I sit at home feeling as if I’ve just been smacked down to the dark ages.
It’s Friday. Superbowl Weekend. I had a long weekend of gaming planned, online and off. Blogging. Checking my Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts. Surfing youtube during and after the big game to find the movie trailers and commercials so I can watch them at my leisure. Listening to music on Pandora. Searching for movies and watching them from Netflix.
Now, none of that will be happening.
I have no internet. With the exception of whatever service I can get from my 3G connection with Verizon, I am cut off from the world.
A few months back, I got tired of having the slow Verizon DSL internet connection. I decided to make a switch over to the Time Warner Triple Play bundle. $99 and I would have cable, internet, and phone from one provider. It would be faster and cheaper than the service I already had.
Then there was a bonus. For three months, I would get the Roadrunner internet connection for free. 20 MB/sec.
My DSL with Verizon was only creeping along at 768 k/sec. I was sold. After the three months ended, I’d have the option to keep the Roadrunner service and pay an extra $25 every month, or I could keep my $99 bundle and get 10 MB/sec.
I signed up immediately. For three months I was happy. Everything was great. When the three months ended, I gave Time Warner Cable a call and told them that I would no longer need the superfast internet. I was perfectly happy with 10 MB/sec.
With the click of button, my internet was downgraded. The person I talked to told me that my service was already updated and the changes would take effect immediately. As soon as I got off of the phone I tested the speed of my internet. Sure enough, my speed was just under the 10 MB/sec I was told I had.
One month later, everything began to go wrong.
I got my bill.
I opened to my bill to find a nice little surprise. My internet was still working at the speed I expected, however, I was being charged the extra $25 for the bonus speed that I no longer had.
Oh, hell no.
I reached for the phone, and gave Time Warner Cable a call. I patiently talked to a cheerful lady who listened intently as I explained the situation. She assured me that it was a mistake and would be taken care of. The $25 would be taken off my bill. My internet connection would remain as it was and everything would be fine.
Feeling comforted, I hung up the phone and went back to checking my email. Except, something wasn’t right. My email wasn’t loading.
Nothing was loading. I refreshed my page.
I looked down at my taskbar to see if I was connected to the internet.
Hovering my cursor over the Network & Sharing icon, I found I only had a local connection.
From where I was sitting I could see my router. I glanced at it, hoping to see the usual array of six lights glowing steadily, telling me that everything was ok.
I didn’t see them.
Instead, I saw one light. Flashing as if it were winking at me about a joke that I didn’t find funny.
I stared blankly back at it, hoping the other lights would come on.
It continued its obnoxious winking.
Wait a minute. Why did my internet stop working? There was no way it was a mere coincidence that it had stopped working while I was on the phone with Time Warner Cable. Surely, the lady I had talked to had shut off my service. All it would take was the click of a button, right?
So I waited a bit. I gave it some time while I did a few things around the house, just in case whatever gremlin I was dealing with might solve itself.
Half an hour later, I came back to check. Still, my router stood there winking at me like a creepy uncle.
I’d had enough. I ran through the typical process you go through when your router drops its connection. I pressed the reset button. Waited a bit and rechecked it.
I cycled the power, disconnecting the power cord and waiting 30 seconds before plugging it back in. Again , I waited.
I called Time Warner back. A familiar voice answered the phone. It was the comforting woman I had just spoken to. Again she listened intently to my problem. But this time, after I finished, she sounded flustered.
That couldn’t be good.
I had figured, there was an error and all she had to do was enter a command into her computer and I’d be back up and running. Whatever she had done, all she had to was undo it.
Apparently, she didn’t think so. She said the last thing I wanted to hear: “Let me transfer you to tech support.”
Before I could even protest, the tone of a phone ringing buzzed in my ear. This is not what I wanted at all.
Let me preface what happened next by saying that I hold absolutely no ill-will against people from other countries. I do, however, feel that when you are annoyed and trying to figure out a technical problem, adding the additional challenge of a language barrier will only make things worse.
Let me also say that I am, by no means, a technological genius. But, I am also not a helpless noob. I’ve built and maintained three computers. I’ve networked my house with wifi. I have also maintained the computers and networks at three separate architecture firms with no problems. I know my way around tech.
The phone was answered by a man with a heavy accent. He introduced himself. I had to ask him to repeat what he was saying. His accent was almost indecipherable. But, the condescension in his tone was palpable. We were already starting things off on the wrong foot.
Whenever I speak to someone with a heavy accent, there is always a brief moment where my brain has to adjust to how they are speaking. After that adjustment is made, it becomes easier to understand.
Slowly his words became clearer. His accent began to make sense to me. His condescending tone, however, was making me angry.
I explained what was happening.
Before I had finished, he jumped in, “Sir, you’re talking about a router, not a modem.” I hated the way he said “sir.” I was really getting irritated with this man.
I took a breath and, as calmly as I could, explained to him that the router and the modem were a combined unit. I had spoken about this very same issue with the guy who came by to install it.
An audible sigh came through the phone, “Sir, which lights are blinking?”
I told him.
I could tell by the way he spoke to me, that he didn’t like me. The feeling was quickly becoming mutual.
“Sir, press the reset button.”
“I’ve already pressed the reset button. I’ve also already cycled the…”
“Sir, press the reset button.”
That was the second time that he had interrupted me. That is one of my biggest pet peeves. My blood was beginning to boil. Again, I took a breath, swallowed my rising fury and humored him.
I pressed the reset button. The light stop blinking. It disappeared.
Could I have been wrong?
The light started blinking again.
I told him.
“Sir, I need you to cycle the power. Please disconnect the power cord and wait for 30 seconds, then plug it back in.”
In my head, I was screaming at the top of my lungs. “NO SHIT!!!”
I’ve had to make phone calls like these before. One thing usually happens at this point. During the 30 seconds where you’re sitting there, staring at an inert paper weight, the tech will usually try to make some small talk with you to fill the silence. I got none of that. Just an earful of dead air.
Silence. I could hear the conversations of the people around his office. The muffled sounds of laughter and happy people filtered through my speaker.
Great, I seemed to have reached the only unhappy person in the office. The image of a scowling man sitting in a cubicle in the corner of an office full of happy people flashed through my mind.
I tried again. “Are you there?”
“Yes,” he responded curtly.
Oh, so he was now ignoring me? Son of a….
“You can plug it back in now.”
I did as I was commanded. Again, nothing happened. Just as I had expected.
“Well, it looks like that didn’t fix the problem.”
“The next step is to send out a tech…”
It was my turn to interrupt now. “What do you mean a tech???”
He continued talking as if I had said nothing, merely raising his voice and speaking over me. “…Are you available Monday between 12:00 and 2:00?”
That did it. I was livid. “Wait a minute! You guys are able to turn my service on and off, slow it down, and add features by typing a few commands into your computer, and you need to send out a tech to my house to fix something that you broke on your end???”
He began to interrupt me again, but I wasn’t having it.
“No! You’ve been interrupting me and talking over me this whole time, and I’m done! Shut up and listen to me! Every time I’ve called you guys, you were able to make changes from your computer with just the click of a button. Now you’re telling me that you need to send someone to my house to fix something that I’m pretty sure that you can do from there?”
This motherfucker better not be ignoring me, I thought.
“Are you there?” I growled into my phone.
“Yes, I am, sir.” He didn’t even attempt to hide the contempt in his voice, or the venom in the way he pronounced “sir.” “There is nothing wrong with the connection on our end. We need to send a tech out to check. So, are you available Monday between 12:00 and 2:00?”
This was going nowhere.
“No, I am not.”
We haggled over a time for a bit, finally settling on Tuesday, between 3:00 and 5:00.
So now, here I am, sitting at home with no internet. All of my plans have been ruined. I’ve also realized how much I rely on the internet for everything.
I just realized something: How am I going to even post this???
I guess I’ll just go outside.
For the past three years, I’ve been flirting with Eve. Standing back and watching, debating whether or not to do something about it. I’d heard all the stories. All of the excitement. The intensity. The passion. And yet, I waited, quietly hoping for a chance. About a month ago, I stepped up and made my move.
The stories were true.
For two weeks, I spent as much time as I could with Eve. After everyone was asleep, I’d go for it. I found myself thinking about Eve when I should have been working. When I should have been focusing on more important things, my mind was elsewhere.
After two weeks, I realized that I had to make a bigger commitment if I wanted to keep Eve. All of my excuses to keep me from taking that step were failing.
I was falling in love with Eve Online.
What? What did you think I was talking about?
I’m talking about an MMORPG. Eve Online.
Maybe I should explain myself.
Three years ago, I listened to an episode of the Giant Bomb podcast. They mentioned the, now legendary, story from Eve Online about the player who became a mole in a competing alliance. For two years, he worked his way up the ranks until he was second in command in the group. That was when he struck, causing the alliance to crumble. He got away with all of their money and assets.
That caught my attention. After years of playing games that last for a few hours, spread out over a few weeks, the thought of living another life in a game that lasts years was appealing. I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to play this game. I wanted to get a taste of this thing where I could work my way up the ranks of a corporation, in command of minions and technology.
And the little boy in me wanted to be a space pilot.
So what is Eve Online about?
The story is immense. To explain everything that is there would take volumes. Boiling it down to the basics, it’s about space exploration. Basically, hundreds of years in the future, after corporations have taken over the business of space travel and exploration, a wormhole is discovered that leads to far-flung, uncharted area of space. Warps gates are put under construction on either side of the wormhole, so when the time comes and it closes there will still be a way to travel to this new area.
Explorers and corporations begin pouring through the wormhole to lay claim to planets and stars. A wild-west type of civilization begins to form.
Then, without warning, before the gates are completed, the wormhole closes, stranding everyone in this new frontier, with no way to get home.
You join the game thousands of years after these events. Multiple civilizations have formed. Some have been at war for centuries.
It is with this backdrop that you start your career as a pilot. You start with one ship, no isk, the game’s currency, and an agent who gives you tutorial missions and leads you to other agents. From there you can become a pirate, a miner, a CEO of a corporation, a mercenary, whatever you want to be is up to you.
In this environment, you learn quickly that the real power is held by the corporations, they hold most of the money, sending out contracts for tasks that can be picked up and completed by other players. By other players, I mean you. You can use these small tasks and contracts as rungs as you climb the corporate ladder, building up power, gaining assets, and earning isk.
This is what I was able to gather in the time that I played. I also learned that all of the above was just the tip of the iceberg. There are skills to learn and ships to buy. There is an intricate spiderweb of politics between all of the corporations, alliances, and coalitions that can be used to ones advantage. There are veterans who have played for years and are now famous within the game.
And then there is the community, both online and off. For the two weeks I spent with Eve Online, I immersed myself in the lore. The internet is filled with blogs and podcasts dedicated to it. There are even websites with news reports about the battles and events taking place in the game. Even when you are not playing you can keep in touch with what is happening within.
Reading through some of the news reports, I saw that not only was the story I mentioned earlier true, but there are many more just like it. Recently there was a report of a con man who scammed a corporation and made off with billions of isk. Another story tells of a players character being held for ransom by a group of players. Unfortunately, he had no money to trade. The solution? His ransom was downgrade to a pizza …in real life. There was a small wrinkle. In their drunken stupor, his captors gave him the wrong address to have the pizza delivered to. So they’re mother received an unexplained late night pizza delivery.
Stories like these only make me want to play the game more.
The game’s currency, isk, actually has real world value. The game is free to download from the developer, CCP’s, website. But there is a monthly fee to pay, just like most older MMO’s. However, the developers had a great idea. You can either pay with real money, or you can use the in-game isk to purchase more time. At the time when I played, it cost about 500 million isk to add another month on to your time. Suddenly getting as much isk as possible sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it.
The graphics are surprisingly good. When I heard that the game was around 10 years old, I figured it would look cartoony or low-res, but I was wrong. CCP has been updating the game as time has passed. If can be only be played on PC, but the upcoming game, Dust 514, is a PS3 exclusive.
Again CCP is exploring new territory. Dust 514 and Eve Online are tied together. Events that occur in one game will affect the other.
The two weeks I played were free, because I played the 14 day trial. It ended a week ago. Since, then, I’ve been thinking about going back to play more almost every day. Somehow it scratched an itch that I didn’t know I had. I’m officially hooked and I’m about to drop the cash to get back in.
Give it a shot, you’ll be saying the same thing.
First Impressions of Starhawk Beta: AWESOME!!! Has the potential to be much better than the previous Warhawk. The new building mechanic is a great addition. There are only two drawbacks. There is lack of a clear sense of direction when first dropped into a new game. Once you get past that, after a game or two, there is much to discover. The other issue I had was with the controls of the aircraft. They feel a lot less responsive than the aircrafts of Warhawk. I’m not sure if it’s intentional to show the speed, but I really felt as if I had to struggle to change direction in flight.
All in all, with a little fine tuning, I could see myself buying the game on release and having a lot of fun with it.
From the moment you step into the dystopian cell-shaded world, you realize you are in for a treat.
You start on a bus, with four playable characters waiting to be chosen.
There is Roland, the soldier, who is probably the most well rounded character. He’s good with guns and is able to drop a turret that shoots at anything that moves, while it heals you at the same time. He is the character who will, most likely, be picked by most people when they first play the game.
There is Lillith, the siren. She is a bit weaker than the other characters, but has the ability to “phase walk,” or teleport from place to place. At first this trick may seem of little advantage, but as you play the game, it becomes more powerful, more useful. Her teleportations cause increasingly larger explosions that kill whoever is nearby.
Then there is Brick, the tank, “as himself.” He is a larger than life brute, whose main attribute is his melee attack. Sure, you can go into battle with guns blazing. But why would you want to do that when you can wade through your enemies with fists flying and the sounds of your own maniacal laughter ringing in your ears? It’s a terrifying sight.
And finally there is, Mordecai, the hunter. He is the master of the sniper rifle. He also comes with a friend. He has a hawk on his shoulder that he can send out to attack his opponents.
After you make your choice, the bus stops and you are promptly dropped off at, what looks to be, a small deserted town. So begins your adventure.
This is your first glimpse at what you will be seeing as you play through the world. Robots. Guns. Midgets. Guns. Deformed enemies. Guns. Giant creatures. Guns. Midgets. Midgets with guns. Guns…and did I mention guns?
The developer, Gearbox, make it clear from the start that this is all about weapons. Even before the game was released, they were loudly trumpeting that there were “millions of guns” available for your use.
Do they keep they’re promise?
It is true, there are a lot of guns in the game. How many guns? More than you’d probably want to count. But there’s a slight problem. Many of the guns are too similar to each other. You may find two guns that look completely different from each other, but there is no advantage to either one. But that is a small gripe. It is also typical for many loot games. There are other guns you’ll find that feel almost overpowered. They could range from shotgun that uses grenades instead of shells to a rocket launcher that shoots lightning.
The Diablo style loot system is like digital crack. The guns are the loot. Every defeated enemy drops weapons, shields, and cash. You never know what you’re going to find because anything they drop is completely at random. Because of this, any gunfight is an opportunity to make yourself stronger.
I have to admit you won’t find very much of a story here. There is something about a vault that opens up every two hundred years or so that is filled with treasure. The time has come for it to open again, so the planet is filled with treasure hunters…..and that’s about it. However, the gameplay is enough to keep you playing.
Is this game an RPG? Or is it an FPS? A case could be made either way. But, honestly, it’s both. You have your typical fetch quests. You have the loot drops. But most of it is done while shooting at whatever comes your way. However, you want to classify this game, it just feels right.
The dialogue is witty. The bosses are challenging. There is almost endless supply of DLC, almost enough to be second standalone game. The only two things that I didn’t really care for were the handling of the vehicles and the so-easy-it’s-a-joke final boss. Compared to the rest of the game, those are minor nitpicks. The game is amazing. One of my favorites.
I know you’re probably asking two questions right now. 1) What the hell is a shame pile? And 2) Who is this guy?
Well, I’ll answer one of those questions right now. The most important one.
Who am I? That doesn’t really matter, so I’ll get to that in a minute. What does matter is that I clear up what a shame pile is first.
You know that stack of novels that you have and haven’t read yet? That shelf of movies that you haven’t watched? That box of video games sitting there that you haven’t even put into your console or PC? Those are shame piles. Something that you own and is taking up space that you always plan on getting too…someday.
I have a shame pile. I have a cabinet of games that I’ve been trying to get to.
Now, who am I?
Well, I’m a nerd. But, I’m not your stereotypical nerd. I’m 34 years old. I know, I know. That doesn’t prove much. But stick with me here. I’m a father of a four year old daughter. I have a steady paying job. I do not live with my mother, or in a basement. I have friends that I don’t talk to online. I do not have a layer of Cheetos dust, or a lifetime supply of Mountain Dew, anywhere in my house. And most of all, I have social skills…..for the most part.
Basically, I am a normal self-sufficient adult who enjoys video games on a recreational level. Never mind what my twitter feed says.
So why am I starting a blog?
Well, that’s easy. This is a creative outlet for me. I may have neglected to mention that I also enjoy writing.
It’s been said that, if you want to become a great writer, you must write something every day. Now I’m not saying that I plan on posting here every single day, because I don’t. But I will post here to bounce ideas around, to post reviews as I work my way through my pile of shame, and sometimes to just get the creative juices flowing.
Feel free to drop by and see what I’m working on, read a review, or leave a comment.
Now excuse me while I dive back into my Shame Pile.