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A Year Later, I’m Done with Pokémon Go

When Pokémon Go first came out over a year ago, I was excited. Ever since I started playing Pokémon, I had dreamt about a world where you could go out, capture friendly monsters and train them to be both friends and protectors.

Based on how popular the game was within the first month, it would seem many others felt the same way. Crowds could be found hanging out around Pokéstops and gyms, or walking up and down roads to see what elusive monsters they could find.

But that only lasted a month because the game was shallow. Catching Pokémon was a straightforward affair, and didn’t involve any battles using existing Pokémon. Gym battles were a mess of mechanics, and were quickly dominated by cheaters and/or people with powerful Pokémon. And this was all on top of constant server and connectivity issues.

Still, there was enough potential that I stuck with the game. A year later, the game is in better shape server-side, and has completely revamped the gym mechanics. But through all that, there are signs that the game is going in a direction that doesn’t appeal to me.

While I’d be lying if I said I’ll never be opening the game again, I can certainly say that I won’t be investing as much time, effort or money moving forward.

Here’s why:

I’m tired of the crashing Apple Watch app
It has been almost a year since Pokémon Go released their companion Apple Watch app, and in that time none of the glitches have been dealt with. The game will randomly decide to stop sending notifications or, even worse, just outright crash. If you were hoping that the app would record your walk, you might be in for a disappointing surprise when you finish up and realize it crashed a few minutes in. So much for hatching eggs.

I’m tired of glitches everywhere else
The Watch app is one thing — if they want to let that go stale, fine. It’s probably a small enough audience that most people don’t notice. But the game itself isn’t exactly free of bugs. While the server-side issues are mostly resolved, the game itself will randomly glitch out, especially when interacting with gyms. This is particularly bad when you’re in the middle of a battle and the game decides to error out. Sometimes it’s clear what happened (usually GPS drift), sometimes it’s not. Either way, you tend to get blocked from interacting with that gym for a non-trivial amount of time, destroying any of the hard work you had invested.

I’m tired of the focus on gyms
Okay, so the intentions are respectable: lets get people outside and interacting with friends or fellow Pokémon fans. But the game’s only solution to this seems to be through gym battles. And so, suddenly, everything interesting in the game is through a gym.

Want coins? Defend a gym. Want to test the battle performance of your Pokémon? Fight at a gym. Want a legendary? Wait for one to appear at a gym and hope that a bunch of people are available to help you at the exact right moment.

Gyms are an important aspect of the Pokémon games, but they’re not the only aspect. This became all the more clear to me with their recent announcement that the legendary beasts would be at gym raids in the same way they were for the legendary birds. But in the original games, the beasts wandered around the world and would sometimes appear in random encounters. So why not do the same in Pokémon Go? Were they worried it would make it too easy to catch them? Maybe they could have used that as an excuse to improve the Pokémon capture experience. Or they could have mirrored the game, and made it so the beasts fled after the first move unless you did something to coax it to stay. But no: gym raids are the shiny new toy and, gosh darn it, we’re going to make use of them.

I’m tired of spending money
I’ve spent more money on Pokémon Go than I care to admit, primarily on incubators. I did this happily in the hope that the focus of the game would shift to cater to many different play styles. However, I see that is not the case. This is not what a Pokémon game is to me.

I’m upset because I’m a fan
This post might sound like a lot of complaining, but I’m writing it out of love: love for Pokémon in general and love for Pokémon Go’s concept. I want to see it improve and incorporate more of what makes the core game so fun.

I look forward to once again playing the game in earnest and happily supporting it financially. But that time is not now.

Favorite Games of 2016

It was actually rather fun putting together a list of favorite games last year, so here we go again for 2016.

Just like last year, this isn’t necessarily a “Best Of” list. Some weren’t even released in 2016. They’re just the games that I enjoyed playing this year and can recommend without reservation. Further down I list some honorable mentions — still great games, but not quite good enough to include on the main list.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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Favorite Games of 2015

The year is drawing to a close, and that usually means lots of year-end “Best Of” lists. I tend not to read these articles, let alone write them; but, I’m making somewhat of an exception this year due to how many noteworthy games were released.

I hesitate to call this “Best Of”, as there is no ranking or rating to the games I’m going to talk about. A few also weren’t actually released in 2015, so to claim a “best of 2015” list would be incorrect. Instead, these are simply games that I played this year, enjoyed thoroughly, and highly recommend.

One other note: these aren’t typical games. In fact, several of them seem to abandon traditional gameplay in favor of story or character development. If that’s not the type of game you enjoy, this list may disappoint.

Okay! Less talk more game!

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Intelligence and the Search for Meaning: Thoughts on The Talos Principle

SPOILERS! This post is full of them. Please don’t read this post if you have any interest in playing The Talos Principle. Should you have any interest? If you liked the puzzles in Portal, and wish there were more: yes. If you want your concept of humanity and perhaps even reality to be challenged: most definitely yes. SPOILERS!

The Talos Principle

What is artificial intelligence?

The simple answer to that question can be found from the likes of Google and Apple. Saying ‘Ok, Google’ or ‘Hey Siri’ into your smartphone will allow you to ask targeted questions; and, within moments, it will be understood, processed, and acted upon.

The problem is that these services are designed around very specific use cases — getting directions to a location, figuring out whether it will rain, and so on. Any variation from this built-in expectation will result in a confused or inaccurate response.

So what do we really mean when we speak of artificial intelligence? Mostly we’re looking for something that behaves like us, like a human. And because we often build artificial things in an attempt to improve efficiency, we believe it should actually rise above some qualities of human intelligence, such as processing speed or the ability to see connections in vast amounts of data.

And that’s where The Talos Principle steps in. You find yourself in a beautiful world full of ancient ruins and complex puzzles — but not as a human. It becomes clear early in the game that you are a machine. There is no trace of a biological body in yourself or in anything else you encounter.

So what are you?

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A Hundred Billion Degrees

Little Inferno is filled with secrets
Attention! This post is full of spoilers for the game Little Inferno. I strongly recommend that you play the game before reading this, or you won’t enjoy the game nearly as much. It’s short — a few hours, easy to complete in a couple of sittings — and it’s worth the investment. This post will be here for you to peruse when you return. Promise.
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The Next Generation

With Microsoft unveiling the Xbox One yesterday, the next generation of game consoles has officially arrived. Now that we have entries on both sides, I thought I’d give some first impressions.

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Last weekend, January 5-8, @Ndoto, @FlatFootFox and I decided to check out MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival). It was the first time any of us had attended this convention, so it was a bit overwhelming. Still, I think we all had fun! It was like a very small PAX, with an emphasis on music instead of upcoming games. In fact, in many ways, there was a strong focus on older games – chiptunes and 8-bit graphics were prevalent.

Since we didn’t stay at a hotel at the con, it was difficult to attend everything that sounded interesting. Instead of getting the full con experience, we only got a taste – but it was enough of a taste to know that, if we go again, we’ll be staying at a hotel nearby so that we can have better access to all the events.

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La Vita Loco

From The Verge:

According to a Sony representative speaking to Wired, "if a second person is using your Vita, it’s not just a case of switching out memory cards, it’s clearing out all of your saved data on the Vita itself when you do the factory reset."

Because letting a friend quickly borrow a Vita to play with, customize and experience wouldn’t be good advertising at all. No way.

Just Kevin Butler. Butler all the way. He knows how to make new hardware crazy popular.


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The Dismantling of Azeroth

When Blizzard announced their list of perks for committing to a year of World of Warcraft (exclusive mount, beta testing for the next expansion, free copy of Diablo 3), I really wanted to get back into the game. After all, I’ve always liked World of Warcraft. These perks seemed to make a deal that couldn’t be refused.

I’ve been away from World of Warcraft for a while, though. I played briefly after the last expansion pack was released, but I didn’t get very far – mostly due to other games and projects. So, before committing to a full year of the game, I wanted to see if it was something that I could once again play on a regular basis.

As I started playing, there were a lot of things I immediately enjoyed. The classic look and feel of the game was still intact, for example. While the graphics haven’t been updated in any significant way since its first release, it’s a very comforting environment. Sometimes a hyper-realistic environment can feel intimidating. Plus, for veterans of the game, the familiar feel is like slipping into your favorite pair of fuzzy slippers.

I had never completely played through the start of a Worgen character, so that was my test bed in my latest play session. I have to say that, overall, Blizzard did a truly fantastic job with the introductory environments and quest lines for Worgen. Up until about halfway through, I was certain that I would be continuing to play.

But then I started to notice big holes in my favorite slippers.

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On Minecraft and Lego

A big deal has been made about the growing initiative to convince the Lego Group to start creating a new product line based on Minecraft. Mojang has also stated that they are in their own talks with the company.

But why? Minecraft is essentially already Lego. Digital Lego. I’ll admit that a set of instructions for recreating a scene from Minecraft in Lego could be useful, and an interesting project to undertake. But to release an official series of sets? It seems a little excessive. It’s like using Lego to… recreate something that already exists as Lego.

Perhaps Mojang needs to add Lego bricks to Minecraft. Maybe then I’ll understand the appeal.

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