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alverant [userpic]

Game Moral Choice Systems

August 19th, 2011 (11:05 pm)
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I don't play many video games, I tend to play a lot of a 1 or 2 of them. But I do like to watch Zero Punctuation on the Escapist (google it, I'm too lazy to add the link) review games and rant about them. One of his frequent targets are when a game decides to give you the player a moral choice between taking the good action or the evil action. The problem is that you can only have access to the really good stuff is if you go completely good or completely evil. And if that's the case, the game should just let you pick which path you want to take at the beginning and do away with the choices. He has a point. These are ROLE PLAYING video games where you give your character a personality. If you decide your character is good, but is prejudiced against say Dwarves and won't take the mission to rescue trapped Dwarven miners. As a result you don't get the Good Points necessary to unlock the Holy Nuke of Smiting or whatever. So this strawman game is basically punishing you for role playing, and that's wrong.

So how do we fix this problem? Well first be removing special abilities that require you to be consistent in your moral choices. The player should not be penalized for making choice that reflect what they want their character to be. Second there should be visible and tangible benefits for being good, neutral, or evil and you should be able to switch between them without loosing something more valuable. Here's a simple example, in this game you can be good, neutral or evil. Switching from one to another requires you to make 3 moral choices in whatever you want to be next before you're allowed to switch. If you're good, there's a chance all your attacks will immobilize an opponent in angelic halos for a brief period. If you're evil, there's a chance all your attacks will do some damage over time from poison. If you're neutral, there's a chance all your attacks will do extra knockback. So whichever route you take, you get something different and you can change your mind. You wouldn't have to switch if you don't want to. (Meaning you can do your 3 evil choices, get your poison, then make all good choices without switching and keeping your poison. But it would also mean people still treat you as if you're evil until you make the choice to make your alignment official.) So there you go, a moral choice system that gives you freedom while still meaning something.

alverant [userpic]

Patriotism

July 3rd, 2011 (11:35 pm)

American Independence Day is tomorrow (or today depending on when I finish this post). So I'd like to talk a little about patriotism, specifically what bugs me about it. Now don't worry, being proud of your country is not bad or something to be ashamed of. I love America, its freedoms, and what it stands for. What I hate is how the notion of patriotism gets abused.

First you have those who measure patriotism by how closely you match with their politics. You know, those who respond to criticism of their opinions with "Why do you hate America?" That's not patriotism, that's arrogance. Patriotism isn't a club to beat on people or a shield to deflect countering statements or a shroud to conceal things. During the Bush years, asking W uncomfortable questions was called unpatriotic. Ashcroft even said that questioning the President helped the terrorists. Now that Obama is in the Oval Office, all those people suddenly "discovered" descent was patriotic again.

Then you have people who are willing, even eager, to break the law to "protect" the country. The ones who think it's OK to commit war crimes if it keeps "us" safe. You don't show you love your country by metaphorically spitting in the face of its laws. That 24 TV series got people thinking that it was OK to torture ignoring the fact that not only is it illegal and immoral but also unreliable. Seriously, we got better information from terror suspects by offering them cookies (he was diabetic and talked after getting some special cookies) than torture. Those that approve of torture are just sadists who use patriotism to conceal how they get their twisted jollies.

Finally you have the most annoying and least dangerous are the ones who are just tacky about being a patriot. The people who act holier than thou because they wear a pin with the US flag. It's a short step from doing this to believing anyone who disagrees with you disagrees with America. But that was already covered two paragraphs ago. This is for the people who put the tattered plastic US flag on their truck or raise their $5 glass of warm manufactured beer in the air going "Whoooo 'Merica!!" at the monster truck rally or think they're showing their love for the country by wearing a swimsuit that looks like the flag (which can also be considered desecration technically). The people who cross the line from being proud to being obnoxious.

The real patriots are the ones who serve their country. The soldiers that serve, the police who protect, the volunteers who help and who do it because they want to help. They don't seek glory or fame or plan on getting wealthy. Their priority is to serve their fellow citizens and that's what makes them real patriots.

Thank you all.

alverant [userpic]

Tango Grill

March 6th, 2011 (05:05 pm)
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Tango Grill
5 W Jackson Avenue
Naperville, IL 60540
630.848.1818
http://tangogrill.com/
http://tangogrill.com/files/1109%20Sunday%20Brunch%20Poster.pdf

It's in downtown Naperville near the river. Don't make my mistake of mistaking Jefferson for Jackson. Since it is in the shopping district, you may have trouble finding a parking spot. I visited Tango for their Sunday Brunch. When I visited, it was pretty busy. No one told me until later that you order the featured tapas off a menu instead of going to the buffet. The buffet itself is small, salad, fruit, bacon, potatoes, pancakes, french toast, and an omelet station. All and all, a bit ordinary. You also get two drinks. It's the tapas is where Tango shines. I really enjoyed the Peppercorn skirt steak with veggies. I wouldn't mind making a meal out of that. The brunch menu in the above link was out of date, but that was OK. The food was pretty good overall, the problem was the mix between ordering what you want and going up to the buffet. Since it was so busy, it was a long wait between order and actually getting the food. Because it was so hectic, my waiter gave me a break on price. I know these things happen, so I tipped generously, basically giving him whatever discount he gave me.

If I were to go back I would first wait until 12:30 or 1 then I would go with a group. The more people you have, the bigger the plates of food you get. (You're suppose to share tapas.) And with the wait time, it would be good to have someone to talk with. Final grade A- with the aforementioned conditions.

alverant [userpic]

El Zarape

March 6th, 2011 (04:52 pm)
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El Zarape
325 W Front St. Wheaton, IL 60187
630.260.1122
http://elzarapewheaton.com/

This long-time Wheaton resident is on the NE corner of Front and Liberty near the train station. I've passed by it for years and never went in until recently. I'm not sure what it was before it was El Zarpe, but my guess would be a fast food place. The counter where you'd place your order is now sort of a bar but mostly it's where the cooking staff passes the dishes to the wait staff. It has the traditional markings of a local restaurant. When I passed by it before, there were almost always cars there and on my visit, even though it was on a Wednesday, it was pretty busy.

I ordered a torta to go after the train was a little late and dropped us off on the other side of the tracks. The sandwich was good, but the walk to my car and drive home left it a little cold. That itself isn't bad but the fries weren't as good as they could have been. That's not their fault but I'm not sure I would get take out there unless I was sure I could get the food home hot.

Which brings me to the reason why I haven't visited before and am unlikely to return, it's location. While being near the train station puts it very close, it's on the other side of the tracks the outbound train drops us off. So going there would mean crossing the tracks and going in the opposite direction of home. And after the train ride, all I want to do is go home. I only went because of a fluke in the train schedule. While the food was good and at an acceptable price, I don't think I really would have the opportunity to go back and if I did, I would more than likely want to visit a different place and make more of an event out of it. Still though, best of luck to the owners. Don't let my own habits keep you from visiting. B.

alverant [userpic]

Wok 'n Fire

March 6th, 2011 (04:37 pm)
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Wok 'n Fire
120 E. Liberty
Wheaton, IL 60187
630.665.1440
http://www.woknfire.com/

This is a new restaurant in downtown Wheaton's new building off main street just south of the tracks. It was fancier than I expected. Normally when I go to an Asian restaurant it's either a buffet or take-out. It had a modern, trendy feel with a line of purple lights along one wall. The entrance walls were rows of square drawers that were open to different degrees (it's just an effect, the drawers don't work). The main lighting was dark. When I first passed by it on the train, I thought it was closed due to the lack of light through the windows. The target customers were people relaxing after work who could take their time. The service was OK, but it took way too long to get my meal. The whole thing took about an hour. The food was pretty good and almost worth the wait. ... almost. I ordered a spicy tuna roll and sesame chicken. Both were artfully done with the spicy sauces poured over the sushi roll in lines and the fried rice for the chicken molded from a bowl. Honestly by the time I got them I was so hungry, I didn't care much about how it looked. The prices were a bit high, but reflect the quality of the food. Again, the target customers are business people who would probably use a company credit card to pay for everything.

Final grade B+. Definitely the best Asian restaurant I've been in for a long time. But it just took too damn long to get the food and it was a bit pricey. I don't think I would go back unless I was with someone I wanted to impress. The spicy tuna roll alone makes it worth going to. I would probably call ahead for a to-go order if I wanted it again.

alverant [userpic]

Why Comics are Weird

January 16th, 2011 (09:59 pm)
calm
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current location: United States, Illinois, Wheaton
current mood: calm

I watch this video series called The Big Picture where he talks about geek culture. He also reviews genre movies. We're about the same age and have some similar tastes so I'm more inclined to listen to him. He also doesn't talk down to people when compared to other critics and doesn't act like watching "Citizen Kane" or whatever should be mandatory. Anyway a line he frequently uses when talking about superheroes is "Comics are weird!!" with an echo effect. I've thought about it and he's right. Comics are weird and they suffer from some inherent problems with no easy solutions that will one day doom them. Now none of these are in any particular order or anything.

The first problem I see is that the typical comic has 12 issues and maybe an annual. Now a particular story arc in a comic book is about 3-4 issues so you have 4-3 story arcs in a year plus one in the annual which is either self contained or the climax to whatever story arc the comic is doing at the time. So we have 4 stories a year. One story has a new villain, two stories have recurring villains, and one story has to do with the characters themselves (especially if the comic has multiple protagonists). It's so long between issues that you loose momentum and not all story arcs are interesting or good. So subscribing to a comic is a commitment and considering the price of comics, an expensive commitment (well expensive to their target audience). When I was collecting them I would spend $30 a week or so and that was when they were cheaper!

The second problem is a bit of a paradox. Most comics take place in a richly populated setting with many interesting characters. So to know what's going on requires reading a lot of back issues that intimidates new readers. That really is a pity since most TV shows don't have that large of a cast and don't do crossovers.

The third, is related to the first. Since comics only do come out once a month, it can take years to get a good, solid mythology going. During that time there will be changes in writers, artists, etc. Each one will want to put their own thumbprint on the comic. Maybe one writer will want to change a villain's personality or powers or kill him off. Then some other writer will do something else with that same villain. So eventually you're going to get continuity problems. The more comics you have and the longer they've been around, the more of these continuity problems you're going to have. This confuses fans and even insults them.

On the heels of continuity problems, you have time itself. Superman is from 1938. Spider-man got his powers as a teenager in 1962. All the classic heroes should be retired, old, or dead by now but they look about the same age they did when they started. We see their origins, costumes, villains, gadgets, etc and laugh at how silly they are in light of today's technology and culture. They can't move with the times because if they try, you have the continuity problems. Most comics just ignore that the same way the old Transformers cartoon dealt with scale. They try to stay current but with only 12 issues a year and a huge cast it's impractical. I remember an issue of Iron Man (or War Machine) where one of the female characters comes out as a lesbian. Back then it was a big deal. Today it's a big so what.

Now for solutions. The solutions are going to be tough. They're going to hurt. They might not even work. The first thing you have to do is reset the world. DC tried this a few times and always changed their minds. Characters and events from before Infinite Crisis or whatever reappeared because the fans wanted them. Comics are a business and businesses need to listen to their customers. I know that. But this is one of those rare times the customer needs to grin and bear it.

Now when you reset the setting, not everyone has to start from the beginning. You can have Superman be considered the ultimate hero from issue #1 while at the same time Hal Jordon gets his Green Lantern ring. What's important is that you're tracking time as of this moment. Give each story arc a start and stop date in your world so you don't have different writers stumbling over each other. If Batman caught The Disemboweler on July 19th 2011, show him in prison when Green Arrow needs him to answer some questions a month later. Yes, this will mean it will be months between story arcs, but that doesn't mean you can't have flashback issues or have the clock run slowly (just as long as it runs the same speed for everyone). Say you started the clock at Jan 1st, 2011. It could be 2015 in the real world but still be mid 2012 in the comic world.

Of course if you're slowing down time, eventually the setting will become outdated. They'll be 10 or 15 years behind continuing along at a snail's pace. So you have to reset things again. But that's OK because it will give new readers the perfect spot to jump on. You can try something different and for some minor characters keep them the same, just advance their history X years. I wouldn't be surprised if this was already being covertly done but being covert is the problem. Spell it out. Put up a sign that reads "OK, new continuity now. Everything you thought you knew before may not be valid. Don't assume anything!"

Now the question is, will this work? For that I point to the Champions RPG setting. They have come out with new edition about every 10 years. They do exactly what I suggested they do with each edition. The characters get re-envisioned, continuity is reset, the clock starts ticking, etc.

They even manage to develop the characters some from the previous edition. For example, in 4th edition the heroes Defender and Solitaire had an attraction for each other. In 5th Witchcraft (which was Solitaire remade) and Defender actually started a romantic relationship near the end. Now in the beginning of 6th, we see them having a romantic dinner together. Another example is Dr.Destroyer, the setting's biggest bad-ass. His history has largely stayed the same but in each edition he kept getting more powerful and had new powered armor. And in the books, they integrate that into his past. My favorite is what they did with the villain group Deathstroke. They were introduced in 3rd edition. In 4th they hired a consultant who gave them new uniforms and added a new member while keeping their history from 3rd. (That history included a bit about how a Boy Scout troop sneaked into their secret base and defeated them with their own defenses.) In 5th they still kept their history and continued it using another 4th edition villain and wiped out all but the two original members of the team. The survivors were featured in the book describing the setting's prison for supervillains as inmates.

So they were able to both update the setting while still keeping a link to the past. Comics have to do it too in order to survive. Consider the movies. The Batman, Spider-man, Iron Man, etc did pretty well and were well received because they were able to mix the old and the new while cutting away at what didn't work. Comics just keep everything like a packrat and that's not going to work for much longer.

alverant [userpic]

Lu's Sushi and Chinese

December 28th, 2010 (05:57 pm)
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current mood: awake

Lu's Sushi and Chinese
579 Roosevelt Rd
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
630.858.8889

For as long as I can remember this location houses the stereotype cheap Chinese buffet. It was good and affordable and always a nice place to go. Well it's not a buffet anymore and that has colored the rest of this review. Gone is the long table offering pizza, egg rolls, and 4 kinds of chicken in different sauces. What has replaced it is a sushi bar. The place itself underwent a major renovation. There's a walled off area for larger parties done in a Japanese style tea room. Most of the seating is now small tables and booths. The carpet is replaced. And the back area for surplus seating appears to be off limits. Not many people were they when I arrived but more were coming.

I ordered a beef lo mein. Now that is a noodle dish I've had many times before and a non-meat version was always available in previous incarnations. This was the most tasteless one I've eaten. Usually it's made with wheat noodles. This was with mushy rice noodles and so starchy that nothing was really distinct. While reading the sushi menu I accidentally spilled some soy sauce. So I ordered their "Green River Maki" roll to make up for it. It was only $3 and had eel, avocado, and seaweed sprinkles. It was probably made in honor of Green River soda made in Chicagoland. The sushi was pretty good but took a really long time to be served.

Would I go back? Probably not. I liked it better as a buffet where I'd go on a Saturday as a pick-me-up. I haven't been to many non-buffet Chinese restaurants and this one didn't impress me much. Even if I've never been to that location before, lo mein is my standard and it couldn't get that right. D

alverant [userpic]

Spirit Day

October 19th, 2010 (10:35 pm)

Originally posted by neo_prodigy at Spirit Day

 


It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.


alverant [userpic]

Spirit Day

October 3rd, 2010 (09:17 pm)
Tags: ,

Originally posted by neo_prodigy at Spirit Day

 


It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes at at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.


alverant [userpic]

Tony's Steamers

August 26th, 2010 (08:40 pm)
Tags:

current mood: awake

Prairie Trail Center
County Farm and Geneva Roads
Winfield, Illinois 60190
Phone: 630-665-2050
Fax: 630-665-2095

This is the definition of a local dive. It has a large eating area with old video/pinball games. I went on a weeknight and it was almost empty. Still I felt I had to wait a bit too long for my order. The food was good, but nothing special. I ordered the gyro's special which is pretty much the same wherever you go. But this had extra chunks of feta and 4 olives which is more than other places. The hot dogs are suppose to be good, but I wasn't in the mood for them. The price was maybe on the high side of average, but when it's about $7, what's another dollar?

I'd give it a C. Nothing super, but nothing bad either. I'd go again on the way home from work if the mood strikes me. For the rest of you, if you're in the neighborhood and feel like going someplace that's NOT a chain, then go here.