winning an unspoken contest among the other Socialites than any real socializing. Of course, that’s a game that has no winner. You might have the most friends, but you still lose.

You might say that I am a Socialite. After all, I am a bit of a whore for social media; I have a Twitter account and an internet journal, both of which demonstrate the depth of my ego. This would hold true if I pushed around how many people visit these sites, which would show that I need to compare e-peens with everyone else. I could post my daily pageviews, for example. But I don’t, because I’m not a tool. The fact that my writings are being seen are validation enough.

The Casual

This is the person who friended most of the people at his school or club. He typically uses Facebook for organizing events in meatspace or to chat with a friend that he cannot be face-to-face with at that very moment. However, these are all people that he knows personally, and he probably hangs out with quite a few of them in meatspace settings. Probably doesn’t use Twitter. Typically sees “extended relationships” though Facebook as chatting with people who moved away or family members that he rarely sees.

This is the majority of the population. Vanilla.

The Isolationist

This is the interesting case, and the classification that I would argue that I belong in. Here is a person who, get this, uses social media to isolate himself from the majority of the populace.

The brilliant thing about social networking is that it allows you to be selective with who you speak to.

Let me explain this using myself as an case study. I have a Facebook that I used to be a Casual with, now it operates as a glorified email system. Your already know about AC and Twitter, obviously, as well as my email addresses and the various other things on my contact page. That’s pretty much the extent of my “social networking” in official formats.

I really don’t like people. I just don’t. Yeah, yeah, I sound like an emo brat, but it’s true. And as a misanthrope, I must say that being forced to be nice to everyone in my everyday life is utterly maddening. There’s nothing quite like wanting to call someone out on their utter stupidity, but you cannot because they are your boss, or worse, they would use physical violence as a retort. Yes, there are a few benefits of being clever, one of them being that you can insult idiots without them knowing, but that’s the problem. There’s no victory in it if they don’t understand that you just insulted them. It’s sad.

There’s something wonderful about the internet, in the sense that it frees you from these restraints. No, you can’t write “I just fucked your mother” on the “wall” of your boss, but you can bitch out the healer for pulling aggro. Or a Youtube video, if you sunk low enough to comment on one, that is clearly flawed. And so on, you get the point.

However, if you were to find someone in the cesspool that is the internet then a strong friendship can be forged. Rose pedals will fly from the keyboard as you Facebook each other and every Twitter @(name) will be filled with joy. That’s the thing, though. You were able to pick this one person out of literally thousands of idiots, a feat that you could never accomplish in meatspace. Even the circle of people that you call “friends” probably has one person that you really, really wish wouldn’t be there. On the screen? That guy would be gone.

Thus, I propose that social networking is actually an isolation tool, or more appropriately, a method for the anti-social to be social. Yes, it allows you to connect with people that you like, people that share the same interests as you and don’t make you want to put a pneumatic drill through your eye socket, but it isolates you from everyone else in the world. Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that, the less time I spend with idiots the happier I am. However, much like the US during WWII, isolationism can lead to everyone thinking that you’re a massive dick. This is not good for your everyday life, and more importantly it’s not good for your business prospects. Thus, we keep trudging through the mud that is socializing with the common man, always wishing that we were speaking to a person a thousand miles away, a person that we might know only by a psuedonym. I predict that the ability to cut people that we don’t like is going to build up in a few generations to the point where everyone is going to be a misogynistic bastard because we can’t stand each other.

My argument is as rambling as it is incoherent, so let me sum it up. Social networking isolates people. This means one of two things is going to happen: we will either

A. Change what it means to be a “friend” to the point where isolationism is no longer possible. The common man will accept that internet friends are real friends and will stop bothering me about how many people know me in “real life”.

or

B. Change the definition of “isolationism” to something that allows for my idea of a social circle. This will require restricting the term “anti-social” to only apply to someone who refuses to speak to anyone at all, in any format.

Lucid Dreaming

I’m fresh back from a viewing of Inception, a movie that I whole-heartily give two thumbs up to. It was one of the few movies that I can label amazing without qualification. If you haven’t seen it, go do it. It’s not “good” in the sense that Toy Story 3 was “good”, it was “good” in the sense that The Birds was “good”. It’s a brilliant story with an ending that requires thought, one that doesn’t spoonfeed the idea to the audience. Yes, friends, it’s a movie that doesn’t assume that we’re utter morons. I loved it.

I know that every person that sees that movie will go home and try to jump into their dreams and control them, that is a fact. Most will also do it unsuccessfully.

I used to be fairly well-versed at this practice, which is called “lucid dreaming”. It takes some work, but it can lead to very interesting results. Thus, I’ve decided to do create a quick guide to help anyone starting out. It’s a complicated process, so this might be lengthy, but detail is needed. Thus…

Catalyst’s Guide to Lucid Dreaming

Learning to lucidly dream means learning three habits: remembering your dreams, recognizing your dreams, and controlling them.

1. Remembering your dreams

This is a rather obvious one, there’s no point in dreaming correctly if you can’t remember them! Thus you need to learn to recall your nighttime adventures. This is much more difficult than you might think, and it takes a lot of work. The easiest way is to sit and force yourself to remember as many details about your dreams as you possibly can, no matter how minute. I’ve heard that writing them down in a journal can drastically help you gain this skill. And it is a skill, this is something that you should remember. You have to train it, and then you have to keep in practice to keep it. This has an added benefit of allowing you to find symbols (next section). Over time you will remember more and more of your dreams, and eventually you will be able to learn more and more.

A very important warning about lucid dreaming falls into this category. Once you train yourself to remember your dreams then you will remember them, whether you want to or not. Anyone who has had a steady stream of nightmares can tell you that dreaming is not always a pleasant experience. Approach this knowing that you are accepting the good and the bad. You will want to think that you’re in reality while you are dreaming, and it is rather hard to check for symbols when you’re terrified due to the giant monster chasing you. A giant monster might not be logical in reality, but you won’t want to stop and check because, like I said, you’ll assume that you’re awake. After all, you could be dreaming right now! Okay, not really, but you get my point. This caveat is why I stopped trying to dream.

2. Recognizing that you’re dreaming

This takes a little more integration past the waking up. In short, you need to learn to recognize certain signs that you are dreaming. However, you need to be checking for these signs with frequency, regardless of where you are. Inception had a few of these, but missed others, so here’s a short list. Pick a sign and check it with great frequency.

1. Check the time. I don’t mean a quick glance at your cellphone, you need to study your watch and know what time it is. In dreams clocks and time are usually muddled and warped, so you may have difficulty reading your watch or it might be completely impossible. This is how I used to check, I wore an analog watch (analog requires minor interpretation, less chance of a half-hearted glance) that I would, to sound insane for a moment, check reality on. It worked!  The thing about an accoutrement for a marker (Inception’s “totems”) is that you have to keep it with you at all times, otherwise it won’t be present in the dream.

2. Read something twice. Much like time, words get muddled and warped. Pick up anything with full, coherent sentences and try to read the same sentence twice. If it is hard to read, or if it changes when you reread it, then you’re probably dreaming.

3. Personal symbols. While the above two usually worked for me, keeping a journal with your dreams can allow you to spot patterns of symbols that indicate that you’re dreaming. Supposedly this helps, but I can’t say from personal experience.

4. Try to remember how you arrived at where you are. Inception featured this: most dreams start in media res, so if you cannot remember how you traveled to where you are then there’s a chance that you are dreaming. Either that or you are forgetful and/or drunk.

5. Pay attention to mechanical objects. Our minds remember the form and function of machines, but we usually miss out on key details that we take for granted. For example, if a toaster has a power cord that simply runs into the wall, no outlet, then you’re obviously dreaming. You take the outlet for granted, so it’s not featured in your dream. Other examples might include doors that lock with no visible locking mechanism, cars with oversimplified engines, or light bulbs without filaments (just the light emanating from inside).

Some say that you should try flying, but it’ll only work if you already know that you’re in a dream, otherwise you’ll remain tethered by gravity. This defeats the purpose of the test.

Also, it’s a misnomer that you can’t feel pain in dreams. I’ve received minor injuries plenty of times and woke up with pain in that particular spot. Of course, if you believe that you can’t be injured then you won’t, but remember that pain is the body’s response to stimulus, whether it is real or not. If you think that it is real, then it is. Except for death, of course, you’ll be shocked awake if you die.

Really, pick an indicator and stick with it. Check it often to get yourself in the habit of checking. If you check in reality, you’ll check in your dreams.

3. Controlling your dreams

Think of the Matrix, you are only as free as your mind thinks that you are. If you believe that you can fly, then you can. It’s all in how far you let yourself go.

Bear in mind that you should try to do something impossible before you try something that might get you killed. Try flying or lifting things with your mind before you decide to jump off a building is what I’m saying. I don’t want the police knocking on my door because some idiot committed suicide because he interpreted muddy letters to dreaming instead of the fact that he wasn’t wearing his glasses.

So… yeah. Go at it, give it a shot. The best of luck to you. But like I said, be warned: not all dreams are pleasant.

Cheers.

Gunshow

Ugh, why do I waste my time on bad comics?

Gunshow

KC Green

08-10

“Went from bad to worse” is an overused phrase, and it the case of Gunshow it has the added benefit of being wrong. No, no, Gunshow went from horrible to mediocre.

I try not to judge a comic by its original pieces, but that’s more about the art. Plus, Gunshow‘s “original shittiness” extends for a very large portion of the archive. Frankly, the jokes are terrible and fall into a few catagories:

  1. Meta humor that ends with the phrase “that’s the joke”. This would be funny if it was done once but repeating it simply dulls it.
  2. Jokes that weren’t funny the first time they appeared and yet set the basis for three comics afterward. If a pun is used for a “hurr it’s a bad pun isn’t it durr” way then you probably lack a decent sense of humor. However, if you steep to such a thing then don’t use the same pun for the next comic as well, let alone the following one!
  3. Failed attempts at pop culture humor. You have to make a joke, folks, not just throw characters together and scream “COMEDY”!
  4. “Dark humor” that’s about as dark as day.
  5. “Look how oblivious he is! Isn’t that funny”? No, it’s not.

There are a few decent strips, I must say. The Skylar Popcollar series is decent, and the Hardly Boys strips pulled a slight smile from within, but they are few and far between.

The crowning achievement of Gunshow, a phrase I type with a smirk, is the Anime Club arc. Bascially, a bunch of kids who watch anime have to fight their tyrannical leader with horrid tastes. They leave the club, join up with one at school, there’s a showdown, blah blah blah. Brevity is the key to wit, friends, something that Mr. Green seems to have missed. The first couple are decent, I’ll admit that. However, when the arc really gets going… the Anime Club is a text story with pictures thrown in for “pizzaz”, nothing more, nothing less. And that’s perfectly fine, all of my crap is text-only as well. The problem is that his story is utterly inane. It’s not engaging, it’s not well-written, it’s not clever. In a word, it sucks.

The lovely thing about comics is that a horrid writer can cover up his spawn with decent art. For example, I would probably read Dresden Codak even if every word was “I hate Jews” because the art is so fantastic. However, combine bad writing and poor execution with the format and art… it doesn’t work, folks.

Overall, Gunshow has a few decent strips that are buried in mediocrity. Avoid it.

Bad Is the New Good

Here is a hint for anyone who’s planning to write a piece of fiction: entirely heroic figures are a waste of time. Figures like Superman, a character that is undeniably and entirely “good” without question, were really only appropriate during the forties. This was, of course, when the world could very easily end at any minute and people needed utter escapism into a powerful figure. No one questions why you’re killing Germans when it’s Captain America doing it, due to circular superhero logic. Er, that wants clarity.

Think of it this way. Why is Superman good? It is because he fights against “baddies” like Lex Luthor, a character that is undeniably “evil”. How do we know that Lex Luthor is evil? Well, it is because he’s Superman’s enemy. Do you see the fault in that logic?

Monsieur Luthor leads us into the problem with complete heroes: they need utter villains. In order to remain the pinnacle of “good”, the must fight a baddie that is so undeniably evil that it probably eats babies for every meal. However, let’s replace Luthor with a Robin Hood-esque figure. He steals from the rich, who clearly would never feel the theft, to open a soup kitchen. However, the lawful-good Superman must still lay down the smack-down on the thief because stealing is bad. However, Superman’s position is called into question since Hood exists in a moral grey area.

We have invented “dark sides” to our superheroes to counter this. Batman is a good example, he really plays the “dark, brooding” persona well. Of course you knew that already since Batman has brooded himself into a position where he is more famous than God.

However, the developers behind Batman could not risk him slipping away from the hero spotlight, so they had to make his villains even more evil. While most of the earlier comic book villains were happy enough knocking over banks, Batman’s enemies are batshit (see what I did there?) insane. There is a reason why every villain is kept in Arkham Asylum. They might rip off a bank every now and then, but that is only because they need the money to fulfill their plan to inject Ebola into every child in the city, simple because they can. They shifted the hero a little bit farther away from pure light, but in return they forced the baddies off the evil deep end entirely. Thus, Batman and others like him still suffer from the curse of Superman and Captain America, just in an altered way.

You might ask “Silly Cat, isn’t the purpose of a hero to give you someone to support, a person to back up as s/he punches out the bad guys”? Well… yes but:

  1. Thinking of someone as purely good is entirely naïve and unbelievable. The only people who pretend to be without fault are politicians and religious leaders. Yet they are caught repeatedly with their pants down, figuratively and literally. This has conditioned the populace to be weary of anyone who tries to say that they are perfect. So when you make a character you must put some metaphorical skeletons in its closet or no one will connect with the hero.
  2. Stories are based around the reader sympathizing with the character. You cannot sympathize with a perfect person.
  3. Good is BORING. No one wants to hear about your damn soup kitchen unless you’re also running a cathouse out of the back of it.

All three lead to problems with the perfect man. Let me put it this way: Name your favorite Batman character. Grading: If you picked anyone other than Batman, read on. If you picked Batman, then close your browser, reopen this page, and try to answer that question again without lying. Having a main character that you cannot sympathize with leads the reader to feel for the villain, which is undeniably not the purpose of the comic. Personally, I adore Scarecrow, on the by. Look at Watchmen’s Rorschach. That character was supposed to be something of a pseudo-villain, but everyone adores him! Why? It is because he is the slightest bit believable. Even Night Owl has internal conflict and he’s the clear hero-figure in the story.

The logical route would then be to make the villain the hero. I love the antihero, let’s just get that out. Well, it’s partially because I’m a cynical misanthrope but shut up I’m trying to make a point here. A prime example of this is Dr. Horrible of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Here is a hero with “evil” intentions, but a viewer can sympathize with him because he’s (somewhat) believable.  Frankly, half the time these antiheroes are simply pragmatists who think that the only way to fix the world is to break it first. Yes, it may be a little bit insane, but at least they are well-intentioned. Hell, look at the incredibly sexy Mal from Firefly or the debatably sexier Han Solo. They are both clearly ruthless criminals, but they are simply doing what must be done for the colonies/Rebels to survive. They are heroes. And villains. And much better than Superman.