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Category Archives: Ramblings

My thoughts on life, the universe and everything.

The Legend of Triforce Mike


As I’ve mentioned more than a few times I’m a big fan of the Nerdy Show podcast and the various spin off shows they do, particularly Dungeons and Doritos which chronicles the misadventures of a group of not-so-heroic heroes in they journey across Doritodonia.  In both cases my favourite host and character is a guy called Michael Pandel, AKA Triforce Mike.  Mike’s definitely not the most sensible member of the Nerdy Show crew, quite the opposite in fact, but his endless supply of enthusiasm for just about everything under the sun and his carefree attitude towards everything and everyone was pretty addictive.  He was fine with liking pretty much anything and being completely open about it, consequences be damned.  This would carry over into the D&D game where his character, a dwarf named Chair, would happily throw himself into the worst situation imaginable just because it seemed like the most fun thing to do at the time.

Speaking of which Chair is special enough that he really deserves his own paragraph.  Chair’s origin was simple.  He used to be a plain old wooden chair, then a wizard happened.  Now he’s a Dwarf, albeit one with the social awareness and personality of a chair.  So he spent pretty much every game running around naked (he eventually got a helmet) and hitting things with a large wooden club.  He was ridiculous, inappropriate and more than a bit rude, yet the sense of complete innocence and naivety about him just made such a likeable character.  When the rest of the party were trying to get information out of the lord of manor, he’d instead step to one side and attempt to seduce the nice Ottoman chest sitting at the side of the room.  When everyone was planning their strategy for the monsters in the next room he’d try to strike up a conversation with the furniture (it even worked a couple of times).  In short, he managed to be everything that you want a player and character to be in a D&D game released on the internet.  He was absolutely fucking entertaining.

So yeah, I thought he was pretty awesome guy, and the way he seemed to just enjoy life made me try to come out of shell that much more.  It really seemed like he felt absolutely no shame and had no sense of embarrassment.  He was a pretty damn big inspiration to me in that regard, making me try that much harder to not feel like I’m making a fool of myself all the time.

Triforce Mike passed away in January of this year.  I first heard about this in the wee hours of the morning when a forum post was made letting people know he was unconscious in hospital after being hit by a car.  He was an avid biker so I thought it probably wasn’t too uncommon for him to get into accidents from time to time, especially for someone like him, so he’s sure to bounce back from this one too.  Then later in the evening they posted an update.  The scan results came back and showed that his brain stem had suffered serious damage and there wasn’t anything more that could be done for him.  I’d be putting it mildly to say I was a little stunned.  Despite having dealt with deaths of people close to me several times already and not knowing Mike as well as people I knew more locally I was still pretty hard by it.  I really looked up him and just couldn’t believe this had really happened.  This was a guy that just never seemed to stop or slow down, was so energetic during gigs that his favourite bands (The Protomen and I Fight Dragons) used to mark off a special part of the show floor for him so he could just go nuts.  And now he’s gone.

Not long after he passed on his friends and family in Orlando held a wake for him and got together to discuss his life and their friendship, and there were a lot of surprising things to hear.  There were a number of great stories about his life and the misadventures he got into, which I really couldn’t do enough justice to warrant reposting here, and there a few personal stories which showed just how nice a guy he was to so many people.  And then there were other topics.  One thing which those who knew him personally were already well acquainted with, that I didn’t have the faintest clue about.  Triforce Mike was an alcoholic.  Sure I knew he liked to drink, and yeah it was a running joke on the podcast about how he was able to drink like a fish, but I’d never really connected the dots before.  It turns out that despite seeming like the most confident and self-assured men alive, he suffered from serious bouts of depression, something made worse by feeling that everyone was expecting him to live up to the reputation he’d built up.  The only way he found to deal with this was to get so blind drunk that he just didn’t care about it, despite everyone’s assurances that he still was just as awesome when sober.  And so he kept drinking, and it led to his fatal accident.  As an aside I don’t want anyone to think this is just some tirade how evil alcohol is.  I may not drink myself, but that’s for my own reasons and I don’t begrudge anyone for making their own choice.  Most things can be fine in moderation, but taken to an extreme they can still cause serious problems.

It’s a little jarring to find out that a guy who you so admired for seeming to have an unending supply of confidence actually had serious self-confidence issues of his own.  I guess it’s easier to look at someone else from afar and think “Hey, that guy has it easy.  I bet he never has any problems.” and elevate them to some sort of mythical status in your head where they can do no wrong, forgetting that they’re just as human as everyone else and likely carrying their own fair share of emotional baggage.  When you think about it, it seems more than a little unfair to think of people that way and put them under that sort of pressure.

After his passing his friends and family decided to set up a charity called the MAP Foundation in Mike’s honour to help other people like him who lost direction and had trouble finding their path in life.  Considering I’ve had trouble in that regard myself I can definitely see the good that can be done in setting up a group specifically to help out people in that situation.  As with any charity, it’s a real arse to get things started up at first so they’re not up and running just yet, but you can be sure I’ll be talking about here when it is.  Until then I’m going to keep trying to take the good lessons Mike left behind to heart, focus on enjoying things in life rather than wasting time hating them and try not to worry so much about others opinions that clash so much with my own.

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Podcasts, Ramblings

 

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Why Game?


Foreword: This starting off as a reflective look on why I play games, but it ended up hitting a little deeper than that. Just giving you fair warning before you jump in.

If there’s one thing that anyone who knows me could say about me, it’s that I like playing games. Sure I have other hobbies like books, comics and the occasional Sci-Fi movie, but video games are very much my passion. Over the past 20 years I’ve spent many an evening and weekend playing whatever new release or classic gem had caught my eye that week, and I had plenty of fun doing so. I don’t know exactly how many games I’ve played to completion over the years, but the last time I checked (about a half-decade past) it was well into the 700s.

As a few people might know, I no longer play J-RPGs. A few months before Final Fantasy XII was released I started reading about the gambit system and how it would make the game more “fun” by removing all the little niggly bits that you had to keep track of, like healing, resurrecting party members and oh, attacking the bad guys. That got me onto thinking about what was left in the game for me to actually play, and to be honest there wasn’t much. Like grinding for xp for hours before you could even think about taking on the Dark Aeons in Final Fantasy X it just seemed like it would have been a chore rather than a game. It’s the same reason I tend to get bored with MMORPGs after a couple of months, it eventually just becomes a slogfest where you spend hours upon hours completing the same trivial task so you can get strong enough to do a slightly different task in a completely different locale, and I really can’t be bothered with that style of play any more.

I picked up an XBox 360 a couple of years ago and was introduced to the idea of achievements. They made that little OCD part inside me light up with joy and I really got into trying to max out my gamerscore on some games. But as with MMOs, achieving some of these started to feel very much like a chore rather than anything resembling fun. There was an interesting article on Eurogamer recently (http://bit.ly/frDGkw) about someone else’s thoughts on the matter while they were jumping off cliffs over and over in Fallout New Vegas so they could heal up enough damage using stimpacks to get an achievement for healing 10’000 damage. Personally, I’m sick of playing games like this. I’m sick of having to feel like I should play game x, y and z of the series just because it’s popular, or just because it’s part of a series I’ve followed and just because every source I trust tell me it’s really, really good. I’m sure it is good and I’m sure I would enjoy it, but it’s really eating into my time in a way that’s just not feasible any more.

There’s an excellent podcast out there called “A Life Well Wasted” (http://bit.ly/ZvzP) which explores the niches of gaming and gaming culture, one particular episode of which was focused on why people play games. When it comes down to it, I guess I play games for a few reasons. I play them to unwind when I’m stressed, I play them to experience an enjoyable story and have a great experience, but I also play them at times because I know I’m good at games and when I’m feeling low I really, really want to do something I know I’m good at to help pick me up. The problem is I’m starting to feel like the main reason I play games now is out of habit. It’s starting to feel like a chore, like I’m not doing my job properly if I’m not cutting away at my backlog on a regular basis.

This is not meant to be a stab at video games, or even claim that video games are in any way bad. The same things could be said of any hobby taken to the same degree, be it books, stamps, movies, football, clubbing or anything else under the sun. I’m just finding that it’s gaming that’s taking too large a role for me to be happy with any more and I think that needs to change.

I’m not saying that I’m going to stop playing games either. I’m just not going to play them because of how much I enjoyed an earlier game in the series, or because I’d be doing a disservice to not play a particular classic gem. Instead I’m only going to play games that I actually feel an interest in playing at the time, and even that I’m going to try and cut down. I’m also going to give achievements a rest too and just focus on the experience. I might go back occasionally for some of the ones that sound like they’d be fun or an interesting test of skill to achieve, but I’m not even going to bother for the ones that’ll involve hours of grinding just for a small status symbol that no-one will ever see. I’m also still going to play games socially with my friends too. If I’m at someone’s house and everyone’s playing Halo then I’m sure as hell going to pick up a controller and join in.

On a more positive note this gives me a lot more free time to catch up with other things in my life I’ve been neglecting somewhat and even have a little time left over to focus into something different. Personally, I’d quite like to start making something. I don’t have any tools or areas to work in, but I’m finding MAKE a very interesting read during my lunch breaks and I think I’m going to keep my eye out for something which doesn’t require an abundance of tools and a large work area to get working. Building the “most useless machine ever” (http://bit.ly/8dQNqw) would be a fun start with an ironic twist that appeals to me.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Ramblings

 

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One year later


So it seems that my blog never picked up last time, probably because I was trying to come up with highly interesting content and detailed topics that I never got around to polishing to a level where I felt happy with.  As a result, nothing ever got posted.  Instead, I’m going to try and post at least whatever rambling topics go through my head in at least enough detail for someone to have some idea of what I’m talking about.  It’ll hardly be Shakespeare, but it won’t be random scrawling on a pavement either.  It won’t be daily, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to get at least one good post a week.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Ramblings

 

A little side project


To prepare myself a bit more for my FYP, and give myself a better idea of how project development actually goes, I’m going to start working on a side-project that goes through the full development cycle before (and while) I begin coding it.

One thing I’ve always had trouble is organising my workload to decide when I should try doing what tasks.  Sites like Remember the Milk do a pretty good job, but don’t offer exactly what I want, so rather than using a program that doesn’t really do everyone I want to do, the more practical solution is to just make one that does.

The general idea of it is to have a program which will allow you to set up your workload based on how many hours of free time you have to devote to work on a given day of the week.  It’ll then choose a selection of tasks based on the number of hours you have free and how long you think it’ll take for each task.  The plan is to make an interface which doesn’t bog down the user with ever more complex options and keep it as simple as possible.

I’m planning for work under most operating systems (especially portable one such as Windows Mobile) and synchronises with a central database so that tasks can be either checked online or updated on any machine that has the program installed on it.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll be able to devote to it yet as my assignments have just cropped up, but the plan is to make some progress to the project on a daily basis, even if it’s only a little.  Since I’m busy for this weekend though, I’ll likely be starting this on Monday.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2009 in Ramblings

 

First post!


Well I’ve been active on the web for a good 10 years, so I think it’s finally time to start my own blog.  I don’t have any particular theme in mind, so this’ll be one those blogs that cover pretty much whatever, but it won’t end up being a whining post.

I’ll fill out the about section later, but if you don’t already know me this should sum things up.

My name’s Ben and I’m currently a part-time Computing Science student at university.  I’m nearing the end finally with just 1 and a bit short years left before I get to finally enter the real world of full time employment and taxes.I spend most of my free time following the usual round of geeky persuits like video games, roleplaying games, comics, etc.

I tend to be very much stuck on old things, so I’m often more likely to be playing the older Mega Man games or Terranigma than I am Final Fantasy XIII or whatever it is the cool kids are playing these days.  Same goes for TV series and I’m currently going through the very early episodes of Thundercats, which I saw just enough of as a kid to be completely hooked without getting too used to seeing it around.

I’ll tidy the site up as I go along but for now, it works and that’s what’s important.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2009 in Ramblings