Sunday, August 22, 2010

Greywing goes dark

Well, no kidding, right?

Obviously, I haven't posted in a long time.  And honestly, this blog never really got off the ground to begin with.  I enjoyed what writing I did do for it, though.

Into each life, some rain must fall -- as the saying goes.  I'm getting some now.  That means gaming has been on the back back back burner.  I still have nothing remotely interesting to say -- but now, I've also lost the desire to say it.

So farewell.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


So get this.

Back in January, as I mentioned at the time, I cancelled my WoW account.  Actually, that should be accounts (plural) because, like many gamers, I always had a couple.  One was my "main" account, and the other was used either by my wife (on the uncommon occasions when she played) or by me for mule characters and the like.  Anyway, cancelled them both back in January.

So, imagine my surprise when my wife forwarded to me an e-mail she'd gotten last week (note well:  "last week" as in "late April") from Blizzard saying that her account had been banned, for disruptive activities or somesuch similar nonsense.  When she first told me about it, my first reaction was that it surely was some kind of phishing attempt.  But when I read the actual e-mail, it looked real and didn't ask for anything.  Then, when I tried to log in to the account through their website, I discovered that the message was legit.

Banned!  Accused of buying/selling game items for "real world" money!

I'm going to try to make a long story short here, so I'll gloss over some of the details.  I immediately sent Blizzard an e-mail saying, in essence, "no WAY!!!11!"; a few days passed; they must have believed me or whatever; the account got reinstated; I was able to log on to their account management website.  I then discovered that the account had in fact been reactivated about a week earlier by someone using a free Burning Crusade 10-day trial (like I said, she never played too much, so BC was never activated on that account).  There were a couple (literally) of days left on the trial, so I logged in (after sitting through the inevitable/interminable patching process) and discovered a new character (i.e., one that I am certain neither my wife nor I created) holding a fair amount of coin (with a lot more in its mailbox from the Auction House) and piles and piles and piles of mithril and gold ore.  Some of the pre-existing (i.e., legitimate) characters on the account also had piles of mithril ore in their mailboxes too.

Seeing all of that demonstrates conclusively that this wasn't just some kind of weird glitch in Blizzard's system.  Rather, some person actually got access to our account and used it for apparently (and in Blizzard's opinion, definitely) nefarious purposes.  I'm going to call that right there about the damnedest thing I've ever had happen to me (or someone I directly know) relating to computer or online account security.

Whoever used the free trial to reactivate the account had to have two pieces of information:  the account name and the associated password.  The name:  fine.  It's an e-mail address.  Not a "main" address, or even one that's commonly used, but still.  Not exactly super-secret information.  But the PW?  What the hell?  I knew it, my wife knew it, and that should have been it.  I know with absolute certainty that we never shared a WoW password with any third party, either intentionally or by falling for some kind of scam.  We aren't exactly airheads about that kind of thing.  She even works in a field where computer security is of extreme importance, for crying out loud.

I'd pay a fair amount of money to know how this happened, but I'm sure I never will.  So, I will remain more or less beside myself in the near term, and wonder what other pieces of our personal security may have been compromised as well.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friendly forces pull out of Eisenbach

When I wrote about World at War:  Eisenbach Gap last month, I said I wasn't ready to put it up for trade just then.  Well, I'm somewhat sad to report that I did give up on it.  I put it in the mail today.  I never could get past the issues that put me off from the very beginning.

I really did want to like it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Carriers at War

From about the mid '80s through the late '90s, my main hobby was, hands down, computer gaming.  No other pastime or interest came close.  I started on the Commodore 64 -- Pool of Radiance, Gunship, and Red Storm Rising remain among my all-time favorites to this day.  When I moved on to the PC, my favorites were generally the usual suspects: the Civilization games, Master of What-have-you, X-Com.

As much as I loved "strategy" games, for some reason I tended to pass on the full-fledged war games.  There were certainly exceptions to that tendency; the original Harpoon and Steel Panthers being two of the most notable.  In general, though, I had a strong preference for fantasy- or SF-themed games.

So, overall, it's not too surprising that I missed out on one of the big war game series of that era, Carriers at War by SSG.  It's too bad, in a way.  Looking back, it seems like it would have been a natural for me.  Naval + WWII = Win.

Sometimes, though, you get second chances -- of sorts.  Back in '07, SSG released a shiny new installment to this venerable (by industry standards) series.  I was completely out of the hobby at that point, so the new release entirely escaped my notice.  It has only been in the last year or so that I've found my interest in computer wargaming to be perking up.  And, to make a long story (slightly) shorter, it was about a month ago that I decided to pull the trigger and download it from Matrix Games.

This was not an inconsequential decision for me.  Fifty bucks is past my impulse buy threshold (usually) -- so I mulled this one over for quite a while.  I ended up giving it a try because I've been itching to find a computer war game that I can sink my teeth into, and I figured this one might fit the bill, especially since I've been on a Midway kick lately.  My bottom-line reaction:  I'm sorry to say that I'm having quite a bit of "buyer's remorse."

Not that it's a bad game; in fact it's a well-done product.  It has, however, almost completely failed to "grab" me.

It is an extremely understated game.  There's not an ounce of anything you might consider calling "flash" associated with this title.  In a vacuum, that is not at all a problem.  It becomes something of an issue, however, when I consider that I paid $50 in 2010 for a game that looks like this.  If it had been $35, I wouldn't even be mentioning it.  If I had gotten a nice printed manual, I might not be mentioning it.  But, in fact, it was $50 for a no-physical-product download, so that's how it has to be judged.

OK, so there's no (or very little) sizzle, so the product has to live or die completely on its steak.  And that's fine; that's more or less what I expected, and after all, it was the anticipation of said steak that got me punching my credit card number into Matrix's site.  The game could have blown me away with its content, and I would have been delighted to have gotten it at the price.  Sad to say, that absolutely hasn't happened.

I don't know if I can put my finger on the problem, exactly.  The basic issue, I think, arises from the fact that I just feel too far removed somehow from the events unfolding on my monitor.  It's partly due, I'm sure, to the level of detail the game presents me with.  A lot of things feel too glossed over or abstracted.  (I usually have no idea of exactly what's going on with my CAP, for example.)  On a closely related note, the gameplay decisions feel so broad brushed that I never feel like I have real control over what's happening.

I do not want to micromanage the firing of every AA gun in my TFs, but it does seem like there should be a middle ground between that level of silliness and what CaW is giving me.  I'm not going to give up on it just now, but unless things turn around dramatically, I don't think I'll be sinking too many more hours into it.

I'm glad companies like SSG exist.  I'm glad games like CaW can still be made.  Unfortunately, this particular one hasn't gone over too well with me, particularly given its price point.  I'm feeling a little burned by it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Out of left field

Last Wednesday was board game night at the Monkey Den.  Faithful readers may recall that, last time, we played Nexus Ops.  Now, Nexus Ops is a strong game.  It is manly.  It is as American as a huge cheeseburger.  You are made palpably heartier for having played it.

We did not play Nexus Ops last week.  We went in a slightly different direction.

I know ... I'm as surprised as you are.

Here's how it happened.  One of the guys, the newest Monkey in fact, had been saying for a while that he was going to buy The 'Gric.  He'd played it a bunch before he moved away from his old town, and he really liked it.  Being a man of open mind, I agreed to give it a shot ... once.

My thought process was something like this:  Every single thing I knew about the game led me to believe playing would be a kind of slow torture.  Seriously, actual subsistence farming sounded like more fun to me than this game.  But, what the hell, I figured.  I can sit through one play, right?  Then, I can at least say that I've done it.  In the future, when I sneer in scorn at it, that scorn will be marginally less ill informed than my normal scorn.

So we played.  And I cannot tell you how much I'd love to say that my unerring(!) instincts were right on target again(!).  Really, I would love that.  I'd love it so much that there's at least a 50-50 chance that I'll come back later and edit this post into one big 'Gric-hating, face-saving lie.  But, that's what it would be, a lie.  For you see, friends, I did not hate it.

I loved it.

I am flabbergasted by that, but what are you going to do?  I don't remember the last time I thought about a game so much in the days following my first exposure to it.  It is a brilliant gaming experience.  It is remarkably easy to pick up.  It moves quickly.  It offers interesting choices.  It is -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- fun.  I didn't think euros were supposed to be fun?  Maybe we were doing it wrong.

So, I've said it, and I'm not ashamed of it (much).  It's not like I'm going to start selling my lead and plastic to buy tweed jackets and a pipe or whatever.  But I've got some things to think about, that's for sure.