Bioshock

Many irritating operating system gymnastics sessions later, I finished Bioshock late last week. I was pretty close to throwing up my hands when the game started crashing regularly when I reached Fort Frolic, about midway through. I ended up having to clear out my save games, turn off a Vista OS feature or two, and start all over.

I’ve been blaming Vista for a lot of my issues with computing ever since I got this computer, but I’ll throw some blame 2K Games’ way for this situation as Bioshock’s issues with Vista have been so widely reported, and the Orange Box games I finished a while back were rock-solid on the same computer. Get it together, 2K Games!

* There are a lot of weapons. I barely even used the last few I got. The research camera was a wonderful addition to the standard FPS arsenal.

* There is a lot more character development possible than in Half-Life 2, what with the plasmids and buffout upgrades in addition to all the weapons. However, most of that ended up evening out by the last third of the game–unless you were a complete tool, you were going to have all the cool stuff one way or another by then.

The downside of allowing this kind of development is that the game becomes unbalanced, which Bioshock did for me. After a ton of buildup during the level load, I killed the last boss in the game by running up to him and hitting him with the wrench (the default melee weapon in the game–think the crowbar in Half-Life) repeatedly… the biggest click-fest since Diablo.

* You’ve got a hard limit of $500 in your wallet (at least on the Medium level of difficulty, which is what I played). I kept running into this, which tells me two things: that I’m a cheap bastard, and that yet again I probably should have played the game at its hardest setting.

* I think the possibility of a security camera seeing you and sounding the alarm was supposed to be more of a consideration than it turned out to be. Once I got Natural Camouflage, which I did pretty early on, security alerts were a total non-issue. Also, the previously-mentioned Pipe Dream-style hacking minigame remained ridiculous throughout.

* After starting off fairly underwhelmed by the game experience I got progressively more into it. The back-story of Rapture was interesting, the characters seemed to have some stories to tell, and the designers did a good job of building suspense and interest in the game universe.

Then came the Sixth Sense-style reveal down the home stretch, followed by increasingly less interesting levels and story in the second half. I really started to lose buy-in, and that continued through the finale. Like the New England Patriots, Bioshock peaked way too soon.

Two Pochaccos. Parts were quite fun, but the game was oversold and crash-tastic.

This game review is for Patrick.

Veto Power

Q: When is it proper for me to veto a trade in my fantasy league?

A: I’m glad you asked! There are two circumstances in which it is proper to vote to veto a trade.

  1. collusion. Let’s say Owner A and Owner B get together for lunch one day, and Owner A says to Owner B “how about I trade you two of my best players for two of your worst players if you pick up the check?” That sucks for everyone when that happens and it is totally reasonable to veto a trade that is made under these parameters.

    In this case, your veto is also a vote of no-confidence on the personal integrity of both owners.

  2. imbalance. Really, the only difference between this and collusion is intent. Maybe Owner A is much smarter or paying more attention than Owner B and browbeats or cajoles Owner B into trading some talented under-the-radar players for formerly productive big names. That might well damage the rationality of the league’s talent distribution, and as a fellow owner you have the right to vote against this if it’s going to impact your enjoyment of the game.

    Be sure Owner B doesn’t have an angle before you do this, though! It’s possible to trade from strength to address weakness and come out ahead even if you give up more talent in the abstract. If you can come up with a reason for Owner B to be doing what they’re doing in the trade as it is reported to the league, even if you don’t agree with the reasoning, you shouldn’t veto.

    In this case, your veto is also a declaration that Owner B is being a moron. If someone cites an imbalanced trade in your trading partner’s favour as a reason to veto a trade you are involved in, they are insulting your judgment.

There is a lot of confusion about this in the fantasy gaming world because people like to make things more complicated than they need to be, but there are no other circumstances in which it is proper to veto a trade in your league. In addition to this being the only policy that makes any sense, it’s also very easy to apply.

Q: what if, after the trade was agreed to but during the period of league review of the trade, something causes value on either side of the trade to change? For example, the best player in a trade is discovered to have a sports hernia after terms are agreed to.

A: you should consider all players to have changed hands as soon as the terms were agreed to. The only reason Owner A’s players are still on Owner A’s roster is because there’s a league review period to evaluate the trade for unfairness–otherwise, they’d be transferred immediately. Owner A’s players should be considered Owner B’s property the instant the trade is reported to the league and vice versa. Nothing that happens after the terms of the deal are agreed to has anything to do with the fairness of the trade as it was conceived, hence you have no cause to veto.

Q: but why is there an open period of n days when other owners can veto?

A: because not all owners log on every day. That’s a simple, reasonable answer. Here’s a more complicated answer: other veto-enabled owners are supposed to be shields of justice and lemon law administrators, watching for changes of status in the players that are slated to change hands and acting accordingly if the value proposition of the trade is skewed by an injury, trade, or demotion.

Do you really believe that?

In fantasy leagues, trading is creating. It is engaging. It is proper to encourage this behavior, and improper to believe you know better than the people actively managing their own individual teams without extraordinary evidence to the contrary. When you veto outside of this ruleset you are meddling. This is the same kind of behavior that made the founding fathers distrustful of strong centralized government. This is the same thing the feds are doing with the mortgage bailouts. This is really bad policy.

If you disagree I’m going to do my best to never play fantasy baseball with you.

Cheap Dum Dums

Want to get your Halloween candy shopping done early? Need some cheap long-lasting candy for the office? Or maybe you just like Dum Dums pops like I do…

The Vons across the street from my house is selling a 2-lb bag of Dum Dums for $1.14 after Vonsclub and the coupon on the bag. I’ve already bought two bags and I’m going to keep getting at least one a day until they run out.

While doing exhaustive research for this post, I found this ode to Dum Dums, which contains both the term “Dum-Dums. Are. Completely. Totally. Rad.” and the origin story of the Dum Dums “Mystery Flavour” pop. This story is 100x more awesome than I was expecting, and I was expecting greatness.