Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Destiny's Bid To Keep It Fresh

What a way for Bungie to make me put my foot in my mouth.

As most already know, Bungie announced on their official site that there will finally be new content that's expected to release April 12th.  This will include missions, weapons, and a new strike, among other things.  If you haven't already, go check out their posts; they've already done a video last week on their Twitch account with details, and they're doing one today and next week (Wednesdays) at 11am Pacific.

I'm glad that Bungie has been working on new ways to keep Destiny filled with new content.  If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know that, while I love Destiny as a whole, I feel that it has been going downward after the honeymoon period with The Taken King expansion wore off.  It seems that they've also revealed that they're working on the next version of the game (Destiny 2, I suppose, until they reveal otherwise,) so it makes sense that they've been keeping a tight lip about their goings on.

What has me hyped at the moment is that there will be an update to the Prison of Elders arena; something that I believe should have happened back last September.  It seems that Skolas and the rest of the degenerates that hang around the Reef are going to get even meaner.  I'm excited about the challenge, but I'm already dreading the time investment on this boss alone...I recall dying a ridiculous amount of times before taking the Kell of Kell down.  However, it all seems to be worth the headache with gear dropping at light level 320 (or, on the harder mode, 335.)

I won't say too much more here and just urge you to take a moment and watch the videos...but it looks like they're going to be kicking and screaming to keep their players entertained until next year.  My only concern is that this will be the last significant update until Destiny 2 drops sometime in 2017.  Of course, Bungie might have something else up it's sleeve, but we just won't know until later this year

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On The Go: Mobile Gaming

Right now, I'm waiting for my chest to unlock in a game called "Clash Royale," which involves you creating a "deck" to battle opponents and protect your castles from invasion in a span of 2-4 minutes. It's a mobile game (for smart phones/devices only) that goes with the "Free to Play" platform; meaning, you can completely and totally play this game for free, but they offer in game purchases to help speed up progress.  These purchases can range from $1 to $100, depending on how fast you want to progress.

So, for the chest I'm currently waiting on, which takes a total of 3 hours to unlock by the way, I could instead spend the in game currency of gems to unlock it instantly, which starts at 18 gems.  A bundle of 80 gems is only a buck, but you'll find that you can blow through gems rapidly since chests drop after each of your wins against other players.

Now, I'm not a fan of the "Free to Play" platform based on the words used to describe it.  "Free to Play" should mean exactly that; no costs, no fees, no penalties for not spending money, etc.  I would much rather a game be forthcoming on how much it'd like for me to spend and ask outright.  I understand that this is a tactic used to gain more money over the course of time, but still, I feel that a company should either put a price tag on their game up front or relabel it as "Free to Start."

Unfortunately, there are a slew of games for Android and iOS devices that follow this format.  Some are incredibly frustrating and unwelcoming to newcomers, in my opinion, such as the big brother the Clash Royale, Clash of Clans.  If you're just starting out, you can easily find yourself getting ransacked by bigger and tougher players...the in game ranking works in such a way that a player that has made a lot of upgrades to his characters/weapons can drop down to lower levels, making his potential attackers & defenders more easy to handle.  That's just one I'm very familiar with; looking through the main page and top pics sections on either market you'll find that every other game is that way.

I'm sure that this is not a big issue for most casual gamers, which is the intended market for these games.  They're made with little more in mind that to occupy a few minutes of your time and to try and grab a couple bucks here and there.  Sadly, there are few games that cater to someone like me; I want to play games on the go and take up an hour or more (especially when I'm waiting in a line somewhere...double especially at the DMV.) There are several that fit the bill, such as Five Nights at Freddy's, Final Fantasy (pick a number,), and Shadowrun Returns, but options are, for the most part, limited.

What I would like to see is an app market on both Android and iOS that embrace gamers such as myself.  I currently own a Nintendo 3DS and play a horde of games that require more than 5 minutes of your time (Pokemon is an obsession of mine, as well as Monster Hunter, Zelda, and Super Mario Bros 3.)  These types of games are challenging, offer tons of replay-ability, and, in some cases, are very enjoyable to play with a group of friends.

I propose that the mobile gaming market take some time and learn the successes of mobile game systems such as the 3DS and PS Vita.  There's obviously a market for it, otherwise people like me wouldn't be sold on buying a $200 console to carry around in addition to the cellular device I can't function without.  To continue to grow, and to stay competitive, the mobile game market needs to cater to core gamers and offer up new and in depth experiences.  Now, I know that's dependent on the developers and not Google (Android) or Apple (iOS,) but I think they could nudge things in the right direction (maybe drop a few subtle hints at the next conference, Apple?)

I'd personally would like to see not just games that appeal to core gamers, but some hardware and accessories to go with it.  Right now, I have an off brand controller that works via Bluetooth to play mobile shooters (Shadow Gun is pretty sweet...if you have the time, I suggest you give it a try!)  but it doesn't quite feel's not as comfortable as, say, a PS4 or Xbox One controller, and I can definitely tell that the device is made from cheap parts; at times, I think that I'm going to break a button from normal operation.   My dream would be for Google to make a Nexus 7 that comes with a great controller...imagine if Asus or Motorola were to handle that!  From my experience, they have the chops to make that a reality.

I would ditch my 3DS altogether if I could have a rich experience on my Android device as I do on my 3DS.  With the current treads in gaming, though, it seems that my 3DS is getting games that are similar in appeal as mobile games, which I don't want to see at all.  If anything, Nintendo should stick to its old strategy and just make solid, quality games that are exclusive to their platforms and continue to drive their sales.  If, however, Nintendo wants to get away from making mobile hardware and go straight to mobile gaming for Android and iOS, I know a guy that has a few good ideas that could set them apart from the competition!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nostalgia Investment

The other day I spent some time going through and organizing my video game collection in alphabetical order just so I could get an idea as to what I have and what I'm wanting to get.  While looking through my catalog of games, I noticed that, for a "Next Gen" console, I own an awful lot of remakes/ least 7 by my count.  I didn't dwell on it too much until I did the same for my 3DS and GameCube: I have several games that have released on a previous console that I know I paid for once before.  I sat and thought, "Damn, that's an awful lot of exposure to the same game!"  But it had me thinking; is it really worth the money to invest in nostalgia, or am I wasting my money?

Let me further elaborate: I hate purchasing games over and over again.  I feel that I'm being asked to buy the same product twice, normally with small improvements over the original release, and that I'm giving game companies money just because I enjoyed a game once (I'm looking at you, Nintendo...Ocarina of Time was a good game, but not, "Lets release it on 3 different consoles at $40" good.)  I'm very much against buying a game you already own on another console, UNLESS it's a complete and total remake (for example, the original PS One Resident Evil and the GameCube Resident Evil.)  I argue that, if you really enjoy a game, you should keep your console and a copy of the game(s) to avoid additional costs.  My concern is that I'm paying big money for little or no reward.

I also want to mention that I included any game that was a release, regardless of if I had purchased it before, just so I didn't have to argue with myself if it "truly" counted while figuring out if my money was worth the purchase.  I assumed that it would be a good chance to get an idea if the games I'm buying were worth the investment as well without having to go through the entire collection as well.  

I decided that I needed to review each title and find out if I got my money's worth out of the game.  To find out, I normally put a dollar amount to each hour of game play spent.  If the total turns out to be either at or above the cost of the game, then I have come out ahead...and if the opposite is true, then I'm at a loss.  So, I approach it with the mindset that 1 hour of game play is equal to $6...which means that a new release game that's $60 should give me a minimum of 10 hours  (that includes if I beat it once and decide to replay it.)  

Surprisingly, I found that I'm not purely investing in nostalgia.  Out of the initial 7 games, I concluded that 5 of them were worth my investment.  Mind you, I picked them up at various prices, which range from $20-$60, but I was getting at least that much out of those 5, and, in some cases, a little bit more.  The other 2 were, unfortunately, not so worth it; they have been sitting in a binder since they were bought, which means they're basically space occupiers at this point.

What I did find that was surprising was that a game's cost affected this.  The 2 games that I haven't started (yet) were at cheap costs: one was $7, and the other was part of a "Buy 2 Get 1" promotion, so it was free since it was the cheapest of the 3.  I thought I'd move on to analyze my 3DS and GameCube collections, but that posed a bit of a problem.  The 3DS games I own are mostly digital and from the Virtual Store section, so most of my games cost between $3-$8.  The GameCube games weren't all store bought or paid for with cash; I have been trying to catch up on titles I missed the first time around, so I trade some of my other games for the games I'm missing via online bartering.

That's when it hit me: I have a Steam account!  I decided to do the same comparison with my games on there.  

After going through the same process with my Steam collection, I went through a total of 12 games that I previously owned on another console and found that the same was true as before; if I paid more for a classic, I would tend to invest more time than if I paid less.  Of the 12, only 3 were played enough to be worth the initial investment.  The other 9 were either played a total of 10-20 minutes or not at all.  

So, what did this mean for me?  Am I splurging too much on the same game(s)?  

I decided that, while I had games that haven't been played, overall I was getting more than what I paid for.  For my PS4 games, I invested enough time in the 5 games that it took care of the cost (and then some!) of the other 2.  The Steam games were barely noticeable from a financial standpoint...I bought most of them in collections for a $1-$7, so, if I put 1-2 hours in 1 game from the bundle, I got my money's worth.  

Most of the games I purchased were for consoles I either never owned or no longer the case of the latter, I am guilty of being part of the "trade and save" cycle that most game stores pull you into.  I'll post another time how I feel about that, but I will say that I'm no longer sucked into that.  But I am glad that I have been making purchases that aren't going to waste.  

I'm happy that the games I either enjoyed or may have missed out on the first time are available to this day to enjoy.  There are some games, like Super Mario World, that I'll always enjoy spending time going through over and over again.  I lament that there is focus on only a few franchises, however, and would like to see some other previously released games get a remake or re-release.  Can we get another Eternal Darkness or Jet Force Gemini perhaps?

I'm glad that my concern has been diminished...though, I should complete my back log of games before the next holiday season hits!  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Over The Top

Recently, I finished watching one of my favorite anime series for a third time: Gurren Lagann.  The plot is fairly simple; two guys, who've been literally living under rocks (OK, it's an underground city) find their way to the surface to discover that it's crawling with monsters.  Surviving is rough in this wasteland...unless, of course, you happen to stumble upon a giant robot suit.  Things get intense rapidly, and the show continues to escalate the battles to insane heights...such as a battle involving hurdling entire galaxies at each other.

This had me thinking; why aren't there more games like this?  Crazy, over the top, nonstop action would be killer, if done well.  What I mean by that is that it would have to be entertaining enough to keep my attention longer than 10 minutes, as well as have enough story and depth that would leave me wanting more well after the final boss fight.  

There are a couple of games that go after this idea, like Mad World and Deadpool, but none embody the idea I'm going for quite like Asura's Wrath.  From free falling from space to fight a giant tentacled monster, to destroying a god-like being that's bigger than the planet (and that's just the first 20-30 minutes!) this game keeps the adrenaline pumping throughout.  The story is surprisingly good and in no way detracts from the action.  My only lament is that it has a big focus on using the "rapidly tap the A button to defeat the monster" mechanic, but it's forgivable after watching the title character completely demolish anyone and everyone that stands between him and revenge.

I'd like to see that idea taken to the next level.  A game that offers crazy amounts of action, a solid story, and a combat system that's on par with other action games...possibly along the lines of Devil May Cry.  I want to see two overpowered characters clash in an epic battle that's going to shake the planet to its core, then shrug it off like it's nothing because, "OH NO THE EVEN WORSE BAD GUY IS COMING!" but I want it to involve a little more than mashing the same button over and over.  

With the flood of military shooters and medieval RPGs, we need something else tossed in the mix.  Yeah, I like a good round of Call of Duty, and I will always enjoy dying many times in Dark Souls, but I believe we're well overdue for some more insane action games.  Imagine what a company like Capcom or Blizzard could do with such an idea...the hi-jinks and battles would be grand, to say the least!  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Why DLC is Good For Gamers

In recent years, we've found ourselves piled under an ever growing pile of DLC (downloadable content) that begs for you to spend money beyond the initial $60 investment.  There are many mixed feelings on this front, but I would argue that most are upset having to spend anywhere between $20-$50 for a "season pass" or $1-$20 for vanity options...I particularly love the vanity options, FYI, because I enjoy seeing people with paid emotes in Destiny and saying, "Hey, I noticed you once had $7!"

Despite this being aggravating and an obvious grab for more of your money, I would argue that this is good for both gamers and the gaming industry at large.  Chiefly, this has kept the cost of software down for consumers in general.  Yeah, I know the math may not seem to add up, but consider the alternative, which is having to purchase a game at $100$-$120 at launch.  Currently, the DLC structure helps keep everyone happy.  

If, for example, you're up for playing the basic package that comes with Call of Duty (which includes maps, story, and zombie modes,) you'll pay the initial $60 and be done with it.  That's an appealing option to me, because normally after 2 months I'm done playing Call of Duty and am on to the next big thing.  On the other hand, if you know you're going to be investing in the game for a while, like some of my friends, then you have no issue ponying up the extra $50 to gain access to the entire experience.  I did this with Destiny right off the bat because I knew I was going to obsess over it, and, 1.5 years later, I've finally put it down.  

I think this is a very appealing option because I'm given a choice.  Based on my time working at a certain big box game store, I've heard people complain when the only option available is an expensive version of a game (this didn't happen too often, but sometimes we would run out of copies of the "standard" version of a game and had to sell the "premium" copies instead, which usually were $20 more.)  I like that I had a choice, in particular, with The Division: I wasn't confident that I would enjoy it starting off, so why would I want to invest more than I'm used to paying?  

My one, and only, complaint is the idea of paid game progression.  This is most rampant in mobile games...Clash of Clans, a favorite of mine, being a terrible offender.  I do enjoy playing it for free, but the game seemingly punishes players like myself that aren't OK with spending anywhere between $1-$100 to speed things up.  Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag also lets you pay to completely level up your character and the ship you sail.  

I'm also against indirectly paying for it as well.  For example, look back to the last 3 Call of Duty releases.  There was a "free" double XP code either inside of Doritos bags or in soda you're rewarded if you buy in to the product they're selling.  At that point, why not just have the "Double XP" weekends only, and have them sponsored by (insert company here)?

My point being, if you're wanting me to pay for it, why not give me a price upfront?  I'd gladly pay $5 to have a decent copy of Clash of Clans, or Plants vs Zombies 2.

Ultimately, giving me the option to choose how much game content I want is the best way to go because it gives a company a chance to let me see their product and for them to say, "OK, now that you've done everything that you can, here's some more things we've been working on for $XX."  Which, by the way, is something else I enjoy about DLC; most of it is being worked on post launch date, so there's a chance for the developers to make some really interesting content after the game's release.  Fallout 4 is about to drop a package that lets you custom build robots, and that's going to be nifty (I plan on making a Futurama will be posted as soon as it happens!)

There are those that aren't for DLC, but, given that there are far worse option, I'm content with having a choice.  Yeah, I'll sometimes spend more that way than, say, spending $100 upfront.  For most casual gamers, though, I'd say that it's going to be a more cost effective way to enjoy multiple titles and get the most bang for your buck, as well as avoid massive buyers remorse when a dud of a game drops (imagine paying $100 upfront for Duke Nukem: Forever *shudders*.)  So, I say, quit your belly aching and be thankful that you are given a choice!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Destiny's Fall From Its Own Golden Age

A year and a half after launch, the MMO/FPS shooter Destiny is starting to feel barren.

I am a die hard fan of Bungie; I've conquered every single Halo game to date (except Halo 5...I only own a PS4 right now, sadly) and I was stoked when they announced Destiny years before it launched.  I was lucky enough to participate in both Betas, and, while some were a bit underwhelmed, I was enthusiastic; SPACE MAGIC!  SPEEDER BIKES!  GIANT TANKS!  What could possibly go wrong?!

And I've conquered nearly every challenge in game since then; I've done each raid except King's Fall on Hard, participated in a LOT of Iron Banner, and sometimes, when I feel like putting myself in my place, dare to fight in the Trials of Osiris.  My light level, at max, is 314, which isn't too shabby at all.  I'm one trophy away from 100% completing the base game (I just am too lazy to search for all of the Ghosts, honestly.)

Destiny's first year was pretty exciting; we had both DLC packs "The Dark Below" and "House of Wolves" as well as the introduction of the yearly events (something nearly every MMO does, but I appreciate it nonetheless.)  And when they announced The Taken King, I was jumping for joy in hopes that we were going to be treated to several more fantastic experiences!  A chance to take on the father of Crota, the biggest bad-ass of the game until then, was going to be awesome!   But now I'm at a point where I turn on the console, scroll past the looming Oryx icon on the dashboard, and let out a, "meh."

Six months since The Taken King dropped, I have found myself in a rut.  I almost never play unless it's to participate in Iron Banner (and that's because I know I can get a group of friends to jump in) or Xur has that one piece of gear I haven't got from a random drop.  There's literally nothing new or exciting going on, and that's frustrating given that I paid for the collector's editions for both Destiny and The Taken King (no regrets though, my Dinkle Bot is pretty freakin' cool, as well as the book with Cayde-6's notes.)

Bungie has made a few attempts to keep the community interest, adding speeder bike racing for a few weeks and a ho-hum Valentine's Day PVP event, but, beyond that, its been dismal.  Even right now, I'm looking at a text message from a friend wanting to know if I'd care to jump into a fire team and run the daily challenges, but those are, at this point, boring.  I have done nearly everything, and I'm only a few items away from having every exotic for my main (EXO TITAN FOR THE WIN!!!)

Honestly, the only thing that keeps me coming back is the fact that there are so few games I can play with 6 friends cooperatively on PS4.  Say what you will about the many flaws of the game (still waiting on a fix for the run button -_-) Bungie got co-op with friends right.  Yeah, there's a lack of match making to pick up a random person to help clear a raid after someone drops out...and that is very frustrating not to have when a person drops out an hour after starting, but I've learned to keep a big list of friends, just in case.  Which is another positive for me; I've met a lot of really good players and made some pretty cool friends as a result.

We keep in touch here and there, but it's not the same when you're coordinating a group to take down huge robots and platform jump across disappearing platforms (and we have some great one liners, like, "The F@$%ing walls are made of rubber!!!")  Some of our clan have been playing games from their back log (I've been trying to play catch up on Pokemon Omega Ruby,) some have been playing other FPS games, like Call of Duty or Battlefield, and a very select few are still holding out hope for Destiny on a regular basis.  They continue to fight for the Traveler and the Tower, and I commend them for their continued efforts; I was right beside them from day one.

So, since we're pretty positive that there's going to be a lack of content until Destiny 2 arrives, what does that mean for a Titan ready to smash the Hive back into their holes?  It probably means that I'm going to have to be OK with one of two outcomes; either continue to be OK with the grind and deal with the lack of content so I can spend time with friends, or hang up my Suros Regime & try and con my group into migrating over to other cooperative games.  The thing is, I don't want to be OK with that outcome, but, given the lack of exciting new content combined with dwindling support for issues from the initial launch of the game, I'll probably find myself migrating over to "The Division."

That is, until Destiny 2 arrives.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Can Be Learned From Dark Souls?


     Dark Souls...the very name strikes a sense of fear and dread for those unfamiliar with its content.  For others, it's a constant festival of anger, rage, and frustration.  But, for those that are left, it's an amazing, though extremely demanding, experience.  I've personally have invested a minimum of 60 hours in each installment (except for Demon Souls, that one I've yet to complete, unfortunately, but life is hectic,) and I don't regret it one bit.  The series is known to be intimidating to the faint of heart and the weak of spirit, but, in my opinion, it's a must play game for anyone even remotely interested in fantasy based games and great story telling.

     As the gaming world prepares for the launch of Dark Souls III, I would like to share some of the life lessons I've taken from the series and how it relates to life (particularly my life, but I feel it applies to everyone.)  Please note that Dark Souls teaches a lot of difficult lessons, but it's important to learn them; I'd personally would rather learn them through a video game than, say, several months of real life hard lessons, but that's just me!

  • Life is Frustrating

     Dark Souls is notorious for one thing; you will die, and you will die many, many times (the original Dark Souls has a "Prepare to Die" edition, and the second installment has an achievement/trophy called "Welcome to Dark Souls," which is awarded after your first death.)  Casual gamers will be infuriated with this, causing many to give up before leaving the first area they come across.  

     This is true in real life as well...I often find myself giving up on new things before giving them an honest shot because I found it way too hard, when, if I had just given it a chance, I know I would have excelled.  I've also have learned that raw talent means nothing in the real world.  Just because you're naturally good at something doesn't mean you'll be great, it just means you have a talent.  Talent means nothing if you're not willing to push it even further; you have to challenge yourself to overcome the daunting and strive to emerge victorious, even if it means failing over and over again.

  • Hard Work Pays Off

     In every version of the game thus far, you start off with minimum equipment; you may be lucky and have a sword and shield, or you may find yourself stripped down to your undergarments.  When you start exploring the world and face off against formidable foes, you'll see that you are rewarded for your efforts.  Unlike most of today's "free to play" or "follow the path from A to B," games that give instant feel good rewards just for playing, Dark Souls demands that you learn from your failures, study the patterns of your foes, and use it to tackle new and ever increasingly challenging obstacles. 

     I've found that, while it's not true in every single case, working hard on a given task and pushing yourself to learn things from different angles is extremely rewarding.  From something as grande as being promoted at a job to as small as a "Thank you," and a handshake, when I take the time and put all of my effort into a job/hobby/passion, I find that it pays off.  If nothing else, I take enjoyment from being able to say, "I gave it my all, now look at what I've accomplished!"  

  • The Path Forward Is Not Always Clear

     One of my favorite things about Dark Souls is the fact that, beyond telling you the basic button functions, the game itself does not give you a clear path to follow.  Unless you're willing to invest the time, you'll find yourself running around in circles trying to open a door down the hallway in a fortress when in fact you should have been in the forest fighting giants to obtain the item you needed.  Dark Souls prides itself on keeping most things hidden from its players, who must strive to put together the small hints and clues the game occasionally leaves behind.  

     This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons I've learned in my life; things aren't always so clear cut and straight forward, especially when it involves a game plan for the future.  The unexpected is going to happen, regardless of what is done to prepare.  I'm not suggesting to forgo having a plan of attack, rather, I'm asking to be accepting of the fact that there will always be things that happen that can't be predicted.  From having cars fail after owning them for 6 months to sleeping on a bench, I would never have planned for these events beforehand because they happened so suddenly.  But I did get through, oftentimes with a little bit of help, and I gained experience I otherwise would never have obtained...although, I wouldn't have complained too much if things were a tad easier, I'll always argue that I wouldn't be who I am now without the events in my life unfolding as they did.

  • People, As A Whole, Are Good...

     This one isn't particularly about Dark Souls in relation to the game's story or themes, but the community at large.  Dark Souls has a unique form of communication for its players so that you can leave helpful tips and hints for others (this requires being online FYI.)  You're limited to only a few key words, but it's usually more than enough to get the point across; there's only so many ways to warn a person there's a hidden ledge ahead, you know!  This also gives people a chance to do some devious things, such as to leave a message stating "Treasure Awaits Ahead!" when, in reality, there's a dragon ready to reign down fiery death upon you.  Thankfully, there's also a way to give positive and negative "votes" to these messages so other players won't suffer the same fate.

Now, I've worked with the public almost my entire life; I've served food, done tech support, recommended items for loved ones, and so on.  What I've seen, first hand, is that people are going to be good towards you even if you've just met with them.  The most important part of the interaction is attitude...treat people well, and the message I'm leaving them will be positive; treat them poorly, and the message I'm leaving them will be negative.  And even when a person's message is negative, I do my damnedest not to sweat it!  There will always be others that will help support and guide me to a more positive path.

  • ...But Some People Enjoy Being Mean

     In addition to the message system, Dark Souls boasts an equally unique system for gamers to play online.  A person may appear as a "Phantom" into your world (again, online only!) that can either help you through tough points (such as the Ruin Sentinels, whom I despise with every fiber of my being) or hinder you by stalking you in your own world (and your only heads up is a message stating they have invaded your world.)  While most people I've encountered have been nice about invading my world (usually by at least bowing beforehand, just to be polite before following up by giving me  a beat down,) others will employ cheap tricks and downright dirty tactics, such as waiting with a large group of in game enemies to overwhelm you or staying hidden until you pass by and striking with your back turned.  What's more, the game prides itself on this element, making you that much more cautious when the daunting "You've Been Invaded By (username)" comes across the screen.

     Again, people are good as a whole, but I've come across people that enjoy being mean or spiteful because they know they can.  In my experience, it's not always telegraphed, either; I've had customers that I could tell from watching them walk from their car to the door that they're looking to start a fight, and I've had some walk in, nice and calm, only to blow up when they have my undivided attention.  Now, I'm not going to say that every one of them were unjustified; I'd be mad too if I was promised something like, say, a $25 credit on my phone bill that hasn't shown up for 3 months.  But some are downright ridiculous, like the time I had a customer rage that I couldn't set them up for a new cell phone plan within 10 minutes.  The former person I will always sympathize with and will do my best to help them out in a time they're most frustrated, while the latter will most likely receive directions to the nearest exit.  There's never, ever a good reason to be downright rude and mean to the people you come across, because, as John Watson once said, "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  Keeping positive and refusing to stoop to that level is it's own reward, because I know my integrity is always intact.

  • Life Is Full Of Want

     This is a huge theme in the second Dark Souls game.  One of the biggest points that Dark Souls II tries to make is that you, the player, are always wanting more; I won't spoil anything for anyone that has yet to play this, but the climax makes you wonder, "Did I really get what I want, or am I still Hollow?" (Hollow is referencing the state of being undead throughout the game by the way.)  My favorite line that puts it all into perspective is, "For the curse of life is the curse of want."  

     Coming to terms with this in my life wasn't easy; it's hard to admit that, regardless of all the things I have, I'm constantly wanting more.  And with commercialism as it is, it's hard not to.  There's a constant war going on for my (and your) dollar, and everyone wants a piece of it.  Living where I live now, I'm sure I'm considered poor by most people's standards (lower middle class at best, honestly,) but, all of that aside, I'm doing very well; I'm fortunate enough to own a video game system to play Dark Souls, as well as a computer that has regular access to the internet, among many other things.  And while I may never become a millionaire that's driving a fully loaded Mustang while living in a mansion on my own private island, I've at least learned to realize that I don't need these things to stay happy; being content with what I already own is more than enough to keep me smiling (although, I do see me buying the collector's edition of Dark Souls III...)

     My experience with the Dark Souls series has been wonderful.  I've put in a lot of time and effort into many games (I think my main WoW character has over a month of in game time put into him, for example,) but none have made me do as much self reflection as Dark Souls.  Many people will just pass it off without seeing the true beauty of working and striving towards a rewarding goal, but that's ok; Dark Souls isn't for them.  It's for those who are able to pick themselves up after falling many times to the same foe (or be humble enough to ask for help from a stranger!)  It's for those who aren't afraid to dedicate their time to achieve their wants and desires.  And it's for those who aren't afraid of what may lurk behind the next corner.  

     If nothing else, I hope that the experiences I've shared will give you some helpful insight, both in regards to Dark Souls itself as well as the lessons we learn in life,  There are going to be times that things look bleak, and the path ahead isn't clear.  However, if you're willing to put forth the effort, learn from your failures, and learn to ask for a helping hand every now and again, you'll be able to overcome even the most daunting obstacles you come across.  After all, that's how I summoned the courage to write this blog post (and many more, I hope!  Special thanks to my wife; without her support, I would still be drowning in a pit of despair.)