Monday, March 27, 2006

When You Dig

Sometimes a solution isn't obvious till you dig deeper.

I've been having problems with my computer for the last months since I got here. It'd shut down inexpicably, or crash with whenever I'd leave it on too long. I took it to the computer shop and they told me it was because my graphics card was old.

It never occurred to me what the problem was until one day, my wife complained to me that my computer sounded like it was choking.

So today, while my wife is away in Ohio, I opened up my computer casing and found the problem - a thick layer of dust over the heat sink vent. I cleared it out and voila - the computer sounds like it's working normally again.

Proves that sometimes, all you really need to do is to get your hands dirty.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Singapore the MMORPG

Edit: I stumbled across an article that pretty much sets out everything that is wrong with MMORPG's nowadays - but centering its analysis on WoW. Pretty much sets out what I write in less rambly language.

Having recently hit level 60 at WoW, I could not help but notice a startling similarity between WoW and Singapore.

For the benefit of those not in the know, level 60 is the absolute highest level you can attain in WoW. In many ways, it represents a coming of age. This is where your character stops growing and starts participating. There are many "60's only" places and quests. It's like getting keys to the executive bathroom. A whole new world awaits you.

Here's the catch. The game at level 60 is vastly different from the game at level 1-59. Strategies that once worked from level 1-59 absolutely do not work at level 60. At levels 1-59, you have many choices to thrive. At level 60, you really only have two choices to avoid character stagnation.

You either sell out, or compete for scraps.

Like WoW, Singapore literally hands you the game from levels 1-59. Sure, there are super-performers in school who get all the perks. Sure there are people who get crushed by the wheels of a merciless system. By and large, however, you -will- get a decent education, you -will- get your bellies filled, and you -will- enjoy a standard of living that, while not fantastic, is certainly comfortable. Singapore hands its citizens the equivalents of level 1-59. The system facilitates both casual participants as well as fanatic workaholics. You can choose to work hard, or not.

Once you hit 60, the environment changes. The strategies that kept you alive at levels 1 to 59 don't work any more. You realise that your NUS degree, and whatever few marketable skills you have means little and increasingly less in the big bad world out there. You realise that that you are largely helpless in spite of the fact that you may have worked your ass off during levels 1-59. Casual participation becomes nigh impossible. Only complete utter dedication will allow you to thrive - anything else risks stagnation. You realise that there are only two ways to achieve the end-game rewards. You can team up with people to get "raid" end-game dungeons, or you can fight other players in "(P)layer (V)ersus (P)layer" battlegrounds.

Teaming up requires having a skill set that the team needs. That skill set may not be the one that is most desirable to you, merely those most desirable to the team. The team does not care if you have hopes, dreams and aspirations of your own. The team only cares if you can contribute to help them slay Blackwing, Onyxia or Ragnaros. Except, if you've played WoW long enough, you will know that many raiding guilds are run like military organizations or corporations, and have more than their share of catass-ery.

"PvP" requires something else. It requires you to pit your skills with foul mouthed kids and teenagers, who have nothing better to do but to hone their skills in the Battlegrounds. Alternatively, you'd face a person who plays a character that is invulnerable to damage, can teleport from place to place, and can kill you with a keypress. In short, you remain breathlessly disbelieving and wondering why the system rewards loophole exploiters and the obsessed, but punishes the casual.

Both of these are not the problems. The problem starts when you are level 1 to level 59 - the system gives no indication of the problems you will face at level 60. All we get are anecdotes of players before us - players who have their own self-interest at heart when doling information out. The senior players are likely to have gotten ahead either by nefarious means or by simply "grinding" away while the rest of us casual gamers have lives to tend to. They are not likely to lobby for casual-friendly gaming. In suffering, they expect us to suffer along with them for rewards. These hard-core gamers exert a disproportionate amount of power and often lobby and obtain landscape changes that yet again favours them while stiffing us.

So you look at your options, and wonder why you pay dues for the privilege of aggravating yourself. Your eye starts wandering. You discover other MMORPG's, and wonder if they are just more worthwhile. Unfortunately, you have a sinking suspicion that jumping ship may mean a serious case of "Same Shit Different Day".

You know that the problem is not with the system, but with the inherent nature of man.

Chances are also that while you hate the problems with WoW, you have friends you made there. Leaving WoW means leaving your friends behind, and you just -cannot- do that. Ever.

So what do you do?

I'm still trying to find the answer.

Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Only Thing We Have

I had hoped to update this earlier, but the time between my last post and this has been a blur of activity and haziness caused by too much coffee and too little sleep.

Last week was spring break, except it was so bloody cold that no reasonable person would expect it to be spring yet, and I didn't have a break. The reason I didn't have a break is because I have started work.

Yeap, you read right. I found some work. The only shitty thing is, they want to pay me but I can't accept payment, since I'm still on an F1 visa. I'm working for free right now. No expenses claimed, no salary paid, everything out of pocket. Plus, I have to cross the bay 3 times a week, and each crossing costs USD$3.

Why am I insane enough to do this? The simple answer - I need every break I can get. I've already alluded to the difficulty of getting a visa sponsor. If I do a good job here, maybe, just maybe, word will get around. Besides, I promised almost a year ago that I will do absolutely everything in my power to stay. I'll not break that promise now.

Hope may be the last of Pandora's evils, but in the end, it's may be the only thing we have.

Plus, free beef jerky and cup noodles, plus all the apple cider, coke and coffee I can drink ain't bad.


On a brighter note, I have finally presented the work I've been doing with my professor. We just gave a presentation on Wednesday at Santa Clara University on "The Emerging Role and Voices of Women in the Legal Profession in China." Or something like that.

I don't remember much of it now. I was decaffinated on Wednesday. What I do remember is that the presentation went better than I expected. My ghoulish sense of humour and wisecracks were suprisingly well-received.

At the end of a presentation, a good-looking female student walked up to me and asked me if I knew her boyfriend, cos he's Singaporean and we all knew each other, right? I told her politely that we don't, or at least, I don't. Apart from Ben, who I know through blogging, I have no clue about the Singaporean population in Santa Clara U.

Would I like to meet them? Probably, but I have no clue who they are.

So, good-looking female student, if you happen to be reading this blog, I'm sorry I sounded really standoffish, but I was tired, drained and generally cranky that day. Plus, I really didn't know your boyfriend. Really.

P.S It'd be funny if it was Ben's girlfriend I met. I honestly have no clue. She didn't identify her boyfriend.