Category Archives: General Game-related Blathering

Wide Range: Game and Church Music?

Easter-time is over. I hope you collected some eggs, or feasted, or, if that’s not your thing, at least enjoyed the four-day weekend.

For me, Easter (and Christmas) mean visits with the family, which include church. Now, I won’t go into my personal stance on that too much, because it’s one of the best ways to completely derail arguments and get zealots on all sides worked up. Let’s just say I grew up Catholic, and these days consider myself neither a devout one nor an atheist. I’m just somewhere in the wide area in between, walking around towards one or the other pole over time.

Why am I saying this? Because what you grow up with forms you, and as a Catholic, you may develop a very particular and keen sense for two things: ceremony and sacral music. The first isn’t all that important right now (I might talk about it another time in relation to games, if I find a good point to start from), but the second is surprisingly important, also in relation to games. But I don’t even want to talk about that now (note to self: do talk about church music in games or influencing games at some point). That I like music, you might have gathered from earlier posts…

So why am I saying this? Well, I am lucky enough to live in a city with a cathedral. Having a cathedral with a bishop around means it’s really easy for me to get my “fix” of both ceremony and sacral music when I feel like it. The cathedral has a large pool of choirs and instrumentalists to pull from, and there’s a solemn mass with choral and sometimes orchestral accompaniment every week. That naturally leads to music from a wide range of composers being performed, from Renaissance to modern, with sprinkles of Gregorian, of course. It’s an awesome way to broaden your cultural horizon for pretty much free of charge. They publish advance programmes, and if something interesting shows up, I make a note in my calendar.

This time, I found a mass by Kentaro Sato in the programme. My japanophilia made me look him up. Wow! His work list sounds interesting. Turns out he’s a composer of both game and church music. That’s pretty cool! I like that combination. I wonder how many other composers spread a spectrum that wide. I would imagine that the prejudices on both sides are not very conducive. “Killer games” vs. “religious nut jobs” and all…

I think I know where I’ll be next Sunday morning.

That’s all. Sorry if I bored you.

8-bit Tunes And Why We Are Chasing Them

If you have a similar blog roll as I have, if your RSS feed features a lot of people like Syp or Syl, then you inadvertently have run across a lot of post that showcase the authors’ favorite game music tunes. Have you ever noticed how a lot of them seem to be from the “good olden days” of 8 or 16 bits? Why is that?

Undeniably, sound quality has gotten better over the years. Most games these days have full symphony orchestras at their disposal. So why is it that those primitive tunes are stuck in our head?

The Nostalgia Hypothesis

One plausible argument is that it’s simply music from when we were younger, and that nostalgia is playing a trick on us. While the music is objectively worse, we hold it in high regard because it subconsciously reminds us of our childhood or youth.

That is an interesting point, but in my opinion, it’s completely wrong, bollocks, utter shite, patronizing, selling that music short. Yes, game music these days has a lot more budget – and with it choices – at its disposal, but, in a way, that’s what makes it less memorable. It’s just too similar to film music.

The Uniqueness Revelation

In my opinion, there are two reasons that make this game music from the 80ies and early 90ies so memorable. Both of them have to do with the technological limits of the time.

One is that music was not saved as PCM file. That was way too large, from a data perspective. Instead, what you published with the game was a rough description that you fed into a synthesizer. Even today, you can find a niche mod tracker scene that keeps alive this concept. This meant that you were severely limited in what you could play, typically to maybe 4 notes at the same time (8 notes if you were lucky), and “notes” in that respect included percussion and sound effects in the game. (Hint if you don’t know much about music: you need three notes to even produce the major/minor chord that has been the fundamental basis of western musical harmony for at least 400 years.) This limitation leads to a focus on the fundamental melody. In contrast, a lot of film music diffuses into a barely tangible wash of harmonies that never seem to go anywhere and melts in your hand like rancid pudding; blame Wagner and what came after him for that (yes, I loathe Wagner; different topic). 8-bit melodies are great because they never lose their focus, because they can’t afford to.

However, that’s not even the most memorable thing about that music. If you listen to contemporary game music, especially big-budget, it’s almost indistinguishable from big film music. That’s not entirely a good thing, though. Except for very avant-garde 70ies music, the sound of 80ies and early 90ies consoles and other computers was completely unique: even 80ies synth music was different. In a way, the sound chips of that era, while they often tried to emulate existing instruments, created a completely new sound space, virtual instruments that had never been there before.

In that way, that early game music is some sort of cultural heritage that is unique and only existed as state-of-the-art for that short moment in time, before technology caught up again. That it’s still, maybe more than ever, cited in low-budget indy games, is a testament to its uniqueness.

Instant-85s in EQ: But which to choose?

That didn’t come as a huge surprise. After EQ2, SOE is now also rolling out “Heroic” Characters for EQ with the following properties: “level 85 with a full complement of gear, Alternative Advancement Abilities, and a unique mount.”

OK, so the details are still a bit fuzzy: what quality does the gear have, how many AA do you get? Though, truth to be told, I don’t think that matters much to me. EQ was a game that I never get around to playing in its heyday. I’ve tried Project 1999 before, but I think I stopped around level 5. I blame it on being distracted by a squirrel or something.

However, just like with EQ2, for a limited time, you can get your instant level 85 for free. That’s a price I’m willing to accept. It would be nice to have a high-level character. I don’t think I’ll get around to level it much, but I could use it for sightseeing. Run around low-level zones, check out old raids, things like that.

The problem, of course, is: what to choose? There are so many classes! I guess, in the end, it doesn’t matter too much if all I want to do is travel around and look at things. But that has never stopped me from fretting about the choices.

Maybe an enchanter? I like the idea of the class (it was my Project 1999 class, after all), and they get spells to lull/pacify enemies. That might be useful if I screw up.

Or a druid? Traveling spells, like a wizard, but also evac. That’s not only useful for getting out of bad situations. I imagine it might also be great to get out of dungeons fast after I explored them.

What about a magician or necromancer? If I end up wanting to level the character, I’d probably be served best by a certified soloing class. Then again, I don’t think it’s very likely that this will happen. Plus, neither are all that great for groups, or so I heard. And the only reason to level from 85 to cap, solo or not, is to play in groups at some point, right? Besides, they’re both pet classes, and I’m not a huge pet class fan. (On the other hand, high-level enchanters are probably even more extreme pet classes with charms that can break at the worst time.)

I’ve also been thinking about a bard. I tried one on the Fippy Darkpaw time-locked server when it was opened. But other than the fact that I like the concept of bard classes in games, I don’t see anything especially appealing that would make a bard a great explorer. Except run speed, I guess, but with mounts around, I wonder how much that even matters.

Then there are all the other classes I don’t know anything about. Maybe one of those would make a good choice, too.

Hm. Can anybody with EQ experience give some suggestions?

Authenticators! How Do They Work?

Have you ever used one of those authenticator thingies that have become popular over the last few years? The ones that add an additional password to your account when you log in, a random 6-to-8 digit number that changes every 30 seconds or so? I sure hope you have, because those things add an additional layer of security to your account that can be very helpful to ward off account stealing attempts.

But have you ever wondered how they actually work? When I looked around for some information on the more technical details when I wrote my last post, I realized that there isn’t a lot of easily available and understandable information around. Or at least I couldn’t find it. When you search for “how does the blizzard authenticator work”, for example, you get a lot of results that explain to you how to use it (buy/download, attach to your account, additional passcode field shows up when you log in), but no information of how the authenticators themselves work. he closest I got was this article on WoWWiki, which itself doesn’t cite any sources. You can also find some technical information of how SecurID works, which (as far as I know) all the key fob style authenticators are modeled after. T But that information is probably not an easy read for someone without any background in cryptography.

I don’t think that’s a good state of affairs, because people should have a chance to at least roughly understand how their security technology works. That way, authenticators are less of a voodoo black box, you can understand what actually makes those authenticators secure, and most importantly perhaps, you can make an informed decision whether you’d rather use the key fob style or the smartphone app style.

So, since I couldn’t find any explanation of the technical workings of authenticators, explained on a basic level, I decided to write my own. Now, I have to add an important disclaimer to this post:

  1. I’m a computer scientist. I hope I broke down the information in a way that makes it accessible to non-computer scientists. If you don’t understand an explanation, please tell me, and I’ll try to fix it.
  2. While I’m a computer scientist, I’m not a cryptography or security expert. I hope I didn’t get any of the details wrong, or put them the wrong way. If you are an expert and can show that I presented something wrongly, please tell me, and I’ll try to fix it.
  3. Most technical information that’s the basis of this explanation was pieced together from sources on the Internet. For a few details, I even used reasonable guesses. Again, if you know better than me and can show that I got something wrong, please tell me, and I’ll try to fix it.

Definitions (a.k.a., the boring part)

Let’s first run through a few short definitions. I’ll use them later on, and I’ll make this part short and hopefully easy to understand. The links lead to wikipedia for people who want to dig deeper.

Algorithm: The exact definition is much deeper and quite philosophical, but for this text, you can think of it as “a piece of computer code that calculates a result from some given input”.
One-way function: A one-way function is an algorithm that transforms an input into an output, with calculations that are easy enough to run very fast. However, the opposite is not true: given the output, it’s extremely hard (and practically impossible) to calculate the input. Like a one-way street, you can only go in one direction, but not the other. This is very useful for some types of encryption or authentication.
Pseudorandom number generator (PRNG): Computers suck at being random. They are built to calculate, and to produce the same output for the same input every time. True randomness is actually a very hard problem. Radioactive decay is considered a true random process, but for obvious reasons, people aren’t too keen on putting a plutonium reservoir into their PCs. The next best thing are PRNGs: they produce output that looks random, but isn’t really: they’re just algorithms that take a single number (a seed) as input, and from that produce one or a sequence of numbers that look sufficiently random (as defined by probability theory, but we’ll leave that to the mathematicians). Given the same seed, a PRNG will always produce the same sequence of numbers. We’ll see why this can be useful.
Cryptographically secure PRNG: It’s simply a PRNG that fulfills some extra requirements. In easy terms, an attacker who looks at a sequence of numbers from a PRNG must not have a chance to deduce any information that could lead to the PRNG’s seed.
Public-key cryptography is one of the wonders of modern encryption. It used to be that an encryption key was a shared secret between two parties. You used a key to encrypt your data, and you needed the same key to reverse the encryption. That had the huge problem that you needed to get the key to the other party securely by some means, because whoever learned the key could decrypt your communication. Public-key cryptography uses two keys, a public one that you can tell everybody, which is only good for encrypting data. To decrypt the data again, you need a private key which you keep confidential. This works by using certain one-way functions. This means you get out of the key distribution problem, because you can distribute public keys and still have encrypted communication.

OK, I promise that was the hardest past. Now on to pretty pictures! I’ll use different colors to denote different keys used in the authentication process. Obviously, they’re not really colored, but it’s maybe easier to keep track if each key has an assigned color.

Key fob style authenticators

authenticator-scaledSo you have an authenticator. It has a button, a display, and a battery. It also has a pretty picture on the front.

blizzard-authenticator-backThe back looks less interesting, but has a very important piece of information: the serial number. (Mine has become partly unreadable over the years. This is bad.)

authenticator-keyApart from a microcontroller (the kind of computer that runs your washing machines, dishwashers, etc.), the key fob also contains a battery, a battery-buffered clock, and a key, that is, a piece of secret data that is used to calculate the numbers that appear when you push the button. This key is unique to this key fob: no other produced authenticator shares this key. This is the “secret sauce” that makes your authenticator work: if anybody ever was able to extract the key from the fob, they could create the same one-time passwords, and log into your account. Thankfully, those key fobs are very sturdy, and extraction is extremely complicated, expensive, and very much destructive to the device.

blizzard-masterkeyBlizzard holds a special master key. This master key was used to create all keys in all fobs (of a specific production run; there are good chances that Blizzard changes them from run to run). To create each fob key, the master key is combined with a number via a one-way function. And that number? That’s the S/N on the back of your authenticator. (It was pointed out to me in the comments that some key fob producers do not actually use a master key to create the fob keys, but instead create random fob keys and then provide Blizzard or other company customers with a lookup list that contains for each fob its key and the S/N. From a security point of view, this doesn’t make much of a difference, though such a list should have a very light theoretical security advantage.)

To register your authenticator with Blizzard, you log in and enter the serial number on the back of your authenticator. Blizzard takes that serial number, combines it with the master key and computes your fob key. It then puts that key information with the rest of your account information. Now you both have a copy of that key. We’re almost done!


Note something very nifty: The secret key was never sent over your Internet connection, or entered on your keyboard. That way, if your computer is compromised by spyware, or someone is eavesdropping your connection, they don’t learn anything useful. They know your authenticator’s serial number, but to create your one-time passwords, they’d need the (silver) key. But to calculate that from your S/N, they would need Blizzard’s (golden) master key! And that one is stowed away as securely as possible. If an attacker managed to get their hands on that one, all authenticators would suddenly be vulnerable. Then again, if they got that, you’d probably be screwed anyway, because chances are they also made away with your main password as well as credit card and other sensitive information. (In the case of a lookup list, the S/N is just searched in the list, and the corresponding “silver” key information taken from that list. Again, no key information is transmitted, and if the list ever got stolen, key fobs would be compromised.)

Now what if we want to authenticate? We have a key, but if we simply use that as input to a pseudorandom number generator (cryptographically secure or not), we will only ever get one password: same input, same output. Not very secure, is it? That’s where the battery-buffered clock in the authenticator comes in. Instead of simply using the key as the input, the key is combined with the current date and time, and that is used as input. Your authenticator knows what time it is, Blizzard knows what time it is. As long as they agree on that time, both will calculate the same result, which to an outsider looks like random gibberish and doesn’t give any information about the key that was used.


This has the nice side effect that each authenticator passcode is only valid for a short amount of time. That prevents an attacker from eavesdropping and recording the password, or pushing the button and recording the output when you aren’t looking, and using the authenticator code later on when they got a hold of your main password. Incidentally, the clock is also the reason those key fobs are pretty much broken beyond repair once the battery runs out: even if you could exchange the battery, there is no way to set the time after power is restored. Server and authenticator are out of sync and won’t produce the same numbers any more.

Mobile Authenticators

Those key fobs have a couple of downsides. First, you have to pay for them, while the mobile authenticator is a free download from Google’s or Apple’s app store. Second, you have to order the key fob and then wait until it arrives at your door via snail mail, while you could use the mobile authenticator within a couple of minutes. Third, if you need to access your account from outside home, you have to remember to take your key fob with you, while you’re probably carrying around your phone anyway.

So you decide to use the mobile authenticator. How does that work? How is it different from the key fob?

mobile_authenticator_keysThe different (and most complicated) part is the initial setup. Since you download the app from Google’s or Apple’s app store, every version of the app is the same. It doesn’t contain a unique secret key like the key fob does. What it does come with though, is a public key from Blizzard (golden). Remember that such keys that consist of a pair of public and private key are special: Blizzard can safely tell everybody public key and still keep its corresponding private key secret. Also note that this “golden” key is not the same as the “golden” key in the key fob explanation. I’m sorry if that is confusing, but I ran out of cool colors, and what says coolness more than gold?

Anyway, in addition to Blizzard’s public key that was provided, the app creates a random “session key” (red) when it is started for the first time. After that, it will connect to the Blizzard server to create a key just like the secret key that resides inside the key fob. To do this, it uses the session key, encrypts it with Blizzard’s public key, and sends the encrypted session key to Blizzard. (This is denoted by the red key in a golden box.)


Blizzard decrypts the session key with its private key. Note that nobody else can get the red key out of the golden box: the public key is only good for “locking the box”, so to speak, not for unlocking it. Now both sides have the (red) session key and can use it to talk to each other securely. Blizzard now creates a secret key, just like the (silver) one that resides in a key fob. It encrypts that key with the session key, and sends that to you (silver key in a red box).


Since your authenticator also knows the red key, it can decrypt the secret key. Voila! Now both Blizzard and your authenticator know the secret (silver) key. Setup is over, the red key isn’t needed any more and thrown away, and the day-to-day authentication works exactly the same as with the key fob authenticator:


You don’t even need any Internet connection while you’re creating authentication codes. All you need is a reasonably accurate clock. If your phone gets out of sync for whatever reason (which it typically shouldn’t, if your phone network provides time information), the authenticator has a button to resynchronize to Blizzard’s servers. Synchronization, of course, requires an Internet connection.


So let’s look at a couple of threat scenarios, and which type of authenticator fares better in each.

Attacker taps my Internet connection: during normal operation, all the attacker can learn that way are the short-term passwords. If they already know your normal password and are very fast, you’re screwed in both cases. If they don’t, there’s nothing to learn for them: the 6-to-8-digit passwords do not provide any useful information about your secret key. The main difference is that the mobile authenticator doesn’t come with a pre-installed secret key, so it needs the key exchange described above to get it. You’ll note that the red session key is created “randomly”. Now, as I said, true randomness is hard to achieve for computers. So there is some theoretical risk if an attacker could figure out how your phone’s random number generator was initialized, and therefore could figure out what session key (red) you created. Then, the attacker could eavesdrop on your connection, capture Blizzard’s response, and decrypt the (silver) secret key with the guessed session key. Winner: both are secure, key fob has the edge.

Attacker learns my secret key: With a key fob, this is pretty much impossible. Getting to know your secret key involves opening your device and doing some serious hardware hacking. At the very least, you’d notice it immediately after it’s done, because an attacker would have to break it open. With a mobile authenticator, this is much easier: the attacker would have to (get you to) install some spyware on your phone that reads your secret key and sends it to them. Winner: key fob.

Losing / breaking your phone / fob: During the initial setup of the mobile authenticator, the app shows you a recovery key that you are supposed to keep in a very secure place. If you ever lose your phone or need to reinstall the app, you can use that key create a replacement authenticator. With your key fob, if you lose or break it, you’re out of luck. Off to Blizzard’s phone line you go. Have some government-issued ID or similar documents ready to mail them to unlock your account. Winner: mobile authenticator.

Attacker steals or “borrows” phone / fob: Like all other attacks, this only gives the attacker a chance to compromise your account if they also know your main password. If an attacker gets physical access to your authenticator, you’ve pretty much lost the fight. With a fob, the attacker can immediately log into your account and, for example, detach your fob and attach another authenticator, locking you out. With a phone, a screen lock might delay an attacker, but those things are not very secure. Winner: you are screwed regardless, mobile has the edge.

Attacker “persuades” you: That’s up to you. It’s your decision how much of your health your account is worth to you…

Yeah, not even a Thunderfury is worth going through that. [source:]

Yeah, not even a Thunderfury is worth going through that. [source: xkcd]

To summarize, the tradeoff is a pretty classical one between security and convenience. The key fob is the more secure device, but if you lose or break it, you can expect a lot more work (and time!) until you get access to your account again. On the other hand, the mobile authenticator’s most glaring risk is that the secret key can be stolen by spyware, which should not be underestimated. Mobile phones are not that secure, after all. But if something happens to your phone, you can use your recovery key to authenticate yourself from a replacement phone, which is both faster and a lot less hassle. Which one you chose is ultimately up to you.

Motivation By Singing

The other day, I spent a long car ride with a couple of colleagues, and we talked about this and that. Among other things, about singing and about unusual motivational techniques. That reminded me of a story from my WoW raiding days, and with the help of some friends from back then (oh Facebook, glorified White Pages of the late naughties), I was able to reconstruct most of the story from memory.

*   *   *

Raid leading is a lot like herding cats. Every guild seems to have a few people who are constantly late, unprepared, didn’t bring consumables, or are simply incapable of following even the easiest instructions. Nevertheless, everything can go exceedingly well some nights. Other nights… not so. In addition, every guild seems to have bosses it nails with just minimal efforts, while it struggles with others every week. And while some bosses are more notorious than others, it seems every guild picks its personal bogeymen without much rhyme or reason.

ICC was the last raid instance our guild did before it folded in the autumn of 2010. We were quite successful as a close-knit 10-man group, but suffered from the all-too-common problem that our 25-man’s progress was always lagging behind. 10 dedicated raiders, and 25 people with time constraints or no interest in harder raiding rotating in and out of the remaining 15 slots. In ICC-25, we struggled the most with Saurfang and Sindragosa (ok, and with Arthas, but final bosses don’t qualify for the bogeyman list). This story happened on one of our 25-man raid nights in ICC. We had already spent half the previous night struggling with Saurfang, mostly due to Blood Beasts eating the raid, before we finally killed him. Bashing your head against a wall is never fun, especially when the wall comes with an unskippable cutscene long enough to become its own meme. (“We named him Dranosh. It means ‘waste 90 seconds’ in Orcish.”) In the end, our raid leader got people to focus, we killed him and moved on.

The next night, our main raid leader was unavailable, so I had to lead the raid, something I hate to do. At least the night started well, but soon enough, we faced Sindragosa. Spreading out for Frost Beacon so that the ability couldn’t chain to unaffected people turned out to be as problematic as ever. On more than one attempt, instead of the targeted 5 people, we ended up with half the raid frozen into ice blocks and dying. It was a massacre, and the mood tanked almost as badly as I did (I’m not good at tanking when I have to raid lead at the same time). After half a dozen attempts and telling people off, I decided it was time for special measures. The stick hadn’t worked, so maybe the carrot was in order?

“Alright people. Focus. I want y’all to focus. No lollygagging, no clusterfucking, no 15 ice blocks after each Frost Breath. I’m tired of this shit. You know what? Here’s a reward. If you focus, and we kill her now, I’ll sing ‘Amazing Horse’ to you over Vent, both male and female voice.” (In case you don’t know it, here’s the song. Not safe for work, children, or mentally stable people, you know the drill.) Weebl’s songs had been a staple of jokes in the guild for some time, so everybody knew which song I meant.

The mood changed. People chuckled. The sheer weirdness of that “reward” seemed to be incentive enough.

We killed Sindragosa the next pull. And yes, I gladly sang. It ended up being a moment all of us still remember to this day. It’s the stuff nostalgia is made of.

Quote of the Day

“Wait, so you’re annoyed that you’re getting what you wanted?”

“I’m an MMO player […]. What am I supposed to do when they actually listen to us?! It’s like they have no respect for the process!”

I’m completely out of the MMO loop, again. I feel like the pendulum might swing back soon, though. I still hope for some posts to flow again.

No time

It’s been a slow week for the blog again. At least I had the post on Monday. (Which I actually had written last week, but being the sneaky bastard that I am, I decided to save it for slow times, which came soon, so it all went according to plan!)

The week has been time-consuming at work. That’s not all though, because when I was done, I rushed home every day to focus on this:

The command and lander module of a Saturn-like (though not really Saturn-look-alike) rocket, orbiting the Mun.

The command and lander module of a Saturn-like (though only vaguely Saturn-look-alike) rocket, orbiting the Mun.

When I first heard about Kerbal Space Program some time ago (months? half a year?), it sounded interesting, but I didn’t have the time to check it out. Last weekend, I read an article about the space race, suddenly remembered the game, and tried it out.

Since then, I’ve spent every free minute in the game. I’ve eaten in front of the computer, or not eaten at all at home. (Yes, really.) It probably won’t last more than a couple more days before I get bored, though. You know the Bladerunner quote with the relationship between illuminative and temporal quantities of wax-based light sources.

I’ve built my share of exploding rockets and other shenanigans, but I’ve always rescued my Kerbals by virtue of the “load quicksave” and “revert flight” buttons. With some help from the excellent wiki, I’ve gone into orbit, visited Minmus, pulled off gravity slingshots, and practiced synchronizing orbits and docking in space. The last one is by far the hardest and most frustrating part. I’m just not very good at it. It seems to require the same abilities that you need to neatly land on a landing strip in a flight simulator, something that also took me ages to learn… I always landed at a sideways angle, which makes the runway somewhat useless (and the plane, too, afterwards).

At the moment, I’m working on a Apollo-like Mun landing. (Cue nasal Bostonian Kennedy accent with weird mid-sentence rises: “achieving the goal? Before this decade is out? Of landing a Kerbal on the Mun? and returning him safely to Kerbin.”) This meant creating a command module, a landing module, and strapping both of them to a huge pile of highly explosive fuel, which then is lit.

That part went surprisingly well. Both parts then traveled towards the Mun, to prepare for a Lunar (I mean Munar… this is confusing) Orbit Rendezvous maneuver. The lander was stuffed with my old friend Jebediah Kerbal and his buddy Bob, and off they went.

That's actually not that small a step there.

That’s actually not that small a step there.

Success! We come in peace for all Kerbalkind, yadda yadda.

The landing itself wasn’t actually all that bad. I bounced off the ground about 2 meters on the first try, mostly because I hadn’t managed to completely control my lateral speed, but then gently set down. The hardest part is yet to come, though. I have to launch from the surface, synchronize my orbit with the command module, and dock to transfer my Kerbals all back into one pod and pool all the remaining fuel in the command module’s tanks. I just hope that maneuver itself won’t cost too much fuel, so I’ll have enough to make it back to Kerbin…

Dysfunctional Patterns of Playing

Belghast noted the other day how he is in a slump with Rift and EQ2. He’s logging in, but then stands around without anything to do. Something we all probably have had happening before. I remember doing that a lot in WoW when I was still raiding. I still wanted to pay on off-nights, but I realized that there wasn’t much to do, so I just idled around in Orgrimmar. It’s a dysfunctional pattern of playing: overestimating the fun I’ll have before I log in, which ends in disappointment. To me, this either happens when there is nothing to do, or when there are lots of things, but I’m paralyzed deciding which one to follow.

The opposite thing has happened to me with FFXIV lately. Instead of logging in and then being disappointed, I postpone logging in because I don’t know what to do; but when I do log in, I suddenly start a flurry of activities. In this case, I’m underestimating my fun. It’s a bit weird, but it has happened to me with a couple of games: when I have too many choices, the decision paralysis makes me end up not playing the game as much. It’s in realistic danger of being tossed to the wayside, replaced by a new game which lays out the way in a more obvious manner.

I’ll have to watch how I play FFXIV if I want to have sustainable fun in it (which I do). Otherwise, the game might end up in the sad bucket that TSW is in. I played the game for about two months from release, to about mid-Transylvania. Then I went on vacation, and when I came back I couldn’t decide what to do: which abilities to take? Which build to play? I postponed playing it more and more, until I had to accept I had stopped playing the game altogether. In the terms of this post, I stopped estimating my fun completely. For a year, I’ve been toying with the thought of trying it out again, but with every month, it gets harder to get back, if only because there are so many weapons to grind and stuff to do: where to start?

8 Bit Memories

Harbinger Zero did it. Syp does it regularly. If they can do it, so can I, right?

Some of these are from games that, while not completely forgotten by people who know their way around the era, are not quite as well-known to outsiders, because they’re not part of a popular franchise. You’ll also notice that there’s a large number of Game Boy tunes on this list. That’s because I owned a Game Boy, and nothing else. I only played NES (and Amiga, and later on SNES) at friends’ houses. But that is another story and shall be told another time…

More after the cut, because lots of embedded youtube videos follow