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June 2008

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I know I'm late to the party, but I picked up the Orange Box for $30 last month and tore through Portal in one sitting. What a great game.

Portal's gameplay is pretty straightforward: you're given a gun that can create two portals which allow you to traverse sections of rooms. It's a concept so simple, in fact, that it's hard to envision an entire game built around it, which is precisely why I find Portal so impressive. Despite its simplicity, I never felt bored, and the puzzles continued to surprise me all the way to the end.

The quirky running monologue from the AI character and the brilliant end credits really round out the game, too. It's easy to imagine these details being neglected, but the game is much richer for their presence and quality. Would people still talk so much about Portal had they not discovered that the cake was a lie? I doubt it.

For what it's worth, I've barely touched the rest of Orange Box. Don't let the short length - about 4 hours total - fool you: Portal alone is worth the cost of the Orange Box, and it's the best game I've played in the last few years. HL2 and TF2 are just neat little bonuses.

I've been hearing many Americans whine about gas prices lately. Many people here have chosen to live lifestyles that are based on cheap transportation - they've decided to live a long way from where they work in order to have more space to themselves. They drive massive cars because they've added only a minimal additional economic burden.

To some degree, I can sympathize with these people. They made choices based on the information they had at the time, and now that the situation has changed they're understandably frustrated. I don't exactly feel sorry for them, but I can understand why they're frustrated.

What I can *not* understand is the response I've heard repeated numerous times in the news, which basically boils down to:

"Why did the government let this happen? The government needs to do something about gas prices!"

When I hear this kind of crap, I lose any sympathy I might have for these people.

A little bit of background here: we supposedly live in a free society. With this free society comes the power - and responsibility - of personal choice. And when I hear people begging the government to come bail them out of the ramifications of their own decisions, I hear people who have decided that a free society is, you know, really not for them. I hear people who honestly don't *deserve* to live in a free society.

Guess what - the Government doesn't exist to bail you out when you screw up. It doesn't exist to provide you a nice padded room in which you can't make mistakes.

At its core, the government of a free society has two functions: to protect the core rights of the citizenry, and to protect the nation as a whole from external threats. You can certainly make reasonable arguments about what "core rights" includes, but I have a LOT of trouble figuring out how "cheap fuel" fits in there.

I don't care how things have been in the past - the market changes. If you can't adapt to change, it's not the government's job to bail you out.

I view the whole sub-prime collapse the same way - what did these people really expect? Why would you buy a house you can't afford? Sure, maybe prices keep going up and you can sell for more than you paid, but that's a REALLY risky proposition. No matter what anybody tells you, there's NO sure thing in economics. ANYTHING can happen. And if you take on the risk - either in driving a gas guzzler or in buying a house you can't afford - when things change, YOU need to react instead of crawling to uncle Sam.

And, for god's sake, KEEP SOME PERSPECTIVE. Gas prices here are what, half as high as they are in Europe? We're only JUST NOW getting to the point where people even have to *think* about fuel costs. This is a wonderful development - when fuel costs are high enough to impact purchasing decisions, the market will be forced to respond with more efficient options. If anything, the true cost of fuel has been hidden from us for far too long, and innovation has been stifled due to this.

Learn to adapt. Take nothing for granted. And for God's sake, DO NOT WAIT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS.

I originally posted this as a comment on a massively article regarding "old school" raiding in MMOs. A key quote was the semi-famous Furor EQ quitting post, where he complains about the Plane of Time in the PoP expansion.

I find Furor's quote there fairly amusing, as he was basically complaining about raid caps and the lengthy keying processes in PoP. EQ certainly did screw this up by requiring traditional zerg-raids to unlock the small raid content, but the smaller raids were the way of the future, and it was this that Furor really feared. EQ was actually on the verge of getting this right, yet here's Furor clamoring for more of the same, since his guild was configured for the zerg raids that were a massive barrier to entry for the competition.

What's really funny to me is that EQ's hard-learned lessons with raid caps had to be re-learned in WoW, which originally started off with 40-man raids and is only now going to fully support 10-man raids. So much legacy baggage from EQ seeped into WoW, and I can only guess that this is due to people like Tigole and other hardcore EQ raiders having a disproportionate amount of sway in the WoW development process.

I feel like WoW is turning a corner with Wrath, though, and the old guard is finally either losing ground or coming around to a more player-friendly view on their own. WoW is such a success in its own right that they have no reason to be looking backwards - unlike with Molten Core, where they apparently just asked "how did they handle this in EQ," they're beginning to realize that they have the freedom to finally make things right without leaning so heavily on the past.

It may have taken a while, but I think Blizzard has finally managed to learn an important lesson on their own - that in order to make a truly great game that appeals to the largest number of players, you really have to ignore the vocal hardcore minority. People who complain about 10-mans being easy mode, or welfare epics, or whatever... they just don't matter, and if you listen to them you make the game less fun for a majority of players. Hopefully future games won't have to suffer through the same process.