Armstrong the Explorer

Apollo_11_first_step
Neil Armstrong Caps Classic Earth v. 1969

Who said achievements were meaningless?

NeilAchievement

And for those of us there, we all got a “Species First” achievement of witnessing the first time a human being set foot on an extraterrestrial object– our first steps as a species on some place not our home.  Hard to believe its been 40 years since my Mom dragged me as a wee four year old into watch the moon landing live on television (our old exceedingly crappy black and white)– one of my earliest memories.  I can only imagine that kids alive in the 1500s or during the great age of polar exploration could have been as captivated by tales of the derring do of the explorers.  Their exploits provide the spark to fuel the ambition of a generation or more.

After Apollo 11’s moon landing, having gone to the moon and done the other thing (not because they were easy, but because they were hard…), NASA nerfed moon exploration and introduce the raid grind with the New not-so-Galactic Exploration patch that  brought us Skylab and the Shuttle Missions.

Instead of continuing exploration of the old world “endgame content”….

landing sites
Old Lunar Endgame Instances

…we were treated to the raid grind of Skylab and the Shuttle missions giving us such firsts as:

  • First Latin America Get Away Special canister to fly aboard a Space Shuttle.  STS 108
  • First occurrence of combustion product penetration into the J-joint of redesigned solid rocket motor (RSRM). STS 78
  • First plants to complete a life cycle in space – a crop of wheat grown from seed to seed. STS 81
  • First landing with new synthetic tread tires. STS 50 and
  • First use of drag chute during landing; deployed after nose gear touchdown for data collection only. STS 49.

With all due respect to all invovled in the Shuttle program and a nod to the many, yes, lets admit it, boring but necessary and useful achievements (cough, Hubble fix, cough), lets face it, its not even as exciting as Ice Road Truckers.  Likewise with all due respect to the Shuttle crew members lost in the Challenger and Columbia disasters (and their families and loved ones)– both bona fide “where where you then” moments– don’t get me started with the attunement raid grind for the International Space Station which apparently requires no less than 3 international space agencies to participate and has a seven year reset timer.

We stand to lose the knowledge and wisdom of these first generation of extra earthly space explorers (Armstrong is now 78).  For those with the inclination, I highly recommend the Discovery Channel miniseries, When We Left Earth, likely the last documentary to include first person accounts of this extraordinary period of human exploration.

Fundamentally, I think Armstrong had it right.  He capped in 1969 and rather than pursue so called “endgame” content doing laps around the planet, he parked himself, remained largely out of the public eye and slowly faded into the icon of our last greatest boldest achievement.  Yin to Armstrong’s Yang, Buzz Aldrin has cultivated a more public profile as a zealous advocate for human space exploration.

With the more time that passes since those halcyon days in the early 1970’s, I gain even more appreciation of the extraordinary boldness, courage and achievements of all off those involved in the moon exploration effort.  Was a time when the saying “If we can land a man on the moon, we can certainly accomplish X…” was a good natured challenge for our society to match the best efforts of those in the vanguard and to achieve something truly human in scale.  As I scan the phrase with my eyes, I can’t pull them off the first clause– “if we can land a man on the moon…”  Frankly, I don’t know if that’s true anymore.

When I was young and naive and a life was full of possibilities, landing a man on the moon was no longer a goal, it was a fait accompli, a measure of our both our achievement and a testament to the possibilities open to us should we bend our efforts collectively toward the common good.  On July 20, 1969, for a brief moment in time we were all merely human and the universe stood before us through the opened door of space exploration.  Forty years hence, the audaciousness of such goals seem almost as inconceivable as they might be inachievable again in our lifetime.

Hopefully, the next expansion will rekindle the flame of exploration that is fading as Apollo receeds into the past.

Research Redux

Ravious at KTR has some thoughts on the MMORPG “research” that Tobold linked the other day.  I’m convinced that any monkey with a copy of the DSM-IV could do a search are replace and come up with a fundable research plan.  Lets all play!

WORK: The following statements concern how important WORK is for you.

  • WORK has created real problems for me, but I keep working.
  • Sometimes I only plan to WORK for a few minutes and wind up spending hours on it.
  • WORK takes up almost all of my leisure time.
  • I would be a lot more productive if I didn’t WORK so much.
  • My family and friends get angry and tell me that I WORK too much, but I can’t stop.
  • I often WORK for a longer time than I intended.
  • I spend much more time WORKING than just about anything else.
  • I would spend more time with hobbies if I didn’t WORK so much.
  • Sometimes I feel like my whole life revolves around WORK.
  • I often think that I should cut down on the amount of WORK that I do.
  • When I can’t WORK I get restless or irritable.

WEARING FUNNY HATS: The following statements concern how important wearing funny hats is for you.

  • WEARING FUNNY HATS has created real problems for me, but I keep WEARING FUNNY HATS.
  • Sometimes I only plan to WEAR FUNNY HATS for a few minutes and wind up spending hours on it.
  • WEARING FUNNY HATS takes up almost all of my leisure time.
  • I would be a lot more productive if I didn’t WEAR FUNNY HATS so much.
  • My family and friends get angry and tell me that I WEAR FUNNY HATS too much, but I can’t stop.
  • I often WEAR FUNNY HATS for a longer time than I intended.
  • I spend much more time WEARING FUNNY HATS than just about anything else.
  • I would spend more time with hobbies if I didn’t WEAR FUNNY HATS so much.
  • Sometimes I feel like my whole life revolves around WEARING FUNNY HATS.
  • I often think that I should cut down on the amount of WEARING FUNNY HATS that I do.
  • When I can’t WEAR FUNNY HATS I get restless or irritable.

ENJOYING LIFE: The following statements concern how important enjoying life is for you.

  • ENJOYING LIFE has created real problems for me, but I keep ENJOYING LIFE.
  • Sometimes I only plan to ENJOY LIFE for a few minutes and wind up spending hours on it.
  • ENJOYING LIFE takes up almost all of my leisure time.
  • I would be a lot more productive if I didn’t ENJOY LIFE so much.
  • My family and friends get angry and tell me that ENJOY LIFE too much, but I can’t stop.
  • I often ENJOY LIFE for a longer time than I intended.
  • I spend much more time ENJOYING LIFE than just about anything else.
  • I would spend more time with hobbies if I didn’t ENJOY LIFE so much.
  • Sometimes I feel like my whole life revolves around ENJOYING LIFE.
  • I often think that I should cut down on the amount of ENJOYING LIFE that I do.
  • When I can’t ENJOY LIFE I get restless or irritable.

And one more:

SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY: The following statements concern how important suffering needlessly is for you.

  • SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY has created real problems for me, but I keep SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY.
  • Sometimes I only plan to SUFFER NEEDLESSLY for a few minutes and wind up spending hours on it.
  • SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY takes up almost all of my leisure time.
  • I would be a lot more productive if I didn’t SUFFER NEEDLESSLY so much.
  • My family and friends get angry and tell me that I SUFFER NEEDLESSLY too much, but I can’t stop.
  • I often SUFFER NEEDLESSLY for a longer time than I intended.
  • I spend much more time SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY than just about anything else.
  • I would spend more time with hobbies if I didn’t SUFFER NEEDLESSLY so much.
  • Sometimes I feel like my whole life revolves around SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY.
  • I often think that I should cut down on the amount of SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY that I do.
  • When I can’t SUFFER NEEDLESSLY I get restless or irritable.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

Boy oh boy do the summer doldrums continue.  Unbearably hot weather and the all consuming fires of hell devouring our fair state of California puts the kaibosh on most fun outdoor activities.  Almost a recipe for an extensive gaming jag– not unlike those short day, long stormy nights of winter that almost force you to game to excess.

Sad to say, I haven’t had that itch much.  More acccurately, I’ve had the itch, just found nothing much to scratch it of late.  When I start digging through the old game box, you know its bad.

I got into the beta of Wizard101 which many have mentioned of late.  I’ve explored a bit, but am loath to say more without having explored more.  Suffice it to say the turn based card combat is interesting and a new twist.

To show you how bad it is, Mrs. P and I picked up a couple of shooters for the CONSOLE and we are anything but console players.  We do enjoy a good run around and shoot em up from time to time, but its like eating popcorn– great as a snack, but unless you’re still in college, hardly a meal.

Summer vacation schedules has kept the WoW group on informal status of late.  With our self imposed level cap removed, the horses, now unleashed, largely remain at the gate.  I’ve mentioned it before, but doing anything outside of an instance in WoW as a group is almost shooting yourself in the foot, groin and then head.  Diligent progress can be made as a group, but it pales in comparison to any focused solo effort.

As I managed to ding 69 and get a good way into the level, I did start to get that horse-to-stable itch.  One. More. Level.  20 chiclets… Its pretty tempting and watching the bar slowly progress from left to right on its (for now) last march has got me in that “lets just get it over” mood though I’ll see if it lasts.

Oh, I guess I should say something about Warhammer and the recent hoo dee doo.  I told you so.  Actually I didn’t, but lacking sufficient insight as to whether the sky has fallen with the announcement that 4 classes are getting cut and 4 out of 6 capital cities wont be in at launch, all I can really comment on is the fact that EA Mythic-no-just-call-me-Mythic has even less cred now.  Assuming launch is actually coming, seems like a crappy interview is probably the last place to Make a Major Announcement.  But then again, they’ve been blathering incessant jibberish for three hype-filled years, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when they developers run out of unobtainium to finish all the features marketing sold to the public over the last few years.  Of course how could the hype about the hype ever live up to the reality about the hype?

Another week or two like this and I think it might be about time to reload Age of Kings.

Pithy Insightful Commentary

Actually not.  Its just hard to come up with continuing variations on a “Weekend Update” theme.

WoW

The instance group is on temporary hiatus due to certain vacation plans, so while we are all about 68+, the slog up the final Hillary Step seems to be exactly that.  A slog.

We have been extraordinarily efficient in leveling almost exclusively via instance work once a week and only one other noninstance session each week which, particularly since the 2.3 patch, has allowed us to pretty much remain level appropriate for all instances with our modest play budget.  With the crack like concentrated xp that instance work has generated, its very hard to feel like you’re making any progress by “merely” doing quests.  Even more so when you’re running a group of more than two or three.

As Wilhelm, the Ancient Gaming Noob reported, we lifted our self imposed stay at level rule for our group since we were so close to 70.  Playing mostly with the group twice a week, I hadn’t really noticed how significant the solo bias has crept in.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m pro solo experience but I’m also very pro small group.

A week or so ago, I happened to take a Sunday– ostensibly a non-WoW day– to grind a bit to get over the hump to level 68.  Several of us were still stuck in the last half of 67.  In a matter of a relatively short time, I knocked out some green quests in Terrokar and Shadowmoon to get over the hump.  Others of our group, playing only during our “appointed” group times twice a week have failed to keep pace when doing non-instanced content.

No news here, but for the same amount of time that we play together, we make less progress than had we undertaken the same content for the same amount of time.  Playing with a group of three or four, we simply don’t make as much progress as a solo or group of two.

That’s frustrating.  Instance minimum is five but if I can’t make the same experience (or more) working together with a group for the same amount of play time, something’s borked.

EQ2

So much for WoW.  Mrs. P and I logged into EQ2 for a brief session and managed to level and nearly get another as we scale the teens and try to remember how to play the game.

Diablo

Like so many other bloggers, we took obvious note of Blizzard’s announcement of Diablo III.  Go them.  Despite the gameplay being so NOT MMO, I loved the original and will give them at least $50 as a nostalgia dividend.  If the multi works decently enough, I could see our WoW group trying to explore this game ad nauseum.

Others

Given my state of boredom with the MMO space, I downloaded the Spore creature creator and spent some time playing with that.  Lots of fun and I’m very interested in seeing what the rest looks like.

One of our instance buddies mentioned that he had been looking around for something else and mentioned Sins of a Solar Empire. I started drooling at the possibility of rekindling an RTS night.  Before MMOs, RTS games (C&C, Warcraft, AoE, AoK) ruled our universe for years and Sins seems like a good opportunity to go there again.

Blogosphere

I can’t believe the continuing “conversation” that has grown from Richard Bartle’s off the cuff comments “I’ve played Warhammer.  Its called World of Warcraft.”  or somesuch (I’m too tired to link the quote).  Raph Koster has weighed in and said that MMOs left more features of MUDs behind than they implemented.  A ridiculous quasi-historical discussion ensued on Raph’s site that seems to be racing to discover the Big Bang of the current MMO genre.  Most folks left it at  D&D was a major root influence from which all or most MUDs, MOOs, MUSHs, and later MMOs flowed.

So we owe everything to Gary Gygax’s Chainmail (R.I.P.) or Avalon Hill or Tolkien or Risk or Parchesi.  Meh.   Two questions go unanswered in all this conflated Gas Baggery:  1) Why hasn’t anyone innovated on the basic game mechanics in 50 years and 2) WTF happened to the single most distinctive feature of the table top gaming system that purportedly evolved into MUDs and MMOs:  the Game Master.

Absent the game master, the game is simply a ruleset, generally applied to static content.  No MMO to date has anything even close to the approximation of a real live breathing game master.  Therein lies the next generation my friends.

We can all learn how to kill Van Cleef as a staged, canned encounter.  Its the same whether its a group of 5 alliance mages or a mixed group of hordies or a level 70 warlock and 4 various classed noobs or whatever.  “Van Cleef pay big for your head.”  And you for the box and the subscription.  Make that encounter dynamic based on the level and mix of classes in the encounter– and what they’ve done in the virtual world then to date– and I’ll buy stock in that company.

Non Game

Finally, it warmed my heart to hear that the 73 year old Leonard Cohen stole the show at the Glastonbury Festival.  My faith in humanity may have been restored.

And the first tomato from my garden was harvested and it was good.

P out.