Category Archives: popular culture

I lost the men in my family to DayZ

DayZ Official Site banner.

In line with encouraging circumstantial thinking, like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” I’m making the most of the video game DayZ by sharing with you its addictive qualities.  The men in my family team-it-up in this multi-player online game, and the survival aspect is so intense it’s like they’re literally out in a gorilla warfare battlefield.  Consider yourself forewarned if you haven’t played DayZ yet, and I’m assuming that’s the case since if you had, you’d be playing it right now instead of reading this.

DayZ is actually a mod made for the military simulation game, ARMA 2.  This mod places the player in an apocalyptic zombie world of survival, but it’s the other online players that are more often the real danger.  This game is not anything like shooter zombie games such as Left4Dead.  Sure, you shoot zombies if you want to, and no doubt you’ll have to, but they are often slow or relatively easy to deal with.  Well, during the day, anyway.  Most online players, however, are just really horrible individuals.  I say that so generally because as far as I and the men can tell, the vast majority are snipers, bandits, hackers, etc.–we’re guessing 80% to 95% of all players fall into these categories.   Most will shoot you on site, which is really a “jerk” (that’s putting it kindly) move since when you die, you lose any of the hard-won items you may have found.

A good little background summary from Wikipedia:  “The mod places the player in the fictional post-Soviet state of Chernarus, where an unknown virus has turned the population into zombies.  As a survivor with limited supplies, the player must scavenge the world for supplies such as food, water, weapons and medicine, while killing or avoiding both zombies and other players – in an effort to survive the zombie apocalypse.”

When you first spawn, you start out with only a flash light, a bandage, and pain-killers.  Wow!  Nothing to fight off zombies with.  You must scavenge for even the most rudimentary weapons, such as an ax or crowbar.  There are of course a whole variety of guns in the game, but you must find ammo too, and unlike many online games, you have limited backpack space.  You can become injured easily in the game and require morphine, blood packs, or even hospital care, in order to survive; playing as a team, the men help each other out with drugs, blood transfusions, that sort of thing.  You might very well  imagine playing the game for some time without really getting too deep into it yet, before some unpleasant fella (gamer, not zombie) murders you.

Which brings me to a well-known YouTube player called FrankieonPC.  He’s generally a good guy and has done some pretty awesome stuff, with the help of some friends.  He has shown that the game has a surprising range of multi-player capabilities.  In one video where he has gotten rid of some bad guys (he, along with some other hero players, rid the servers of snipers and bandits – this really takes skill when the snipers simply bump people off upon spawning) and raided some hacker stashes, he calls all good folk to a church.  They arrive on a bus.  Can you believe it?  There are usable buses in the game, and you can see all the people – online players – riding in the bus.  Anyway, Frankie has dumped the weapons from the hackers in the church and anyone is free to take what they want.  This is very cool and warm and fuzzy, and then . . . someone bombs the church!

Besides buses, there are helicopters, trucks, cars, ATVs, and even bikes, though none of these are common.  Vehicles can be found (or stolen), though they may need to be fixed.  Not surprisingly, you will make a desirable target as a vehicle driver.   The game is open and huge, and has an awesome markable map available.  Servers vary in their difficulty level (there are fewer people on the higher level servers), and they may have other differences, like vehicle spawn rate, day or night only play, and so on.

The men that I’ve lost to DayZ say that what they like most about the game is killing bandits and saving bambis (that is, newb players that are easy targets for the snipers and bandits).  They like working together under pressure, helping each other survive, and finding vehicles and fixing them.  The difficulties they’ve encountered include hackers with over-powered weapons, fatal glitches (like from doors and stairs), and not being able to see at night, at all, as if it were always a new moon.  And, of course, they love the challenge of surviving longer than the average time of 1 hour and 8 minutes, or whatever the current figure is, as kept at the DayZ site.

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Hearthfire (Skyrim): The Quest for Butter

Original home with main hall being added. http://bethsoft.com/en-us/games/hearthfire

(If you’re looking for more of an overall review of Skyrim, please see this article as well:  Christian Parents, Should you let your kids play Skyrim?)

The newest Skyrim DLC is a mini one, called Hearthfire (this review is based on the XBOX 360 game).  It allows the player to build up to three houses on property outside of the cities or towns, and to adopt one or two orphaned children.  The trailer promised more flexibility in building, in my view, so at first I was disappointed in Hearthfire on that ground.  But, after playing it for some time and building all three homes, I am disappointed and annoyed even more.  Not totally disappointed, mind you, and I’m not advocating not buying it and trying it out, but I do want to present what is annoying and what needs to be fixed.  HOPEFULLY, Bethesda will get around to making some fixes and making some additions to this DLC.

Let’s take a look at adoption first.  Instead of simply allowing you to adopt the children already orphaned and being forced to live in the Riften (yuck!) orphanage, you have to decide amongst the four new orphans in the towns and them.  There are now more orphans than ever to choose from . . !  No matter what you do, there will always be orphans.  When playing Skyrim before, I wanted only to adopt some out of the orphanage, but now there are others – it just never ends and you are not allowed to adopt more.

Anyway, the kids are a nice addition for the most part.  (If you don’t want children bugging you to play with them, maybe you should forget about adopting any in the first place, however.)  It’s fun giving them things, and they will give you things once in a while, too.  One day my son gave me a unique and odd green robe to wear.  They love when you give them daggers.  You can improve and enchant their wooden swords, and duel wield them yourself if you want a bit of a fun challenge.  A problem with giving them items, to me, is that you are very limited in what you can give.

Now, for the building bit – I’ll get to the hunt for butter after this.  The three homes you can build are on three specific pieces of property you can buy from the Jarl’s or their stewards.  One is near Whiterun, although it’s part of Dawnstar hold.  Another is outside of Solitude, with a view of the land bridge that is that city, though it is a part of Morthal hold.  The third is close to the lake south of Riverwood – a beautiful area that is like having a vacation home in the woods – and is a part of Falkreath hold.

I am not going to go through all of the addition choices, but will mention a few that give notice for some reason.  You can build what is in a provided list for each room/addition, but you don’t have alternate choices within the list.  You don’t have a choice between a bed and a table for a certain spot, for example – there’s is only one thing designated for that spot – you can only add it or leave it open.  And, you cannot demolish a wing later in case you change your mind about the kind of house you want.

All the homes start off with a small starter room (home!), and in order to add the specialty wings, you must build the main hall attached to the first starter room.   The starter room has a bed and fire pit in it, and so it is livable as is.  However, if you hire a steward – very advisable since not all the mill owners will sell you wood, as the add-on claims – then where do both of you sleep?  This is actually more of a problem later.

You will have the ability to add two small beds and a double bed in the main hall for you and your spouse, and your  kids (forget “choice” – there is no other options for this area, nor any other, in these Hearthfire houses).  However, the steward and housecarl always sleep in the beds that are for the kids, or one of them may sleep in your own bed.  This is a problem with the game.  If you choose to build the bedroom wing, this is not a problem.  But if you choose to build a different wing and use those main hall beds, then good luck!  The problem is only compounded by the fact that there is only one bed left in the original building for both the steward and the housecarl.  This obviously was not thought through by Bethesda, and I find it quite astonishing.

The storage room was a very major disappointment.  Seriously, Bethesda couldn’t spring for a dragon claw holder and some other holder for specific items – like the various named jewelry you can find – especially since everything always pops out of display cases and off of shelves?  This really fries me!  Come one, Bethesda . . . really!?!  Give us something for the money.  The cellar is a bit interesting in that way:  you can build a shrine holder and all the shrines to the gods.  But a storage room that doesn’t store all those specialty items?  Wow and weird.

The homes do not incorporate anything from the Dawnguard DLC.  It seems like the ability to add new plants and new creatures, like from the Soul Cairn and the Vale, at least, should have been designed into this new DLC.  It becomes obvious that this add-on was planned from the beginning.  Skyrim had orphans and they asked to be adopted, yet you could not adopt them.  There is no Dawnguard content in Hearthfire, except for one thing: you can give your child an armored dog from Fort Dawnguard (a nice surprise).  So, why wasn’t this simply part of Skyrim to begin with?  My “other half” is really into the Elder Scrolls, though Morrowind specifically.  He told me that in the past, an add-on such as this would’ve been free.  It seems Bethesda held some of the content out in order to make some more cash, while providing a not so great product.

Which brings us to the butter quest.  There’s not a formal quest for butter, of course, but there is an actual one.  Butter is as hard to find as gold- if not harder – as far as I can tell.  You will want butter if you build the kitchen wing (it probably has the best looking wing interior), which has an “oven” for baking.  Butter is an 0ft-needed ingredient, but good luck finding it!!!   You can’t make it, even though you can own cows now and there is a butter churn in the kitchen.  So far I have only received one butter out of the churn.  I have searched high and low for butter, looking to find it in various places, and to buy it.  I never find it (it isn’t laying around like soup or stew), and have been only offered it to buy about three times from various vendors.  Wow.  Who knew baking could be so hard?

So if you want to have something new to do in Skyrim before the next big DLC comes out, and you like having children, then Hearthfire would be worth the $5, in my opinion.  But otherwise, the choice is of course up to you, especially if you want to bake but don’t feel it worth hours of your time in a quest for butter!

November 9 Update (XBOX):   After months, the churn finally had a new bowl of butter in it.  BUT, within a short time, it had butter in it again.  Perhaps there was an update that loaded that we didn’t notice, or perhaps it’s very random!  Also, the best places I’ve noticed to buy butter are from the town stands, from the vendors selling vegetables and other foods (that is, the dark elf in Riften and the two humans in White Run and Windhelm).

 

The Dark Knight Rises: Impressions

We waited a bit to see the newest batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.  This is not a formal review, but for some reason I didn’t like the movie all that much in the end, and I wonder about it.  What do you think?  If you liked it a lot – why?

Without giving away anything really, without giving a spoiler, I think I can say that the end was just lame compared to the first half or so of the movie.  There are really two endings, and I am referring to the one that explains the “why” of the Gotham City attacks.  To me it’s as if the movie makers wanted to provide some messages – that this wasn’t simply an action film – and that a great deal of the movie’s story ending didn’t really have much to do with the messages.  The story seemed to me a very flimsy vehicle for the messages.  (The second ending makes me actually look forward to further movies, which I think may be better than this one.)

And what were the messages?  My impressions are from only seeing the movie once, so please be kind to me if you respond with a comment.  My first impression was that the movie was saying that we can’t rest easy after eliminating some criminals.  There are always threats and we need to be prepared.  But more specifically, it seemed to be alluding to terrorism.

All throughout the movie the theme of failure and fear, fear of failure, what makes us not fail, was obvious. Yet, when these things were spoken of, it just didn’t seem deep . . . I couldn’t feel that these things affected batman in the way everyone kept saying (apparently this has to do with the first and/or second movie, which I can barely remember now).   The only part related to Bruce’s feelings and courage that seemed relevant to me was the issue of fear of death.  So many heroes say they’re not afraid to die – it’s almost a cliche.  But in order to continue to help anyone at all, batman had to let himself feel the fear of death.   Nice touch.

An important aspect of the film was discerning whom to trust.  Sometimes good people have to do bad things, so that a better thing may result; one has to sometimes choose the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes good seeming people are only self-serving and manipulative–others that seem bad may only be being honest, and so they are far more virtuous.  I like this theme the most, as I think it is the most relevant to our everyday lives – and it is such a significant aspect of life among humans.   I was reminded of the short biblical story Jesus told (Matthew 21:28-31);  though His specific application was different, it still reflects how people are and how we need to judge by actions, not just words:

“What do you think?  There was a man who had two sons.  He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.  He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Other than those more serious impressions, I enjoyed the acting–Joseph Gordon-Levitt was just fine in his role–and the music.  Great stuff.

The Dark Knight (http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/gallery.php)