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Saturday, June 28, 2014

LOCK ON SHOPPING

SHOPPING

My friend who owns the grocery store I always go to had a bunch of ice cream stolen out of his external locked cooler.

Since the only locks protecting it are the usual cheap 'outside of westernized country piece of shit locks a grade schooler can defeat with a screwdriver' variety, he wanted new locks.

Since I know a little about locks, I went with him back to "Praktisch".  Translated from German, the store name is 'Practical'.  Think 'Home Depot'.

Since one of my particular beliefs/stereotypes/prejudices toward Germans is that they can build great stuff, we agreed that any German made locks would be much better than the OOWCPOSLAGSCDWAS variety most people get.

Like most shoppers, the store owner wanted to roam the vast wilderness of crap you don't need in hopes you stumble across what you came for before finding something you didn't  know you can't live without.

Because I am the kind of person I am (a Logan) I headed for the information desk.  Over riding his objections of "I don't think they can speak English" with "I am Logan!", I went and consulted the girls.

When you first start to talk with people in English, you can run into the "Oh, you expect everyone to speak English but you won't learn our language?" thing.  This is to be avoided as it goes nowhere good.

I do this by asking my question then immediately miming what I need in as funny of manner as possible.

If you come across as funny, friendly and maybe a bit insane, indignity comes hard.  Soon, friendly smiles and helpful directions were given.

They even sent a service guy to help us who spoke excellent English.  I complimented him a couple times on it and thanked him for his help.

The equipment was bought.  On the way out, I again thanked the information desk ladies and bid them adieu.



IS THERE A POINT?

Perhaps the biggest difference is that I'm thinking about how they must perceive me rather than paying attention to my internal monologue.  This could be because I don't find myself particularly important to listen to all the time.

Other people are very interesting to me.  I've always said I already know what I am thinking and feeling.  Hence, I try to be more outward looking.  If I'm mad or flustered this comes harder but when other people can tell you are actually paying attention to them and interested in them, they are happy to at least give you directions.

This did backfire a bit at the cafeteria I normally eat at.  Because I've taken the time to learn the girls names who work there and am always asking how they are and such, they tend to pile on my food a bit much.

And I've not the willpower to resist food...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MMORPG OVERVIEW

AND NOW, A NOTE FROM THE WRITER

Some of you are thinking "I thought this guy was traveling?"

Well, it can't all be poling down a jungle river.  Sometimes, it's just sitting around a city in Bulgaria for a couple months playing video games.

Fear not, in two weeks I will be again changing where I'm at.  I've no idea where I will be or what dates but I do know my destination is Mesopotamia and I'll have a month left in Bulgaria and the EU in general.

When I travel, I will write about travel.  In the meantime, you have the opportunity to learn about...



MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER GAMES (MMO)


What is an MMO?

This is a game which can support hundreds of people playing simultaneously within the same world.  The world is usually persistent - in other words, when you log off, it is still going.  If you don't have an internet connection, you can't play them.  Or read this blog.  Best to have an internet connection.


A short history of MMO's.

I'd like to note that this is in no way intended to be a complete or even factual history of MMO's.  This is what I saw happen and have interviewed more people who have made the games than I can actually remember.

Back before some of my readers were born, in 1997, a game called Ultima Online came out.  It had a lot of good things that were oddly missing from later MMO's such as the ability to dye gear, build castles, etc.  Sadly, it was most famous for the horrible people who played it.  Because UO was PVP (player vs player) pretty much everywhere, murder ran rampant.  Had there been a command to sexually violate your corpse after killing you, players would have demanded it be scripted in to make it automatic.  Within UO the most atrocities of any game I've heard of were committed.  Fortunately, just two years later something that sucked less in some ways - and more in others was released.

Everquest was released in 1999.  I have vivid memories of playing it on the last day of the year wondering if the Y2K bug would interrupt the game and send me out to loot and pillage with everyone else.   Sadly, the Y2K bug failed to shut down the world and allow us to slide violently back into the middle ages.  Fortunately, this allowed me to keep playing the game.  For another decade.  One of the things which thrilled many people about Everquest was that only a few servers were PVP - the majority were PVE (player vs environment).  On these servers, you couldn't kill the other players but instead concentrate on the monsters.  Well, that was the theory anyway, but the violent sociopaths who chose to spend time playing while planning their next killing spree found ways to kill other players anyway.  But it was still better than UO.

After Everquest briefly held a monopoly on MMO's, other ones such as Dark Age of Camelot came out.  People either left Everquest completely or tried these new games then returned to EQ.  And so it went until just a couple years later when the new gorilla on the block came out.

World of Warcraft (WOW) launched in 2004 and pretty much killed creativity for the next decade.  Because WOW was so overwhelmingly successful, every game wanted to be just like them.  These games became known as 'WOW clones'.  WOW did pretty much everything right and remains an addictive game to this day for millions of people.


What is going on today?

Currently, in 2014, people are beginning to think "If we make a WOW clone, we will be competing with lots of other WOW clones - and WOW itself.  We need to do something different."

Just three years ago (2011) Minecraft was released.  This game can either be played as a single player game (no internet required) or as a MMO.  What the game does right, and perhaps makes it the first well known 'sandbox game'.  Within 'sandbox games' the user decides where to go and what to do.  The opposite to this are the so called 'theme park' games - an example being World of Warcraft.  You go to this zone for these levels then get to upgrade to this zone for the next few levels and so on.

It is my belief that we will see a lot more sandbox games come out in the future.  This is heading toward what developers seem to have had a long held fear of - player made content within a persistent world.  While it would not surprise me to see more pornographic buildings and such, most player made stuff seems to tend toward the very interesting.


Cash Shop Games

Free game with a cash shop.  Because there are a limited number of potential customers out there and most of them are playing WOW, developers had to come up with another way to pay for the game.  There are many different styles of cash shops.  The least hated are those that offer only cosmetic changes to the character or gear.  The middle ranking ones give things which could be normally tediously earned within the game as soon as payment is made.  The most despised offer things which could not be gotten at all within the game but only with cash.

I'm a big fan of the cash shop.  The game needs to be paid for.  When computer games first came out, people would rush out to the stores and buy computer games.  They would take them home and install them to discover the games were buggy pieces of shit which were no fun and sometimes even broke the computer.  Upon returning to the store, they would discover there were no returns on open software.  This gave rise to the sale of personal shrink wrap machines.  With no charge for the game, buggy inferior products can be deleted without expending funds.


Platforms

Platforms are programs you load in to get games.  These usually tend to be crap bearing bloatware intent on smuggling bad shit onto my computer, like Steam.  I've yet to have any of the computer experts I know tell me platforms are benign.   This is a pity because the majority of games downloaded now come through platforms.   Until told otherwise, I will view them with the same suspicion as Skynet.


Graphics

Personally, I prefer realistic as opposed to 'cartoony' graphics.   Despise anime.  But this comes down to personal preference.


Complexity

The game complexity ranges from amazingly simple to Eve Online - a space game which has its own stock market.  The best MMO's tend to start simply and layer in more complexity as the game goes along.  Learn as you play.  The worst ones leave the user so frustrated and confused at the beginning they soon quit.


Point of View (POV)

Games are either first or third person point of view.  Although the majority of people seem to prefer third person, where you look down upon your character as they make their way through the world, I don't find it as immersive as looking through the characters eyes.



MMO'S LOGAN HAS PLAYED AND HIS THOUGHTS

Note that the years listed are publish dates.

Everquest 1 (1999):  Played for about a decade.  It's extra torture!  Tried going back to just take a look around the old worlds and get a bit of nostalgia.  Apparently, they didn't think it was complicated and fucked up enough - they've added new layers of pain and suffering.  At the time, it was the best available.  I'm just convinced the company who made it kills puppies for Satan.

Dark Age of Camelot (2001):  Played this back in the old days, it was fine for awhile and when it first came out gave people one of the first options other than the evil of Everquest.  Got old within a couple months.  Many people praised it for the three realm PVP (also now found in ESO) but I still remember people being 'one shotted' (killed in one hit, very unusual for normal MMO's) by rogues with bows.  Fortunately, the PVE and PVP areas were separate.

Anarchy Online (2001):  At first, I was excited about a science fiction release.  However, my suspension of disbelief didn't hold up with the combat.  For some odd reason, it seems totally reasonable that people can cast a lot of spells at a foe or bang them with swords and such before they die.  This is completely untrue at least with the swords.  Pretty much if someone gets hit with one they're going to either die or be in the hospital.  However, people can accept someone getting beaten several times with a sword - especially if their opponent is armored.  This doesn't work with guns.  If I shoot a squirrel with a shotgun, there will be blood and bits of fur left.  I certainly won't need to hit it with five to twenty shotgun blasts to dispatch it.  You do in AO!

World War 2 Online (2001):  The developers said "It's not ready to release."  The publishers said "Release it.  Fuck you, we want our money."  All MMO's have bugs, gliches and problems when they are released.  This game had them in epic proportions.  Not only was it horribly buggy, nearly impossible to get on to play, several hours to patch, etc - but it was poorly thought out.   My memories of this game involve sitting in a truck getting driven to a battle.  For over half an hour.  Seriously.  Imagine sitting in a truck for half an hour just waiting.  In real life, not a big thing but for a video game?  When we got to the battle area, I caught a bullet while getting off the truck and died screaming.  Realistic?  Sure.  Fun?  Hell no.  Even uninstalling this game was hazardous.  This may have been one of the games that screwed up your computer.  I remember thinking "Why did we ever do away with public hangings?"

Asheron's Call 2 (2002):  This one actually got me kicked off of writing for some of the publications on the internet.  I proclaimed the game a big steaming pile of shit.  Microsoft (the publisher) freaked out.  Time proved me correct.  Fuck the weak spines that stopped publishing me.  Besides, they didn't pay me.

Final Fantasy IX (2002):  Levels 1-10, kind and sweet.  Then you found out that if you didn't group, you wouldn't be getting any XP.  Really stupid looking monsters to kill that made me doubt the sanity of the artists.

World of Warcraft (2004):  Mentioned above, this is the standard by which all others are judged.  Not by me, I weigh them mostly against Everquest but this is the big daddy MMO.  I thought it was fine but pretty standardized.  Played it up to what at that time was max level then moved on.

Everquest 2 (2004):  This was a whole lot of 'what the fuck is this shit'.  Think I had that going for an hour or two before uninstall.  Considering it came out the same year  WOW did, I'm guessing some of the people who made it thought things like "So this is the taste of 'fail'..."

Dungeons and Dragons Online (2006):  This game did one thing very right and many other things poorly.  Their huge bright spark was a built in voice communication combined with a good looking for group tool.  If you wanted to find someone for the group, you'd just ask if they had a mic.  This allowed you to disregard all of the children and wildly inept people.  For a time, I had the largest guild in the game.  Eventually, I got bored of it.  Everything is instanced and they didn't have nearly enough 'viable' dungeons to keep people busy for all that long.

Wurm Online (2006):  Danger of installing this game is you have to manually uninstall it.  It just doesn't want to let go.  How this piece of crap has a couple hundred people playing it is a mystery to Logan.  Didn't last on my computer for an entire hour.  Horribly crude and user unfriendly.
Lord of the Rings Online (2007):  A rather bland WOW clone.  Played through it until they ran out of content.

Face of Mankind (2009):  Don't remember much about this other than it didn't stay on the computer for long.

Runes of Magic (2009):  Decent theme park game.  Smallish world.  The best thing about this game was they had interesting daily quests.  At one time, they allowed people to sell the currency bought with real money on the auction house to get gold.  Everyone was happy.  Unfortunately, people with fake credit cards were also happy.  This caused them to stop allowing this.  Their cash shop was a combination cosmetic and things needed to do well in the game.  Hence, Logan gave up playing.  It's basically another WOW clone but it gave me some fun while I was playing and has kept some people playing to this date - five years later.

Star Wars, The Old Republic (2011):  Honestly, if it didn't have the Star Wars logo and story on it, I'm not sure people would stand for the clunky 'what kind of crap is this' interface.  Hell, the Unreal controls (released over a decade earlier) were a lot more smooth and customizable.  This didn't last long on my computer.  It's hard to believe this only came out three years ago - I'd expect better programming.

Star Trek Online (2011):  In my view, an amazingly lame game.  Rather than being able to wander around and explore a working spaceship, you and everyone else become the spaceships.  Also, clunky controls for those rare times you are on foot.  Didn't last on my computer long which is a pity because I've been a big fan of Star Trek for most of my life.

Elder Scrolls Online (2014):  Most MMO's, you have to stand still and slug it out with your opponents.  This is one of the first games where movement is actually encouraged.  They have a decent crafting system.  Sadly, it is a theme park style game.  Due to incompetence, they didn't start with the programming to prevent bots (the computer playing with itself) and gold farmers (people who illegally sell in game gold for real money) so they've tried to implement preventatives post release.  Because these preventative programs are badly written, they often flag people who play legally as cheats and automatically ban them.  In over a decade of playing MMO's, this is the only game I've ever been banned from.  Twice.  Because I am currently banned I spent some time writing a MMO article. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

THIS IS ACTUALLY THAT PROJECT YOUR BOSS WANTED DONE

THE LITTLE THINGS

When you are travelling for a long time, you learn to appreciate the little things more.  Not every day is white water rafting in Nepal or exploring a souk in Morocco.  If you are not travelling solo, chances of your experiencing these things dwindles rapidly.

Some examples of things that have made me happy in Bulgaria:

+The lady who knows how to say 'cheers' in English and her entire table raising their glasses to you just to be nice.

+The waitress who laughs at your pantomime while you are trying to explain 'cheese' with pantomime.

+The cashier who is very excited when you say 'hi' because she knows how to say 'goodbye' in English and is just waiting to use it.

+People who think being from the USA is a 'cool exotic place'.

The Bulgarians have been extremely hospitable to me and I am enjoying living here.  After just a couple weeks I'd become pretty ensconced in the neighborhood.  People know me by sight and smile, wave or say hello ("dobry den") when they see me.



PLOVDIV

For just sitting and hanging out, it is fine.  I've no idea why (despite the glowing reviews things like wikitravel have given it) a tourist would come here.  One or two days maximum in the old town is enough to see everything.

I've been told that the local mafia controlled beaches are fine and the mountains are splendid to see but I've seen more than enough beach front property and fuck walking up and down mountains.  I enjoy cigarettes, food and alcohol far too much.



FUTURE POSSIBLE

The current plan after Bulgaria is Macedonia then Albania.  As I'm still addicted to playing my video game, renting an apartment and burrowing into the local scene like a tick is a very strong possibility.  Were I to spend three months in each of those non-EU countries,  that would take me well into winter.  I've no desire to see cold weather again for several years.  Tunisia is a strong possibility for spending part of the winter.  Perhaps Egypt will have stabilized by the time my Tunisian visa runs out and the rest of the winter could be spent there.  After that is a complete mystery.



QUEST FOR CLOTHING

After taking a repeated tour of a street in a taxi looking for a place not actually on that street, I got out and asked around until it was found.  Naturally, this was a high end athletic shop.  Athletes here don't seem to come in XXXL so I was referred to the local mall.   This was a surprise - no idea they had a mall here.  Found some t-shirts there in XXL size which fit like a surgical glove and are about as thick.  Not the colors I'd have chosen either but at a decent price of 10 lev each, I grabbed four.

To celebrate buying clothing which didn't really fit had a helping of McDonald's and self loathing for 12 lev.

As in all of Eastern Europe, your chances of having tomatoes added to a burger normally not containing such is impossible.  Offering extra money, threatening to kidnap their family and torch their house are insufficient inducements to 'have it your way'.  You will have it their way and deal with it.



TIP OR STAY HOME?

For some reason beyond my understanding, in the USA it is alright for employers to pay their waiters and waitresses well below the minimum wage.  They are expected to make enough in tips to increase their wage to a reasonable amount.  I have no idea how this 'culture of tipping' started.  Alone in the USA, you often get service showing the wait person cares about your happiness.

This is all well and fine but the wait staff regularly complain about people not tipping.  Having managed to stay out of that line of work  all my life, I can only imagine the frustration of doing a good job and not getting what you regard as your fair due.

Now, the reverse should also be true.  If the waiter or waitress does a bad job and receives no tip, this should be fine - right?  The tip is suppose to be for doing a good job?  Or is it just an 'entitled' thing?  The patrons of the restaurant paying what the management has managed to dodge due to the USA becoming a 'culture of tipping'?

Nearly every other country in the world does not tip or their tip is rounding up to the next even amount.  In the USA that would mean if your bill is $15.45, you leave $16 and everyone is happy.  Well, actually some wait staff would chase you down and attempt to shame you into giving more - but that's another story.  In the countries that have no tipping, the service is typically indifferent at best, horrible at worst.  The wait staff (yes, I'm sticking to gender neutral as both men and women are working at this job) in most countries typically stand around talking to each other, ignoring the customers.  They are paid just their standard (substandard) wage - that's it.

In the USA, if the wait staff stood around ignoring the customers, many - but not all - people would feel validated in not leaving a tip.  Others would tip a reduced amount, others would leave a full tip.

If the tip is 'to insure promptness', why do people give one for lackluster service?  Why is there an entire movement which states 'if you can't afford to tip 20%, don't eat out'?

Is it another symptom of our entitlement society?  It does seem a bit 'self serving' (pun intended).

Of course, if people who could not afford the 20% tip didn't eat out at all, would the restaurant be able to remain open?  If not, would that cause the wait person to have to find a different job?  This does not seem to have been adequately considered.

Some restaurants have even gone so far as to make tipping mandatory - thus ridding the entire reason for tipping.  You can get horrible service and still be forced to tip.

It is an interesting question for people who live in the USA but I don't think the answer will be difficult to determine - depending on the person's occupation...



COSTS

An entire lamb (guts extra) ready for the oven, feeds fifteen to twenty people or one American, 150 lev.

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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