So I was sitting there a few days ago, watching the trailer for the RE2 remake again, when a totally new thought about the series popped into my head. What happened in the rural areas around Raccoon City during the original outbreak?

If you watched the movies, but mostly skipped the cutscenes in the recent games, you can be forgiven for not knowing the major canon difference: in the games Raccoon City was nuked when the outbreak got out of control. So totally unlike the movies, the world governments crack down hard on Umbrella immediately and take a “nuke the site from orbit” approach to Raccoon City. This bypasses the whole zombie apocalypse thing in the movies, though the part about Wesker and other former Umbrella bads gathering up the worst biotech and forming a shadow organization of boss fights happens pretty much the same.

So anyway, after President Hardass McSteelyeyes (can’t remember the name or gender of the canonical US President at that point in RE timeline, so conjure any image you like from that) nukes a small town on domestic soil, the rural folk in the miles of forest surrounding the city would have no clue what was going on for a while. Power and communication are already down in much of the city by the time Claire and Leon arrive, so the surrounding areas must be even more cut off. Even worse, you know some of the B.O.W.s from the Spencer Estate must be roaming the woods and would have survived the blast until the government comes in and cleans them up weeks to months later. To them, it would seem like the end of the world, with nuclear war having happened and freakish monsters running around, dead coming back to life, all that.

My idea for what this game would be like is this: in the roughly one month between Raccoon being nuked and contact being restored with rural residents of the county, players take control of a customized resident of Raccoon county and try to survive, ala a mix of The Division and the somewhat mediocre online games Capcom has already attempted in the series. You would roam an open map covering the woods outside the city and mostly focus on killing monsters to make the area more safe for residents. I think a focus on community building like State of Decay would be a mistake, since RE is more about gathering resources to actually kill B.O.W.s than gathering NPCs and building walls. So a more Division/Destiny style of gather a party and go take down an event would be a better fit IMO.

Classes and archetypes from past RE online games would be easy to shoehorn in. The Umbrella Special Forces type could easily be a retired SF soldier living in a cabin. My personal favorite, the journalist type, could be a nature filmmaker who was stranded by the outbreak. It would even be possible to bring in a few series characters like Barry Burton, since he left Raccoon right before RE2 and could easily be retconned as having been delayed on the way out.

That’s my idea for an online, open-world RE game that would actually be good. Although I played both Outbreak games and Operation Raccoon City, I still have yet to fully enjoy an online RE experience. I think a game that stays familiar, but isn’t another retread of the Raccoon City outbreak from within the city, would be great. What better setting than one that we all somehow forgot to ask about?

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You can’t unsee it: Bowser is Madame Broode

Posted: June 25, 2018 by ryanlecocq in Off-topic

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I could have referenced Psycho, but Resident Evil: Code Veronica already did that for me, so I went there instead.

 

I recently got around to playing Super Mario Odyssey with my wife and I was left with only one burning question afterwards; is Madame Broode just Bowser in a rabbit suit and drag? Once you think it, it’s very hard to unsee.

If you take the time to speak to some of the denizens of the Moon Kingdom, you get the idea that the Broodals are like the Moon Kingdom’s version of Bowser and family. There isn’t really a ton of explanation for them though, besides that they came from the dark side of the moon to help Bowser. The fact that they strongly resemble Bowser and his own Brood just makes it seem extremely likely that we have an Alfred Ashford situation here, IMO.

If you haven’t played Resident Evil: Code Veronica, I’m sorry, but spoilers ahead. It’s kind of like FFVII at this point. If you haven’t heard what happened by now, sorry, but we can’t avoid discussing it for another several decades. Anywho, like in the movie Psycho, Alfred dresses up as another member of his family for reasons not related to his gender identity. Like Norman Bates, he is unable to accept the loss of a close female relative and is driven to impersonate her in creepy mime-like conversations, while wearing her clothing.

I don’t think Bowser has gone quite that Hollywood horror show on us, but hear me out. I’m thinking that Bowser finally cracked under the realization that nobody would actually want to help him plan his wedding. So he invents this old family friend, Madame Broode, who is basically his counterpart, but in a really fab hat. He convinces all of his mini-boss spawn to dress up like rabbits too, because hey, rabbits would never hang out with snapping turtles unless they really liked them a lot! So it’s all this elaborate ruse to make it seem like the Koopa clan has family friends that actually want to hang out with them.

You never see Bowser’s kids in Odyssey and you don’t see Bowser and Madame Broode at the same time either. So the theory is at least as sound as any of those “Dumbledore and Voldemort are the same person” kind of nonsense theories.

What do you think?

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

Russell Wilson: “You have shamed us for the last time, Admiral.” (not the actual caption for this photo)

I love being the lone voice in the wild. In this case, with the exception of diehard Seahawks fan sites, I am definitely that voice against the tide of doom and gloom being forecast for the 2018 Seahawks.

The way I see it, the entire press has got it wrong. You see, sports press, management and even coaches still talk like this is 1995 and winning is what matters. Fans love a win, but I think the constant discussion of TV viewers and ticket sales last season made it pretty clear what really drives football: fan investment.

Despite what everyone was saying at the beginning of last year, 2017 was not a bad year for the actual play in the NFL. Sure, many teams were at a low point, but several games like Texans/Seahawks, the Steelers and the Jags in the playoffs and finally the rollercoaster feel-good Superbowl of the decade made it a great season to watch.

We all know the entertainment value had nothing to do with decreased viewership. Some of those games were absolutely astounding. It was about protests, league politics and bad player behavior. The NFL’s complete inability to navigate the crises of 2016-17 were pretty clearly the biggest issue. We had everything from players being compared to “inmates,” to John Elway calling his entire organization, including himself at the top “soft.”

So where were my team in all of this? Right in the worst place: being the most penalized team in the league, with both of the most penalized players. Having multiple players involved with criminal investigations. Repeatedly drawing fire for unsportsmanlike conduct on and off the field.

Yeah, it was brutal.

BUT, fortunately for those of us fans who care about sportsmanship and professionalism as much as Ws, that situation has changed.

No, I don’t mean Germain Ifedi is gone. Sadly he will be around as long as he doesn’t cost the Seahawks more than they pay a towel boy. There is a slim chance he will yet develop into a worthy starting lineman, but it’s more likely he will remain the most penalized player in football, for the most trivial and tedious of penalties.

No, I’m talking about Michael Bennett, Jeremy Lane, Jimmy Graham and yes, the beloved Richard Sherman. With the exception of Lane (who was still excellent at times), the other three were all legendary in their own way with the ‘Hawks. So here’s why I’m glad they’re gone.

 

Bad Sportsmanship

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Ignore the giant man shoving down the smaller man by the facemask, it’s his other hand catching the ball by itself that matters!

People sometimes forget that sports are supposed to include this vague concept of honor and dignity that we call sportsmanship. While Jeremy Lane and Richard Sherman may have talked some trash, they played CB about as respectably as anyone does at that position. Michael Bennett and Jimmy Graham on the other hand have made the Seahawks look bad in the past 2 seasons.

There was a time when Michael Bennett was considered an honorable and sportsmanlike player. He’s well known as a huge supporter of social causes and an all-around nice guy to know. It wasn’t until his team was on the losing side that we started to see the cracks. When the legendary Legion of Boom started to come apart in 2017, Bennett was involved with more than just his usual off-sides penalties. The worst of which was diving at the ankles of the Jags O-line when they were spiking out the last few seconds of the game. Bennett had been on camera a few seasons earlier calling out the same behavior, so the hypocrisy made him look especially bad. It was only a few months later that the story broke about him shoving an elderly, disabled stadium attendant while watching his brother play in the Super Bowl the year before. It was a one-two punch to Bennett’s image, in a season where he was the second most penalized player in the league, after Ifedi. Time to go Michael Bennett, we loved you but you broke our heart.

Jimmy Graham on the other hand, shares an honor with his brother-from-another-mother Rob Gronkowski, of being the biggest fakers ever to play TE. Literally as they are both giants, and figuratively as they do ridiculous, Original Star Trek cartwheels to draw interference penalties. When the Seahawks have played the Patriots in the past couple seasons, it strains the patience of every official to watch it on both sides. Graham and Gronk will throw themselves to the turf in response to a light patting from a man half their size. It’s downright ludicrous and really belongs in 60s television, not an officiated sport. We all loved seeing Jimmy Graham reel in all those TDs, but I don’t think anyone could call it fair play. When he gets a good matchup, he just runs a tiny man over. When he gets a fair matchup, he plays dirty and tries to draw a penalty. It was great to have you Jimmy and even I wasn’t immune to your Friendly Ogre charm, but I’m still glad to see you go.

 

Trash Too Stinky

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“You a grown-up bro? Or do you wanna respond to me and lower yourself to my level?”

We love trash talk in football. In any sport. Players creating rivalries and taunting each-other into better performance is a cornerstone of professional sports. But there are times when you can go too far and just be petty. Richard Sherman is the un-shining example of this. It was hard to be too harsh with him when he was one of the best players on my home team. Let’s be honest though, we all knew the rest of the world was right: Richard Sherman is an asshole. It’s fun, sometimes hilarious and often cute, but his taunts and jibes are often hurtful and cruel. He doesn’t just call out players for being slower than him, or call them clumsy. He criticizes team philosophies, organizational staff, friends and family etc. Richard Sherman will talk trash about anything and nothing is sacred.

I think this was an albatross for the Seahawks for the past few years, as Sherman’s locker room presence and field dominance caused the other defensive players to idolize him. While Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark, K.J. Wright, Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor played quieter, yet still excellent football, Richard Sherman (and also Michael Bennett) became the voice and image of the Legion. So players like Jeremy Lane and now Shaq Griffin were falling into that mold. Fortunately Sherman is out the door before Griffin had much time to idolize him, so hopefully Sherman’s play tips and not his attitude influence the extremely promising Griffin in future seasons. With his loud and often negative comments paired with being straight up not as good as Griffin, Lane got himself right out the door. Once again, we loved you, but you broke our hearts Jeremy.

You have to wonder though, how many players could have developed differently if they had adopted a more positive philosophy, instead of Sherman’s tactic of always criticizing. We’ll never know about the ones that are already gone, but I think Shaquill Griffin (and football gods willing, his brother Shaquem) will be an example of what a talented young Seahawk, not in the mold of Richard Sherman can look like.

 

Russell Wilson’s Bird

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Macklemore: “Someday, Russell my son, all this will be yours. Not just the mansion and the bird, but the actual Seahawks offense.”

I think back to that ad for the Super Bowl a few years back, that was for some music service and had Macklemore telling Russell Wilson that a bird landing in his yard was “Russell Wilson’s Bird.” It’s oddly prophetic now, because the Seahawks are finally, literally Russell Wilson’s bird. It’s not just about the coaches finally building an offense around him (or intending to), instead of focusing on the defense and expecting him to fuel the entire offense with miracles (which he usually does anyway). No, it’s about an ideological shift.

Although the team tried mightily to hide it, the fans became aware last season of two “camps” within the Seahawks. At first it was made to sound like it was the offense and the defense, but anyone with ears knew it was the Richard Sherman Camp and the Russell Wilson camp. While I’m sure they all got along just fine, there were obviously two philosophies at work. You had Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson’s brand of family, friendship and never, EVER saying anything bad about anyone. Then you had Richard Sherman’s brand of we are the best, everyone wishes they were us and we can talk down to anyone. It doesn’t take a philosopher to see that those two views are somewhat opposed.

So while Richard Sherman is Apollo in the flesh on the field and no team would ever want to lose him while they could afford him, I think it’s fair to breathe a sigh of relief now that he’s gone. I don’t think the people of San Francisco are even remotely prepared for the waves of hate and negative energy that Sherman draws upon himself and revels in.

What matters though is that Russell Wilson finally gets his bird. Whether you feel that Russell Wilson is a legendary QB, or an evil wizard like Saruman depends a lot on if you are a 12 or not. We can all agree though that Russell Wilson is super nice and everyone would want him as a friend or family member. His love of family and Jesus is almost Mormon-creepy at times, but it is so what we need after being thought of as the dirtiest team in football for years. Watching him influence players like Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett and seeing the positivity that comes from those in the Russell Wilson “camp” was pretty much what kept me going after the things Sherman and Bennett said last year.

 

Just Play a Good Game

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This may sound like blasphemy, but I would be completely happy with a losing season this year. On the one condition though that it would be a losing season where the Seahawks show that they are not a dirty team and even reminded the rest of the league what professional sports is about. We have all forgotten the ancient heritage of sports being about representing the pride and dignity of our cities. Athens and Sparta did not compete to generate ad revenue. They established fair contests, with binding rules that would allow them to shut down the trash talk of their neighbors by meeting their challenge on an even playing field. Somewhere in the transition to football as a spectacle, we’ve added too much daytime television to the mix. It may be entertaining to see Richard Sherman grill his opponents the way a comedian grills a politician, but it isn’t football. I for one would love to see my team stick to taunts that boil down to “We think we can beat you, prove us wrong. Show us your pride and your play.”

I don’t want to make this article in any way about the anthem protests, but there is one way that it is relevant. The Seahawks are a rare team that has an opportunity to set an example. While protests may have started out related to police brutality, the issue has quickly become that the league treats players, especially black players, like children playing a game. These are grown adults, many of them wealthy, college educated and running businesses and charities outside of their football careers. The Seattle Seahawks are one of the few teams that currently treats them that way.

The Seahawks have set a precedent for not only expecting maturity from their players, but also rewarding that with a platform to speak on. It’s not only the team, but the entire city of Seattle and the state of Washington. When a Washington athlete represents our best, it makes news everywhere and they are backed up by the team owners and staff. Paul Allen, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have not been the least bit shy of supporting the social causes of Seahawks players. With words, publicity and money.

This gives the Seahawks an opportunity to not only lead by example on the field, but also in press conferences and interviews. By not being embroiled in accusations of treating players unfairly, combined with changing their image as a dirty team, the Seahawks could preach unity and progress from a position of strength and credibility. The team is already respected among the league and fans for social causes, that image has just been tarnished by some dirty play and some dirty talk. Personally I believe those most responsible have just been shown the door and I am really excited to watch my team, win or lose, in the coming season.

 

P.S. We all want both Griffin brothers, please let it happen.

shaqs

Just imagine both of them wearing jerseys under those pullovers. It could happen.

What better image of brotherhood on a football team than two actual twin brothers, who also happen to be two of the most promising rookies in football? I feel bad calling them the Shaqs, but I have a feeling it’s going to become the standard. And really, who wouldn’t want to be associated with the legendary Shaq, master of Shaq-Fu (being totally serious, I’m a huge Shaq-fan)? Anyway, the Shaqs are everything a fan wants in a player: they have talent, they’re likable, but most of all, they have that seriousness of a brain-surgeon and they apply it to everything they do. Watching Shaquill play last year was like watching Arnold’s T-800 learn in Terminator 2. He would make a mistake one time and you would see a coach or another player tell him something on the sideline. Then he would just never make that mistake again. Ever. I wish we could have him Vulcan mind-meld with Germain Ifedi, really.

Then you have his brother Shaquem who is all that again. Like I hate to just call two twins the same, but which Griffin twin is more talented is almost impossible to judge. Having both of them on the same team would be a dream. Just imagine what it would be like to have the next Legion of Boom lead by two twin brothers who are just as loved as Richard Sherman was hated. They would be the perfect young heirs to the dignified play that other players like Earl Thomas III and Bobby Wagner are trying to promote on Seattle’s D. What’s more they are extremely lovable in a personal sense. Anecdotes about their parents raising the two jackrabbit-fast Griffin boys have charmed football fans worldwide. It’s great to be loved and having both Griffin twins as part of a new, cleaner Seattle team would be a dream for us fans.

I’ve made it pretty clear that winning is not the only thing I care about, so let’s take it one step farther. Draft Shaquem Griffin in the first freaking round. Show the whole league that a player with heart like that is priceless. If you haven’t read Shaquem’s “Letter to NFL GMs” on The Players’ Tribune, I highly recommend it. I cried like a baby. If you don’t feel exactly the same after reading that, I would be very surprised.

 

 

Sea of Thieves rolling review

Posted: March 25, 2018 by ryanlecocq in Reviews
Tags: , , ,

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It’s been a while, but I am finally playing another game that requires a rolling review. For those of you not familiar, my rolling reviews usually have 3 sections, written at 3 points during my play of a longer game. The idea is to not just get my initial reaction or my feelings after wearing the game out, but how I felt along the way.

 

Part 1: Sea of Mixed Feelings

You can just about copy the tagline from any early review of this game and paste it into any other. I have to agree with everyone else, this game can be a blast to play when odd design choices and seemingly amateurish matchmaking don’t drag it down.

Just to get the bad stuff out of the way first, there are still many issues that plagued us from the early betas in the launched game. Some of them are bugs, like ships flying through the air or suddenly sinking. Others are design decisions that the community has been universally united in complaining about, while Rare has just claimed artistic freedom.

One thing that falls in the second category, is how SoT will automatically replace a dropped friend with random players and has no mode of booting them. You can place them in the brig, but this tends to just make people angry, causing them to troll you by remaining there as long as possible until you reboot the game. There are no private or invite-only sessions of any kind. Rare defends this (like many of my other complaints), by claiming it will force social interaction.

Okay, so “force” is not a word you want to use in game design. Just going to throw that out there. Also that view is just completely ignorant of the reality of modern gaming. It’s not just about me wanting to play with my friends. If I am doing a joint stream, it’s embarrassing and annoying to have the other streamer booted, then have to try to explain to someone that I would like them to leave because it is tanking two streams at once. I feel like a jerk for just trying to do something that is almost universal in gaming now.

Another thing that falls into this category is the assumption Rare seems to have that gamers have any kind of decency. Rare seems to think that people will fight dirty but hard, like the pirates of television and movies. That isn’t how gamers operate though. Gamers don’t care about your ambitions for emergent gameplay. They will just do the cheapest, laziest, most repetitive things for absolutely no gain, just to make someone else unhappy.

I’m not saying I’m against the game’s all PVP, all the time concept at all. I LOVE IT. My buddies and I are probably some of the most bloodthirsty pirates on the sea. But we want to have a good fight on the open ocean, not sink people at port over and over when they spawn. Sadly the majority of players do not feel the same way. In my experience only 2 or 3 crews have wanted to fight us in a remotely interesting way, between several betas and the time I’ve played since launch. Most people are only interested in attacking you when you are docked, distracted, or experiencing a glitch.

The people who are interested in fighting on the seas are usually terrible at it and you will just sink them over and over until you run out of cannon balls. These people are like some kind of lobotomized bloodhounds, who don’t seem to care that they make zero progress and are just being humiliated over and over.

This constant stream of inept attackers is extremely annoying when you have to amass 210k gold for your first full ship customization. In order to get just sails and hull, we had to clear about 8-10 skeleton forts and collect every single reward. This can get really tedious when you are being rushed over and over by players who lack the skill to clear the fort, but just want to take you out when you do and steal the loot. Never have I seen another player come to help clear the fort at the beginning. So we’ve now spent about 40 hours just killing skeletons, then sinking the same 2 or 3 ships over and over until they rage quit and we can safely open the vault. All this to make our hull black and our sails red.

 

Now that I have all that off my chest, let me tell you how amazing this game can be. Also why I’m still playing until I pass out at my PC. Out of all of those hundreds of moron players with names like CoDMASTER420, we have had a few gameplay experiences unlike any other.

We had a 2 on 2 sloop fight with some formidable opponents that went on for at least 30 minutes. Eventually both ships ran out of cannon balls, both still unsunk. Then we drew them off the map and ran us all out of repair boards. They went to ram us as a last ditch attempt, but when they missed, one of them fell off their ship and landed on ours. We were about to execute him, but he pulled out his hurdy gurgy and said “WAIT, let’s play music together!”

So we immediately dropped our weapons and began playing. Then we picked up his buddy and gave them one of our chests as a peace offering. We rode along for about another 20 minutes with 2 players from another ship on our boat. Eventually we tried to attack another ship and I think we actually shot each other as much as them, since we were not immune to each-other’s shots. But the looks on their faces must have been priceless when a sloop rammed them and 4 angry pirates jumped out.

Another time we fought a crew that was actually decent over a fort for a while. We divided our time between killing each other and the skeletons, then fought over the loot at the end. Each crew made off with about half the loot and escaped to separate outposts to turn it in. It was like the way it was intended to work, but it only happened once.

These are the kind of moments that Rare was obviously trying for. So far they’ve been few and far between.

 

As far as the general experience goes, SoT is definitely a lot of grind for not much. All progression is horizontal, so there are no “upgrades” to unlock. You start with access to both ship types and all the weapons. The cosmetic purchases for these are all very expensive (in game gold, not real money yet thankfully), so that is mostly what you will grind for. The only other progression is towards the “pirate legend” tier of quests. Nothing has been seen of exactly what this includes, but it’s rumored that you have to progress to level 50 in each faction to do it. At this point I have about 65 hours in, having cleared at least a dozen skeleton forts and countless other objectives. I’m currently a little over 20 in all 3 factions. So one can only imagine the amount of time required to see anything but what is available from the start.

The best reason to play SoT is for the gameplay experience. If you are into games like Guns of Icarus, or endgame PVP in Elite: Dangerous, you will feel right at home. Everyone has the same stuff and you are mostly getting a thrill from operating your vessel slightly more efficiently than the other player. Also the creative and random strategies you can come up with in the open sandbox SoT offers. How long that can keep you busy will entirely define your enjoyment of SoT at the moment.

End part 1, 3/25/18.

 

Part 2: Sea of Blood

After many, many hours invested in this game (XBL doesn’t show total time, but I estimate well over 100 hours since release), I have reached what is effectively the “endgame” of SoT. I haven’t reached level 50 in all of my factions, but the “Pirate Legend” status isn’t really the end-point for SoT’s grind. The end of the grind is when you have enough gold to buy all the cosmetics you care about, which should happen well below level 50. I’m about halfway there and it’s racked me up at tons of gold to buy what I want.

So my pirate and my ship look badass, I’ve cleared every iteration of each type of objective. What to do now? Why, kill other players for absolutely no reason for hours of course!

That is the endgame of SoT. When you reach the point where you have the stuff you care about and there are still 200 hours+ of grinding to reach the next milestone, which is the final milestone. You could either keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing all this time (mostly grinding skelly forts over and over), or you could just start fighting for fun. The vast majority of us go for option B.

This next period for me was all about finding every possible way to fight, kill and sink other players. After cannonballs had lost their luster, elaborate plans were concocted involving powder kegs, rocks, anchors and good hiding spots. Then eventually all of those tricks get boring too.

Finally we arrive at the real end-point, where we realize that Skeleton Forts are like beacons to bring PVP. You see, there are always a few players who still need that gold (you can recognize them by their stock ship usually) and will fight desperately for every penny. Those of us who don’t need it, quickly realize that you will keep fighting us for hours if we deny you from getting it. This leads to a few hours of new strategies. Things like waiting for a crew to open the vault, then setting off a powder keg booby trap to kill them. This makes them really mad, which is exactly what we want, because we just want them to keep fighting.

 

You can probably see where this is going. The basic gameplay design of SoT drives players to become the worst nightmare of other players. Those of us who have been playing the most, have literally nothing better to do than wreck the day of someone with less. Provoking them into a mindless rage to keep them fighting is legitimately the only strategy we have to even keep the game going.

I find it ridiculously ironic that Rare bragged about how their game was designed to fight toxicity, when it is the first game since I was a child to actually make me into a toxic player. I find myself being a bully, because that is the only strategy that leads to continued challenge in this game. I hate bullies and I don’t want to be one. So for now I’m putting down this game. I’ll check out what changes and additions are made when new patches hit, but for the moment I am bored of the endless fighting.

End part 2, 4/2/2018

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If you read my past Discovery article, you are probably aware I was in the “really hoping Lt. Tyler was not evil” camp. If you’ve been watching Discovery for the past 3 weeks, you know I am heartbroken. Unfortunately though, IMDB spoiled it for me and potentially anyone else who visited the site between when episode 11 was announced and actually available on CBS’ app.

You see, when Discovery initially aired its pilot, Voq (the villain) was credited as Javid Iqbal and we had to wonder who the heck this awesome nobody was. Well it happens to be because the same actor showed up as another character 3 episodes later and that isn’t his real name (must be pulling a Clifton Collins Jr). As soon as episode 11 was announced however, IMDB updated Shazad Latif’s (so sexy) credit on the show to “Ash Tyler/Voq” making it pretty clear that some Manchurian Candidate stuff was about to go down.

Now don’t get me wrong, seeing a favorite hero become a villain is a trope that I adore. Star Wars may have botched it in reverse, but it can be done well. I’m still an episode behind, so he may already be dead, but here’s hoping I get to see him as the villain for at least another season.

Still though, shame IMDB. That was a crude reveal and clumsily ruined a great plot twist. Shame.

I’ve written quite a few articles in the past about how to make good choices when researching new devices online. I often recommend to consult forums and get opinions from other users, rather than just reading reviews of new owners. A number of people have mentioned to me though, how hard it can be to tell the difference between good and bad advice online.

This may sound familiar: You go to a forum or subReddit about a new thing you want to get into. It could be drones, or small board computers, or smart dishwashers, doesn’t matter. Every single person there seems to know way more than you had imagined there was to learn. You have no freakin’ clue who is an expert and who is not, because your own experience is so fresh you don’t know what to look for. So you end up just trusting the people who seem the most confident. There’s a whole fallacy about how confidence can be inversely proportionate to competence (look up the Dunning-Kruger Effect), but let’s just say this isn’t always the best idea.

So as Luke Skywalker once asked Obi-Wan Kenobi, how will you know the good from the bad? Allow me to offer you a slightly better response than “You will know.”

No matter what the topic is, you can identify bad advice by the way it is delivered. Regardless of what the opinion is, if the reasoning behind it is not logical, you can’t trust it. That’s really the simple version that this entire article boils down to: How to identify opinions that are based on bias and emotion, then disregard them.

 

People or opinions to just avoid entirely.

There are a few camps of thought that are just plain useless to you as a person living in the real world. The people representing them are so far outside the objective reality that we average consumers live in, that you pretty much have to toss out whatever they say. Here are a few you will commonly find in any discussion online.

 

The Fanboy/girl

“You should just always go with ________, because it is just better and always will be.”

These people are, in my opinion, one step up from members of crazy cults. They sit there with a demented gleam in their eye, rubbing the company logo on their device for luck. Then they go online and blast anyone and everyone who ever looked at the competitor product.

For a frame of reference, let’s use cars. Any forum about American cars is bound to have GM people, Ford people and Dodge people. All of them will insist their chosen brand is the best. For any objective buyer, these three brands are very similar and they all release models that are generally well received. What’s also true objectively is that all of them have released terrible cars, that show that they give absolutely no craps about those fans. Let’s just mention the Nova II, Pinto and the Aries and leave it at that.

So if you have any sensibility and a memory longer than a few months, you probably realize that no large company is perfect. Even a company like Apple that has a pretty solid track record over 40 years, has released quite a few duds. You don’t want to be stuck with one of those (especially if it’s as pricey as an Apple product). So whenever someone advises you to blindly trust one logo over the others, you should ignore most of what they say.

 

High school debate champions.

“Everything that person just said is wrong and all my opinions are absolutely fact.”

These asshats are probably some of my least favorite people on the internet. They aren’t exactly trolls per se, because they are in it for their satisfaction rather than others suffering. That doesn’t really excuse it. The point is that they are probably not even that interested in the topic at hand, they just cruise the forums looking for people to argue with.

What is most maddening, is that sometimes these people won’t even own the thing being discussed. They’ll just Google the popular opinions and construct bogus arguments just for fun. The good news is they are easy to identify. They will almost always narrow in on one specific person who seems game to argue with them. Regardless of where the topic goes, they will keep trying to argue with that person. It can become very clear cut when everyone else is just sharing experiences and two people are having their own argument. If possible, just hide their posts or block them. These people have nothing useful to offer you.

 

Actual Trolls

“Really you’re all just Hitler.”

A lot of internet users don’t seem to understand the word ‘troll’ and think it just means anyone who isn’t nice to them online. Troll is actually a very literal term that describes someone doing what trolls do in stories; they wait under bridges and harass passersby with stupid riddles or dismemberment. That is what a troll actually is. Someone who just lurks on internet social spaces, with no goal besides to cause others annoyance and grief.

Trolls aren’t people who have stupid opinions that they actually believe. Those are just stupid people. Trolls have no beliefs, no creed, no axe to grind. They have no reason to be on the internet besides to wreck your day. They get satisfaction from that alone.

The best way to identify honest-to-badness trolls is that they have no actual information to offer. Unlike the debater, they won’t even look up cursory facts, they just go straight to calling people offensive terms or bringing up politically incorrect issues without provocation. Trolls will fall back on the sort of logic used in primary school to get a rise out of anyone thin-skinned enough to bite.

It’s actually really tragic to come into some of these exchanges. You’ll have some poor farmer from Bumtarket, who is just trying to fix their dryer and on the other side you have internet troll genericus. Farmer Jedidina has never been called a “sheep-f*#king prairie c^$t” before and has no social tools whatsoever to respond to this besides justified outrage. Everyone’s time is wasted but the troll, who chalks up a victory and goes back to their soul-crushing job in customer service. Identify these jerks early and ignore them to avoid a lot of wasted time and anger.

 

People with limited experience and unlimited enthusiasm.

“I bought my first  ______ and have been using it for 2 days. I love it! Buy one now!”

These folks are the only ones on this list that I actually like and feel great compassion for. As a tech enthusiast, nothing is better than seeing that joy for the first time in another. An unfortunate byproduct is that this initial success can fill you with an extreme overconfidence that can cause you to act like one of the other people on this list. While these newcomers to whatever the thing is mean well and want you to be as happy as they are, you still need to take their views with a grain of salt.

I run into this a lot with laptops especially. You get a student or professional who has just bought their first real, somewhat expensive system that is good for more than just term papers. They are absolutely blown away by what it’s like to have a system with a modern screen, any kind of SSD and a processor that runs on more than 7 watts. To them, it’s like a revelation of power and fidelity. So they naturally go on whatever forums they can find about that device and spread that love around.

There is no shame in this at all, in fact everyone should get to experience that feeling of having a laptop that doesn’t suck. The problem is that they get involved with conversations advising others and will blanket recommend that brand based on their very limited experience. I absolutely hate having to cite experience to shut someone up, because I feel like a debater, but sometimes I just have to unload a bit and say something like: “I have fixed hundreds of laptops for decades. I have watched the designs of each brand evolve over time and I have seen what things are skimped on in one line vs. another. It is simply not accurate to recommend this brand universally as all of their models are not on par.”

So never hesitate to ask about time of ownership and number of products they have owned by that brand. You should respect everyone’s experiences, but naturally those with more familiarity will have more insight. Unfortunately the most experienced people have often learned not to get involved with these discussions. You may need to send them private messages to ask for more info. Don’t hesitate though, because they would probably love to help, they just don’t want to waste anymore of their life getting involved with online arguments.

 

Embittered Consumers

“_______ brand will just screw you over. They don’t care about customers at all and just want to make bad products.”

If you do fall victim to any of this or other bad advice, you may find yourself with one of those products that is a dud. Regardless of what the overall products by that brand are like, you got screwed and your money is gone. It’s quite easy to be bitter in this situation and look for a way to get revenge. One way people do this is by going beyond giving that one product a bad review and looking for ways to hurt the company’s overall reputation on social media and forums.

Like the above group, these folks have a very valid viewpoint. You should definitely be aware of them as part of the consumer reality, but not necessarily follow them down their rabbit hole of negativity. Again using the example of computers, Apple and Dell are both brands I recommend based on my experience with them over many years. On the other hand, both brands have made many bad computers and I have one of each in my home right now. The trick is to separate one bad model from a company that has an overall track record that is better than its competitors. While Apple, Dell, Microsoft and Asus are not without failures, their overall quality has been proven over time to be better than Toshiba, Acer and HP. So that is the general opinion I share with people before going into specific series and models.

So if someone seems extremely negative and embittered, try to separate their experience from their emotions. If this is just based on a bad experience with one phone rep or having to wait too long at a store not owned by the device manufacturer, be wary. Even if the person is describing a genuinely failed product, remember that even the best products have a failure rate and when enough have sold that equals a real person with a bad unit. Even devices like the Bose Wave Radio or Kitchenaid Mixer, which have legendary reliability rates, still have defective units sent out to consumers.

Just try to keep in proportion the views of that consumer vs. the vast majority of consumers. No matter how horrible their story is and how afraid you are of that being you, the odds are the odds. If a product has sold millions of units and has overwhelmingly positive reviews, your odds are good. If it’s somewhere in the middle, you will really have to weigh how bad and how numerous these complaints are. Also be aware of what they are complaining about. What is a deal-breaking detail to one may be irrelevant to another.

 

 

What to look for.

So beyond just what to avoid, I should also tell you what details and trends in opinions you should look for as useful.

 

Experience

This is almost too obvious to state, but of course experience matters. Unless it is overly clouded by long-formed opinions or biases, experience is pretty much the most important factor in giving good advice.

So no matter what it is you are trying to learn about, weigh much heavier the opinions of someone who has actually worked in that industry for a long time. Unless they are literally a rep from that company, experience with as many versions and models of a thing as possible will give you the best objective view. Also I would credit professional, licensed experience over ‘street smarts’ in most cases. I’m not saying that backyard handyfolk don’t know their stuff, but they rely on natural talent and unique tricks they learned over a lifetime more than science, so taking their advice may just get you into trouble if you lack the same.

More important in my opinion than length of experience, is breadth of experience. Someone may have worked in an industry for decades, but if their company always used the same model of tools, they don’t have any experience with other models. The best kind of advice you can usually get is from someone who fixes multiple brands of the same thing. A lawnmower repairperson at a generic shop has worked on many models by every brand. They don’t just work at a John Deere shop that scorns other brands and they don’t just work at a dealership that only services newer models. So they will be able to tell you exactly how many of the cheaper line of mowers break down vs. the more expensive one. It won’t just be their opinion (hopefully) or experience with one mower, it’s an aggregate of thousands of machines.

Look for the person who deals with the thing every day, but is posting online privately, not as a company rep. They will usually give you a straight up opinion, because they get paid by the hour and would rather just see less angry people at their parts counter. They want to talk about their industry, but not to brag up one brand or product. They just care about what they do and are happy to give you the same free advice they would any of their customers.

 

Calm Sincerity

This goes beyond just online advice to a general life tip. The people who seem really worked up over something are usually the last people you want to consult about practical matters. If it’s politics or football, sure, get all worked up. If we’re talking about what brand of tires to buy, there is absolutely no reason not to have a calm and reasonable discussion based on facts.

As a general rule, pay more attention to the people that have absolutely nothing to gain or lose by your decision. I don’t just mean financially, like if they work for the company, this also includes pride or competitiveness. If someone seems to be really worked up over you agreeing with them, you have to wonder what is going on in their head. After all, at the end of the day if you buy a bad thing when I tried to advise you not to, I’m just going to move on with my life and wish you luck. Any moderately sane person should have the same outlook with complete strangers on the internet.

The people that are the most helpful just want to share their experiences, in the hope that it informs your decision. They don’t usually push their views too hard and mostly stick to their own practical experience, rather than attacking any other viewpoints. Most of all they will be concerned about the facts and will usually provide links and even pictures and videos of their own usage. They just want to share what they know, not show you how much more they know. Any good enthusiast just wants you to join the club and get up to speed as soon as possible. The really good ones don’t even care if you join the other club and will still invite you to visit theirs.

 

Unconventional Knowledge… sometimes.

A really important thing to know is when the official answer isn’t good enough. I have to once again mention Apple, because the official answers on their forums are never good enough. Apple moderators are so obtuse, they will actually refuse to tell you about a feature of their own products, because they don’t trust your ability to use it properly. I’ve definitely called the bulk of humanity stupid on multiple occasions, but that is downright ridiculous. The short version is you just cannot always trust the mainstream opinion on something. Sometimes you have to go to the alternate sources that think “outside the box” to get the complete picture.

While this is a very important avenue of research, it carries a lot of risk as well. When I say unconventional, we’re talking about enthusiasts and crazy YouTube posters that do not do things the way official support recommends, by a long shot. These are the Nikola Teslas of the world, who are too smart and too wild to actually work at the company, but know more than the people that designed the thing. While these sort of enthusiasts have by far the most knowledge, they often have trouble visualizing things from the point of an average consumer.

When seeking information from these sources, always keep a clear view of your own reality and abilities. This person on youtube may have improved their gas mileage by removing their rear window, but do you really want to drive to work every day with wind whistling through your car? These are the kinds of things to keep in mind when going down this rabbit hole. Most of these people are a little unhinged and will do some things that most of us might not in our everyday use. Always remember to picture yourself following their advice in your normal life before going too crazy with aftermarket fixes and tweaking.

With that awareness though, do not hesitate to seek info from people outside the normal expert community. Sometimes you really can get twice the performance out of a cheap thing by adding a paperclip and a rubber band. This can sometimes save you a lot of money and time, as long as you are smart about which advice to take.

 

 

At the moment, this is most of the what to look for/avoid I can think of. As always there is endless nuance to learn over time, but these are the big ones to avoid going down the rabbit hole of someone else’s delusion. If I were to boil it down to one easy to remember concept, it would be to avoid people with an axe to grind, while seeking out people with a lot of experience to share. Hopefully the two are not the same.

What you are ultimately doing is separating the people who socialize on the internet for their own gain and your potential loss, from those who genuinely want you to succeed. The good ones are usually friendly and neighborly, while the bad ones get nasty in a hurry. This is not always true though, as many a grouchy old expert can come off rude, but have the best of intentions. Learn to infer people’s motives to be sure they aren’t just hopping on your topic to continue their crusade against whatever. If you can avoid that, you are most of the way there. If you keep in mind the things I said above, you should have a pretty good idea of how to do that in at least most internet forums and Reddit.

Good luck, because no matter how good some of the help out there is, you’re going to need it. When one uses the internet, the last thing one wants to do is actually ASK for opinions. When that is what you have to do however, steel yourself and keep your wits about you.

 

 

 

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When you have a bad script, a bad cast and no hope of matching the prequel’s profits, you can call me baby. I’ll give you that one scene the critics will say didn’t totally suck.

Now although this is a satire article, I don’t want you to think for one minute it reflects negatively on the man above. Oded Fehr has rightfully earned credibility as a beloved actor playing roles like Jafar on Once Upon a Time and his many, many well received voice roles in television and video games. This farsiferous award is for his now decades-long career as a saver of bad sequel plots. Whether it’s The Mummy Returns or the recently released video game expansion, Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris (where he plays the titular character), you can count on Oded Fehr to read that script like it isn’t absolute garbage.

I am bashing Destiny 2’s expansion here a bit, because it continues a long-standing Bungie tradition: taking popular tropes from the last 4 decades of popular sci fi, putting it in a blender and firing it at the player rapid-fire while they are also being shot literally. I’ve bashed their scripts at great length before, Curse of Osiris is nothing new. Unlike many of the live action films Mr. Fehr has worked on though, in the Destiny games he is also joined by a stellar cast throughout, who have to read equally awful scripts.

This article though, is about the glorious contrast brought to bad stories by Oded Fehr. I don’t want to waste any more of it reliving the pain surrounding him in those projects.

I like to cite examples going all the way back to the second Resident Evil film, which shall not be named. Mr. Fehr is inexplicably playing a Latino American soldier named Carlos, although the actor’s accent is still unmistakably Israeli. Somehow he manages to look Milla Jovovich in the eye and deliver his lines with at least some dignity. The scenes where either those two actors are talking, or one of them is talking to Jared Harris, are seriously the only not-awful scenes in the movie. It’s amazing.

We can go back a few years farther, to The Mummy Returns, where Mr. Fehr is literally the only person working on the entire film who cares. Bravo.

A few nights ago, when I was finishing the plot of Curse of Osiris, when Oded Fehr started talking I was immediately like “Whoa, whoa, good delivery, what is happening here?” At a point where even the legendary Gina Torres seems to be struggling with a powerful bad script, in swoops Oded Fehr to give a crap. You would think he was playing the ancient god Osiris, instead of just some dude we heard about a couple of times in the first game. The gravitas was simply excellent.

 

While this is definitely a humorous article, there is no shame in doing such a dirty job well and that is serious. I would liken Oded Fehr’s performances in these roles to the latter days of Orson Welles, but in totally different context. Orson Welles would come in after a night of hard drinking and eating, to a film he hated and a script he hadn’t even read and bust out an amazing voice performance. Whether he was a giant planet-eating head/moon in Transformers or some ridiculous looking monster in a Scooby Doo TV movie, Welles delivered every time.

The major difference is obviously that Fehr is not at the bitter end of his career and doing it to support compulsive eating and drinking, in the hopes it will kill him. He just treats it like his job and takes it really seriously, whether it’s an Emmy award winning show, or something that everyone knows is going to suck. Also I’m pretty sure he reads the scripts most of the time and takes the job anyway.

I at least really appreciate that. Because I’m that fan that goes to see all 32 awful Resident Evil movies, or has actually viewed The Mummy Returns more than once. I also have a really sweet headset that clearly reproduces video game voice acting if I don’t turn it off. So I personally really appreciate the work of Oded Fehr.