Friday, March 31, 2017

Music: Everybody Knows

Yes, I'm back to Leonard Cohen:


I was going to juxtapose it with Richard Strange singing "The Time Is Now", but for reasons I don't understand that one doesn't seem to be on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bingo Memes

I've been sucked into doing the United Way at work again this year, and one of our fundraisers is Virtual Bingo. Virtual Bingo is just like regular Bingo, except that A) it's done entirely over email, B) the Bingo cards have names & pictures of our department heads instead of numbers.

Naturally, I've gotten a lot of people complaining about receiving the Bingo emails when they aren't even playing. I've explained that they're supposed to see the emails and become so excited that they rush out and buy Bingo cards so that they can play, too; but for the most part they remain unconvinced (and whiny). In response, I've become even more relentlessly cheerful about our Bingo fundraiser, because I'm helpful like that.

I even made little pictures, because by God if I have to do this then everyone else has to enjoy it with me.

So... Bingo memes:
And if, by some horrid chance, you should find yourself in a situation similar to my own someday... well, feel free to use any or all of these yourself, whoever you are. And remember to smile while you're doing it. Smile big. Smile all the time.

It's the only sensible response, really.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bloodborne Legos: the first Hunter!

Equipped with the Hunter's Axe and the Blunderbuss:

Out hunting with the Threaded Cane and the Hunter's Pistol:

I will tell you now that this game scares me silly. My six-year-old, however, is completely undeterred. And he's making Lego guys based on it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

SONY Playstation Network Support Fail

The credit card I use for the Playstation Network quit working on the Playstation Network. (It works fine literally everywhere else.) Last night, I finally sat down to try to troubleshoot, so I could purchase the things that are sitting in my shopping cart. It... didn't work. Not even when I put in a completely different card. And when I went to the Support Forums, I found that I wasn't the only one who had this problem. So, this morning I finally found the link for their chat-based tech support. It...

It did not go well.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:02:42 AM): Hello, My name is Tech how may I assist you today?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:03:12 AM): So, my PSN account apparently cannot actually charge credit cards.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:03:46 AM): I’m sorry for any inconvenience that you are experiencing with your account, I'd be glad to look into this for you today.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:04:11 AM): Just to confirm we are working on the right account. Is the Online ID you entered at the beginning of the chat the account you need help with today?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:04:43 AM): Yes.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:04:49 AM): myemail@myemail.com

Me (3/26/2017, 9:05:11 AM): Here's an overview of the problem; I'm the reply on this thread:

Me (3/26/2017, 9:05:13 AM): http://community.us.playstation.com/t5/PlayStation-Network-Support/Can-t-add-funds-to-my-wallet/td-p/46204040

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:05:21 AM): Let me ask you, are you trying to make the purchase from the console, or from the website?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:05:56 AM): I've only tried to make the *purchase* from the console, but I can't add funds to my wallet from the website, either.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:06:22 AM): Thank you for that information. Allow me to access your account and verify the events log, hopefully there is no lock on the account. Please bear with me while I check this for you.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:07:46 AM): I'm curious: if there's some sort of lock on the account, shouldn't the error message say so? All I keep getting is the "invalid credit card - check your information carefully" error, which at this point is starting to make me kinda stabby.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:08:01 AM): Thank you for waiting. After verifying your account events, the system shows that there are some failed attempts to add funds. These can happen when for some reason, such as miscommunication between the bank and PlayStation Network, the payment instrument is not accepted and gets rejected. As result, the system locks the account for a certain period of time; this is strictly, for security reasons.

In this case I will be sending you an email with suggestions that should help you resolve the issue once the block has been lifted. Again, please do not attempt to change your card or make purchases until the lockout period has ended.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:08:30 AM): ...And how long does this lockout period last?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:08:45 AM): Since I apparently have no way of seeing that the account is/isn't locked?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:09:25 AM): In some scenarios the lock usually lasts from 24 to 48 hours depending on the number of attempts made, my best advice is to not to try within that period of time to not to extend the lock time frame.

My system shows that the last attempt was made on 03/25/2017 22:14:20 PDT

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:09:42 AM): In the meantime, let me provide you an option that does always work for these scenarios, and personally is my favorite one. You can add funds by purchasing a digital PSN card code. These can be purchased online and you get the code right away after completing the purchase online, and there are no extra fees:

http://www.amazon.com/10-PlayStation-Store-Gift-Card/dp/B00GAC1D2G/

All you will need to do is redeem the voucher by logging in and visiting the following link and click on “Redeem prepaid card”: https://account.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com

Me (3/26/2017, 9:10:23 AM): So, check me on this:

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:11:13 AM): Sure.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:12:01 AM): I had a card on file. I'd used it make a purchase back in... mid-February, I think. I tried it again a week or so back, and it said the card info wasn't valid. I finally sat down last night, re-entered the card data a couple of times, entered data for a completely different card, and now my account is locked *because of me trying to fix it*?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:12:54 AM): I realize you aren't responsible for your billing software, and I realize that sometimes these are actually issues with the banks, but that seems a bit...

Me (3/26/2017, 9:13:14 AM): ...well, infuriating, actually.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:13:49 AM): And that's leaving aside the issue where the system doesn't inform me that my account is locked.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:14:04 AM): Keep in mind that the credit card needs to support the AVS system the address on file for the card needs to be the same as the one on the PSN account, I will recommend you to verify with your bank if the card support the AVS sytem.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:14:39 AM): All right, I can ask them about that. But, again, the card *was* working.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:15:17 AM): How long have you been relying on this AVS?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:15:47 AM): I totally understand It could be there some type of restriction on the cards that maybe was not there before.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:16:13 AM): We used this system for a long time.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:16:21 AM): I’d like to know if you have any other question or request I could help you with.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:19:08 AM): Are you still there?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:19:34 AM): Yes, I do have a request. Could you forward this to you IT guys, or whoever handles the billing software? I quick stroll through the support forums suggests that while the numbers aren't huge, I'm not the only one having this problem. And if the system is going to lock my account for security purposes, it should tell me A) that it has done so, and B) when I can expect the lock to be removed. I should not have to guess. But honestly, given that those same credit cards work fine elsewhere, this looks to me like a problem with the billing system.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:19:52 AM): Do you know for sure that my account actually *is* locked? I mean, is that something you can see?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:20:42 AM): I really apologize for the inconvenience this lock can take 24-48 hours to be remove i will recommend you that you try once the time pass contact us back with case number XXXXXXXX.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:21:23 AM): So you *can* see that there's a lock on my account?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:21:41 AM): Correct.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:21:52 AM): Dear God.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:22:57 AM): All right. What happens when 48 hours has passed, and I try this again, and your system still refuses to process my credit card? I'm not real keen on taking the extra step to go purchase some sort of gift card, import that, and then purchase things. I put a credit card on file so I wouldn't have to do that sort of thing.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:24:01 AM): If the issue persist contact us back and will try to help you so far due to the lock on the account you will be unable to make any changes.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:24:22 AM): Also, at least one of the items in my cart is on sale. I have no idea if it will still be on sale in 48 hours. It's probably no more than a couple of dollars, but...

Me (3/26/2017, 9:24:44 AM): Does it keep the price it was at when I first attempted to purchase it?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:25:07 AM): I recommend you to purchase the PSN cards and you will be able to made the purchase right now.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:25:14 AM): No.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:25:27 AM): Can you escalate this to someone who has the authority/access to lift the lock?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:26:09 AM): Ok. In this case Please wait for the system to remove the lock because this lock was made automatically by the system and will be remove the same way.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:26:22 AM): CAN it be removed manually?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:26:36 AM): Is there someone in your hierarchy who can remove it?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:27:05 AM): I'm really sorry but there is no option to be remove manually it was made automatically by the system.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:27:35 AM): And you have no higher level of support to escalate this to?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:29:04 AM): There is higher levels but since the lock was made automatically by the system this could have happened because of events that can interfere in the communication, such as high traffic on the servers, several purchase attempts from different sites (for example, console and website) which enable the anti-fraud system on the PlayStation account, locking for a period of time the usage of credit cards or PayPal accounts.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:29:58 AM): 'Cause if that's the case, SONY needs to give you guys better resources. There's no good reason why you should be unable to help, or to get me to someone who can.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:30:02 AM): It will be remove on time frame provided I'm really sorry since this can not be remove manually for you I am sorry since I did not help you in the way that you wanted I have done everything possible

Me (3/26/2017, 9:30:11 AM): I know.


Me (3/26/2017, 9:30:17 AM): You've been lovely.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:30:33 AM): And I understand that there are limits to what you can do.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:31:24 AM): But this is asinine, and if you have any sort of channel for passing suggestions to management, you should probably point out that neither of us should be in this position.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:32:27 AM): Is there a corporate contact/customer feedback phone number somewhere?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:32:52 AM): Thank you for your feedback Edward for sure i have take notes of this situation and i wish i can provide to another option.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:32:59 AM): Phone support is available at 1-800-345-7669 and our hours of operation are:

8:00AM to 8:00PM Pacific Time, Monday-Friday

Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:33:33 AM): Is that technical support, or customer feedback? (Useful either way, but...)

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:35:38 AM): We take the feedback for you and provide the information as well

Me (3/26/2017, 9:37:20 AM): Okay. I'll contact them and let them know that neither of us should be in this position.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:38:21 AM): Thank you. You've done everything you can. I'm still pretty angry, but it's at SONY and this benighted system. You've been as helpful as you possibly could.

TL/DR: They can't troubleshoot my account because there's a lock on my account. There's a lock on my account because I was trying to troubleshoot my account. The system does nothing to alert me that there's a lock on my account, let alone when the lock will expire, and the tech cannot remove the lock or get me to someone who can remove the lock. The only available solution is to wait for 48 hours, try again, and then -- when the credit card still fails to work -- to try to get in touch with support again.

I am... not entirely satisfied with this.

I hope to hell that the poor support tech's day gets better from here. It sucks when your job is to solve people's problems and you aren't actually given the tools to solve their problems. (That being the case, I've removed the tech's name from the transcript, because none of this is really the tech's fault.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bloodborne Legos

So... Secondborn is supposed to be asleep. It's ten o'clock at night. But he keeps emerging from the bedroom.

He's been building Lego Bloodborne characters, complete with weapons. So far he's brought me one guy, with a threaded cane and a hunter's axe. He's trying to figure out how to make a saw-blade weapon. Meanwhile, he found a hunter's pistol and brought that out too.

As with so many other things involved in parenting, I can't decide if this is a righteous blessing, or a sign of my impending doom.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Results-Driven Deity

Saw this on Facebook:


And I just... I can't stop laughing.

Can you imagine if Jesus' ministry was results-driven? Can you imagine if Lord Almighty was results-driven?

"All right, human beings. Listen up. That is it. I gave you a perfect place to live. I gave you one rule, and you broke it. I sent you out into the world, and you trashed it. I wiped out the entire sinful lot of you and preserved only the truly faithful, and left them with written instructions so nobody could get confused. And what did you do? You spread right back out and went galloping straight back to sin and iniquity! I came down there and lectured you Myself and left you with a further set of instructions. And look at you now! Just look! I boiled the whole thing down to two rules: love Me and love your neighbors. And what are the two things that you consistently fail to do? Well? That's right.

"I'm sorry, humanity. But after extensive review in committee, We've decided to cancel your funding. We're just not seeing results. You will not be renewed for next season. The good news is, I'm not going to unmake you Myself. No need, really. You'll manage it all on your own. Probably something with North Korea, but that would be telling. Good day, My children."

Friday, March 17, 2017

Opening Scene for Ash Knight

This is the opening scene for something I never finished, but probably should have:

Edrin crouched atop the thick stone wall that surrounded the temple grounds. He balanced easily, despite the rough irregularity of the surface. Chunks of glass had been set into a layer of mortar along the top of the wall, but those were only meant to discourage casual intruders. Edrin's feet found places between them, and the leather of his boots, though soft, was thick enough to protect the places where they pressed against his feet.

The area below him was dark and empty: an open area of grass and a few scattered trees. Edrin dropped into it, then pressed himself back against the wall. Nothing moved; no one cried out. He crossed the grass with steady strides, knowing that if anyone emerged from the buildings ahead there was nowhere he could hide - and knowing also that sprinting for cover would draw all the wrong sort of attention if someone did happen to glimpse him.

A covered walkway ran along the back of the nearest building. He reached it, crossed between two decorated stone pillars, and stopped again. Still there were no sounds -- no human sounds, anyway. The wind stirred softly between the trees and ran its invisible fingers through the grass, while insects whirred and buzzed in the darkness. The Temple Guard would have people nearby, but for the moment Edrin was alone.

He crouched, focusing his energy, then sprang into the air. His hands touched the edge of the roof, and guided him over. His feet landed lightly against the graveled surface of the rooftop, and he straightened. The walkway beneath ran from the Temple offices to the rear gate; the messenger would almost certainly come this way. All Edrin needed to do was wait.

He lay back on the gravel, stilling his thoughts and focusing on his breathing. He could restore his energy, at least a little, before the messenger arrived. Then he heard a door open, and cautious voices drifted across the night air. He turned his head, but still couldn't make out the words. Now he could hear footsteps as well, moving down the walkway. Or perhaps I'll rest later.

He waited until they had passed, then sat up and leaned over the side of the roof. Hanging his head down, he saw three men. The front and rear were heavyset, muscled, and armed; the one in the center was smaller, and carried a messenger's pouch. They seemed wary of the darkness -- as they should be, he thought -- but Edrin had no trouble picking out the Temple's sigil (a divided circle) on the carry-pouch. He swung down, and dropped lightly to the ground. No one appeared to be following the three men, so he fell in behind them. His steps were silent on the flagstones, even when he started to run.

A staff came into his hand as he reached them, formed from the stuff of the Heavens and layered with the curses he desired for this night's work. He brought it across, clipped the rear guard on the side of his head, and swung back to catch the messenger with a mirror of the same strike. Both men were falling as he passed them, and the lead guard was just beginning to turn when Edrin brought the staff down upon his head.

He skidded to a stop as the men hit the ground, and the staff shimmered out of existence. Reaching down, Edrin slipped the pouch off the messenger's shoulder. It was heavy in his hand, just as it should be. He opened the clasp, and saw a mixture of coins and promissory notes. That was good, but the presence of the guards was even better. A messenger might be counted on for discretion, but guards... sooner or later, guards would talk.

The time for discretion was past. He sprinted back across the grass, sprang to the top of the wall, and dropped easily to the street on the other side. It would have been easier -- and far, far safer -- to ambush the messenger outside the walls of the temple, but Edrin meant to send a message to High Priest Mathal Turvis: your status will not protect you.

The first pouch had been simple: it was carried by a solitary messenger who was not expecting trouble. This time the messenger had been accompanied by guards, which was all to the good as far as Edrin was concerned. Next time would most likely be a trap, so he would have to vary his pattern to avoid it. He could not afford to be seen.

Smiling under the hood of his cloak, Edrin walked away from the temple.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Real Work Conversations: Hunters and Badgers

My boss: "So I'll have to hunt that down."

Our Co-worker: "You're a hunter."

My boss: "I'm a hunter. Actually, I'm a badger."

Our Co-worker: "Now I have that stupid song stuck in my head."

Me: "Well, now everything is awesome."

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Employee Discount for the Fitness Center

So, I got a call from a fitness center -- the local branch of one of the big national chains. "Several of your employees work out here," said the fellow, who claimed to be some sort of manager. "They'd like to see if we could set up some sort of employee discount for them."

"What did you have in mind?" I asked.

"Well, we create something where your employees can go online and sign up at a discounted rate."

"That sounds fine," I told him. "Just send me a link to the portal, and I'll put it up on our internal discount pages."

"Great!" he said, and we got off the phone.

Well, a few hours later I get an email from the fitness chain - not the guy who'd called me, but someone else. (I'm guessing this is some sort of corporate or at least regional department that handles discounts like this.) And it doesn't have a link, it has a PDF attachment -- which, when I open it, turns out to be a legal agreement rather than, say, an actual discount.

So I email them back. "Why am I looking at a legal contract?" I ask. "We don't usually do things this way. The guy I spoke to said you were going to send me a portal that I could link to. And why does the contract say the offer is only good for sixty days?"

The response I received was... not illuminating: "Oh, yes! It's a sixty-day period for your employees to sign up. The contract will allow us to move forward on creating a portal for you!"

Okay, fine, sure, whatever. I sent the contract over to the head of Purchasing, who has the authority to sign such things.

The head of Purchasing read over the contract, filled in a 60 day date range in the blanks (March 1 to April 30, which seemed pretty sensible since it was still a week before the end of February), and marked out the line that said we'd provide them with our employee records so they could confirm employee statuses. He initialed the change and signed it, and I scanned it in and we sent it back.

A day later, I got another email from the fitness center people. This one explained that they couldn't sign a contract with something marked out, so they were sending me another copy without that line. I checked it, and they had indeed removed that one bullet point. They had also copied over the dates we'd put in. However, the time period next to the dates now said "twelve months".

So I sent it back to them, with a note suggesting that they should either expand the dates, or change the time period to match the current set of dates.

Three days later I got another copy of the contract. They'd updated it. Now, instead of "twelve months", it said "sixty months".

I gave up. I pulled up Acrobat Pro and edited the document myself. The head of Purchasing signed the revised version, and we sent it off again. By now, of course, it's already March.

Two days ago, we got another email from them. This time they wanted to know what site we were going to place their link on "so they could make it match". Okay, sure, fine. They wouldn't be able to see our actual intranet, but we sent them the link for it.

Now, owing to an odd bit of history that resulted in some complicated jiggery-pokery on our network, that particular web address doesn't always take you to the same site. If you open it from inside our network, it takes you to our intranet site. If you open it from anywhere else, it routes you over to our main, public website. This is more than a little bit daft, but that's how it works.

And that is exactly why we got an email back from the fitness people yesterday, explaining that they couldn't send us an employees-only link to be placed on something that was clearly a publicly-accessible website.

You have to understand, we don't have a dedicated Employee Discount person. We do this on the side ("other duties as assigned") as a courtesy to our fellow employees and local businesses. We sent back an explanation, but at this point we've wasted waaaaaay more time on this discount than it's worth. They'll either send us a link to whatever purchasing portal they put together, or they won't; I'm done messing with it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Secondborn Wears All The Clothes

Secondborn had One Of Those Thoughts last night, and decided to put on as much clothing as he could manage. Behold!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Busy Writing

So... I'm behind both here and over at Surreal Situations. This is partly because my sinuses have been trying to murder me, and partly because my free time is limited (the next bit of Surreal Situations requires me to recreate an earlier scene -- which is certainly possible, but it means referencing the existing pictures, finding the right props, and getting them all back together - it isn't quick). Mainly, though, I'm behind because I've been working on The Chained Man, which I recently mentioned as possibly the weirdest story idea I've ever come up with. It's coming together nicely, though it's still pretty early in the Zero Draft: I have a first chapter of five or six pages, and maybe three pages of chapter two. Admittedly, it's torn me away fromthe Nameless project I'd been working on, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I keep restarting Nameless, whereas The Chained Man is sort of pulling me along with its own momentum.

I will get back to Surreal Situations this week, though. It's too much fun to let go.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The First Time I Played Bloodborne: A Memoir

So, a couple of weeks ago I finally got around to playing Bloodborne. (If you have no idea what that is, it's a dark and fairly gruesome video game. Check out Wikipedia or watch the trailer.) I was interested in it mainly because I'd been told that it had a lot of Lovecraftian themes, and fighting horrible monsters with bladed weapons in a cursed or haunted city sounds like exactly my sort of game. My knowledge of the game, however, was limited to one or two casual conversations; I had not, for example, watched youtube videos of the gameplay, or looked at any walkthroughs, or really even read much in the way of reviews.

So I bought the game, installed it, and fired it up.

This was... educational.

The game begins -- and I don't think I'm really giving anything way here -- with a cutscene that lays out the basic plot dynamic. You've come the city of Yarnam looking for something called "Paleblood" and you're going to have to become a hunter to do it. Tonight is the night of the hunt, which will give you your chance. In order to do all this, you'll need a transfusion of Yarnam blood, and in order to get that you'll need a contract. The contract is actually the character creation process, which allows you to customize your character's looks and select one of maybe eight or ten backgrounds that determine your starting abilities. I selected the one that said I had a tragic past but was tougher because of it, because I wanted a character who would be hard to kill. This will become funny in just a moment.

So, having generated the character, I signed the contract and watched the admirably-spooky cutscene.

After the cutscene, my character woke up in the now-empty clinic. I looked around a little bit, then headed downstairs and promptly encountered the Giant Wolfy Monster in the lower room. There were some little bubbling spots in the floor that looked like puddles or maybe pools of water, but I circled around those; they didn't look safe. After considering my situation -- i.e. unarmed, fresh from a medical procedure, and having discovered no other ways out of the building -- I decided to try to sneak around the Giant Wolfy Monster and out the door on the far side.

This went exactly as well as you might expect: I died immediately, and horribly.

At this point I found myself in a new setting: The Hunter's Dream. The little bubbly-water areas were on the ground here, too, but this time they had creepy little homonculi half-emerging from them, and holding out weapons. That looked a lot more encouraging, so I went over and tried talking to them. This was the point at which I discovered that these are Messengers, that they were offering me weapons and weren't going to try to kill me, and that by avoiding all the puddles in the original room I'd conveniently avoided all the little messages that would have told me which buttons on the controller allowed my character to do what. I made my selection of weapons, then wandered around talking to the messengers and getting basic instructions, and looking at the other things in the area. Much of it couldn't be activated yet, but I was expecting that; I'd just started the game, after all.

So I found the little headstone that let me return to the waking world, and came out back in the clinic -- downstairs, of course. With the Giant Wolfy Monster, of course. This time I took a moment to consult the messengers here, and learned how to do things like run, attack, dodge... you know, just the minor little extras. Nothing that important.

Now that I was ready, I tried a few practice swings and discovered that I still didn't have any weapons. This, despite having selected an axe and a pistol back in the dream. Well, maybe I needed to get a little further along in the game before I could use them. Maybe having selected them in the dream, they'd show up later here in the waking world. I could work with that. All I had to do was get past the Giant Wolfy Monster. And while I didn't have weapons, I did at least now know how to make an attack. I tried it a couple of times, and sure enough my character would smack things.

So I walked into the next room and attacked the Giant Wolfy Monster bare-handed.

This also went exactly as well as you might expect: I died immediately and horribly.

I tried again. I died. I tried again. I died. I tried again. I died. I tried again. I died. I dodged past the monster and out the far doorway, then raced up the steps and threw open that door. The monster caught up with me and I died. I tried fighting the monster again and died. I tried dodging past the monster and out the door into the small courtyard, and had to stop and open the gate out of the courtyard. I died again. I dodged around the monster again, made it all the way out of the courtyard and out onto the streets of Yarnam. I'd escaped! I took a moment to look around, found some corpses on the ground and searched them for useful items. Then the Giant Wolfy Monster jumped out of the gate and killed me again.

Well, all right: there was a guy around the corner, patrolling the street with an axe and a torch. Maybe he would help me with the Giant Wolfy Monster? I dodged around the monster, raced out of the building and through the courtyard, ran up to the guy, and waited to see if he'd help me.

Nope. Killed me with his axe.

I tried again, but this time I just ran up and attacked him. He looked mostly human, with his coat and top hat. Surely he'd be easier to kill than the Giant Wolfy Monster. Maybe I could take him bare-handed?

Nope. Killed me with his torch.

After dodging past him three more times, I figured out how to lower a ladder and escaped up to a ledge. I was safe! Finally! Maybe I was close to the area where I'd finally get my weapons, and hopefully some sort of tutorial to introduce me to how combat in this game worked? (Remember how I carefully chose a character whose background would make him hard to kill? I sure did.)

I moved a little further along, and crossed a bridge.

A guy burst out from behind a stack of crates, swinging a scythe at me. I took one look at him and jumped off the nearest ledge. I landed with only minor injuries, and started to explore the tiny little raised yard where I found myself now. There was, of course, no way back from here. There was also (of course) a fire lit in the middle of the yard, where a crucified monster was being burned at the stake. Presumably that was what the townsfolk did on the night of the hunt. And there was a guy standing by the stake. Maybe if I approached him, he'd help me out?

Nope. Attacked me with a cleaver.

This time, however, it went a bit differently: he lunged forward and got too close to the monster-burning pyre. Y'all, my very first kill in the game happened because one of the townsfolk set himself on fire and died.

...And didn't I feel silly two hours later, when I finally figured out how to equip the weapons I'd received in the first five or ten minutes of gameplay? Ohhhhh, yes. Yes I did. And then I went straight back and killed the hell out of that Giant Wolfy Monster, and the guy with the axe, and the guy with the scythe, and the guy with the cleaver.

Annnnnnnd then I stepped out into the street, where a whole group of townsfolk immediately turned on me and I died. But at least this time I was able to go back and eventually kill them too.

Now, I realize that that isn't really how the game is intended to be played. For one thing, I'm playing it offline. (I play video games so I don't have to interact with other people.) Apparently if you play it online, other players in other games can leave little notes at various spots in the landscape, often with helpful tips and warnings. For another, I imagine most people who start Bloodborne have already played the Dark Souls games and are at least passingly familiar with the interface. I was not, which was how my character ended up carrying perfectly serviceable weapons but not actually using them. But even taking all that into account, I do think the game could have maybe offered just a little more instruction, particularly in regards to the inventory system (which I finally discovered by accident).

On the other hand, trying to escape the clinic and explore Central Yarnam with no weapons whatsoever made for one the most harrowing experiences I've ever gotten out of a video game.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Penny War

We're having a Penny War at work (to raise money for the United Way). The way this works is that each department gets a jar, and people put pennies ("or bills", but I can barely type that with a straight face) in the jar, and the department whose jar has the most pennies wins. Easy, right? The catch is that any "silver coins" - nickels, dimes, quarters - count against your total... so you can go sabotage other departments' jars by dropping coins in them.

This led to yesterday's spectacle, wherein one of my co-workers emerged from her cubicle with a plastic cup full of change, sorted all the pennies into our jar, and dolefully announced: "There goes my retirement..."