IGN has an article on the problems with Square Enix and how to fix them. As usual, I think the article misses the point entirely.

The goes through 5 problems with the JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), in particular Square Enix. But many of these problems are common to JRPGs. This is an abbreviated list. Read the article for their points.

  1. Unreal Engine
  2. Presentation
  3. RPG Elements (cities and characters)
  4. Gimmicks
  5. More/Longer RPGs

Each of these miss the problem of the theme entirely.

The primarily problems, in my eyes with the genre are: no in game combat and no choice.

Let’s take Fallout 3, Fable 2, Star Wars: KOTOR, etc. All great RPG games. What do they have in common?

You see something you want to kill. You go over and kill it. No loading a combat screen. No battlefield creation. Nothing. You point your gun or sword at it and go at it. No loading. No time wasted.

The last JRPG I played, Final Fantasy 9, I believe..every time you entered combat, you had to go to a load screen, get your party to have some sort of lame “go get em!” shout then boring turn based combat ensued. After a while, I wanted to avoid combat entirely. It got tedious.

I just finished Fallout 3. Totally different. You see a group of guys to kill. You aim your gun and kill them. Take their loot and move on. The whole game existed in the same engine.

The difference is huge and important.

Another problem with JRPGs is their linear nature. You go here, then you go there, then there and there. I don’t want to be led through the game.

All the good RPGs these days happen in a sandbox. You do what you want, when you want. Oblivion let you take on tons of side quests and go just about anywhere and let you tackle the main quest at your own volition. Being led around by the nose through a game isn’t fun. When a game does that, it feels like it was programmed 20 years ago. Leave me alone. Let me play how I want.

If those two things were fixed or changed with JRPGs, I’d consider buying one. But if I see a game video that includes a combat load screen, I know I won’t be buying or playing it. If game programmers want to restrict movement to new areas before certain quests are done; that is easy enough if they follow the GTA model. Just make the access points to new areas “broken” until the proper point in the game.

On the flip side, I see a great way for game makers to cash in on the new era of downloadable content. I got the idea after finishing Fallout 3.

By the end of the game, I had 100 in most major/important skills (100 being the maximum skill level you can achieve and be “perfect” at something) and had enough powerful weapons to kill anything in the game with just a few shots – a few helpful perks to make it easier as well. (As a brief aside – there should not be an alien blaster in the game. The space alien is totally out of theme with anything else in the game – given that there are no real hints of aliens elsewhere. Unless that’s a future expansion pack)

Fallout 3, in a post nuclear world, makes it possible to have tens, if not hundreds, of expansion packs. Imagine New York in the Fallout 3 universe, or Chicago, San Francisco, even Paris or Moscow.

With the powerful character you have at the end of the story, any of those areas are not going to fun or challenging with a super skilled and totally leveled up guy. So, in the initial game, it makes sense to limit the maximum skill level you can achieve – by either giving you less skill points/level or making skills harder to upgrade as you raise their level (1 skill point/level up to 25, 2/level up to 50, etc) so that if you want to have 100 in “small guns” you’d really have to sacrifice your lockpicking or repair abilities.

That way, when future packs come out and the level cap is inevitably raised, you have something to work for. While exploring new areas as well. Thus, adding value to future expansion packs. If you have achievements that are only possible with either multiple playthroughs (10 points for 100 in small guns, 10 points for 100 in lockpicking etc) or playing through the expansion packs, you are more likely to get buyers for those expansions as well.

In short, I think – these days – that in the end of the game, you should not have a super powerful character, but an adequate one that can finish the game – even if you do every side quest available. That way, when future packs come out, you can improve your character more and become that super powerful guy, if you do all the expansion packs. That’s a future of gaming that I’d be glad to embrace.

Hot Air posts a story from the Wall Street Journal on the problem with stimulus packages.

Stimulus packages don’t work. Let’s be honest. They simply transfer wealth from people who pay taxes, to people who don’t. It’s a tacit admission that people who don’t pay taxes can’t save their money and will waste it. The graph at the link shows while the money is being spent, it is simply being given back to the people who pay the taxes – to catch up on bills, etc. It does not produce any new consumer spending.

Want to fix this economy? It’s as simple as 1-2-3 (maybe 4)

  1. First, have the government state no more bailouts. Give the markets some certainty to future action. If they think government cheese is around the corner, they have no incentive to fix their problems.
  2. Remove capitals gains taxes for 2 years. Set them at 0 across the board. Encourage investment.
  3. Reduce corporate taxes to 10% for 2 years or 4 years. Let businesses keep their own money.
  4. Reduce personal taxes to 20% for 2 years or 4 years. Across the board.

It’s not difficult. You don’t need $7 trillion dollars of bailout. You need people to keep their money – not spread it around. You need to encourage investment in the markets.

The economy can fix itself, just give it the means to do so.

Dear Citibank,

I’ve been a customer of yours for over ten years now. I have a credit card with you all – at exorbitantly high interest rates, I might add – that I have paid my bills on time each month, even when times were tight. Well, I used to have one, but we’ll get to that.

I’ve been paying down a balance I accumulated from Christmas shopping, nights out with the family, trips and vacations. I’ve built up balances and I’ve paid down balances. I’ve used my card responsibly; never built up a balance I couldn’t pay off. Didn’t buy anything I couldn’t afford and am generally a good customer with your company.

Now I hear that the government will be bailing you out because of your poor financial decisions. That your executives didn’t factor in certain risks when investing their money. And now you go asking government for money. What would happen if I did this? What would happen if i called up Citi and said, “I didn’t spend my money wisely this month. Would it be okay if I didn’t pay my bills for a while; till i had the cash?” Would that receive a positive response from you or not? Just asking.

Also, I make enough money so that I owe income taxes every April. Enclosed, please find a copy of my tax return for 2007 as proof of this. Because I paid taxes to the federal government; part of that money will now be going to you, as I understand it.

So, in addition to paying my credit card bills, I will also be paying the credit card bills for other customers of yours. Does that seem fair? Did I eat their meals? Did I wear their clothes? Did I go on their vacation? You can see how I might be a little upset about this.

So, Citi has already received $25 billion from the feds already. My portion of this, assuming there are 150 million Americans paying taxes is approximately $160. We know there aren’t 150 million tax paying Americans. Half of Americans do not pay income taxes at all. So, really, my share is closer to $300.

So, in return for your bailout, please deduct $300 from my current credit card balance to repay me for the loss I am incurring because of your poor management skills. Also find enclosed a cut-up credit card that I will be of use, I like to deal with companies who are at least as fiscally responsible as I am – If I had known I’d have the honor of giving you money without using your service, I would have never applied for a card in the first place.

Thanks for your attention,

Former Customer.

So I get Fallout 3 a few weeks ago. Here is the short review:

One of the best games I’ve ever played. Even better than Oblivion. Puts Fable 2 to shame and generally kicks major ass. Got an Xbox 360? Buy it. Do I need to go into further details? Why aren’t you playing it yet?

Okay. Now that the review is done. Some thoughts on Fallout 3.

The Scoped 44 Magnum. Using this item with VATS, seems to produce floating blood explosion bugs way to often, especially when you kill something. The explosions of blood keep recurring where-ever it was the bad guy was standing. Weird.

Radscorpions seem to have a problem with terrain. They end up looking like landsharks too often – just their stinger sticks up from the ground and they can’t be killed or attacked. Which is fine. I hate radscorpions. Not as much as Death Claws, though.

Nuka Cola Challenge. As a reward, you get plans for a Nuka Grenade. Eh? She still wants you to sell her Nuka Cola Quantums, but gives you plans to make grenades from them? Conflict of Interest, much?

Tranquility Lane (the quest where you find your Dad). Just thought it was weird that both Fable 2 and Fallout 3 have a part in the game where you revert to “child hood” so as to not make your gun and/or skills the determining event. Didn’t care for this quest – particularly because I couldn’t solve the musical puzzle (if it is a puzzle) in the abandoned house). Radio, Pitcher, Gnome, Pitcher … then every item buzzes at me. Odd.

Finding the Declaration of Independence. So far, the end of this quest is the best. The robot who thinks he’s one of the signers? Classic. Loved it. Think I wasted all the other ones on the way to finding him though.

Deathclaws. These dudes seem to love to wander around campsites a lot. Odd.

Making Weapons. Other than the Shiskebob, they seem worthless. The railway rifle does half decent damage. But I’d much rather have a combat shotgun.

Best Weapon Combo. Distance: Minuteman’s Rifle (or something like that. I’ll fix the name) – you get it from a guy in the top west of the map. 3 shot clip. Better damage than a sniper rifle, though. Combat Shotgun for close combat. Shiskebob for melee combat (easy to kill animals) and the Chinese Assault Rifle. I also keep a minigun, scoped 44 and 10mm sub machine gun in inventory as well. Never use the sub machine gun, though.

Mutant Behemoths. I found 2 so far. Both times, I could fight them when I chose. They take forever to kill with a minigun. Next time, I’ll actually use a mini-nuke. Wanna see how that looks!

Picking Locks. Awesome. It’s done 100 times better than Oblivion. The hard locks require some actually skill.

Hacking Computers. I suck at it. I’m too lazy to think about it but when I do, I can usually get it. Love how it’s handled though.

Bethesda Works. Damn you for making games that make me play for 4 hours in a row. I hate you. I love you. DamnĀ  you, either way.

VATS. While I like the system (who can’t? Blowing heads off people never gets old), it sucks that you are forced to use it, practically. Your weapons do so much more damage in VATS. And for a game where conserving ammo is (somewhat) important; it’s a necessity. There are good and bad sides to the thing. Watching videos of it prior to release, I thought “this is dumb” but the game totally works with it.

Scrounging. This is a game for people who love to look at the ground and scrounge for a random bullet. If you enjoy that. You’ll love this game. So much to see, find and do.

The Dog. Look; even though I knew I got a dog at some point, it was never apparent “where” to get it. I found it, when I was at level 19. The thing lived for like an hour. Should’ve been made more obvious to obtain. In Megaton or something.

Vampires. I like the way this was handled. Unique take on them and I thought it was interesting.

Some reviews say that the game makes it difficult to get to level 20. Horse pooey. I’m at 20 and I have barely touched the main quest – or maybe I have. Who knows. I’m just shooting things in the head.

I’d suggest to people just starting to get the perk where “you get 2 points for every book read, instead of 1″ as soon as possible. It makes a huge difference. There are tons of books to find, especially if you explore a lot. Bobble heads seem to be a lot harder to find. I’ve found 6 and I’ve done well over 100 locations so far. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough.

If you think you want to take the perk that instantly takes you from level 10 to 11; don’t bother. I did it and I regret it. That perk is better used for something that benefits you all the time; rather than one that disappears like that.

That’s it for now. Great game. Love it. Best ever. Yes; it’s Oblivion with Guns. And Nukes. Do I care? Hell no! My only problem with Oblivion: It got boring at higher levels cuz nothing could hurt you. It’s not a problem in this game. The balance seems there, either they overload you with Raiders or they put Mutant Brutes everywhere to beat you up. Do wish there was more monster variety though.

Well, we all expected it and now it’s here. UPS and FedEx have once again raised their rates. So, in 2009, it will cost about 60 cents more to ship a package than in 2008. More or less, depending on weight, where it’s going, etc. Lots of facts. But assume $10 in shipping costs.

According to our UPS Sales Guy and our UPS drivers (we don’t use FedEx), UPS is having an awful year – drivers are having to cut back on hours, are moving from driving positions to warehouse positions and they aren’t even hiring part timers for the holiday season.

On top of this, the economy is going to slow down next year – in fact, it’s already beginning.

So on top of current slower than normal sales and future sales expected to drop, you’d expect the last thing that would happen would be higher prices for the consumer, right? Wrong.

It seems that these businesses – and this country, in fact – could use a little supply side economics.

Imagine if UPS did not raise their rates and FedEx did raise theirs for 2009. What might happen? People currently using FedEx might switch over to UPS, instead. This would cause UPS’s per package cost to go down, right? They’d have more business and more deliveries on routes that already exist.

Imagine the concept. Lower (or the same) shipping rates yielding more income and lower costs. Voodoo economics works. It’s obvious, but why don’t these heads of these giant companies get it?

FedEx, in turn, would lose business because it went to UPS. So, in 2010 FedEx would probably cut their costs (if they were smart) to stay competitive with UPS. Prices would go down for all of us consumers, allowing businesses to ship at a lower cost, which would save shoppers’ money – so they more to spend at other places. So everyone benefits.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? It seems simple and obvious to me – even our UPS sales guy agreed (though he could have been playing nice) as he seemed mystified by the price increases as well.

Another idea might have been for UPS to acknowledge the slow economy and its effects and not increase rates this year to show that they want to help businesses keep their costs low. That would have garnered a lot of good will from companies who, quite frankly, are tired of being bent over every November with a predictable and confounding rate increase.

But, alas, USPS – who isn’t raising its rates in 2009 as far as I know – will get a bigger share of the shipments. Thus, UPS will have to deal with higher per package costs to take boxes from us. Maybe they’ll learn at some point. Maybe not, but their stock price is telling us everything we need to know.

Since he’s already scholar of the week; I thought I’d complete the rewards by naming him Gentleman of the Week, for his outstanding work in – at best- becoming mildly peeved at things.

It’s not many times that someone can be both a gentleman and a scholar. But Glenn is it.

Congratulations Glenn Reynolds, who apparently is a himbo as well.

The titles keep piling up for Mr. Reynolds! Spread that wealth around a little, would ya?

There is a list of the top 10 most irritating phrases out today.

The list is:

  1. At the end of the day
  2. Fairly unique
  3. I personally
  4. At this moment in time
  5. With all due respect
  6. Absolutely
  7. It’s a nightmare
  8. Shouldn’t of
  9. 24/7
  10. It’s not rocket science

A lot of these are pretty good. But here are some that I cannot stand:

  1. My bad!
  2. It’s all good
  3. Press 1 for English
  4. (whatever)-gate

I’m sure there are more that we all hate. Wonder why they keep getting used; if people hate them so much?

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are seeking $50 billion dollars in loans from the government to keep operations going. This is on top of a $25 billion dollar loan that was already snuck through during the bailout fiasco.

Bush, I believe turned down $10 billion more in loans earlier this week. I would not expect Obama, once in augurated, to be so frugal with tax dollars.

So I’ll explain the bailout quickly for you.

Since you would not willingly purchase a $40,000 car that you did not like, government will force you to give ~$200 to each of these companies.

Why? Because they can. Did you really need a good reason for it?

Bailouts encourage poor management practices. Chrysler was bailed out years ago and here they are begging for money again. If Chrysler had been allowed to fail last time and bought up by another company maybe it wouldn’t be begging for money again.

As with the financial bailout, I’m totally against tax dollars going to prop up failing private businesses. Once you start; its impossible to say no. We are already facing a $550 billion deficit next year – some estimates have it upwards of $1 trillion.

Given that Obama will never cut spending and only – as he said – “looks at the revenue side of things” taxes will, inevitably go up. CA is talking about a $4.4 billion tax hike. NY is canceling rebate checks and thinking about taxing incomes at a higher rate. The trend is already here. In a down economy, raising taxes is the worst thing to do. But here we are. Why?

  • Because Ford can’t make a car that people want to buy – and it’s your fault.
  • Because mortgage giants can’t make good loans – and it’s your fault.
  • Government writes policies that make these bad loans possible – and it’s your fault.

And you wonder why fiscal conservatives remind you that the government is the devil. Because it is.

Stock Market is embracing Hope N Change, post election. Change more than hope though.

Good news though! Every time the Stock Market drops 5%, it’s a little bit less of a drop (in real numbers) each time.

At this rate, we’ll have to rename the Stock Market after Obama. And call it The One. Cuz apparently, that’ll be what its worth pretty soon.

Hey. How’s that bailout working out? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

It’s election eve and many Republicans resigned to a defeat. I’m hopefully optimistic – I’m expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, in true conservative fashion. InstaGlenn thinks the loss is virtually assured.

Democrat Taxes

Take a look at the truth in this picture. Can we take a lesson from this?

Regardless of the outcome of this election; the three most positive things that have happened to McCain this cycle are:

  • Obama changing from 250,000 to 200,000 to 150,000 to 120,000 on the tax increases
  • Obama saying he wants to spread the wealth around
  • Obama saying he wants to bankrupt the coal industry

Even Sarah Palin was at her best when she was talking about shrinking the Alaska budget, giving tax money back to the people and reducing waste in her state. A lot of the hate for her seems to come from her social positions. I, personally, am not a social conservative. I understand they hold sway in the party and hold it together, so I accept their ideas as a necessary evil.

The issues that have brought Republicans together are, as always, small government, low taxes and personal freedom. Can we resolve that the Republican message in future elections is this simple:

Government. Out of my Life. Out of my Wallet.

I think this election has been a real turning point for this party, though. Is there any doubt which party stands for the middle class and middle America? And is there any doubt which party is for the Washington establishment, bigger government and less individual freedoms? These are the lines that have been drawn in 2008. Hold the line on small government. Hold the line on personal freedoms. Stand up and fight against the Nanny State. Be in the business of defending this country. And you’ll win.

It’s Republican equivocation on these issues that have caused their problems. Get rid of the people who stand against your base. Get rid of Mel Martinez at the RNC.

In 2009, revamp this party. Make small government conservatism the focus of this party. If this party wins in 2008, it is in spite of – not because of – your big government “compassionate conservatism”.

Appeal to your base. Understand what your base wants. Personal freedom. Personal responsibility. Economic freedom. Freedom from Washington.

I think I’ll be done with political blogging (on this site) for a while – unless McCain wins. Then I’ll post up a gloat video. It’s not the overall theme for the blog, but apparently some people like what I write.