Dungeons and Dragons Logo

Just putting this out there – The new Dungeons & Dragons… D&D Next, D&D 5th Ed, or just Dungeons and Dragons as they’re calling it – Is pretty bitchin’ so far. I’ve been playing the public Adventurer’s League, which is structured so you can meet up at any hobby shop and continue your campaign seamlessly. Regardless of where you go to play you can take your character a session right where you left off. The GameMaster and all players have a unique DCI/RPGA number that tracks their progress online which is kind of nifty as well (if you’re into that sort of thing). If you don’t have a regular group but want to play D&D, this is a definite legit way to go about it. I fell into that category as I haven’t had an active roleplaying group since hosting an Eberron Campaign in D&D 3.5… About ten years ago.

Regarding D&D itself, it’s a massive throwback to D&D 2.0’s theme / mood, with modern mechanics. There are limited if any magical items in the world, every encounter feels dangerous, and classes play differently again. Huge divergence from 4.0 or even 3.5. During my two sessions so far (and six encounters), every battle had players falling unconscious and making saving throws to survive. I’m not talking big boss encounters either, I mean like seven kobolds and two humanoids (against a group of 7 players). You don’t have to be versed in Dungeons and Dragons though to enjoy yourself. If you’re remotely familiar with fantasy through video games, Lord of the Rings, or even Game of Thrones you can squeeze on in and probably be just fine. Like I mentioned, I haven’t played in about ten years but was able to get in there and play with a group of ardent D&D players without missing a beat… mostly.

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Ticket for the big night.

Warning: I will gush during this post. I have nothing but love and appreciation for Final Fantasy, and especially it’s music. Attending this concert was filled with nothing but positive energy and admiration at how far those beeps and boops I grew up on have come. It gets me every time. If you just want the list of performances, jump to the bottom where I will list the playlist for the evening. Otherwise, I hope a bit of my enthusiasm for the evening comes through to you.

On August 24th of 2014, I attended my third Final Fantasy concert. It’s a series of shows that have been ongoing since at least 2005. Back then me and another friend with love for the series ventured to Rosement IL (just outside of Chicago) to attend the Dear Friends concert. It was the first of it’s kind that I have heard of here in the US. I had listened to the 20020220 orchestra album several times before hand so I understood how great the potential was. Sure enough, Dear Friends delivered in an excellent way and I knew I had to do this again sometime. Eventually I would go to see More Friends in Detroit MI, which was not a specialized Final Fantasy concert but was lead by Arnie Roth all the same. When Distant Worlds was going to debut in Rosemont IL I gathered my (eventual) wife and two friends to attend that in 2008. Again, the team of musicians lead by Arnie Roth and Nobuo Uematsu did not disappoint. Last night continued to deliver just as they always have, and dedicated the night to celebrating Final Fantasy 6’s 20th anniversary. JOY!

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My backlog as of September 2013... Of which only three I've finished since.

My backlog as of September 2013… Of which only three I’ve finished since.

We all have our backlogs. Usually there’s a sale you can’t pass up on, a sequel you “need to play”, and other games with huge buzz around them. Tons of reasons that despite having over 10, 20, 40, or even 80 games we’ll continue to buy more games. It’s like if the world came crashing down you’ve got a vault of entertainment to live off of. I personally think I acquired the majority of my 360 collection through B1G1 sales on used games when Blockbuster was going under around me. Then Gamestop’s B2G1 free sales for games you can’t find new anymore from their used section. It’s hard to argue three quirky looking RPGs for $30. So two Atelier games and a Resonance of Fate later my backlog has grown again. I think that purchase was about three years ago now and I still haven’t even booted one of those games up. So why do I continue to buy games I don’t play..? Completely ignoring the 40+ games I have in my steam collection from Steam sales and Humble Indie bundles…

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It seems obvious when stated with “different people value different things” – Yet for some reason that fact is constantly overlooked when discussing anything; from trivials such as video games up to views on civil rights. No one is wrong, as there is no absolute right. A value system is a collection of beliefs that a person or group has regarding said topic. Whether on an individual basis or in a group setting, usually the value system is determined by past experiences with the subject. IE; you value integrity because we have been burned by disingenuous people before. Sometimes it’s based on others experiences or nothing at all at times of things being superfluous… My neighbor values their grass being 2″ in length exactly and will mow or water at any frequency to maintain that. I see no point in keeping up with that, but I’m not wrong for doing such, nor are they wrong for obsessively keeping their lawn. We just value different things.

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Value systems tie into existentialism; the idea of every person being responsible for finding their own way through life and being directly responsible for who they are. Free will and maturation determining will determine what they value. Without individuality you can follow another’s value system I suppose… but at that point you’re choosing to adopt that system as your own, and at that point exerting your free will to determine how you’ll grow as a person. Once you have values, you have a purpose. You exist to fulfill those values.

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There is by most cases no such thing as a perfect game. The game that appeals to everyone without fault does not exist. Programming and design can become more complex. They can be executed more deftly. That’s definitely important. Having a fully functional game that operates as intended versus the developer settling for the end product. Again though, that doesn’t mean that the game can become perfect through any level of skill or experience. So why is that?

Games are a communication of the developer, the people creating it, to the user. No different from a book, poem, or film. They’re all directed experiences to offer the consumer a piece of the artist. As the scope of the project grows, weaker directors will lose focus of their vision while trying to manage all the employees handling the subsets of the project. The fewer the people, the easier it is to maintain that vision and direction. Some excellent directors have no problem adapting to the size of the team (Kojima, Sakaguchi, or Suda 51 as good examples). You can recognize their influence on the final product regardless of how large budget it gets. Still it comes down to speaking with the consumer and sharing a story or viewpoint unique to them, regardless of how well it’s executed mechanically.

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For all intents and purposes, when I decide to throw a blog together it’s because I start to look at myself and my habits. Right now I’m wondering why am I (and gamers en-whole) so damn cynical about the hobby they claim to love? Where’s the fun at, the childlike wonder of exploring strange worlds or being caught up in the life of a detective? Finding joys in experiences that you aren’t able to have in the real world?

Being critical is one thing. I applaud that, looking at games and calling out when a company is trying to fleece you via excessive DLC, selling you an alpha build, or just outright delivers a broken experience. Being cynical of a well crafted experience is something entirely different. There’s a weird hate cycle, and it starts with the first public announcement of a game. Usually in the form of a trailer…

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