robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I reviewed Diablo III last time. It's still that immersive. I've got my barbarian character up to 20th level roaming the desert. He's stalled at a boss I haven't figured out how to kill, so I'm bouncing around bringing the other nine characters up to the same level and getting very familiar with Act I.

The only down side is that with the game hosted on their server, when they do maintenance I can't play. I won't get the game back till 1pm today. Also, because they're hosting it on their server, I can't do what I still do with Diablo 2 and start new characters any time I feel like playing the really easy bits at the beginning. I'd have to delete characters to make room for the goof-off ones.

Also, back in the day when I played on BattleNet and started characters to play in shared games, they get deleted if I don't play for six months. That could get seriously annoying over time. I go for months without playing and then skim through all the old character list basically deciding if I'm going to play in Nightmare with a past winner, or which of the acts I want to poke into with which character type.

I come back to "abandoned" characters sometimes after years. So there's good reason to keep Diablo 2 loaded on the machine as well.

I guess nothing's perfect. It's just frustrating the servers are down, that's all. I'm sure I'll get creative again in a few days, don't know how long it'll take but there will come a point it's not all fresh and exciting.

The book is actually ready for Nonny. It just needs one more read-through to filter one more time for name changes and goofs and prose polishing. I finished the major changes before even installing the game so I don't feel bad about the time I'm putting into it now. This is very much an earned vacation!

I've also been doing a lot of deep thinking, getting myself sorted out finally. Now that I'm here in San Francisco it became safer to get a therapist to work through my PTSD issues. I have quite a few of them. Call it 50 years of continuous trauma before I got surgery including half the surgery and its recovery.

Julie is fantastic. She's a strong, butch woman with short iron-gray hair and a big wide smile. She understands about the physical issues. I've got three major filters for therapists, if they don't Get It about any of the three I have serious problems.

1) Yes, I am physically disabled. All of my body language is distorted by my crooked spine and mismatched different sized on left and right skeleton. I can read body language well enough but I've been told by some knowledgeable people that my physical symptoms can look like the side effects of long term dependency on antipsychotic medication. Using the power chair to get to appointments helped with communicating this.

2) I'm transgendered. Therapists not familiar and comfortable with transgender don't understand that I'm male. They project a ton of reactions and feelings and thoughts on me that have never been there. They assume these things and ignore, discount or discourage anything real in my reactions. This kind of therapist is the worst, because they're treating my better qualities as flaws and ignoring my problems in favor of made-up ones. At best I wind up having to spend the entire course of therapy educating the therapist instead of working on my problems.

3) Religious outlook and moral values. I'm pagan. I do not have Christian values or even many relict Christian values. I've drawn my worldview from a wide variety of different cultures and thrown out most of Christianity's ideas of right and wrong. There are a few areas of overlap. Real basic ones - murder and theft are wrong in that order, rather than the other order as some conservatives seem to expect.

There's huge cultural barriers with a therapist who doesn't understand my coherent, solid world view. I don't feel shame or guilt about things that I don't think of as wrong, like having had a wild youth. I'm rather proud of the fact that my broad, varied, experimental sexual youth was also sensibly mostly safe-sex and I have lived by my sexual ethics. They bear no relation to the Christian ideal of monogamy marriage-and-kids.

I don't have a lot of shame over a lot of things and don't have the Original Sin viewpoint that people are inherently evil unless some church whips them into being moral. For a long time I didn't even call it morals, I drew a semantic line between Ethics and Morals because my ethics personal. I decided them and I stick to them and adapt them as necessary when those sticky decisions of right and wrong come up in the world or my consciousness gets raised. Morality I thought of as the hypocritical consensus of society, a corrupt thing that could not be trusted to guide decisions of right and wrong in a shattered, dysfunctional culture.

Now that I'm in San Francisco, I'll go ahead and call it morality. My ideas of right and wrong are pretty close to those of my city. I'm part of the community here in ways I never was back in other cities and places I lived in. One of the sad things about having had so many bad therapists, many of them causing immense damage, is that none of them - not even the two previous good ones, ever said what Kitten did.

"Why don't you go ahead and move back to San Francisco even if it costs more to live there?"

Oh, that is a fourth filter I ran into with therapists.

4) Poverty. There are a lot of therapists who may even get past the first three filters and cannot grasp how far down the economic spectrum a white person can slide between physical health issues and discrimination. They don't get it. They assume I could just go out and get a job, that I should want to go out and get a job, that I've got middle class lifestyle assumptions the same as theirs. They have a good job so they don't understand what happens when other necessities are balanced against rent.

They suggest things I can't afford and think that it's a psychological problem if I have financial limits. They can't imagine how I could live in the ways that I do and survive the things I've survived and don't always respect that.

There are so many critical areas of miscommunication that go on with therapists that it's vital to find one that understands your context. A bad therapist does much more harm than good.

Time and again I wound up seeing therapists with the intent of dealing with old issues, only to start going into a slow decline because that therapist's blind spots sap my morale. When a therapist is steering you in the wrong direction for your life, it can take weeks or even months to figure out that's what's going wrong. When it's going right, it's sometimes painful as I dig into areas I'd rather not deal with and face sides of myself that I don't like. It's easy to mistake the friction of cultural conflicts for that kind of pain and keep going way farther into bad therapy than I should.

As a child it wasn't voluntary. There was literally nothing I could do but resist and keep holding my identity boundaries against the assault of trained adults with an agenda that went against my health and my real needs. Later on, I tried repeatedly to find good ones on my own because my life's been that hard all along - and so few of them got it, got any of it.

Betsy was a gay-friendly marriage counselor in Chicago, not a psychologist or psychiatrist. She was good at it and helped prepare me for breaking up with my ex - she saw the relationship was over years before I let go. I was afraid to lose him because he was the only human being in my intimate circle at the time. I had friends and acquaintances but no family or people as close as family except him.

Roland was a therapist I saw in New York throughout the years I was homeless. He was black. It made all the difference to his perceptions of poverty and discrimination that he experienced it himself. He did more than anyone else to help my transition. He helped me sort out how much of my problems were internal, PTSD issues, scars from previous traumas and how much were just current existing traumas in an unlivably rough situation. One of the things he was researching was the specific pressures and adaptations of artistic work.

His view included the idea that introspection tends to turn over and rip apart a lot of the everyday dysfunctions and bad attitudes that most people don't even pay attention to or get hurt by. It makes sense to this day. I can't count the number of people who told me "You think too much" about almost anything. Yet I have to in order to paint or write well. I have to look at what's really there, from many points of view to show them from different characters instead of narrowly from one point of view.

Julie's as good as those two were. I've got high hopes for this. On the list, she's a strong adherent of Integrative Medicine and we will be directly tackling my fibromyalgia symptoms, trying to reduce them and maybe even retrain my autoimmune system to Non-Emergency Health. She shares my idea that one of its causes is just the unreal levels of stress I put up with through the first fifty years of my life.

With her, my goal is to get used to living well in a happy place where I fit in and I'm pretty much in step with the community. I like it here. The things I gave up to be here are mostly things I don't care about in teh first place. Like having a car. I didn't want a car so much as I wanted independence. I didn't want a house so much as I wanted a clean room and a happy cat.

Now she's done the paperwork and my happy cat is a prescription strength, official Emotional Support animal, not a pet but the necessity he is in my life. I rate him on that priority, he eats before I do. Now the city does too and I won't be as limited in my housing choices. She thinks practical like that - she even suggested it before I brought it up as soon as I described my relationship with him. Yes, my cat's in my intimate circle.

So far it's going well. Monday we got into some deep emotional territory, we're starting to get past logistic stuff into the things that need to be dug up and aired out. Most people try to get rid of their dirty laundry. I'm a writer. That means beyond just dealing with it by getting rid of it, I need to get it cleaned up, washed and folded and packed up neatly into the bins of Cool Things To Write About. Not one of the troubles I've faced in life is unique to me, all of them make good story. So I can't forget. Just get grounded into here and now to understand my life is different, those conflicts have diminished to a human scale.

Aw bugger. I just came out to LiveJournal again. I had years ago when I got my surgery but I'd let it lapse as I picked up more readers from my art groups, where I'm not really out.

Oh well.

If you didn't know, now you do. Add that to the list of assorted physical defects I had to struggle with. I was always the guy you know me as, but there were some nightmare years especially in childhood when that looked like a monster because I got stuffed in a dress and people expected me to think and act and feel like a girl. It was as ludicrous as you're imagining.

It was more painful than I can describe. The closest thing that comes to it is that Twilight Zone episode about the man who got shunned and people literally acted like he didn't exist. That's essentially what it was - whatever I said or felt or thought, people ignored that and answered the lines that they thought I'd said. Sometimes helpfully cuing me to what I was supposed to think or feel.

Lot of long stories there, but I had surgery in 2005 and am now legally male and look decent if I was to go swimming or whatever. Still no life partner but I didn't exactly have much opportunity in the past decade and right now I want to get my head together before I look. That way I won't wind up with another dysfunctional relationship. Being single is far better than a bad relationship.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Okay, this is not a complete review because I haven't finished and won the game yet. That's not my style of play. I tend to noodle around each act for a long time playing it through in all the character types slowly. I move across the landscape slowly picking up everything including the junk. This drives other players crazy in multi-player games, but my relaxed pace is what I get into with it.

Diablo III is a masterwork.

There is a reason why it took ten years to write the sequel to Diablo II. I was still playing and enjoying Diablo II up to the minute I first loaded Diablo III and it's still my choice for what to relax with when I go offline due to power outage or loss of Internet connection. The only flaw in Diablo III is that you have to go online to play it.

I had to ignore a tiny chat screen down at the bottom left corner where other players are selling artifacts or trying to invite me to help with quests. I don't play socially, so it'd be nice to filter that to in-game characters only. For one thing, I am an old fashioned RPG player who likes to get into character and stay in character. That does not fit the mood of the chats.

However, if I wanted to play with friends who game the way I do, it's easy to set up an invite based social game provided everyone has good high speed access. I have Verizon Wireless 4G - it runs very well when the 4G service is up, when they switch to the 3G servers or get a bit overloaded there's lag. This can get frustrating but my access is good enough it hasn't happened much. Be sure you have good fast Internet service and enough bandwidth to play it for hours on end.

It won't cost as much bandwidth as streaming video but it's probably more than just reading articles and posting. I haven't been able to check those stats yet. Verizon's usage analysis service hasn't been working when I logged in. On the side where it's closer to "read and surf" usage though, I've been online with it for 48 hours and have not gotten the "Important Message from Verizon" yet telling me I used half my usage. Since I did watch a six hour painting class in streaming video, if it was running high I'd have got that message already.

There is a reason this game is a massive enduring hit in all three iterations. Three good reasons.

1) Good game design: the pace your character levels and gets new powers, the balance of effort and reward is optimum. It's perfectly balanced for endless play. There's enough new challenges, different side quests and dialogue to make it immersive for every repeat. They did this as far back as Diablo I, so at every stage they've kept this flagship game's playability and replayability maximized.

2) Good Story with an Immersive Setting, Sympathetic Characters, Good Dialogue and Masterful Twists. It's got all the literary hallmarks of a brilliant graphic novel series. If you have not played Diablo I and Diablo II, the story will stand alone and enough gets revealed about what happened to keep this one absorbing. It's richer if you have played the sequels, so I'd recommend buying the Diablo II Battle Chest that includes Diablo I as a free extra.

The first game is a bit crude because game technology has evolved since then, but it's still fun in its own way. The second is still playable to this day and will probably sit in my library something like the books I keep replacing till I get fed up and get the hardcover version. The third is just as good.

I'm only part of the way through it as I said, but the quality is so consistent I know it'll be maintained right through to a twist ending.

3) Incredible fine art. For the past few years I've been taking a lot of upper level art classes, since December 2010 I've been taking a master level landscape course given by Johannes Vloothuis, who was once named Mexico's best watercolor artist. So I understand a lot more of the underpinnings of great art than I did before when I just got absorbed in it and loved the art. Everyone loves the art.

Now I understand why the art grabs everyone that much. It's just that good on every principle of design and color and composition. You can use all the CGI and fancy tricks in the world to create illusion but if it has poor design it will be awkward, look unreal and drive you nuts without being able to put your finger on why.

The scenes are lighter and easier to navigate than Diablo II. Mist is used a lot to give distance and keep the screen a little lighter. Rather than hard-edged detailed realism, the scenery has a painterly loose depth to it that's completely immersive. Every artist's trick I just learned to make a flat piece of paper open up into an immense vista is applied all at once. Character design is good too. Styles are classic for the archetypes the characters represent.

I'm of two minds about the Witch Doctor though. He's cool, he's very African themed, he's clearly a jungle shaman. What I don't like is that his combat pose, crouched to fire poison darts in the jungle, makes the male Witch Doctor look like he's cringing and servile in any conversation. The other heroes stand tall and act with a balance of wisdom and youthful male arrogance. Witch Doctor has that too but his wisdom is a little different, he's had a harder life. I'd like to have seen them give him better posture and save the crouching for a combat pose, or even eliminate the crouch because it's just not there if you're shooting behind a tall bush. It's only there if the bush you use for cover is shorter than you are.

On the up side, all the white characters in the game treat him exactly like the other heroes. There's no sense of racism in their reactions and no one notices his bad posture or acts patronizing toward him. I'd just like to see him move and act more hunky because when I imagine myself as a black guy hero, I want to look like Wil Smith and really take charge of the combat. Maybe darker than Wil Smith and tribal dressed, yay and cool for that, but I keep feeling he should've had good posture and excellent dreadlocks. His dialogue and attitude are perfect for exactly what he is - a shaman, he's used to giving people advice, he's humble with the spirits and respectful of the spirit world but ferocious when it comes to evil spirits.

There's a reason the series endures and that we all had to wait so long for the third volume in the trilogy. Diablo III is the third in a series of classic interactive graphic novels. If you enjoy graphic novels you'll enjoy this game, even if you're not usually into computer games.

Oh, that's the other thing.

4) The mechanics are still brute easy. I don't have to memorize a lot of keyboard commands or get a game controller and train my hands to its buttons and commands. The learning curve to play the game at full speed is stupid easy. This is important. Ease of play gets you into the real pleasure of gaming a lot faster without the distraction of having to learn a lot of real-world skills at a real-world pace.

Playing well does not demand the fast reflexes of a physically healthy 12 year old either. My snail's pace is partly determined by my physiology. I don't react fast. I don't move quickly enough for half the games out there because I didn't train them into automatic reflexes. The dabbler gamer can get as much enjoyment out of Diablo III as the experienced gamer with a whole big bookshelf of colorful fantasy roleplaying games.

It's best of breed. It was worth the wait. There's even a convenience benefit to the new "must play online" system - the install CD is only one install CD instead of the five in the Diablo II Battle Chest, four of which needed to be loaded and swapped repeatedly to install before you get into just using the Expansion Play Disc. That's great now and it'll be great when I upgrade my laptop next year too.

I wasn't sure if it'd run on my current best laptop, an HP with 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core AMD processor. Sorry, don't have the specs at hand, but look close at the system requirements. Mine had enough RAM and processing speed and space on the hard drive, but I got a warning it might not play well on my video card - and this is a three year old "gaming machine desktop replacement" laptop with a 17" wide-screen monitor. Turns out speed of play depends a bit more on how smooth and fast your Internet access is, but don't spend the $60 if you don't meet the tech specs. Or get a friend to give you a free pass client to try it so you can find out if your system runs it.

I set it to the lowest resolution on this machine just to conserve bandwidth, but I'll turn it up to high once I get cable Internet and a newer laptop. I might follow up then just to see the art at its finest intensity. The box includes four free guest pass codes so you can let friends or family members enjoy the game, plus one free guest pass for World of Warcraft.

I've heard good things about that too and may give it a try. Blizzard games are definitely my flavor.

5) Did I mention the sound track is as good as the best movie soundtracks I've ever enjoyed? This is awesome. Sometimes I listen to the music just for writing music.

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March 2016

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