Bad News and Good News

blod1

This morning was a network and systems service day – that is to say that it was one of the odd days that crop up around four or five times a year when something is happening that either requires that one or more of the components of our network needs to be serviced or adjusted, or we are preparing to add a new device. This time around it was a combination of those two.

The first issue that was being addressed was an increase to the backbone for our network that was made necessary by complaints from the peanut gallery about the network speed when more than two users on the network are watching video via one of the video streaming services that we use.

Five years ago, when we realized just how little we actually utilized our Cable TV connection for the purposes of entertainment – and after a brief examination of the matter we also realized that more than 75% of the combined viewing in our house was via the streaming services of Netflix and Hulu!

One result of this was our cutting the Cable cord literally speaking – which saved us around $100 a month. Another result was the sudden and overpowering need to upgrade our physical network (only an idiot would try to stream TV via a wireless connection after all) which at the time was an ancient pair of 100bT 3Com partially-managed Ethernet Switches.

The way that our network is structured – due to it having two very distinct “zones” is simple: In the basement room that we have called the NOC (Network Operations Center) since the day we bought the place (it also doubles as my business office and library) there is a pair of system racks – a Standard black 19” Commercial Systems and Server Rack bolted to the floor along one wall, and a standard 19” Post-Style Relay Rack that is also bolted to the floor along the wall.

The former houses the various servers without which our network would be useless – including a very robust (and noisy) Dell PowerEdge Model 2950 II Server that also functions as a Virtual Server and provides the virtual presence of a variety of servers,from Primary DNS, Email, and a Wiki Server as well as a Log Server for the entire network.

It contains other servers as well – our Media Server on which music, movies, and TV show recordings are stored and a file server on which photos and files are stored. There is a dedicated backup server and a test-bed that I use for writing web applets and apps too.

The latter contains the network hardware – the Ethernet Switch, Firewall device, Router, and the DSL2 Modem that connects us to the world primarily.

At the other end is the upstairs office that contains my working hardware that I use as a writer – the bulk of which consists of video game consoles housed in a rather nice Ikea TV and Entertainment Center, while the computer bits reside in a standard black 19” Commercial Systems and Server Rack that is tucked away in the corner.

The two zones were connected by a single “backbone” Cat5e Ethernet Cable that theoretically provided all the speed we needed, right? Well no, not so much really. Because even though the switch could maintain 100MB connections between any systems that were on the switch at that end, those systems had to share a single 100MB connection to the other switch – which if you were at the wrong end of that zoned backbone happened to be our Internet Connection and you probably get the picture.

So these complaints about network speed had to be answered – and so the old 100bT backbone and switched were removed from the network completely, being replaced by a matched set of GS724T Netgear Gigabyte Ethernet Switches.

gs724t.jpg

Those two switches were connected via a pair of Cat6 Ethernet Cables that were then joined as a “Trunk” to create a 2GB Backbone. And that worked great for quite a while and at least until in addition to using the network for TV viewing via streaming services, my daughter was bitten by the MMORPG bug, and THAT was when speed complaints cropped up again – and why this service say appeared on my schedule in April of 2016.

The solution was simple – add a third cable between the two switches right beside the original pair, connect them and then add the third port to the Trunk, effectively giving us a 3GB backbone connection. And that did the trick!

I decided that a test was in order so, what with my PS4 having not been used in something like six months due to all of the review copies I had been getting arriving on either Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360, turning on the PS4 so it could patch and update made a lot of sense. Sigh.

The Blue Line of Death – or “BLOD”

The practically unused almost new but now out-of-warranty PlayStation 4 was fired up, and the following happened:

  • Its power indicator pulsing blue.
  • No video/audio output happened.
  • The PS4 then powered off after the annoying pulsing blue light pulsed a bit.

Consulting Google I learned that this was a general fault code; it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly what had gone wrong.

A quick log-in to Sony revealed that my PS4 was now 2 months out of warranty — that is to say the date had come and gone two months past at which I could have requested and received an RMA and gotten it fixed on Sony’s dime.

The price they quoted me – not including shipping – for the repair? $255 US.

That’s $255 US for a console I can purchase brand new for around $380 – so what to do? Pay for the repairs to my old console, or buy a brand new console for $125 more? The new console would have a longer warranty – and if I went the new route I was not locked into the bog standard black PS4 either – I could get a white one, or a limited edition version – the sky was the limit!

The thing is I absolutely required a PS4 as one of my upcoming projects requires me to have a working PS4 – so either way I needed to act on this now so that I could have a fully functioning, patched and updated PS4 ready to go on the morning of 10 May, when that project kicked off.

Interestingly enough I had recently experienced a similar issue with my Xbox One – and had opted in that case to purchase the Forza 6 Limited Edition Console because (a) it was on sale at the time, and (b) I liked the way it looked. If I was going to replace a console I might as well – I told myself – get something kick-ass!

You know that little voice in the back of your head that is supposed to help you in making decisions and in not embarrassing yourself? Yeah well, mine is broken.

swp24

Hello Limited Edition Star Wars Battlefront PlayStation4!

Oh and, while we are on the subject – when I logged into my Xbox One this morning and booted up Forza 6 to do a few laps I discovered that my custom Tunes and Livery Designs had both attained $50K in Community Use! Woot! So yeah, two Achievements worth 40g in total unlocked that I was so not expecting to happen! And how cool is that?

So far this week in terms of Achievements I am having a great week!

  • Forza 6 = 2 Achievements worth 40g
  • Hitman 2016 = 4 Achievements worth 40g
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division = 4 Achievements worth 30g

That’s a cool 110g in Achievementsville and how sweet is that?

Spring Cleaning

necroache

For most people spring represents a time of renewal. A period of the year that is suited to resolving outstanding issues, sorting out the old and unwanted. Making a new nest in which to, well, nest. They call it Spring Cleaning. Practically everyone does it.

It may well be a sign of renewal as the average person perceives themselves emerging from the winter grayness and perceives the bright light of sunshine, life-granting rain for the flowers they just know will suddenly burst out of the ground, and the promise of if not warm and pleasant days at the beach, at least a renewal of all of the things that seem to make life in the summer fun.

For gamers though, that does not quite describe their annual position as properly or accurately as you might think. You see for gamers – and especially serious gamers – spring is simply the marker for the approached END of the game season – not a renewal.

The renewal period – Gamer Spring if you will – doesn’t arrive until September, which is traditionally the start of the new gamer season which runs from September to May.

The months of June, July, and August are simply the fallow period between game seasons.

When Microsoft set out to create the new LIVE experience for the then new version of its games console – the Xbox One – a major element in that effort was to bring together in a more cohesive manner the basic presence of a set of resources that, arguably, Microsoft could claim to have pretty much invented.

I am, of course, writing about the Achievements System and how spectacularly it succeeded in creating a niche that – at the time of its conception – Microsoft had no idea it could fill.

Even Microsoft willingly admits that its Xbox LIVE Achievements system was created more accidentally than on purpose.

In fact it very nearly did not get created, as there were elements in the power structure of the planning committee who both didn’t grok the point of recognizing Achievements in games and, ironically, could not see how that sort of thing might appeal in any way to the gamers who were ostensibly the customer.

Hindsight being 20/20 it is easy to see now how the Xbox LIVE Achievements system and the manner in which it feeds into the whole rewards and recognition concept – and how it essentially provides to gamers on the Xbox platform a means by which their prowess and success – even their own notions of their value as a gamer – might be measured.

We’ve covered that part of the story quite well in the past – no need to go there now.

In fact the reason for bringing the subject up again is mostly due to an odd pattern that has emerged that has to do with a rather twisted version of spring cleaning.

The Achievement and the To Do List

Any gamer who has been even a little involved in online chat boards that service the gamer community has encountered the whole Achievement Hunter subculture in gaming.

These are gamers who quite literally believe that every “G” matters – a “G” being a Gamer Point.

It is entirely normal to find that members of that subculture display their accomplishments in terms of Gamer Score and Game Completion Status as a badge of honor. The signature line for their accounts on games chat boards and, for all we know, on their email client, carefully lists every game that they have managed to fully unlock the Achievements in.

They call it one-hundred-percenting and list the games under that heading. They often brag about the effort that went into acquiring that distinction – especially when it is for a game that had difficult Achievements – often nearly impossible to unlock unless a gamer is willing to literally train up their skills to do it.

To these gamers there are no Achievements that are simply not worth the effort. But that is not what this post is about.

game on

Left-Overs

This post is about the odd left-over Achievements that seem to linger in games that, by all rights, should have been unlocked ages ago.

These are not difficult to unlock Achievements mind you – they just never… Somehow… Ended up being unlocked.

If you examine the typical gamer’s Achievements you will find these – often a lot of them actually. I am just as guilty as most gamers in making lists of left-overs and devoting at least some time to completing them too.

Just the other day I found myself reviewing the whole left-overs situation for my own Achievements List on Xbox One, and without even actively seeking to, formed a plan to address the left-overs and get them out of the way and unlocked in less than 20 minutes a day! And yes, I do worry that I suffer from some form of OCD.

Before I knew it, I had assessed the situation and created my list of left-overs to be consumed – of which the sampling below is just that – a sample:

  • Angry Birds Star Wars – Block Buster (15g) Smash 25 blocks with a single flight of Boba.
  • Angry Birds Star Wars – Probe Gatherer (15g) Find five Droid Levels.
  • Assassins Creed IV – Devil of the Caribbean (40g) Defeat all 4 Legendary Ships.
  • Assassins Creed IV – Sharing is Caring (10g) Share each type of discovery with friends once.
  • Dead Island – Death Incarnate (50g) Survive Wage 30.
  • Dead Island – There and back again (30g) Explore the entire island.
  • Fallout 4 – Benevolent Leader – 20g) Reach Max Happiness in a Large Settlement.
  • Fallout 4 – Docile (15g) Have 5 Tamed Creatures in a Settlement.
  • Far Cry Primal – Gotcha (10g) Eliminate 10 enemies using hunting traps.
  • Far Cry Primal – Inflammable (10g) Eliminate 50 enemies with fire.
  • Forza 5 – P1 vs Nordschleife (20g) Finish P1 vs Nordschleife Rivals event w. lap time of 7:15.
  • Forza 5 – Sidewinder (20g) Earn 20 Perfect Drift Scores.
  • Forza 6 – Cashing In (20g) Earn 50K cr from the community using your Design.
  • Forza 6 – Making a Name (20g) Earn 50K cr from the community using your Tune.
  • Forza Horizon – Covered in Mud and Glory (20g) Win a Horizon Rally.
  • Forza Horizon – Stuntman (25g) Complete every Horizon Outpost PR Stunt.
  • Forza Horizon 2 – Horizon Enthusiast (25g) Complete 100 Championships.
  • Forza Horizon 2 – Well Traveled (30g) Complete 25 Online Road Trips.
  • Halo 5 – Gravelord (40g) Find and claim all Skulls.
  • Halo 5 – Warlord (20g) Win a match on all three original Warzone maps.
  • Halo MCC – Big Time Gamer (10g) Complete 400 missions or multiplayer games.
  • Halo MCC – Oh, These Baubles? (10g) Collect 6,000 campaign or playlist medals.
  • Halo Spartan Assault – Immune (100g) Finish co-op mission without becoming infected.
  • Halo Spartan Assault – Powered by MJOLNIR (20g) Use every ability in campaign at least once.
  • Just Cause 3 – Forgive me Father (10g) Take sanctuary in a monastery to clear Heat Level 5.
  • Just Cause 3 – Look at the Sly Fox (35g) Use barrel role to evade 10 missiles.
  • Mad Max – Maximum Air (10g) Be airborne in a vehicle for 4s and land w/o dying.
  • Mad Max – Up, Up and Away (10g) Fly the balloon at every Vantage Outpost.
  • Mafia II – Explorer (10g) Drive a total of 1000 miles in Jimmy’s Vendetta.
  • Mafia II – Massacre (20g) Kill 1000 enemies in Jimmy’s Vendetta.
  • Microsoft Bingo – Everyday Explorer (50g) Reach Level 30.
  • Microsoft Bingo – Mementos (40g) Complete three different collections.
  • Microsoft Solitaire – Blizzard of Bliss (30g) Win 100 Klondike Games.
  • Microsoft Solitaire – Web Surfing (30g) Win 100 Spider Games.
  • Minecraft – Overkill (30g) Deal nine hearts damage in a single hit.
  • Minecraft – Tie Dye Outfit (15g) Dye all 4 pieces of Leather Armor.
  • Sniper Elite 3 – Sniping with Friends (40g) Complete the campaign in co-op.
  • Sniper Elite 3 – The Everyman (20g) Complete all the challenge missions.
  • Thief – Legend in Leather (75g) Complete 25 optional Thieving Objectives.
  • Thief – Sleight of Hand (20g) Pick 100 Pockets in a single playthrough.

Now consider this – if you were a gamer who was very invested in your Gamer Score the sample above – which represents about a fifth of the left-overs I found in reviewing my Achievements – actually totals more than a FULL game!

The standard AAA title on the Xbox platform is required to have 1000g while games that are classified as “Arcade” titles only have to have 250g (I think – it used to be 200g). When I added up the g for the above I obtained a total of 1,040g.

Just to offer up a more complete set of stats I took a look at my games and Achievements list and discovered that I have played a total of 371 unique games over the course of my history on the Xbox platform beginning with the Xbox 360 (prior to that I was a fan of the PS2).

A quick check and I was surprised to learn that those 371 games have a total of 376,225g of which I had only unlocked 165,905 – less than half. Ouch. Of course that means I have plenty of opportunity in just the games on my list now, right? Right!

When I added up the rest of the list that I did not share above, it actually comes to 6,735g – which is more than 6 full games in basically, well, left-overs. But obviously based on the total sin the above paragraph there is more – way more – than 6 or 7 games worth of left-overs. Just saying.

What are your totals?

McDonalds Monopoly the Game

monopoly-game-boards

If you are into gambling the various state lotteries might just barely be considered a game if, when we say “game” we mean giving the state money for a ludicrous chance at winning a few bucks, then yeah, game.

Of course your ability to participate in state-sanctioned games of chance sort depends on where you happen to call home. Just for fits and shiggles before we get to the McDonalds portion of this post on games of chance, here ye must live if ye be wantin’ to partake of the Lotto!

So, for state-run Lottery we have 44 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Then there are three other not-states that ALSO have lotteries, those being the District of Columbia, and two US Territories: Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

————————————————-

Untitled

Check it out – the last two lines on this game piece are a Second Chance Code and the URL you need to go to to redeem it – and this may be found on pretty much all of the game pieces.  Hitting that URL up and entering each code gives you a chance at the Second Chance Prizes – a whopping $50K drawing chance!

————————————————-

The states (and territories) listed above have Lotto programs as well as scratch lottery games, but that is not the ONLY such offerings, as in addition to the individual state-run money printing machines known as Lottery there are ALSO some multi-state super-lotteries as well. Those are:

(1) The 2by2 Lottery – Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota.

(2) All or Nothing – Iowa and Minnesota.

(3) Cash4Life – Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.

(4) Hot Lotto – Delaware, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.

(5) Lucky for Life – Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and, new to this Super-Duper Lottery in 2016 are Colorado, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

(6) MegaHits Video Slots Lotto – Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

(7) Tri-State Lottery (Megabucks Plus, Pick 3 Day & Night, Pick 4 Day & Night, snd the Fast Play) – Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.


State-lotteries

A spiffy map covering the evolution of the lotto state-by-state courtesy of tuition.io


Now wait, you might have been thinking we are done, but no, there is still more! The following states, in addition to their standard and combined lottery programs, ALSO offer Networked Video Keno Games: Arizona, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Tennessee.

Then there are the states with legal casinos with casino games like Poker, Blackjack, and Slots: Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia, and of course the US Territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

Then there are the legal race track gambling states (either horse, harness, or dog or a combination of them) which are: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, as well as the Territories of Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

But hey there! We are STILL not done!

You see in addition to all of the LEGAL state-supervised gambling listed above, some of the First Nation (Native American) tribes in the following states ALSO have legal casino gambling on their Reservation Lands.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming but no Districts or Territories this time. Just saying.

So you might be thinking that the massive lists above would wrap up legal gambling in the good old USA right? Ah, but not so fast. You see in addition to the above legal gambling a much wider and more diverse casino, card, and other sort of gambling takes place in all but Hawaii, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah – and that is CHARITABLE gambling.

That last generally takes the form of specially-licensed “casino” nights for churches, and religions and NGO charities.


scratchgroup

These examples of scratch-off lottery tickets happen to be among the more controversial of lottery offerings – having been widely criticized for feeding into the addiction disability for the OCD sufferers of the planet, and ruining the life of countless families due to what has been said to be a gambling format that is simply too accessible.


Then there are the four states with legal Sports Betting (what is called Book Making) which are Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.

So to sum up the stats for LEGAL gambling in the USA by state, district, and territories, they are:

  • Commercial Casinos = 18 States / 3 Territories
  • Charitable Gambling = 46 States / 1 District / 5 Territories
  • Horse/Dog Racing = 25 States / 2 Territories
  • KENO = 7 States
  • Multi-State Lotteries = 33 States / 1 District
  • Native American Casinos = 30 States
  • Sports Betting / Book Making = 4 States
  • State-Run Lotteries = 44 States / 1 District / 2 Territories

Okay thanks for sitting through this lengthy list of legal gambling states and territories along with the associated stats. Why’d we do all that? Check this out: the McDonalds Monopoly Game? Yeah, it is legal in – well – everywhere! Want to know why?

McDonald’s Monopoly would be illegal in almost every state in the USA (and in a lot of other countries for that matter) without its interesting “no purchase necessary” clause.

Via its Facebook and Twitter accounts McDonalds alos offers second-chance well, chances. You see there are codes on all of the game pieces except the instant cash ones that you can enter into the online website for the game for a second chance to win a prize online at http://www.PlayatMcD.com — the prize being a chance to win one of five $50,000 cash prizes.

To win the instant cash you have to have the physical pieces. Which means you have to go buy some food at McDonalds… Or do you? Well as it turns out, no… No you do not!

You can get McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces without purchase (and without calories) by mail. The official McDonald’s Monopoly rules state that you can obtain free game pieces by sending a SASE to:

2016 MONEY MONOPOLY Game at McDonald’s
Game Piece Request
P.O. Box 49248
Strongsville, OH 44149-0248

Using this method will cost you two stamps, and two envelopes for each two game pieces you obtain via the mail method. Of course if you just want to get your game pieces the old fashion way – on food – here are some tips on how to do that as cheap as possible – listed by food item, the number of game pieces that should come on that food item, and the Cost Per Piece (or cpp rounded up) breakdown:

  • 10-Piece Chicken McNuggets (x2 game pieces) $4.49 ($2.25 cpp)
  • 20-Piece Chicken McNuggets (x4 game pieces) $5.00 ($1.25 cpp)
  • Big Mac Sandwich (x2 game pieces) $3.99 ($2.00 cpp)
  • Biscuit Brekkie Sandwich (x2 game pieces) $1.39 (.70 cpp)
  • Egg McMuffin Sandwich (x2 game pieces) $2.79 ($1.40 cpp)
  • Egg White Delight McMuffin (x2 game pieces) $2.69 ($1.35 cpp)
  • Filet-O-Fish Sandwich (x2 game pieces) $3.79 ($1.90 cpp)
  • Hash Browns (x2 game pieces) $1.09 (.55 cpp)
  • Large French Fries (x4 game pieces) $1.89 (.47 cpp)
  • Large (22 oz.) Cold McCafe Drinks (x2 Pieces) $3.39 (1.70 cpp)
  • Medium Fountain Drink (x2 game pieces) $1.29 (.65 cpp)
  • Medium (16 oz.) Cold McCafe Drinks (x2 Pieces) $2.89 ($1.45 cpp)
  • Oatmeal (x2 game pieces) $1.99 ($1.00 cpp)
  • Premium McWrap (x4 Pieces) $3.99 ($1.00 cpp)
  • Sausage McMuffin with Egg* (x2 Pieces) $2.79 ($1.40 cpp)

* Excludes the Sausage McMuffin without Egg version

When we do the math, if you are buying the food to get the pieces then it would be the Large French Fries (x4 game pieces) $1.89 (.47 cpp). So there you have it – the cost of playing McDonald’s Monopoly Game! Now on to the very interesting part – what pieces win, and what you can win!

The Winning Pieces

The following are the winning pieces along with the prize that they are worth – and the odds of getting the rare piece sorted by value of prize:

  • Mediterranean Avenue (#601) $50 Prize (Brown Set) odds are 1 in 578,543
  • Short Line RR (#626) $500 Prize (Railroad Set) Odds are 1 in 2,567,950
  • Vermont Avenue (#604) $1,000 Prize (Light Blue Set) Odds are 1 in 51,359,172.
  • Virginia Avenue (#608) $2,000 Prize (Magenta Set) Odds are 1 in 51,359,172.
  • Tennessee Avenue (#610) $5,000 Prize (Orange Set) Odds are 1 in 102,718,344.
  • Kentucky Avenue (#612) $10,000 Prize (Red Set) Odds are 1 in 102,718,344.
  • Ventnor Avenue (#616) $25,000 Prize (Yellow Set) Odds are 1 in 102,718,344.
  • Pennsylvania Avenue (#620) $50,000 Prize (Green Set) Odds are 1 in 102,718,344.
  • Boardwalk (#622) $1,000,000 Prize (Dark Blue Set) Odds are 1 in 513,591,720.

mcdgamepieces

So why is the 2016 McDonalds Monopoly Game grouped together with state lottery and casino gambling you might very well ask?  Actually the reason is far simpler than it may at first appear: The Odds.  If you look at the odds of winning the top prizes for this game, it turns out you actually may be better off going to the Casinos than playing Monopoly at least with respect to your chances of winning…  But don’t let that stop you – if you don’t play, how can you win?


What are the Prizes?

There are many but the most common will be the Instant Food Prizes – not the cash. Sigh. Here for your edification and excitement are the prizes that we know about:

Instant Win Food Prizes (The odds of winning a food prize are around 1 in 3.9)

  • Frappe or Smoothie
  • McFlurry
  • McGriddles
  • Medium Fries
  • Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
  • Quarter Pounder with Cheese

Instant Win Cash Prizes (Odds of winning around 1 in 45,000)

  • $25
  • $50

Collect and Win Prizes (Odds vary by prize amount see list above)

  • $50 Brown Set
  • $500 Railroad Set
  • $1,000 Light Blue Set
  • $2,000 Magenta Set
  • $5,000 Orange Set
  • $10,000 Red Set
  • $25,000 Yellow Set
  • $50,000 Green Set
  • $1,000,000 Dark Blue Set

Well there you go – and hey – this IS a game you know – so it totally deserves coverage here, where we cover games. That said, we think you should think twice about going on that all Large French Fry all the time diet. Heh.

Need for Speed (2015) – Getting Personal

nfs2015-0

Prologue

The Video Games landscape over the course of just the past five years has changed immensely, and not just due to the introduction of two new core platforms (Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One) but also as a result of a move towards altering its basic focus.

That sort of evolution is not strange to this subculture and the people who make up its citizens.  If you are surprised by my use of words like “citizens” and “subculture” perhaps you are not as deeply invested into the social side of gaming as you think.  Because in most respects the VG Community as a whole and the many specialized groups that essentially make up its defined subcultures are every bit a culture-based society of its own within the greater entity that we think of as human society.

That was not always true.

When the first Video Games War happened in the mid 1980s as the value and the quality of the games that were being created and sold was called into question by its own community, the idea that a cultural identity might be formed from something like a Video Game community was certainly not what might be said as a normal evolution.

In Japan they have this expression - the nail that sticks up gets pounded down.  What it means is that choosing to conform is often the best way to survive and even advance.

In Japan they have this expression – the nail that sticks up gets pounded down. What it means is that choosing to conform is often the best way to survive and even advance.

But as other media-based movements began to morph into their own basic cultural and social identities, the cataclysm that resulted from what we now consider to be the first Video Games War of the 20th Century ended up creating the sort of circumstances that naturally opened the door for just that sort of development.

To be blunt, gamers were angry over the process of creating what amounts to Shovel-Ware as cheap and fundamentally broken games were foisted off upon the game consumer community using tactics like misleading advertisements and worse, outright lies that were planted as reviews and/or social commentary at the time that totally misrepresented the substance of what the games were…  All of that had a decidedly hostile consequence with the community eventually turning against the bulk of the studios who were responsible for creating those circumstances.

Taking a look back, what we now know today thanks to the benefits of hindsight is that the publishers rather than the development studios were largely responsible for the decisions to push broken or shoddily made games onto the gaming public – publishers whose interest was solely and narrowly focused upon boosting the black ink contained in the bottom line in order to appease their shareholders.

When you add into that unfortunate reality the very obvious disconnect that existed between the publishers of the games and the studios that crafted them – and then factor in an even larger disconnect between both the development studios and the publishers with their collective relations to the Gamer Community, it gets a lot easier to understand both how it happened and why it resulted in the scorched-earth war.

In the plainest terms, the one side had no clue what the other wanted from their games, and in fact it can be pretty clearly pointed out now that the nearly violent reaction – the First VG War – was absolutely necessary because it was that level of reaction that was required to make the developers fully aware of just how badly they were disappointing their customer base.

Conformity is why there are plenty of supercars and expensive sports cars in the game.  That is expected and, in many cases, spending the time, effort, and the money to obtain this sort of conformity is also expected - if you only wish to appear to be a racer.   The genuine article however tends to choose their rails carefully, picking the best tool for the job - and rarely is that best tool a 911 - more often than not the best tool is a more common one - like setting up a Volvo as a Drift Specialist Car.

Conformity is why there are plenty of supercars and expensive sports cars in the game. That is expected and, in many cases, spending the time, effort, and the money to obtain this sort of conformity is also expected – if you only wish to appear to be a racer. The genuine article however tends to choose their rails carefully, picking the best tool for the job – and rarely is that best tool a 911 – more often than not the best tool is a more common one – like setting up a Volvo as a Drift Specialist Car.

That this conflict resulted in the majority of those development studios being forced out of business alone illustrates how serious the disconnect was, and why it needed to be fixed.

Put another way, the game development studios, taking their leads from the game publishers, were pumping out what amounts to the home-console equivalent to the type of games that were popular in the arcades and bars – the games that were being installed in coin-operated video game arcade machines basically.

The problem with that was, by the mid-1980s the gaming community had matured beyond that sort of focus, and was no longer interested in what was basically a recreation of arcade games for home play.

If a gamer wanted to play an arcade-style game, they would seek those games out in their favorite watering holes or video game arcades – and they DID on a regular basis.

But thanks to some ground-breaking RPG and Action-Adventure games that were created and released through the mid-80s that same gamer community now understood and – what is more – appreciated – what their home gaming consoles could REALLY offer.

So the idea of basically being offered recycled arcade genre drivel on a routine basis not only made them angry, it made the community feel (rightly as it turned out) that they were both being taken for granted and being told what to like.

Taking the job into consideration, if we were choosing the tool we would use for targeting just the Drift Events in the game, that tool would not be a supercar, or sports car, it would be something like this Mustang.  Large, heavy, box-shaped, but fully adaptable.  A car whose basic construction lends itself to solving the problem we wish to solve so that we do not have to completely re-invent the wheel to make that happen.  Just saying...

Taking the job into consideration, if we were choosing the tool we would use for targeting just the Drift Events in the game, that tool would not be a supercar, or sports car, it would be something like this Mustang. Large, heavy, box-shaped, but fully adaptable. A car whose basic construction lends itself to solving the problem we wish to solve so that we do not have to completely re-invent the wheel to make that happen. Just saying…

It got so bad in the end – before the war settled all of that – that a typical video game release had to make ALL of its profits from sales in the first 72 hours following release to the streets, because that was about how long it took for world-of-mouth to basically out a crappy game and kill its sales.

Logically the only possible solution to this situation – and the proper one as it turned out – was to stop making crap games and start to really put in the effort to both seek out what the community wanted, and then deliver that.

So in the end around 80% of the development studios that existed prior to the First VG War were forced out of business not by consumers choosing to boycott them (though they did do that) but rather as the direct result of their inability to change their business models to match the new economic imperative that had developed.

That is to say they did not have the capability to actually innovate – to create new games utilizing a previously established pattern that offered the consumer a larger ratio of entertainment versus cost.  Man that sounds so unlikely, but it was true.  The development studios were so used to picking a handful of elements from a list and then putting together a game whose sole creative elements came down to the colors that were chosen for the palate and whether or not some objects in a game blinked that they found themselves in a rut that offered no exits.

What was true then – and remains true – is that a good idea did not necessarily equate to a good game.  So when a developer managed to create a good game – which meant a commercially viable and successful titles that the consumers of that product actually liked – the decision to begin cranking out sequels really was not a decision at all – it was called a business model!

Now granted, when a sequel was rushed to the market the chances were that it was going to be lower in quality and entertainment than the original, but sometimes that was not true.  The Donkey Kong series is a great example of that – though to be fair Rare and Nintendo did not rush games to market as a general rule – sequel or not.

Still you get the idea – the quality and value of games went up, gamers were happy, and the game culture began to solidify into multiple sub-types based on things like platform and genre.

Practical very rarely equates to the use of words like "sexy" or "intimidating" but then, when you are building a drift car, or a sprinter, what you really want are words like "tight" and "fluid" and "efficient" because in the end the point is not to look good while you race, the point is to transfer energy as rapidly and efficiently as possible between your engine and those big, fat, sticky contact patches that attach your rail to the road.

“Practical” very rarely equates to the use of words like “sexy” or “intimidating” but then, when you are building a drift car, or a sprinter, what you really want are words like “tight” and “fluid” and “efficient” because in the end the point is not to look good while you race, the point is to transfer energy as rapidly and efficiently as possible between your engine and those big, fat, sticky contact patches that attach your rail to the road.

It was all good – some really great gamer series were the result, and from the late 1980s onward there was something of a gaming renaissance in play.

When The Need for Speed arrived on the scene it contained a collection of ideas that really resonated with the gamers of the time, and naturally the wizards behind the game saw great potential for it, as a game series.

For a long time – nearly a decade – the games that were being produced really worked well – they followed the basic pattern that the original had established, and they offered a predictable and quality game play and entertainment experience.

At some point though, as the original wizards were replaced by new and younger ones, the path that they had been following became confused.  Their direction was off, and eventually it got really off.  The format or formula, call it what you will, basically became a muddled idea that anything that involved racing cars was basically okay.  Sort of like what we imagine the situation was when the wizards behind Battlefield came up with Battlefield Hardline.  Just saying…

So when the decision was eventually made that it was time for the Need for Speed series to return to its roots, that involved far more than simply the creation of a great game following the original path.  It involved first seeing if it was even possible to convince the players that the wizards had the ability to do that!

So that is where they were when they sat down to chart out the path to bring Need for Speed (2015) to market.

The wide variety of models in 2015 allows for economical approaches to tings like setting up a bespoke car.  Using models like the 1975 Vovlo 242 and 1965 Ford Mustang for dedicated drifters, the 1986 Toyota Sprinter GT APEX and 1996 Nissan 180sx Type X for medium range sprinting, and the 1971 Nissan Fairlady 240ZG or 2014 Didge Challenger SRT8 for longer range Circuit Racing.  Sure you can buy more expensive models, but these hit the mark on a budget!

The wide variety of models in 2015 allows for economical approaches to tings like setting up a bespoke car. Using models like the 1975 Vovlo 242 and 1965 Ford Mustang for dedicated drifters, the 1986 Toyota Sprinter GT APEX and 1996 Nissan 180sx Type X for medium range sprinting, and the 1971 Nissan Fairlady 240ZG or 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT8 for longer range Circuit Racing. Sure you can buy more expensive models, but these hit the mark on a budget!

Need for Speed (2015)

By the time that the game released in November of 2015 the hype that had been generated around it, and the very dedicated and genuine efforts of the PRs who were behind promoting it, had succeeded in the most important parts of what it was they had been hired to accomplish.

They had, in essence, managed to communicate to the gaming public that this new game was both a reboot of the original game series, and that it would offer players the sort and caliber of game play that they not only missed but had come to expect from the series – and so found each of the last half-dozen games in the series to be disappointments because of those expectations.

That is simply amazing.  And not just because it seems reasonable that the wizards behind the games had to pretty much KNOW that was happening, but rather amazing because even though they KNEW that reaction was likely as they crafted and released game after game that failed to include the basic premise that the gamer community expected – but they CONTINUED to create those diverted games anyway!

Think about that for a moment will you?  They managed to so broadly alter the very basic identity of the game series so badly that by the time they got around to working on a series reboot, they had to PAY their Public Relations reps to explain to the gaming public that this new game was NOT going to disappoint them!  Mind blowing.  Simply mind blowing.

The typical mid-80s hot hatch never really looked boss or anything, but they were wicked fun to drive and hey, they got the job done.  Fast.  From a standing start.  A lot.

The typical mid-80s hot hatch never really looked boss or anything, but they were wicked fun to drive and hey, they got the job done. Fast. From a standing start. A lot.

Here There Be Dragons

When the game arrived – and for us that came in the form of a Digital Key that we needed to enter into our Xbox One to unlock a license for the game and then download it from the LIVE service – we were pretty pumped up because the PRs had managed to successfully communicate to us that this new reboot title would not simply revert the game series back to the style and substance we had come to associate with it, but would in effect give us a game play experience that was if not identical to that of the game that first established the series, was at least similar enough so as to make the difference inconsequential.

So by the time the game fully downloaded and patched, we were good and damn ready to be pleased.  Know what?  The game actually delivers on that promise and, even more important, despite being handicapped by the inclusion of a large amount of more recent game play mechanisms, also delivers a level of play, entertainment, and excitement that almost made the last five years of drivel worth it!

Easing our way into NFS 2015 was a complicated and rather slow process, largely because the expectations of disappointment kept getting in the way.

Once we managed to convince the little voices in our head that this was, in fact, NOT going to be the morphed interpretation of a combination of Hot Pursuit, Unleashed, and Wanted, we were able to start judging the game on its own merits, and folks, it has a lot to say for itself.

Making it Our Own?

One of the points to the evolution of the video game as entertainment that really stands out is how well it integrates its own story and game play mech while meeting certain personal expectations that are near-universal among the gaming community.

What I mean by that is actually pretty simple – this is a street-racing game within which the primary components are the streets, and the cars.

That being the case – and admittedly we had hopes – the ultimate expression of success in this case would be the ability for the player to not only find in the catalog of cars in the game one of their favorite models, but also have the ability to customize it.  And all that?  It is here.

Often times when writing a post like this it helps to present an example – so as to make it clear that those warm and fuzzy feelings of satisfaction are in fact based upon some real experience rather than, you know, a hypothetical one?

She was not sexy - look at that rear why don't you?  That said, and maybe she does have a flat butt, even so the '86 Trueno could fly like a scalded dog!

She was not sexy – look at that rear why don’t you? That said, and maybe she does have a flat butt, even so the ’86 Trueno could fly like a scalded dog!

1986 Toyota Sprinter GT APEX

In the 1980s there were a lot of cars that certainly qualified as performance examples – and just like any era you might care to designate, there were cars that ended up being slightly or greatly more popular than others.

In 1980s Australia (which is where I was and grew up) the go-fast choo-choo cars of the era that you often read about in race magazines about the street racing scene in Cali were mostly restricted to a small list of really expensive rails that nobody actually had in Oz.  Corvettes, Camaros, Porches, and the like, which hey, we would have LOVED to have but reality bites.

No, what you found in Oz – and I suspect that this was also true about America, the UK, and Europe – was a more reserved list of cars – mostly the sort that doubled as your daily transportation when you were not taking them out on the weekend to race them.

What am I talking about?  Well, this list is pretty representative of what you often found at the time on the street, actually racing:

  • Alfa Romeo Alfasud
  • Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro
  • BMW M3 E30
  • BMW M5 E28
  • Ford Falcon XP
  • Holden VL Calais Director
  • Honda Civic Si
  • Honda CRX HF
  • Honda Prelude
  • Lancia Delta Integrale
  • Lancia Delta S4 Stradale
  • Mazda RX7
  • Mini Cooper
  • Nissan 240SX
  • Nissan Z31 300ZX Fairlady
  • Peugeot 205 GTi
  • Saab 900 Turbo
  • Subaru GL-10 Turbo
  • Subaru GL Brat
  • Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno
  • Toyota W10 MR2
  • Volkswagen Golf Mk1 GTI

From that list there was a handful of cars I truly liked.  In fact one car in particular I both liked but could never quite manage to afford – and that was the 1986 Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno.  Yeah, compared to some of the cars that came later it was really more of a bare-bones racer than the jewel in the crown, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  And my heart wanted a Trueno!

With a base sticker price of $65,200 the '15 Ford Mustang GT is not exactly what we would call a mid-priced sports car and certainly she is not an entry-level model, but  her stock-standard 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 automatically qualifies her as a certified production-class   Muscle Car.  If you choose to bypass the dealer options and order her from the factory with the optional 5.2L V8 via the Shelby Conversion package you get 526 hp with 429 lb.-ft. of torque straight from the production line.  Sweet right?

With a base sticker price of $65,200 the ’15 Ford Mustang GT is not exactly what we would call a mid-priced sports car and certainly she is not an entry-level model, but her stock-standard 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 automatically qualifies her as a certified production-class
Muscle Car.  If you choose to bypass the dealer options and order her from the factory with the optional 5.2L V8 via the Shelby Conversion package you get 526 hp with 429 lb.-ft. of torque straight from the production line. Sweet right?

So you can imagine how stoked I was to discover that exact car among the catalog of cars available in the game.

From the get go I started out with a 2014 Subaru BRZ Premium – as that was the starter car I liked best from the three that I had to choose from.  Using that car I began doing races to get the bank I would need not only to buy me a Trueno, but then to afford to upgrade it.

I have reached that point in my game play.  I am happy – thrilled!  Tickled!  Very pleased?  To tell you that I now proudly race the following go-fast choo-choo Trueno:

1986 Toyota Sprinter GT APEX

Its performance specs are:

  • 0-60 mph (s) — 4.53s
  • 0-100 mph (s) — 9.67s
  • 1/4 mile (s) / (mph) — 12.70s @ 119
  • Top Speed (mph) — 166
  • Horsepower (hp) — 353
  • Max Torque (ft-lb) — 255

Bearing in mind that I am only Level 13 at this point and so am quite limited as to the kit I can buy, its present very winning load-out in kit and upgrades consists of:

  • Air Filter: Short RAM Air Intake.
  • Cooling System: Intercooler w/h 26 x 6.
  • Intake Manifold: Aftermarket Edition.
  • Fuel System: High Performance Fuel Injectors.
  • Forced Induction: Turbocharger EliteTune-TC2-B-PRO.
  • Electric System: Aftermarket Wiring.
  • Ignition: Stock.
  • ECU: Sport ECU Flash.
  • Engine Block: Elite TUning Ported Block v.2.
  • CAM Shaft: Aftermarket Sport Plus Elite 4 243 int / 283 exh.
  • Cylinder Heads: Sport Plished.
  • Exhaust Manifold: Sport EL Manifold.
  • Exhaust: Sport Catted Race Exhaust.
  • Clutch: Sport Clutch w/0.4s gear change time.
  • Nitrous System: 5lb Capacity Time Refill.
  • Suspension: Semi-Adjustable Sport Suspension.
  • Differential: Semi-Adjustable Sport Differential.
  • Tires: E/T-G2-MID-GRP SpeedHunters.
  • Brakes: Semi-Adjustable Sport Brakes.
  • Handbrake: Semi-Adjustable Sport Handbrakes.
  • Sway Bars: Semi-Adjustable Sport Sway Bars.

That is way beyond just respectible mind you – heck in the 1980s if you had told me that I would be able to get 252 Horsepower in that configuration I would have been like ?!  As in what the heck could I possible need that much for?!  What else HAD that much?!

I still think that using the right tool for the right job is the way to go - so if you are setting up a bespoke drifter for tight and twisty mountain roads you could do a lot worse than this one.

I still think that using the right tool for the right job is the way to go – so if you are setting up a bespoke drifter for tight and twisty mountain roads you could do a lot worse than this one.

And the thing is I would totally have better specs for this ride if I was just ten levels higher in XP because why?  Because the really good kit is Level-Locked!

In My Other Life

In addition to being a freelance writer who works the business and tech beats, I also write extensively on the video games beat as both a game guide and walkthrough writer, industry news journalist, and video game reviewer – yeah I know, getting paid to play video games, cool right?

That said, I reviewed Need for Speed (2015) for the Cape Cod Times – if you would like to see what my impressions of the game were in the review arena, head on over and check out the review at the following online link:

The Game On Review of Need for Speed (2015)

 

Tanker Pride

When the simulation strategy game World of Tanks first launched on PC it was a game play experience that for many simmers fell into the easy to take-it-or-leave-it category.  It’s not that it was not unique enough, nor was it a matter of lacking polish – in almost every respect it was – and is – a great game.

That said though, what WoT lacked was a strong sense of accomplishment via play.  Not that it failed to TRY to create that sort of feedback mind you!  I mean look at the immediate feedback and recognition scheme that it uses in the form of medals, ribbons, and performance award!

I just this very second finished a battle.  So let me tell you about it as that will surely illustrate what the game truly has to offer.  Oh, and I should add for the same of clarity and transparency that the round and battle that I just finished?  Yeah, it was on Xbox One.

t17td1

The T-18 Tank Destroyer – a specialized tool whose job was to hunt down and kill other tanks. To that end, they come equipped with a large bore gun and a combination of M48 High Explosive and M66 HEAT (High Explosive Anit-Tank) shells.

Somewhere in Germany there is a town called Himmelsdorf where a battle between two tank units has just wrapped up.  I was on the losing side of what the game classifies as a “Standard” Battle – but even so and as a consequence of my veteran skills, I came out of the battle with my totals in terms of both XP and Funds – on the plus (positive) side.

According to the summary screen even though my unit lost, I rolled away with the following:

  • $5,648 non-premium funds;
  • 442 XP
  • Master Gunner Award Ribbon – Scored at least 5 armor-penetrating hits;
  • Fire for Effect Ribbon – Caused more enemy damage than hit points on my tank;
  • Master Badge III at 50% – Earned more battle XP than 50% of the other players for my type;
  • x1 Critical Hit Ribbon – Damaged an opponent or crew member on an enemy tank;
  • x8 Enemy Damaged – Damage an enemy tank times 8;
  • x2 Tank Destroyed Ribbons – Personally destroyed two enemy tanks.

During the battle, which lasted nearly 15m, I personally destroyed 2 enemy tanks, did a total of 302 pts damage via 8 penetrating shots and assisted in 2 additional fights of which 1 of the tanks I personally “detected” from its concealment.

A closer examination of the results of my shots reveals that over the course of the battle I engaged a total of four (4) individual tanks, doing the following damage:

  1. Fabio BR1’s T16E-X1: 1 Shot for 36 Damage that destroyed the tank;
  2. K0rmil’s T2 Medium: 1 shot for 78 damage and I killed his gunner!
  3. Boysrule123’s T7 Car: 1 shot for 63 damage;
  4. Blindside62287’s T18: 5 shots for 125 damage and I destroyed his tankl.

On the enemy side the collection of tank types and tanks were:

  • G.Pz. Mk. VI (Class II) x1
  • Medium I (Class I) Medium Tank x1
  • Medium II Tank (Class II) x2
  • Pz. Jag. I (Class II) Tank Destroyer x1
  • Pz II (Class II) Light Tank x1
  • T1E6-X1 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • T-2 Medium (Class II) Medium Tank x2
  • T-7 Car (Class II) Light Tank x1
  • T-18 (Class II) Tank Destroyer x2
  • T-57 (Class II) Artillery x1
  • T-60 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • UC 2-pdr Tank Destroyer (Class II) X1

On our side (my unit in other words) there was:

  • Cruiser III Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • FT BS Artillery (Class II) x1
  • LTraktor Light Tank (Class I) x1
  • M2 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • Medium II Medium Tank (Class II) x1
  • Pz. 35t Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • Pz. II Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • Pz. Jag. I Tank Destroyer (Class II) x1
  • T1E6-X1 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • T-2 Medium Tank (Class II) x2
  • T-18 Tank Destroyer (Class II) x2
  • T-57 Artillery (Class II) x1
  • UC 2-pdr Tank Destroyer (Class II) x1

In the final analysis it seems that our mistake was having too many Light Tanks (we had a total of six to their three) and perhaps some of it was down to the fact that it was uban fighting in a town built into the side of a mountain…

Conclusions?

The Xbox One version of World of Tanks has managed to add something to the experience of playing this excellent tank battle simulator.  It is an element and feel I cannot put my finger on exactly or define, but it is sufficient to make all the difference somehow.

I recommend this game – which is truly Free-to-Download, and Free-2-Play!

NB

For this battle I was at the controls of my trusty T-19 Tank Destroyer whose name is

Halo MCC: Achievements Run Amok

Before we jump right in to the subject of this post I wanted to explore my special feelings for the word “Amok:” which, being one of those special words that sounds very different from how it is written – and how significant it is to expression an idea accurately.

The Word “Amok”

The word first entered popular usage in both English and Spanish in the mid 17th century, and its roots can be found in the original Malay word mengamuk – which is defined as “rushing with great frenzy”.

The origin is significant for a number of reasons, not the least being the general atmosphere for highly educated and verbally articulate members of society at the time.

Perhaps more significant (at least in terms of its strategic use in debate) is the fact that it contains specific emotional and even religious connotations.  It is fair to characterize Amok as being similar to the original meaning of Berserk, the two words sharing a fanatical religious origin.

It certainly helped in increasing the popularity of these strange words and ideas that there  was something in the atmosphere then that was very much like that of the habitual collector – and when we say “habitual collector” we are tactfully saying they horde… That comment requires some explaining…

In the mid-17th century the world was rapidly growing smaller, and not simply because everyone and their brother was outfitting small merchant vessels for exploration and trade, dispatching them to the far flung corners of the earth in the hopes of discovering some very specific goals that were widely believed to exist.

Around 1 in every 5 of these expeditions actually returned, and of the roughly 20% that completed a successful voyage, perhaps 1 in 10 returned with the fortune in goods and spices that their benefactors hoped for.  Dismal odds to be sure!

The European exploration of the Pacific during this era was largely inspired by four obsessions: (1) finding a faster and safer route to India by sailing into the sunset; (2) finding the fastest and most productive routes to the spice-rich islands of the Moluccas.

In addition to those two important considerations, there was (3) finding undiscovered sources for cash crops like cocoa beans (which recently gripped the continent in a vice-like habit of taking in the news – and the newest beverage of the elite – whipped chocolate); and finally (4) locating the route to the vast and as-yet undiscovered massive southern continent that simply MUST exist in the South Pacific waters!

A fifth consideration actually existed – though this one was what we might call a fringe element today, and was not widely embraced by nations or the leaders of city-states, and that is that the origins of social culture and wisdom originated not in Africa, but in the South Pacific!

Specifically it was thought that if an island so small and isolated as Greece might produce learned men such as Thales of Miletus, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Plato, what might the islands of the South Pacific offer?

Fame and Fortune via Patronage

The consequences of this rapid exploration though mostly unscientific was new opportunities presented to the naturalist and natural scientists of the era – men (and with rare exception a few women) who could go to the New World, spend six months collecting seeds, drawing plants, and classifying them, taking samples back with them to England or one of the more affluent European city-states.

A system of fashionable collectors and patronage existed that basically meant that any natural scientist who managed to defy the odds and get their new collection of notes, seeds, and best of all, live plants — back home — could depend upon widespread support to the extent that certain collectors of botany and keepers of rare plants would fight over who got to purchase that new flower!

Now add to that environment a subset of scholar-patrons whose interest fell in both the preservation AND the inclusion of languages, lore, history, and the like, and you can easily see how all of those language books, history books, and basic travel guides ended up being published.

To help explain the thought patterns of the era and color-in the personalities and how that all came together try to accept that for these wealthy sorts who considered themselves the patrons to the natural sciences, any triumph for one of the many natural scientists, biologists, linguists, and scholars that THEY supported was widely accepted as reflected glory for THEM.

So you see, when the book was published it did not simply contain a dedication to Mssr. Ronald Smythe-Blunt, Patron, but was credited as published by that patron.  So shared glory was largely the currency of the realm in terms of fame at the time.  Today we have YouTube.

You have to remember that this was a period roughly 75 years BEFORE Carl Linnaeus appeared on the scene and delivered his significant influence on the great value of learning and classifying the discoveries one makes in both the world and natural sciences!  More on that in a moment…

First though, consider this: the Javanese language was virtually unknown in contemporary and learned society outside of the small community of naturalists whose hobby-slash-profession included exploring the mysterious corners of the world, and what was at that time considered to be the last truly great mysteries – the South Pacific Islands.

While very few readers could tell you where the islands upon which these amazing words and ideas might be heard, words like Amok very rapidly entered the lexicon largely due to their colorful nature and a shared desire to be able to speak influentially.  That last bit was very important to the learned and those who thought that they were learned.

Amok Amok Amok!

The early use of the word – and the reason that it so quickly caught on – was as a noun denoting a Malay who was in the grip of a homicidal frenzy and on the attack.  Several very popular (read that commercially successful) exploration adventure books (these were a specific sort of adventure book that were a mixture of non-fiction and fiction, very heavily embellished and, prior to the mid 17th century, largely focused upon the dark continent (Africa).

You could do no better in scoring social points – and particularly among the diverse collection of psuedo intellectuals to be found in coffee and chocolate houses – to win an argument using a real word that was so new your opponent lacked the basic comprehension to know HOW to respond to you when you used it – and so words like “Amok” soon became the .44 Magnum Bullets of the day for personal dueling.

It may help you to understand why this was so powerful a phrase to consider that by its very definition an episode in which the person has run Amok was normally thought to end with the attacker being killed — either by bystanders or by committing suicide – and thus you can see how colorful it stands as a way to paint an adversary as being on the route to a Pyrrhic victory.

So Where is This Taking Us?

When Halo: The Master Chief Collection (hereinafter called Halo: MCC) was announced the fact that it was to include FOUR major game titles under ONE roof was not lost on the gamer community in general, or Halo fans specifically.

It did not take long following the announce for speculation to begin on how the Achievements would be handled.

It was widely accepted that the games would probably get a brand new Achievement scheme, one that combined game play rather than isolating it.  Oh man was that off target!

Not only did the wizards who were creating this new package opt to retain the original Achievements Scheme, they did so with no apologies offered – to the tune of 500 Achievements worth a total of 5000g (!!)

500 @ 5000g

Those two numbers are so large that they deserve some examination.  The first point is there is no way to use the traditional display system on either the Xbox 360 OR the Xbox One to set and display them.  There are simply too many.

As a result of this reality in place of the standard sliding row of Achievements what we received instead was a token sample in that format that, once the player actually moved to examine the remaining 95% of the Achievements was then forced into a PiP window in the form of a narrow column divided into two themes: Locked and Unlocked Achievements.

Okay that is not so bad really, and it is easily managed up to a point, for sure, but once you actually begin to dig into the first game (and most players pretty much started from the beginning) which is Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (or Halo: CEA) a curious pattern emerged.

The typical player ended up STAYING in HCEA mode far longer than might otherwise be the case, largely as a result and consequence of the Achievements!

Put this another way – most players were loathe to move on from CEA until they had unlocked ALL of the Achievements that they felt they likely COULD unlock, for reasons (we suspect) that have more to do with the ungainly display scheme for Achievements than anything else.

Oddly enough – considering that WE do not play these games strictly for Achievements or adding ‘g’ to our score, we also found ourselves being influenced by precisely THOSE concerns!

So what does that look like?  Typically we mean? Consider that for JUST Halo: CEA there are 91 Achievements worth a total of 855g (those do NOT include the Common ones, of which there are 71 Achievements worth a total of 895g!)

Loitering for Achievements and ‘G’

Using Halo: CEA as our example, the Achievements Scheme for the game is structured as follows:

  • Common Achievements – G that applies to ALL of the games equally / cumulative activities.
  • Story: Level Completion – 10 Achievements worth a total of 100g.
  • Conditional: Par Times – 11 Achievements worth a total of 120g.
  • Conditional: Par Scores – 11 Achievements worth a total of 120g.
  • Conditional: Terminals – 11 Achievements worth a total of 70g.
  • Conditional: Skull Collection – 14 Achievements worth a total of 85g.
  • Conditional: Completion Difficulty Levels – 4 Achievements worth a total of 70g.

The remaining Achievements consist of a collection of conditional events as well as multi-player events that require some rather amazing commitment from the player to fully unlock.

Put it this way – in terms of TIME, the soonest that a player can complete unlocking the entire Achievements for Halo: CEA is around one (1) month (depending on the day of the month you begin) since one of the Achievements can only be unlocked on the 15th of a month.

Notes:

“Common” = Achievements that are shared among ALL of the games.
“Conditional”
= Achievements that require the player to do specific actions for set results.
“Skulls”
= A collection set that consists of Skull Objects that when used perform specific game mods.
“Story”
= Achievements that are unlocked as part of the Story Mode for Single / Multi-player and so cannot be missed.
“Terminals” = A collection set that when used triggers an external news and notification system.

So because of the diversity in the design of the Achievements – and the odd display scheme as well as organization – most players (particularly those who are into neat and orderly game play in terms of Achievements) quickly find that there is no way for it NOT to be messy!

Because of that we find that a lot of players end up opting to stick around in CEA until they have taken the unlocking as far as they reasonably can BEFORE moving on to the next game in the series, Halo 2, where they do precisely the same thing!

Is that strange or what?

Now that you understand that – and we have very well defined both the meaning and the origins for the word “Amok” – can you think of a better and more accurately descriptive word to use for this instance?  Because if you can, I would really sincerely like to know!

The Deed in Practice

Recently a reader emailed me asking if I actually really and genuinely DO the things I write about?  Now as I am a firm believer in full transparency it appears to me that the best way to demonstrate that I do, indeed, do the things I write about, I cordially invite you to verify that which I say!

You can accomplish this UN-style Trust but Verify policy by loading your favored Web Browser and pointing it at any of the following URLs:

You can also log into your Gamertag Account on Xbox Live (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/) then select the following:

  • Log In
  • Click the “Friends” Tab
  • Enter “Recnef” in the Search Box on the Friends Page

You are sincerely invited to “follow” me if you like but please do not send Friend requests (you can follow w/o doing that).  It is NOT that I do not want to be your friend mates, it is simply that I have run out of slots in the Friends Scheme and I cannot accept new friends.

I don’t want you to think I am ignoring your request but there is nothing I can do about it if you do send one.  Just saying.

Note: You will need to select View Xbox One Profile for the details on Halo: MCC…

Not only will you be able to verify my G and Gamerscore, but for most of the above you can see details on the different Achievements including data like the date it was unlocked, what it was worth, and the like.

Happily you can ALSO see my G in other games, and even compare YOUR status to mine if you like.  And how cool is that?

As you will quickly note, I do not speculate, but put into practice that which I write of!

Xbox One Anniversary

Is it possible that the Xbox One is already a year old?!  Wow… That year really raced past right?  Because it sure is a year old!

So, hey… First before I say anything else: Happy Christmas!

Now that that mischief has been managed, the wizards at LIVE – in honor of the Xbox One First Anniversary – send me some statistical information…  I will share that with you below!  But hey, if/when they send you yours, share it with me, umkay?

The Xbox One 1-Year Anniversary Statistics for Recnef

  • Xbox LIVE Member Since: 2008
  • Hours Gaming on LIVE: 1,423
  • Position Among LIVE Membership: Top 5%
  • Xbox One Gamerscore: 7,750
  • Gamerscore Position: Top 5%
  • Achievements Unlocked: 474
  • Achievements Position: Top 1%
  • Total X1 Game Library Played: 12%

For the record mates I should mention that my actual Gamerscore – when we tally up the X1, X360 and Windows = 142,540