Month: November 2015

Keyboards.

So I’ve developed an obsession with keyboards.  Well, I’ve long had an obsession with keyboards, but I now have a specific obsession with mechanical keyboards.

I’ve long spent more money than most would deem sane on keyboards and mice.  My logic: I work in IT, a mouse and keyboard are my tools, and anyone would spend money on a good tool for their job.  A carpenter knows the value of a quality hammer.  The keyboard is my hammer.  Analogy.  Logic.

However, not all carpenters buy too many hammers.  I’ve long been a Logitech loyalist; I own a K300, a slim Illuminated, and two solar wireless K750s.  Additionally, I have two M705 Marathon mice, a MX Anywhere 2 travel mouse, and a G502 Proteus Core gaming mouse.  I have a problem.

Logitech keyboards are great; they have a very consistent feel and build quality.  However, keyboards with mechanical switches are the BMW to Logitech’s Ford models.  I won’t go into why here (there are plenty of forums that explain it better than I will, like geekhack.org, reddit.com/r/mechanicalkeyboards, deskthority.net), but they provide a very sturdy and comfortable typing experience that is more than just “nice.”  My WPM goes from the 70s to 90s when stepping up to my Vortex Poker 3 that I spent too much money on.

Now I’ve started to really go down the rabbit hole, imagining a world where I’ve finally given myself a good reason to learn to use a soldering iron and planning to construct my own keyboard from scratch.  The thought is appealing, but it’s not easy (I’m not assuming using a soldering iron is easy) and it’s not cheap.

If you’re going to the trouble to build your own keyboard, you’ll probably bother to use premium parts.  I’ve discovered that premium parts are real expensive.  This is mainly because most are made overseas (Korea, China), and predictably overseas shipping is expensive.  Case in point: an aluminum backplate from Korea will cost 50% more than the too-expensive keyboard I just purchased.  Yeesh.

Now, learning how to solder is something I should already know how to do, and that will be an enriching experience.  Also, I already have some parts because I plan to sacrifice my other mechanical keyboard (SteelSeries 6GV2) for the cause.  However, building my own keyboard will probably cost north of $300 and a lot of time.

I still think it might be worth it; if I do well, I’ll have a real personal, well-made tool for my trade.  Something tangible and useful that I can point to and say “I built that.”  My job usually only provides intangible rewards (besides money, of course); this would be nice.

Now I just have a lot of learning to do, and some decisions to make.  Aluminum case, or acrylic?  Aluminum backplate?  Backlights?  What switches?  Keycaps?  Form factor?

I’m a nerd.

Advertisements

First Thoughts: Paladins Closed Beta

I’ve played about 15 matches in the Paladins closed beta, and I have some thoughts on what appears to be another Hi-Rez hit.  I had few expectations going in, little else besides “it’s a shooter” and “there’s cards and they do things.”  Those two things are correct, but there are some deeper, less-apparent things going on.

Firstly, most of the shooting appears to be hit-scan at the moment.  I’m not sure if that’s the intended goal long-term, but I like the decision overall.  Little-to-no travel time on shots means that pillar-humping or corner-hiding is less easy to do; you have to put yourself out there to deal meaningful damage.  That, along with the short range of some characters, makes combat feel immediate and strategic.

Secondly, the dual-stage process of objectives makes different characters better at different times.  Right now the only game mode involves capturing a point.  Once captured, the capturing team gets a siege cannon that then rolls towards the enemy fort.  The cannon will, if left unchecked, take down the two outer walls and then finally the enemy vault (which is the win condition).

When the objective is stationary (either capturing a point, or when protecting the siege cannon when it’s at the enemy fortifications), characters such as the engineer (who can build a turret) or the assassin (who has a time bomb) are better.  However, when the siege cannon is on the move, this flips the script and makes the more mobile characters more useful.  This can be bad at times, but overall it promises that most characters won’t dominate 100% of the time, simply by the nature of the objective changing.

Thirdly (ok, that’s a strange word), the overall feel of the game feels rather fleshed out and complete.  Movements and animations are smooth, and combat feels simple, but mostly complete.  I think the beta test is to truly test out the “twist” of game mechanics; the cards.  Cards are awarded upon leveling up; you’ll get maybe 3-5 per game.  You get a choice of three each time, and these cards augment either one of your core abilities, or can give a general buff.  The cards also give differing bonuses to your overall health and damage output; I believe this is a way to balance cards easily if some effects are found too powerful (or not quite powerful enough).

Cards seem to have rather basic effects at the moment, though that’s probably a good thing, since choosing a card in the middle of battle is a bit of a nerve-wracking moment.  Additionally, there’s a “recharge” mechanic that turns off a card’s bonus for a duration after you die.  This doesn’t appear to impact much though, since most cards appear to have a recharge rate that is less than the time it takes to get back into battle after dying.  I’d expect adjustments here, for sure.

I don’t quite understand why anyone calls this anything close to a “card game.”  The cards are merely representations of what most games call “talents” or “specializations.”  I know there’s a “preconstructed” game mode that is yet to be unlocked, but I still fail to see why anyone would equate the mechanic to anything like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone.  They’re just talents, presented in card form.  There some randomness to them, and unlocking new cards is presented similarly to opening a pack in Hearthstone.  It’s an aesthetic similarity, and nothing more.

Despite that, like the mechanic, especially with randomness.  I suspect that I’ll rarely play the “preconstructed” mode when it’s released, of only because the randomness of talents (pardon, “cards”) makes each game a bit different.  Small nudges to get people out of their comfort zone can be a compelling way to present replayability, and right now the card effects are not so dramatic to feel cheated by a bad “draw” or anything.

Anyways, Paladins is good and you should try it when you have the means.  The game so far shows a maturity in design that isn’t surprising when you consider that this is Hi-Rez’s third shooter game.  It’s clear they’ve learned lessons from Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend.  Global Agenda had many moments of brilliance, but fell prey to a metagame that wasn’t variant enough and mechanics that allowed for too much stalemating.  Tribes: Ascend was a faithful re-presentation of a classic that was just a little out-of-place in time and wasn’t terribly casual-friendly (though many would consider that a plus, for good reasons).  Paladins feels like a hit, and considering the company’s pedigree I now have high expectations that have been well-earned.

When brains stop working: a thought on thoughts.

I lied, this will be much more than a thought.  I’m long-winded.  Or long-typed.  Whatever.

I am sick and tired of people thinking and speaking in absolutes.  It is narrow-minded, lazy, hyperbolic, disingenuous, and probably a few more big words I’m not remembering right now.  It has come to a point where our entire society thinks this way by default, and it is horrifically damaging to our group intellect as a whole.
Part of the blame goes to the way we receive information.  News outlets far and wide have elected to present only two sides to an argument, when in reality there’s usually multiple sides to any problem complex enough to warrant discussion.  Even when there are only two sides, oftentimes one side of many arguments is so stupid and unnecessary that it’s clear we’re just seeing a debate or argument for the sake of entertainment.
Part of the blame goes to our fast-paced, time-crunch society.  There are so many ways to receive information now, but many of those methods aren’t real information.  If someone based their knowledge of the world only on what Twitter and Facebook tells them (and there are many that do), that knowledge will be lacking or extremely biased.  However, many feel that’s enough.  People want to get back to doing things.  Once they receive just a little information, many just check that box off in their head that reads “got news, no more needed” and go about their day.  Which is fine, until people start conversing and debating under the pretense that they’re informed, when all they have in their brain is the equivalent of a McDonald’s cheeseburger.
The rest of the blame simply goes to the base methods of which our minds work.  Fallacies such as confirmation bias have a wide, profound effect on conversation, debate, and argument.  Much of this is based on emotion, the great villain to logic.  Not to sound Vulcan, but while our emotions are valuable to the meaning of human existence, they’re fucking terrible at trying to be smart.  This is largely because most emotion-channeled thought is based upon negativity, which will inevitably lead one down very fallacious paths of thought, or ones that are wholly necessary.
What I’m trying to say is this:

– Getting impassioned about “welfare mommas” is stupid to begin with, if only because there are much larger fish to fry in our economy than a few poor people who have gamed the system.

– Assuming there’s only two sides to the gun issue in America is stupid, because there is no simple solution to the problem, and one side barely acknowledges a problem in the first place.  The other side often posits a solution that would result in more bloodshed than what we have.
– Presenting a two-sided argument to global climate change is stupid, since 97% or more of the scientific community have acknowledged humans as responsible.  Representing the 3% as one-half of a debate is like giving a national voice to a holocaust denier.
– Assuming that one side is always right or wrong about everything is stupid.  There’s no other word for it.  Even the craziest person will have a drop of wisdom, and even the smartest wizard will have a dumb opinion on something.
– Stop being stupid.  Do some research.  Make yourself smarter.  Don’t make assumptions.  Don’t take a fucking meme as gospel.  As for some fucking proof before you take someone’s word for something.