Thursday, October 5, 2006

Developing EotP

I like to lay out my ground rules. I'm very lawful neutral you know. Except when I'm true neutral. Or chaotic neutral. Usually neutral in some way though. I'm noncommittal like that. I make-a de rules and I break-a de rules. I should arrest myself; I'm so corrupted.

I am seeking a digicam. Lacking this item is yet another great shame of mine. It makes no sense to me to have a site dedicated to my harem and yet have to show off pictures that are not of my girls; that are not of the very same girls I fondle admire frequently in various states of undress. After procuring this vital piece of technology, I expect posts to pick up significantly. Otaku cred is taken seriously here, yo. But not that seriously. I'm broke you know. All those girls are expensive. Like, for real.

Also, I have been wondering how I should approach anime series reviews. I actually don't watch all that many series so if I were to only log what new stuff I see... well, I think continental drift may get more headlines or maybe even the Harry Potter saga would finish! (Below the belt, I know. Thank you, you're too kind.) Okay, maybe not that bad, but it would be definitely lacking quantity and me ranting about my girls only carries so far. (I think...) On the other hand, if I include the old stuff, it would take a while to get it all out there and well... they're old. Maybe not Speed Racer or even Sailor Moon old, but in a fast moving world, 5 years is an eternity already. I'll probably do the retroviews when I seriously lack material feel like it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The Wolf, the Wizard and the Dice Bag

My great shame is that I honestly have never had much interest in actually playing in a gaming session. Mostly due to a lack of compatible manpower in the islands. I mean, right off the bat, Hawaii is split up into 4 main population centers (Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Big Island), so we have a disadvantage right there. Even counting that most people live on Oahu (including myself, fortunately), that's only an isolated population of around 1 million.

Most of those people are not weird; they enjoy the normal island pastimes of fishing, swimming, shopping, golf and many other things that involve visiting the beach or getting some sun. Why not? We're Florida but with 90% less hurricanes and 100% less Disney World. I only have two friends that are not co-workers that I will actually hang out with. The third and fourth ones moved away some years ago after various graduations.

If I go to a meeting of other nerds of whatever persuasion, they just don't mesh with me. Either they are too nerdy and offend my normality (and/or my hygiene) or they are not nerdy enough to keep up with me; i.e. almost a normal person. The true problem is probably that I'm the one not nerdy enough to assimilate. Or perhaps more accurately, that I spread my nerdiness thinly that I give a (false?) reading of "normal" to the nerds around me, who are likely more specialized and committed.

All that said, I do find pen & paper systems to be very fascinating. Some go rules-heavy and try to spell out rules (and rolls) for everything. Then there are those that are rules-light and encourage participants to just go with the flow. And then there's LARP. (We won't go there.)

The first of my friends that moved away was into the World of Darkness. This was my first meaningful exposure to pen & paper. The rest of the roleplaying world I think just reacts with "VAMPIRE" when confronted with White Wolf. Which essentially guaranteed a split in the WoD community between Vampire players and everybody else. But that's neither here nor there. At the core of the World of Darkness is the Storyteller system. (2nd edition, if you must know.)

As I later discovered, it's fairly rules-light. I thought (and still think) that it was a rather simple and flexible way of viewing character statistics. My favorite of all was Mage: The Ascension, which separated schools of magic into broad "spheres" and encouraged free mixing of them to create custom-made spells for any situation. Training in combat skill was totally unrelated from the state of being a mage (no character classes). Freeform,  fast and loose. "Surely," I thought, "this is why tabletop is superior to computer gaming."

So imagine my surprise at being a D&D 3rd edition newbie some years later:
"Wow, that's a lot of numbers on the character sheet."
"Wait... we gotta depend on dice rolls for our stats?"
"Only even attributes have meaning. Why have them in the first place if only the modifier matters anyway?"
"What the hell is all these types of AC?"
"Level means everything, huh?"
"Wizard spells are prepared how now?"
"God I hate rolling only one d20 to determine success. Just assume I failed already."

The whole time I was reading the rules, I couldn't help but think that while it is certainly a solid core game, it really would benefit tremendously from having a computer crunch all these tedious numbers for you. I've gone through the dice-rolling combat-addicted newbie stage with White Wolf. Doing nothing but roll dice for combat maneuvers over and over quickly gets old. It becomes like a Final Fantasy battle: just spam fight and keep your HP up. Why not just use a computer for that?

I wasn't "born" playing a rigid class system so like every newb, I was drawn to multiclass. Turned out that such a thing is not to be taken lightly, with pretty tight level planning and a whole lot of potential suck if you want to be a caster. Did I mention prestige classes? I eventually went through a micromanagement phase where I mapped out characters' career path fairly extensively before I even started actually, you know, playing. Seriously. And people accuse Final Fantasy for being a spreadsheet disguised as an RPG.

The main offense to me was actually pretty simple: the order in which you gained class levels matters. I mean, unless you are beelining for a prestige class, why the hell should it matter? A character's capabilities in each field are roughly measured by level already. Why add this temporal interaction that just slows everything down? Combined with the wizard class only "sort of" remembering their own freaking spells and all the preparation and bookkkeeping, it seemed like the whole game was plotting to make me not play and just plan and plan and plan.

Spells per day... gah, one good fight and I'm out for the rest of the day. The fighters just keep going, though I'm told fighters are weak compared to other classes at high levels. Great. Honestly, I don't think I can stomach playing long enough to the point I have to worry about it.

As you can probably tell, I never really got into it. The most I've "done" in d20 are the 200+ hours I sank into KOTOR 1 and 2. Ah, those were much better: fewer classes to worry about, class level order is set, and the computer rolls all the damn dice for you. Famously inconsistent d20 results are still there, but 3 out of 4 ain't bad. Add a good plot and you have Good Times.

(Since SW EP 4-6 got re-released, I kinda want to play them again. I never did buy the last boxset--I was one of them purist holdouts that disowned Lucas's old age corruption of his own work. I'm disappointed in the letterbox widescreening of the original theatrical versions but oh well. At least Han shoots first. And yes, that matters.)

So I am essentially back to where I started. I haven't even gone back to White Wolf since flavorwise I didn't like the reset they pulled on the WoD, especially with the re-arcaning of mages. I am slowly getting interested again, especially since I saw that the current WoD character sheet has marked differences from what I was used to. Otherwise, my tabletop phase died before it even got out of the cradle. I still buy core rulebooks from time to time (Exalted was pretty nice), but that's really because I like to read the systems.

Why yes, I'm a rules lawyer. I passed the bar and would like to be a judge or maybe even a lawmaker someday. Why do you ask?

Sunday, September 3, 2006

What's old is new again... and Haruhi

Given that I started blogging late in the game, there's been a kind of nagging in my head. Do I just post the new stuff I've been exposed to, or do I also post catch-up material for the stuff I've already seen? Thing is, I actually am not exposed to all that much. What I know or see is just a drop in the ocean. You really realize this when you have a Japanese friend. My bubble of experience is as insignificant as the crowd in Haruhi's baseball stadium.

That said, I am committed. (And I love phrases with multiple interpretations.) So in an effort to keep myself not bored, I am going to include the older stuff. Otherwise I just may end the world and make a new one. Ah, the sacrifices I make for you people.

To the observant ones: yes, I just finished watching The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. I plan to watch it again in the near future in chronological order. Initial impression from 1st viewing: my taste in women stands--I like my girls spunky and nuts. Am I weird? Now if only she kept her long hair...

Ah... I get goose bumps just looking at long-haired Haruhi-sama.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Even in luddite mode I'm tech-friendly

About a month ago, through my own stupidity, I got bitten by some pretty nasty adware. Its ability to cripple my work has been off-and-on, how I imagine a computer version of an STD outbreak would be like. Back in high school & college, I would format/reinstall Windows roughly every 6 months. Basically, whenever it slowed down enough to be noticeable. I held this pattern from my time using Windows 95 and 98. In comparison from the age of high performance, my current install is about 2.5 years old.

My student job in college was telephone tech support. Those in our office would often bring in personal laptops for (ahem) homework. What I noticed is that those doing tech support will often tolerate problems in our own machines far beyond what we are called upon to fix. I was no exception, except this time I let it snowball a bit too much. I would have reinstalled XP but I seem to have misplaced my CD. Argh.

On an unrelated note, a Seagate 200GB hard drive I bought decided to die on me. It's still well within its nice 5 year warranty (even a 1 year would have covered it actually...), but I haven't gotten around to exchanging it. Mostly because I haven't totally given up on the recoverability of my pr0n files. On another unrelated note, the MP3 player I bought on clearance from CompUSA decided that its real calling was cosplaying an oversized bug. I'm not quite sure why it thought this, but that's what it showed me on its display after a few hours of use. Returning it was a royal one-hour pain. And on yet another unrelated note, a rebate offer from CompUSA was having difficulty processing. "Transaction not found," my eye! (I think it's resolved now.)

All of these mishaps happened within a 2 week span of time. I was not a happy camper. So I rebelled. And by rebel I mean, "ceased to buy PC hardware and software." You know, downgraded to normal. I am still in luddite mode actually. It has pushed me into restarting my bishoujo figure collection, which is now obvious to me as a more expensive hobby than being a sometimes-PC-enthusiast/gamer. Since I ought to include more images of actual bishoujo in here, I will include another widely-available-online picture of the last figure I bought before my hiatus from this type of fandom. Incidentally, I bought it during Kawaii Kon earlier this year. I believe Asuka needs no introduction.

Actually, it was part of a (closeout display) set of four: Asuka pink and white versions, Rei blue and white versions. I like my women spunky and a bit nuts. Oh, and long-haired... oooh yes. So I favor Asuka out of the two. I'm beginning to want my digicam more and more with every post. It may be what breaks luddite mode. (As if starting a blog didn't.)

Shipping to Hawaii

I would like to think that I have greater than normal access to the objects of my desire. After all, Hawaii is geographically and culturally more similar to Japan than the rest of the Union is. One of my economics professors who specialized in tourism, once claimed that our economic performance tracked that of Japan about as much as we tracked CONUS (that's CONtinental United States for you hippies). And we are in the middle of the Pacific, a "natural" gathering place for all people in the Pacific Rim.

Unfortunately that last bit illustrates the simple problem with this "island paradise": freaking everything must be imported. We don't grow our own food, we don't manufacture our own clothes and, most important, we don't produce any entertainment or merchandise worth a damn. Unless you count tourist bait, but us locals don't as by definition, that stuff is for the tourists. (Please come! We need your money! I'm only half-joking.)

Basically if ocean shipping died tomorrow I'd start planning cannibal hunts, if only to get the jump on my prey before the 3rd-world famine arrives.

I hear that commercial shipping rates to outside Hawaii are actually pretty cheap, since most of the ships/planes involved in hauling stuff in are leaving essentially empty. That's just what I hear though. Anyway, a personal consequence of this everything-must-be-imported reality is that I really really pay attention to shipping charges. Being an otaku on the mainland is fairly simple, you order from anywhere else in CONUS and they UPS ground it or something to you on the cheap. Because neither ships nor airplanes are involved, it is fairly fast and inexpensive. Not so here! Many companies that offer "free shipping" promotions simply do not respect it for Hawaii and won't even extend a consolation discount. Of course, a few even decide to screw us over one extra step and count Hawaii as outside the US. (How insulting!) Don't even start me on eBay, where some will simply refuse to ship here at all.

Granted, these discriminatory policies are not as common as I might imply. If anything, the situation has improved substantially over the years. (Thank you, USPS. I love you.) Still, shipping rates can differ substantially from one seller to another, being anything from free to $30 for one item. This obviously affects the way I shop. Eventually it stops being about logic and starts being about principle.

Thus, I heavily favor anybody with free shipping to Hawaii. RightStuf, Deep Discount DVD, YesAsia and Amazon are all on my "favored" list; if I'm in the market for something, they get first crack at it in roughly that order. Yes, I'm aware RightStuf is slow as hell and, yes, they require paid membership (which I have) for their best prices, but they offer free shipping! Like I said, eventually it stops being about logic.

To compensate for now huge time lags, I have pretty much stopped caring about it--things arrive when they arrive. It's just as well anyway; I'm in a state of perpetual backlog (electronic games and anime):
  1. I have over 5 games (RPGs no less) I haven't even started since I bought them 6 months ago.
  2. I still have at least 3 boxsets where I have not even watched the first DVD.
  3. I am dreadfully behind in training up my Guild Wars characters; I haven't even cleared the Factions campaign with any character yet.
(As an aside, you can roll a mesmer in GW that really looks like a gothic lolita. So naturally, I rolled one, but she doesn't have the right armor to get the proper look. So if anything, I will have her progress to the end of the campaign first.)

Anyway, the point is that I love USPS. The only business the government gets something approaching to right. USPS >>> all

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lack of camera and Driving Miss Saber

Being somewhat behind in the technology curve, I lack a digital camera. Nay, I lack any camera. The last time I needed a camera, I bought a disposable model. I didn't even use up all of the film. Then the other day I saw Wal-Mart selling really low end digital cameras in those annoying blister packs. You know, the packages that are completely thermal sealed at the edges such that it forces you to destroy the packaging to gain access to the goodies inside.

Well, I still don't have a digital camera--I don't buy obvious crap. (Accidental crap is different.) But it opened my eyes; they could actually be quite affordable. Eventually I shall buy one... just not now. Otaku-ness is expensive, you know.

Ah, but what does this mean? I will be unable to post pictures of the actual product I acquire. Which is a shame. But! As a cop out, I shall post my most favorite recent acquisition (now in widely-available-online version!), the beautiful Saber from Fate/Stay Night.

Admire me!

Admire her splendor. Admire it, dammit!


I am the bone of my [CENSORED].
Cash is my flesh, and moe is my blood.
I have admired over a thousand girls.
Unknown to hate.
Nor known to love.
Have withstood debt to purchase many figures.
Yet, those thoughts will never hold meaning.
So as I pray, "Unlimited Bishoujo Works."