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Category Archives: Life, Living and Loving

Watch Dogs 2

So I got the game (thanks again, baby!) and after a few days of playing it, I’m a bit disappointed by it or I got spoiled playing the first game.  War Dogs 2 kinda/sorta takes up where Watch Dogs left off with DedSec, a notorious hacker group dedicated to expose the corruption of personal data and freedom by the Blume Corporation and its ctOS 2.0 system, the upgrade a necessary one after the hero in Watch Dogs did a number on ctOS 1.0.  Set in San Francisco, a small group of hackers and Marcus, our hero this time around, is still running around putting the screws to Blume and while I think the story line in Watch Dogs 2 is kinda weak, it’s at least a bit familiar.

The controls have been a bitch to relearn; the only similarities to the original game is driving (and destroying) cars along with aiming and shooting.  I’ve gotten killed several times just because I’m pushing buttons I got used to using in the original game and buttons that, in the second game, don’t do a damned thing.  There’s a distinct lack of deployable weapons; in the first game, I could pick up a weapon and it would go in my “pack” and could be selected easily enough; in this game, if I’m holding a weapon and pick up another, the one I”m holding gets discarded so all I have is two weapons and as far as weapons go, they’re pretty wimpy at this stage in the game.  I mean, I have a silenced pistol, which made me happy to see… except when I walked up behind a bad guy, sighted on the back of his head and pulled the trigger… and he turned around and killed me.

What the fuck…?

Two things I kinda like:  The cops, who were conspicuous by their absence in the first game, are seen patrolling the streets of San Francisco but they don’t mess with you as you’re breaking every traffic law that ever existed, well, until you fuck up and rear end one of them – then they’re on you like a very bad habit and they are damned persistent as in the first game; in fact, it’s harder to escape and evade these cops.  The other thing is the NPCs, which are roaming all over the place.  I turned a corner and scared one into falling down; she got up and instead of walking away, she stormed over to my car, dragged me out of it, and punched me in the face!  So I punched her in the face but then somebody came to her aid and started beating me with an umbrella… and I had to knock them out, too.  Later, during a mission, some chick was driving in front of me and just stopped in the middle of the road and I tapped her bumper… and she got out wanting to fight and, well, you can probably guess what happened.  What’s even funnier is watching the civilian NPCs actually starting fights with the cops when I have them arrest somebody because of information I planted about them; once, I guess the cop took offense to the man punching him in the face… because the cop shot him.

At this point in the game play, I’m not sure I really like this game as much as I did the first because, as previously mentioned, I don’t have the tools readily available to do things.  For instance, by my fifth mission in the original game, I had to ability to “distract” a pursuing helicopter and even shoot the sniper while the chopper pilot fought for control.  In the new game, I have to collect a whole lot of stuff – then activate a lot more stuff – before I can get this needed ability, which shows in the main mission I’ve yet to complete… because the sniper in the helicopter keeps killing me before I can make good my escape.  It’s frustrating because in this mission – I have to bust somebody out of Alcatraz – it’s a long, drawn out process to eliminate all the guards using stealthy methods; just going in there and shooting up the place isn’t an option.

It doesn’t help that I don’t have enough good camera angles; it also doesn’t help that there aren’t that many things I can use for booby traps and of those things that do exist, only one of them is lethal… and it’s nowhere near where the main body of guards are hanging out.  All of the other potential traps just put them to sleep and they eventually wake up again.  In one attempt to free the prisoner, it took me over an hour to clear out all the guards before I could actually go inside Alcatraz and spring the guy… only to have that fucking helicopter – which somehow seems to know exactly where I am in the prison even though they can’t see me – blow me away before I can get close to escaping.  It’s annoying and aggravating and that’s being nice about it so I wound up quitting the mission so I can do some other stuff so I can get some stuff so I can deal with the helicopter.  That didn’t make me happy having to do that; I can accept screwing up a mission because of a mistake I made but I just have a problem with failing a mission because I don’t have the tools available to deal with all possible threats – it’s like taking a knife to a gun fight.

This game has a couple of toys:  A drone and an RC (remote controlled) wheeled thingy call a Jumper… because it can really jump up onto things.  The Jumper is cool because I can use it to sneak into places and do the physical hacking that sometimes has to be done while I sit outside and away from guards and the cops.  Moving vehicles in this game is just as crazy as in the original game (you just do not want to know how many cars and motorcycles I’ve trashed and I wasn’t actually being chased) so controlling these toys is a bit iffy.  I use the Jumper a lot and I’m just now getting the hang of sending it into air ducts and sneaking past motion sensors, etc.; piloting the drone isn’t that bad but unlike the Jumper, it can’t interact with anything – I can spy on things, interact with a camera, even hack a NPC but I can’t use it to unlock anything that requires physically being able to plug something in.

Like I said, the story line leaves something to be desired and, just my opinion, I would have thought that for Watch Dogs 2, they would have recruited Aidan – our hero in Chicago for the first game – to help them get rid of Blume and ctOS 2.0 once and for all.  Instead, the only character they brought back from the original game is one that not only didn’t actually do anything in the first game, he’s not doing anything in this game except running his mouth, the video game version of an REMF – a rear echelon motherfucker – who’s good for sending me out on missions and getting me killed while staying nice and safe back at headquarters.  Don’t get me wrong – the game is fun and has a few surprises – like at least three gangs that I’ve identified so far and gangs you can sic on a target or even the police.  One mission had me stealing a car from them, something they weren’t happy about nor were they happy about my blowing up quite a few of their members prior to snatching the car so it wasn’t surprising that they chased me all over the Bay Area until I finally managed to ditch them… and the cops who got in on the act.

It took a little while for Watch Dogs to grow on me but it’s taking much longer for Watch Dogs 2 but I’ll keep hacking away at it and, who knows, maybe this game is really better than it appears at the moment!

 
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Posted by on 6 July 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Road Rage

If you’ve read about my playing Watch Dogs, you’ve seen where driving a vehicle in the game is a comedy of errors but I forgot to mention something about that:  When driving in this game, I have a major case of road rage.

Now, in real life driving, it’s not as if I’ve had some unkind things to say to some of my fellow motorists, you know, the folks who drive under the speed limit or when the light changes to green, they’re sitting there as if they’re waiting for another color and, yes, I’m sure I’ve given people reason to be a bit… miffed at me.  But this game makes me nuts when I gotta drive somewhere.

The folks who designed this game could have made it very interesting if they made you obey traffic laws or risk getting pulled over by the cops, a problem since you’re the main character in this game and the cops would very much like to have a very long talk with you about your vigilante behavior.  But since they didn’t, it get to run traffic lights and stop signs, drive on the wrong side of the road, cause accidents and, sometimes, when driving from one location to another, I will run vehicles off the road… because they’re slowing me down from getting to where I need to be.

Now, unless I’m doing something that has a time limit, I’m really not in a hurry to complete a main mission so, um, there’s no reason for me to be in a hurry and I can actually obey real-life traffic laws… and Lord knows that I’ve tried to drive like I’ve got some sense… and it’s just not working.  I drive along nicely and they drive so slowly that, um, I get impatient and the road rage commences along with breaking every traffic law in existence, oh, like driving on the sidewalk, for instance.

 
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Posted by on 2 July 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Watch Dogs Update

On 27 June, I finished the final act in Watch Dogs, technically beating the game even though there were many other activities – side missions – that could be done.  I did a few of them but the others, well, after the intensity of doing the story line missions, stuff like tailing someone seemed mundane and unexciting so there was only one thing to do:

Start over from the beginning.  As I clicked the “A” button on “New Game” I saw the warning that all my previous progress would be erased and, for a moment, I was reluctant to continue because I’d gotten a ton of money, had every weapon that could be had, even had a rather impressive stable of cars I’d hacked from NPCs and/or outright stolen as they sat empty at the curb or wherever they happened to be parked.  Not sure if I ever mentioned it but carjacking someone will guarantee those pesky, swarming cops will be all over you in a heartbeat if you don’t remember to activate a Jam Calls and cut off the call for help.  That was a lesson I learned when I first started playing the game… and I haven’t carjacked anyone since.  Anyway…

I figured that if I had accumulated all that stuff once, I could do it again; I also thought that now that I know what has to be done and could kinda/sorta easily remember how I did it (or eventually managed to do it), the second time around should go better… which is exactly what didn’t happen.  I still crack myself up trying to drive in the game and you should see the look on my face when I have to get into a car chase because I know for a fact that some T-boning and quite a few head-on crashes are gonna happen, right along with mowing down any hapless NPC who happens to be in my erratic path of travel.  What has amazed me is how I’m making mistakes that I didn’t make the first time I played, simple stuff like turning around so I can scan the area behind me (some of those bad guys are pretty damned sneaky) and stepping right off the edge of a building, killing myself and having to start the mission over again.

I don’t know if it’s me or it’s a gamer kind of thing but I find myself being more… careless even though I know good and damned well that some missions require a lot of patience and stealth and I’ve found that, on several occasions, how I finished a mission the first time doesn’t work the second time through – damn you, Ubisoft!  Some missions were easier the second time through while the ones that were easier the first time have proven to be anything but.  There’s one mission where I have to infiltrate the gang’s headquarters (and a place I’ve been to already in the game) but using a thug I’ve co-opted to do my leg work.  I have to get him to his boss’s server room unseen by the gang members roaming around all over the place and, of course, in the path I need to guide him and then only using and hacking the various cameras.  Well, folks, the first time I did this, my patsy only got busted (and got the shit shot out of him) once; the second time?  I was consistently getting him caught and shot and I realized, oh, around the third or fourth time failing the mission, that I couldn’t remember exactly how I did it before.  I realized that I did remember how I did it; it was just a thing that what I did the first time wasn’t working the second time but, yeah, I managed to get my patsy in place and accomplish the mission even though the fool got cold feet and eventually got busted by his boss (who is also his cousin) and, presumably, tossed out of a window.

I’ve gone into combat areas without making sure I had everything I needed, like an important tool called a ctOS Scan which, when activated, gives me a picture of where all the bad guys are located.  I learned that going in “blind” is really dumb and I got my ass shot off several times before I literally slapped myself in the head because I’d forgotten something important:  I could quit the mission, go load up on all the stuff I needed, and do the mission again.  Duh.  I’m still doing stupid shit, namely, blowing myself up with IEDs and grenades; the way you toss these items can be iffy especially when you’re hiding behind something.  An arrow-like thingy pops up and you have to point it to the area you want the device to land, but the targeting arrow thingy doesn’t always point where I think it’s going so I wind up tossing a grenade… right onto whatever I happen to be hiding behind.  Or, once, I tossed a grenade toward a cluster of bad guys and, my friends, I was kinda drooling over being able to take them all out at one time… until the grenade bounced off of something and landed in my lap.

I’ve learned a greater appreciation for the game’s physics engine, let me tell ya.  Now, it hasn’t all been a series of self-induced fuck ups; I’m still having fun playing the game the second time and I’ve developed a fondness for infiltrating Gang Hideouts.  For these you have to target and tag the person to be taken down without killing him but the bad guys around him are fair game.  Okay, okay, so a few times I accidentally killed the guy and had to start over and, um, okay, a few times, the damned fool walked close enough to a perfectly placed Proximity IED meant for someone else and blew himself up.  Those things aside, I arm myself with my silenced .45 or maybe the silenced SMG (sub machine gun) and have found myself giggling gleefully as everyone except the target gets a bullet to the head, leaving just me and the target who gets beat down with my trusty ASP baton.  Well, um, damn, one such mission didn’t go well and the target got away and I had to chase him down and take him out without killing him, which I did (after causing so much damage and civilian casualties that not only did my rating go down, I was feeling kinda bad about it) but not until he managed to call  his boys for back up and now, they’re chasing me and they are as relentless as those damned cops.

I wound up destroying my car and before it blew up and killed me – and make me restart the mission – I bail out into the river and start swimming… and the bad guys are on the other side following and shooting at me.  I’m thinking they should give up in a moment… but they don’t and I’m a sitting duck swimming around to find a place I can get out of the water – sadly, I can’t stop swimming, pull a weapon and shoot back.  Eventually, I get to dry land and the bad guys I didn’t managed to wipe out during the car chase are still getting into position to take me out.  Now, what I should have done was get out of the water and haul ass away from them… but, no; I arm myself with my M1017 – a “Barrett” .50 sniper rifle – and I’ll admit to having a Borderlands flashback.  I take out the guy “closest” to me – he’s hiding behind a wall directly in front of me on the other side of the river and I send a bullet through the wall and take him out.  Yeah, it was like that but, wait, the moment gets better.  One of the things I learned playing Borderlands (which has the most excellent sniper rifles) is perfectly leading a moving target and executing the perfect head shot.  No, it’s not as easy as it sounds (and I know that because I’ve actually had weapons training so I do know how to shoot) and thanks to the game’s physics engine, which perfectly simulates gun movement due to breathing and heartbeat – you can see the wavering when you aim.  Anyway, the last bad guy is running down the road and I pick a spot I know he’s gonna run through and pull the trigger…. now.

His head exploded – never saw that in the game the first time – and I actually started laughing my ass off because the shot was perfect even though the actual controller motions were anything but.  I said, “Thanks, Borderlands…” and walked out of the area and onto the next mission.

 
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Posted by on 1 July 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Watch Dogs

I came to this game “late,” meaning I didn’t get it when it first came out (whenever that was) and Watch Dogs 2 is already out there.  If you remember my last post about gaming, man, this game was making me nuts because I was learning what it was I had to do and driving the various vehicles.  Well, I finally figured out how to play the game and I’m on the last thing to do in story mode:  Find the guy I was partnered with in the beginning of the story and end him since he’s the reason why Aidan (our hero and sometimes villain) got into this mess in the first place.

I’m still wrecking vehicles as if I’ve never used an Xbox controller before, though…

There’s a sense of familiarity with the game now; as I roamed the city; instead of me asking myself, “Where the hell am I?” and other such question as I did so often early into the game, it feels like I’ve been playing this game for years instead of about a week or so.  As I was hurtling from one part of the city to another to do another task, I really noticed the quality of the graphics in the game and they’re beautiful and quite realistic, right down to the sound tires make when going across a drawbridge.  There are day cycles, night cycles and it even rains and the game’s physics engine is so good that while driving in the rain, I pressed the accelerator too hard… and spun out as if I’d hydroplaned.  I just wish that the people who created the game had provided an option to adjust the controller sensitivity; there are times in the game when I’ll react to something quickly – but Aidan doesn’t; sometimes it’s just annoying, sometimes it’s gotten me killed.  Still, my son-in-law (a fellow gamer) did warn me that the controls were hard to get used to when he said that I should check out this game.

This game, more than any other game I’ve played, reminds me of an older game called “Crackdown,” which took the gaming world by storm (and won all kinds of awards including the coveted Game of the Year award) with it’s amazing graphics and open world/sandbox platform which gave you a whole city to play in while being able to interact with the actual gaming environment in a way that hadn’t been done before, like being able to pick up a car or even one of the many non-playable characters (NPCs) and throw them.  Those of us who loved Crackdown are waiting with bated breath for Crackdown 3, which promises to turn sandbox-type games on their heads.

Watch Dogs, at least for me, has this same kind of feel as I roam this version of Chicago and interacting with the environment, from hacking people’s cell phones to being able to jam communications, cause area-wide blackouts and, one of my favorite “hacks” in the game, blow up guards by detonating any grenades they’re carrying.  This game has puzzles in the form of hacking computer system; some are easy, some are rather complicated and then made even more so by only giving you a few seconds to complete connections before the “intrusion” is detected and now you gotta start over again.

As when I play Borderlands, there are some moments when you’d better not even think about charging in the front door with your gun blazing; stealth and some kinda serious thinking are called for; it took me almost an hour to penetrate one facility simply because the direct approach kept getting me killed whenever I tried it from different approaches.  One hack, called a ctOS Scan, lets you see where all of the bad guys are in a target area; some patrol in fixed areas, some roam around a bit unpredictably and, as you might expect, as usually between you and the target you need to get to and hack… and then you have to escape.

I like the weaponry in the game, from IEDs to fragmentation grenades along with a slew of pistols, assault and sniper rifles.  So far, my favorite weapon is the Spec Ops silenced 1911 .45 pistol; when you’re skulking around a place and the cameras (which you can hack) aren’t providing enough views of the target, stealth is called for and since, um, I’ve come to love shooting bad guys, ah, man, there’s no better thrill than having one of those pesky guards approach where I’m hiding and I get to put a silenced round into his unsuspecting head… then cap the guy who finds his body in the same fashion.  I like the sniper rifles – I learned to really like them playing Borderlands – but aiming them can be… suspect to the point where they’re not as reliable as I’d like.  Then again, if the game designers made it too easy, the game wouldn’t be all that challenging, would it?

One task I had was to intercept a convoy of bad guys and take down two suspects… and the best weapon for this was the semi-automatic grenade launcher.  Admittedly, it took me a few times to complete this mission and for a couple of reasons; one, it was hard for me to tell the bad guys from the innocent civilians running around my kill zone and the bad guy I didn’t see would off me.  The other thing was it just took too long for me to switch from my grenade launcher to an assault rifle or maybe an SMG, although the game says there’s a quick switch toggle but, so far, I’ve not been able to get it to work.  But, yeah, that grenade launcher is sweet because as much as I like shooting bad guys, I also love blowing up shit!

Even though I’ve gotten used to the game, um, I still find myself doing dumb shit like, uh, hmm, blowing myself up with my own IEDs/frag grenades.  Or like the few times I was standing at the edge of a building and accidentally hit the “climb down” button, jumped off the building and died.  Or, as I did last night, turn a corner the wrong way and wind up getting wedged into a space I can’t get out of while the bad guy I was chasing got away.  I’m sure Linda gets a kick out of listening to me rant and rave at my own stupidity as I play the game as I either cuss something out or call myself an idiot or a dumb ass for making mistakes that, at this point in my ability to play the game, I shouldn’t be making.  But, sometimes, yeah, it’s my own fault; I got caught up in the moment of taking out five or six very bad guys and had totally forgotten about the half dozen Proximity IEDs I had sowed in the area and, um, especially the one I walked right past which, yup, exploded and took me out.  Even the cat looked at me funny as I kicked my own ass for such a stupid oversight.

The last mission is proving to be the bitch to end all bitches; I’ve attempted it five times now and, so far, nothing I’ve done has proven successful and the fact that the game designers gave the “Chicago PD” a swarm mentality, sheesh, well, it’s hard to get shit done when every damned cop in the city – along with a helicopter I can’t shoot down – is swarming all over me at almost every turn.  I need a plan… and I haven’t come up with one yet so I’ve been running around the city doing the side jobs, like tracking down burner cell phones, ammo dumps, and even preventing street crime to improve my reputation with the civilian population so that when they see me, they won’t drop a dime on me to those pain in the ass cops.  One really laughable moment came when the cops finally ID’d me and put a warrant out for my arrest; apparently video game cops aren’t fans of vigilantism as their real counterparts are.  I’m listening to the news talking about the warrant when a NPC standing in front of me pulls out her cell phone, says, “It’s him!  It’s The Vigilante!” waves at me, and takes my picture.  This is what I love about open world/sandbox type games – you just never know what the NPCs will do, like the one who was entertaining two ladies and beat-boxing for them, or the one guy hanging with his homies and spitting rhymes and, yeah, even four guys hanging on a corner and crooning in perfect harmony.

I’ve actually stopped what I was doing to just watch the NPCs and the shit they do.  I also get a kick out of how they do “normal” stuff, like get into car accidents (and without my help); some have road rage and if you bump into one, don’t be surprised if they cuss you out and threaten to whup your ass.

I really like this game and so much that I’ve started it over on my second Xbox One profile, the thought here is that, hopefully, I’ve learned from my mistakes made the first time so the second time should be better… and that’s not proving to be the case.  Oh, sure, I know what I have to do now but that doesn’t make it easier to do but, at least for this “do over” I already have the silenced .45 and, ya mon, it’s a game changer…

 
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Posted by on 25 June 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Let the Games Begin

The other day, a guy was making a food delivery and he seemed kinda stunned when he looked to his right a little and saw a game paused on my Xbox One, prompting him to ask who was playing the game.  Since I know there’s just the two of us and our cat, it seemed to be an odd question and more so since Linda wasn’t even in the room… and the cat was in hiding (and can’t hold a controller).

So when I told him I was playing Battleborn, he asked how old I was, his surprised deepened as if it never occurred to him that someone my age can play games on an Xbox One… or at all.  I offered unto him that I happened to know there were people older than I am playing games like Borderlands, Call of Duty, Gears of War, etc., and, I dunno, I guess I got some major props from this guy.

I play games of some kind every day, several times a day on either my iPad or my Samsung tablet and, yes, my Xbox One rarely gets turned off because I usually have a game in progress.  Thanks to my Xbox Live Gold membership, I have access to a lot of free games like the one I’m playing now, Watch Dogs, or the occasional free trial for games like Battleborn, which I went and purchased.  Both of these games reminded me of something kinda important, like how tough it can be to figure out a new-to-you game and more so when there’s no manual readily available.

Sure, I can go online and down one… but where’s the fun in that?  Yesterday, I’m playing Watch Dogs and feeling the frustration a bit because I haven’t really caught on to all of the game’s nuances, which is getting me killed repeatedly and all because I have no idea what to expect despite knowing what an objective is.  Like the part that drove me crazy for a while – getting sent to prison to find this guy and convince him not to rat me out to the cops – and only armed with my trusty and powerful smartphone that allows me to hack pretty much any- and everything.

I get out of my cell but now I have rooms to sneak into, stuff to hack in order to find this guy but I gotta do it without any guards seeing me.  Getting past this part was aggravating but I finally get to where this guy is – the guards are kicking his ass to convince him to give me up and now I finally get my hands on a weapon – a shotgun – and it’s simple:  Take out the guards, question the dude, get out.

Uh, not that simple.  It took me about fourteen tries to kill all of the guards… then the game tosses in something I’d not encountered:  A practically bulletproof “enforcer” who blew me away while I sat here asking, “What the hell is that?”

Now, I’m not above looking up the fan Wiki and finding out what I don’t know about a game… and it seems that if all you have is a fairly wimpy shotgun, the only way to kill an enforcer is to shoot him in the head… and as many times as you can while he’s busting caps in you.

Took me another five or six times before I finally offed the enforcer and the other two “normal” guards that sneaked in and capped me once.  Now I gotta get out of the prison, past a slew of cops waiting just outside the door and, oh, yeah, a helicopter!  While I’m doing this – and it only took three tries to eventually escape – I was thinking about how much fun it is to learn a game blind but, again, how frustrating it can be because you just have no idea what the game is going to throw at you next.

There are some laughable and somewhat embarrassing moments, like any time I steal a car and have to drive it.  I am an experienced in-game car driver but this game reminds me of the very first time I tried to drive a car in a game.  The driving controls are familiar… but the way the cars respond has me spending more time wrecking them than actually driving them; in one part where I was being chased by the police, man, I destroyed more property than Hancock and killed more civilians than in any game I’ve ever played and all because the damned cars are hard to control.  I did (eventually) escape… but not after totally trashing ten different cars and hundreds of civilians!

I’m gonna take a closer look at the sensitivity controls; they either need to be dialed down or up so that I have better control; otherwise, the civilian population will get wiped out.  Oh, before I forget, this game is played in a beautiful rendition of Chicago, a city I’ve been to quite a few times so that helps… some but the game’s graphics is among the best I’ve seen.

Now, Battleborn.  It’s a great game if you like shooting things and the game has a slew of characters at your disposal and all with different abilities and weapons.  You can play it solo or join up with others.  To learn the game, I started playing solo and some levels are easy, some tough and intensive, but I’m thinking, okay, this is challenging and I can see why the preferred playing mode is multiplayer because there’s just too much for one player to pay attention to and tends to result in a lot of respawning.

But I’m getting through it until the “episode” I’m currently stuck in; I have the “help” of another character fighting off all kinds of enemies until I get to the very last one and, yeah, I’m pretty pissed off because for this round, I have to protect a device from being destroyed and I’ve not found a way to keep it unscathed.  The last attacker shows up, I’m throwing everything I have at it -and right  along with some weapon emplacements – when the bad guy backs way out of weapons range and launches a mess of missiles at the device.

Mission failed.  Player totally bent out of shape, hands hurting from gripping the controller tightly and applying body language that never helps anything and the beginnings of a headache.  I’m used to playing games where there are multiple playable characters that have different abilities, like any of the Borderlands games and because I play these games, I’m fairly decent at wiping out multiple attackers but I’ll admit that Borderlands has spoiled me because I have at my disposal a shitload of weapons I can pick and choose from to decimate the bad guys and to great and spectacular effect.

Battleborn gives me one, “upgradable” weapon along with a “DNA helix” of other abilities that I have to pick and choose from and, frankly, with the characters I’ve played with so far, some of those extra abilities suck.  Badly.  I know the level I’m currently stuck on can be beaten… I just haven’t figured out how to do it without recruiting another player to come into my game and help me out… which I kinda stubbornly refuse to do because I am a gamer, have been one for a long time now, and ego demands that I exhaust everything I know of before calling for help.

But it’s still fun even though both of these games are good at frustrating me.  Just as I learned to play the Borderlands games so that I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing or how to do something, I will eventually master these games as well.

Eventually.

 
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Posted by on 19 June 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Seven Years…

Just got the notification from WordPress about my seven year anniversary as a blogger!  I want to thank each and every person who follows me, reads my scribbling, and comments; every last one of you has made blogging a really fun thing to do!

 
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Posted by on 28 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Signs of the Times

It’s just past the middle of May; half of the year hasn’t arrived yet.  In the city of my birth, just twenty miles north and a bit east of where I’m sitting, eighty-five people have been shot and/or killed so far and there’s no sign that there will be an end in sight any time soon and I feel that as the weather gets hotter, aggression will escalate and more people will be shot and/or killed.

The police are in way over their heads and have been for the longest time; they’ve been so busy trying to enact community policing policies that consistently prove that said policies aren’t helping communities very much.  Even with the addition of technology that can detect gunshots and direct officers to the area, it’s like closing the barn door after the cows have already split.  Manpower issues keeps the police in a reactive mode and prevents them from being more proactive; an article referencing the latest shooting/murder said that people in the city are too afraid of reprisal if they say something about these shooting and an older resident said that there was a time in the city where there were cops actually and literally walking a beat on the city streets with the occasional car rolling through to reinforce the police presence.  Another resident said that until this latest shooting occurred, they hadn’t seen the police in the area for the longest time.

Even the various religious groups in the city seem to have given up trying to call for a permanent cease-fire and rallying city residents to take back their streets and take back the city from those who would rather this didn’t happen.  The local media reports on these activities, interviews city leaders and it’s pretty much lip service:  They know this is a problem of epidemic proportions without the CDC making that official and they keep talking about what needs to be done but they’re so busy squabbling over less important issues to actually do some of the shit they say needs to be done to keep the city residents safe which, by the way, is their sworn duty when they got elected.

The last two or three mayors were former police officers and one would think that such a person would be able to make a big difference because they, better than any other elected official, would know exactly what the police need to get the job done… but, no; the last mayor/former police office didn’t do a damned thing except get bent out of shape when Fox released news about a made-for-TV series based on the city that would expound on the city’s bid to become the murder capital of the United States.  It hasn’t quite gotten there yet… but they’re high up on the list of most dangerous places to be and live.  The current mayor fired the chief of police in a move that surprised a lot of people; that poor worthy hadn’t had the job for very long before he found himself replaced by a former chief of police from Chicago.  I guess the thought was that if this guy managed to keep the number of shootings and killings down in the Windy City (and the numbers say that he did), he should be able to do this in a city that’s way smaller than Chicago.  Whether or not the new chief is making an impact on anything since he took the job remains to be seen and until he can start doing whatever he can do, the number of shootings/killings are ramping up and almost as if the city doesn’t have a police department.

This constant siege is having an impact on the city’s ability to make money as tax paying residents and business literally get the hell out of Dodge; the city council has already voted to raise taxes while cutting back the city’s fire department which, as I recall, is the only fire department in the state that gets paid to keep the city from burning to the ground – all the others are volunteer fire companies.  There was talk about having units of the state and county police join the city’s forces to increase presence and response but even the state and county police departments are suffering from their own number of available officers and the academy can’t seem to graduate new officers fast enough… or convince those who may be eligible to become police officers to sign up to put their lives on the line.

Like the state trooper that was murdered a short time ago, gunned down in the line of duty while investigating a suspicious vehicle call.  That killing made the national news and more so when the man who killed the trooper, after holing up in his parents’ home, decided – or realized – that he’d rather go out in a “blaze of glory” and commit an act of “suicide by cop” because he had to know that killing a police officer in this state is an automatic death sentence… and the state just recently voted to reinstate the death penalty.

I am a bit surprised that city officials haven’t imposed curfews; not quite martial law but a stop-gap method to attempt to control night-time movement on the streets during the times these shootings seem to occur… but they haven’t even considered that as far as anyone can tell.  Maybe they have and the hapless people running the city can’t agree to do this and I can probably think of a couple of reasons why they aren’t, like, it would get in the way of their attempt to revive the waterfront district of the city and an efforts that’s being greatly affected because, um, people and businesses aren’t going to want to move into an area of the city that, technically, isn’t safe.

On Mother’s Day, when my baby sister and I visited with our mother, as we were leaving to head home, my sister said, “Okay, let me get to my car and get outta here before they decide to start shooting!”  Linda and I were in full agreement with that assessment because, as I’ve mentioned before, my mother lives in a very bad part of the city and a part, until recent years, wasn’t a bad place to live.

People have cited the lack of jobs and other community services that used to exist as a source for this senseless violence; the escalation of drug use and trafficking has finally enveloped the city like a foul-smelling, moldy blanket and there’s little to be done about stemming the influx of crack and heroin coming in from the north and south of the state.  Yeah, it’s a big money business and I suspect that the local major dealers are raking in more money than the city is.  The state voted to decriminalize marijuana and, recently, tested a vote to legalize marijuana like Colorado and other states have done because, in my opinion, they’re late to the party and late in realizing that if we do what Colorado has done, the revenue generated could be a near unimaginable windfall.  Whether that vote actually succeeds or not remains to be seen and while legalizing and controlling the sale of marijuana will put a serious dent in the operation of those who make their money selling it on the street, it’s not going to do much for the sale of crack and heroin but maybe, just maybe, some of the city’s growing OK Corral behavior will slack off because some local weed dealing ain’t trying to blow someone away over the price of a dime bag anymore.  Maybe it’ll push these particular dealers somewhere other than here, somewhere where their black market sales haven’t been cut by legalization of their product… or it just might get them to abandon this venture and make them move up to crack and heroin sales; even they’re smart enough to know that if the state legalizes and controls marijuana sales, they’re not gonna be able to compete with the variety and quality of the weed a state-controlled operation would insist upon.

But all of this is somewhere down the line and the police need to get to doing more to put an end (or some reasonable facsimile) to these shootings, even if it means they stop merely rolling through an area in their black and whites and actually get back to walking the streets in force and let the people they’re tasked to protect see them doing some protecting and serving.

 
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Posted by on 19 May 2017 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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