Archive | March 2017

Silence and Backtalk.

Right so people complain that younger folks talk to much – did they ever pay attention in school back when they were kids? Sure actions speak louder than words, but in school we were taught, as children, that we must use words over force if we are to have a meaningful impact on the world around us. Sure it matters in a stand up fight when someone is attempting to try and take your life that you must fight back, but when it comes to ideas punching someone who holds a different opinion is far less effective than replying to their argument with a counter-argument per se.

 

No the reason why folks complain is because there are genuine grievances that need to be addressed. Issues that matter to us must be addressed, and it was in school that students were taught to address issues that matter to them. Funny how older folks repeatedly comment on the younger generations when they fail to realize that it is the school system that has taught them to stand and fight; not the same as return fire or punches, but to stand for values they believe in. Now are all of these values meaningful? Perhaps. Yet they are attacking the end product and not the source – the source to which produces these folks is left untouched by some miracle.

 

Many of the skills and behaviours are learned, and it is in this environment that the younger generation learns to fight – learns to argue. Backtalk you call it? Okay, then questioning the Liberal/Conservative laws is backtalk, dodging the draft is also backtalk – refusing to accept your parent’s wishes of arranged marriages and the traditional lifestyles that you so happily boast about is also backtalk. Even questioning the raising of certain taxes is: “backtalk.”

 

Sometimes I feel they throw the word: “backtalk” out there as a way of saying: “silence – authoritarianism works and will always work because we say so.” Ever notice in the olden days that backtalk was followed with a slap to the face regardless if it was a man or a woman? Yes indeed folks, backtalk is what we call today: “suppression.” Suppressing the other person’s opinions until they have no courage left to voice it – backtalk.

 

The older folks are doing what old folks have done for centuries – they complain about the new because there is a lack of understanding. This is nothing new – ask your parents about their experiences the next time you visit them; their experiences could feel similar if not dangerously close to ours.

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They never understand.

Older folks tend to discuss young people as though they were aliens from Mars. Whether it is on the radio, television, or in online posts we have people describing young folks as A and B when the economy and the job market is forcing us to remain stagnate in our environments. People tend to view things from their perspective alone without examining things from the other person’s point of view, and like in war this can have costly results.

 

Imagine if when fighting a war you fail to understand the enemy’s capabilities: you under or over-estimate their abilities and you end up losing thousands of men and hundreds of vehicles as a result (not to mention weapons, food and so on that falls into enemy hands). This is the scenario we are faced as young Canadians when the older generation says things like: “why haven’t you moved out yet,” or “back in my day X, Y and Z were harder than today – get used to it!” Right, okay telling people to start getting used to poor economic opportunities and so forth is like telling those who suffered through the Great Depression that their lives were better than the Romans, and that the soup lines and jobless rates are nothing to worry about – great message (sarcasm).

 

Now this isn’t to paint all as unable to see things from the other person’s perspective – quite a lot of the “silent majority” tend to understand and we see them support young workers as best as they can. Hell were it the case that every older Canadian did this we would have a sudden spike in homeless Canadians, high drug use, and there would be a great risk of uprisings and riots in every province and territory – I doubt young people are stupid enough to be homeless employed (especially in minimum wage jobs with no chance of change or progress) without putting up a fight.

 

Even after you present them with the information regarding lack of affordable housing, a lack of well-paying jobs to start families or that many young Canadians start off with a high amount of debt as their education costed so much and yet gained them so little, even after all of that you will always get this answer: “I am older, I am smarter than you – shut up.” Ultimately they will never understand, and when we achieve stability and success we might repeat the same sins as our ancestors did and comment on the next generation the same way that we are spoken towards – cooperation and analysis are far off from reality, and are a pipe dream at best.

Mass Effect Andromeda story arc (Spoilers).

Six-Hundred years since the events of the Commander Shepard storyline, and here we are in another galaxy. Going right into the story you are Ryder, a member of a family of three (you, your father and your sister – mom’s dead, sadly) who have been selected to embark on the Andromeda initiative to colonize the Andromeda galaxy. When you awake your father is the leading human Pathfinder (each race has a Pathfinder assigned to the Arks that carry colonists) and you approach your designated habitat world – a supposed golden world.

Landing on the planet, you discover that the world is uninhabitable and thus the supposed golden world is a bust. Dad dies and leaves you in charge of the mission as the new lead Pathfinder (Sis is still frozen in cryo); from there you venture to the Nexus – the Citadel of the Andromeda galaxy (though not as well equipped as a modern city with bars, night clubs and so on). Upon arriving on the Nexus you discover that the entire mission has gone to hell and all of the other arks – Salarians, Asari, Turians and so on – have either gotten lost, or found that their designated golden world was a bust. Now given a ship akin to the Normandy (named Tempest) you venture into the stars to discover the mysteries of the Andromeda galaxy.

You encounter the dangerous aliens known as the Kett – a bunch of freaks that wish to convert everyone into their mutated species. You encounter a race called the Angara who have been fighting the Kett since they entered the galaxy and they ally with you AFTER you help their resistance rescue people just like how John Connor rescues humans from Skynet camps. You discover that the worlds in Andromeda are linked to a central network created by an ancient alien species that helps terraform planets so that they are habitable. Soon thereafter you discover the Salarian Ark held captive by the Kett, and after sneaking aboard and killing anything that looks like rocks on legs you escape and the Salarians are safe and sound. Note that you also find the Asari ark in the story; before the Salarian rescue mission you encounter the Asari Ark adrift in space and unlike the Salarians who chose to surrender to the Kett the Asari said: “hell no” and opened fire on the Kett. Long story short a famous Asari Commando is on board and ends up being the one who abandoned her Pathfinder so you notify the Asari (it’s a dialogue choice) that this happened and they choose a new Pathfinder – simple.

 

Soon after you head to Meridian – the supposed central network which turns out to be a giant floating city. After further discovery you find out that it is a key, and that the actual Meridian is off into the distance hidden within the Scourge – a giant dark energy mass that initially knocked your Ark off course. The Kett leader then takes your dear sister, now awake, hostage along with the Ark, and you go into Meridian to rescue everyone. Turns out Meridian is a hollow world like the world you wake up on in Halo 4, and you kill the Kett leader and the human ark is stranded on Meridian making it the new home for humanity in the Andromeda galaxy. The final cutscenes have you gather your crew to go out and explore the Andromeda galaxy, for you have finally made it to Andromeda after a 600-year sleep in cryo across dark space and with a home established it is time to explore the galaxy.

 

Right let us get this out of the way – no you are not Shepard’s kid or descendant as you leave Earth during the events of Mass Effect 2. When you go into Cryo and begin the journey you will have missed the Reaper War which takes place a year AFTER you have left. Bioware seemed to have wanted to skip having to deal with the Mass Effect 3 ending and so they simply have you leave before the war broke out – clever, right?

 

The facial animations also feel stiff at times. Sure I was initially skeptical of what Youtubers were saying, but after watching all five hours of the game movie (you can thank me later folks – up until 1am PDT to do this review for you) I can safely say that there are plenty of moments where the expressions of the characters feel stiff and emotionless. Witcher 3 managed to have emotion throughout the entire game, whereas here they only have some moments where they break a smile or have a gesture expressed on their faces – the rest of the time it’s stiff, Mr/Mrs: “I am serious like the Terminator.”

The story felt a lot like Mass Effect 1, but without a deep knowledge base to dig through about the galaxy as you are the first explorers who enter the Andromeda galaxy – the Angarans you encounter part way through the game really have little knowledge of their galaxy and so you are back to square one. Regarding aesthetics I don’t really like the space suit armor you are forced to wear throughout the game. Now the game movie has the Pathfinder wear standard default gear per se, but it just feels off; maybe it is because I am used to personalized armor with bandoliers of ammo and ornate power armor ie: Space Marines from 40k, but it just feels as though everything is all uniform and sterile – like there was no effort made to make the characters feel different.

 

Andromeda was an interesting story, and the new galaxy offers many opportunities for gamers to imagine what things would be like out there. Indeed the first world you encounter has floating mountains and flying creatures – something the Milky Way does not. Still, despite the mysteries of the new galaxy I cannot help but wonder why they just left everything behind to start a new life so far from Earth and the other worlds. Krogans I can understand, but Salarians, Turians and Asari were the dominant species back in the Milky Way, and at the time of the initiative setting off not even humanity had a decent spot on the council on the Citadel. Still, perhaps they desired something different, so off they went into the unknown, never to return, and never knowing how the Reaper War ended for the rest of us. The way they side-stepped the questions sort of bothers me, and again the story feels a lot like a re-hash of Mass Effect 1 – again without any history to the territory to which it takes place.

 

This is the point to all of it; Andromeda is a new beginning. Wherever you go, no one really has any idea what is going on, and they lack the knowledge of the worlds they inhabit to make it an easy ride per se. Andromeda ends off with a neutral ending (as I like to call it): the can have a sequel, or they can just leave it there if the game is not a hit with fans and create something else. There is room to grow, but whether that growth takes place or not is up to the developers – for now it basically sits like this: “colonists reached Andromeda: some got lost, some found their way, and soon they will have their own evolution in culture and technology separate from the Milky Way. This effectively means the colonists in Andromeda will never know what happened to the Milky Way, and we will never know if the initiative ever made it safely to Andromeda (600-year cryo-sleep to reach Andromeda means most folks will age out naturally (colonists out of cryo in Andromeda) by the time the visitors reach Andromeda – this also means a return trip is near impossible as once the Ark ship (only Arks can travel to Andromeda) reaches the galaxy it will be dismantled to provide support to the colonization efforts).”

 

Below is the link to the five-hour game movie, enjoy!

 

Mass Effect Andromeda game movie:

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Sometimes I take games too seriously.

Sure many of us like to add a level of realism to a game to enhance the experience, yet I often find that I get frustrated when things do not follow reality in video games. Take Red Faction Guerrilla for example: when you fight an overwhelming force with limited resources you generally do not engage them directly, nor do you make your actions overt so to speak. However in-game you are free to just drive up to a search party and open fire on them – throw a few charges at them and detonate them to watch the sparks fly.

 

Then there are games like Battlefield 1 where yes I myself am guilty of wanting nothing but Bolt-action rifle gameplay; I often only use a bolt-action rifle as it adds to the historical experience but also feels a a bit more challenging and different than the SMG fiasco that we see day in and day out in most shooters. Even the gas grenade had me frustrated and angry when people were complaining about it as being overpowered: my argument still stands as they should learn to move around and re-engage, but I guess the point that is to be taken from all of this is the game is first and foremost a game – games are meant to be fun, not realistic.

 

Paraphrasing from a Youtube video I saw a while ago, games get warfare “wrong” (aspects here and there – just bear with me here folks) because in reality warfare is one of two things: extremely terrifying or extremely boring. Were a game to be utterly realistic, first off the player would be fighting his character’s urge to hide, take cover, and so on. Second he would spend a good chunk of the game patrolling and guarding with little opportunities to actually fire his or her weapon – opening fire would be a direct disobedience of a standing order and could land you in a detention cell for the remainder of the game as per military justice codes (negligent discharge of a personal weapon is a punishable offense).

 

While realistic games like ARMA and so forth can be entertaining, we need to remember that games give a false impression of reality, and that the games themselves are simply meant to be entertainment. Sure one can learn a bit of history from some titles, basic tactics and what not, but the end goal of a game is to entertain – something reality, specifically warfare, cannot accomplish.

I’m not really bothered by the changes to Battlefield 1.

Remember my post a while ago regarding the gas grenades and people complaining – remember how I recommended they take to practicing dawning gas masks instead of complaining? Well I have said my bit on the forums, and DICE have decided to change the grenades of all types for the sake of grenade spam. Initial thought: “oh great, they bowed to the whiners.” Yet after reading through the bits of information available and seeing that they also modified other grenades like the smoke grenade from 2 to 1 on the soldier at any given time, and that the damage cloud time has been reduced by three seconds from 25 to 22 (roughly) I sit here feeling neither frustration nor happiness. After all I still have my other tools that the Scout class comes with, and the bolt-action rifle isn’t going anywhere (and neither is the bayonet) so I can live with these small adjustments.

Then there is also the addition of the Trench Raider class with the They Shall Not Pass DLC arriving shortly – melee-focused combat akin to what the First World War enjoyed all those years ago. Sure I lost a bit on the gas grenades, but we still have bayonet charges, awesome finishing animations for melee weapons, and now we have a melee-focused elite class to play around with: okay so I cannot gas you and then shoot you, so I will shoot and hack away at you – sounds much more gentlemen-like yes?

 

Ultimately I think at this point in time I am a bit too focused on other things in life to be angry and annoyed over a gas grenade in a video game that is marketed towards a general audience; there’s always Verdun and ARMA if I wanted something more hardcore, and I still can use blades, shovels and clubs in Battlefield 1 (and even more melee toys now) so I say it was a fair trade – I give up a stupid little gas grenade for a trench club and some melee fun, it’s like falling in love with Gears of War 3 all over again.

There’s something about an Alamo-style scenario in gaming.

Ever experience that feeling in gaming when you are drawn into a story that you know everyone dies at the end and yet you want to know how they die – how the end occurs. Listening to the Main menu theme (or Aloy’s theme – whichever the soundtrack names it as) of the Horizon Zero Dawn soundtrack made me wonder what it would have been like to witness the end war – the one in Horizon Zero Dawn where humanity went extinct and yet project Zero Dawn succeeded.

Now that Horizon Zero Dawn is released and we are wowed by its ability to capture our imagination and run with it, one wonders if they made a prequel game taking place during the war would that same sensation of amazement occur. Sure we all know the story and how it ends at this point; we the ancient ones lose our war with the machines and Aloy is born into a world nearly a thousand years later that exists after our time. Yet one has to wonder how the war played out much like how when Halo 1 was released many of us were itching to see/hear about how Reach fell to the Covenant.

Movies like Rogue One, and games like Halo Reach peak our imagination to wonder what a glorious final stand is like; what it feels like to sacrifice for a cause greater than one’s own personal survival. Sure a lot of movies have that: “I’m not gonna make it – go!” moments, but the story feels awkward when you can guess how the events unfold per se. The ability to capture an essence like the battle of the Alamo (as AngryJoe puts it) makes it all the more worth it when you watch Noble 6 fall at last, or when Jyn dies on Scarif as the Death Star nukes the base from orbit. Knowing how the story ends, you are itching to find out how these characters meet that end.

Why armies should Commission from the ranks more often.

Some fresh-out-of-college kid who partied their way through 4 years should not get to become a Lieutenant in a military that relies on all parts to work together (and properly) in order to fulfill its mission. Enlisted soldiers who show potential should be chosen over these fancy paper holders who have no real value beyond the fact that they graduated from university and can now brag about their achievements however minimal they truly are in reality.

 

NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers), especially senior NCOs like Staff Sergeants and so forth have to listen to these fresh butter bars (Second Lieutenants; the colour of their collar bars is gold hence the nickname) who may be smart if they listen to their senior NCO who grooms them for leadership, but ultimately they are in charge and get to be the boss from day 1 while the senior NCO who is the backbone of the armed forces has to listen to these brats – does that sound right to you?

 

Sure it may be a meritocracy in name: go to school and become an Lieutenant. Yet it isn’t a meritocracy when money is involved, it becomes a plutocracy where wealth determines everything (just let me rant here folks; one can argue that it is a meritocracy in that if you are willing to go into debt to earn your degree than your merit shines over your financial situation. I disagree that one has to go into debt to get ahead but everyone is entitled to their opinion – I am entitled to write mine here). Indeed the military would be wise to promote those who show potential to become officers rather than keep this ancient class-based rank structure that has lasted beyond its time.

 

Back in the day officers came from the nobility; wealth meant that they could go to college and their blood (that was the concept) meant that they were born to lead no matter the opinion of the common man. Today we know that to be a lie, and if we are to live up to modern values than this system of preferential treatment of university graduates over college or trade school grads who show leadership potential (even high school grads who seem fit to lead can be taught how to lead) has to pass into the pages of history. The United Kingdom does not have a requirement for officer candidates to possess a university degree, they just have to pass the selection course and attend the military academies that dot the country.

 

Commissioning from the ranks also saves money in that a candidate with leadership potential can go through OCS (Officer candidate school) and enter the service without the whole expensive testing that takes place in order to select fresh-off-the-street university kids who might even quit halfway – at least if the NCO quits it is not a total loss.

 

Ultimately what I am proposing is commission from the ranks more than recruit for officers via direct entry. Yes certain fields like medicine and legal professions need direct entry, but for logistics, combat, and other military-specific tasks promotions from within helps the organization to grow and gives young lads and ladies a chance to become better than their starting point – something many who wish to do so cannot afford to and thus end up stuck in the lower ranks for the entirety of their career. Why limit officer jobs to those who can afford to apply; open it up just like the rest of the government and make it so that people have a chance to truly live and breathe a meritocracy and its values rather than dream of one; dreams usually end when one wakes up.