Monday, May 21, 2018

Imperator: Rome, a sequel to Europa Universalis: Rome

At last, after so many years Paradox Interactive has decided to push out a new Grand Strategy game in the Roman Era, their previous development was called Europa Universalis: Rome and the expansion, Rome – Vae Victis, sure added something to the game but at the time I felt it lacking, needing much love and a revamp of some of the awkward mechanics inherited, from my own perspective, from an earlier version of Europa Universalis III and a limited engine, if memory does not fail me there was this great improvement on the Europa Universalis III engine that made it look fantastic from the original blob it presented itself like.

Something that stroke me as interesting when trying Crusader Kings II back when it came out was the fact that it shared some of the mechanics of the Rome game, it had individuals with their own goals and ambitions which could lead an army, govern, rebel, plot murder, all the goody stuff CK2 players enjoy so much nowadays was inherited and polished (after a couple of expansions, mechanic revamps and other things in between) to what we know today of it. From the side of Europa Universalis, I am unsure how much it was inherited but I can be sure that with the current version that is coming out, Imperator: Rome will greatly benefit from the Europa Universalis IV mechanics and the now polished Crusader Kings 2 mechanics.

At the time the images that have shown up look great and remind me so much of the original Rome games, there is no need to go for battles such as Total War, Total War is there for those huge epic battles on the ground that you can enjoy from the shoulder of the Legions you send down to cause havoc, no, we are here to enjoy the massive intricacies of the military (with hopefully improved upgrade mechanics that do not tie you to one update whenever the game feels like it and research that was arbitrary as hell), political (I can already see the civic faction breaking oh so many games, they broke so many of mine and caused so many rebellions I would change the people in power five times before I got to understand how the hell anything worked), diplomatic (hopefully as Rome you can get some sweet casus belli to expand your Empire all the way to Asia and also interesting decisions with your neighbors so they don’t eat you alive from the get go such as that little devil Pyrrhus breaking hell all over the shores of southern Italy) and religious system (some of the bonuses were really broken and the fact that you could get the total opposite to what you wished really made you think if you should even consider it on your to-do list but if you did not do it then you were asking for the religious faction on breaking your back every single time) of the Roman Empire.

Other mechanics that are coming back to my mind were the Legions your provincial Governors or Legate would command a Legion which in turn would start to become loyal to him, on one side this would be good because your treasury would be released from the much needed money during the early state of the game, on the other hand these men had become loyal to him so in case he rebelled they would stand by him no matter what, this would lead to some very interesting battles in which Legions would be fighting on the same square against other members of the same Legion who had fought with them side by side.

The sea battles were horrible, and I could never understand why the Romans would not capture more ships once they had discovered the retractable arm they could throw onto other ships, in real life this would give the Romans the advantage they needed over their much larger Carthagian foes as their sailors were not ready to face the might of the Roman Legion from ship to ship. The mechanics were oddly clunky and I was always praying my transported troops would make it to wherever they had to go because losing one of my Legions, any Legion, could cost me a bunch of territory.

Those barbarian invasions were also a hell of an adventure to deal with, I would leave regional legions (attached them to a local Governor who could be so useless at times) to defend tracts of land such as northern Italy (the alps mostly and using the bonuses of the mountains to my advantage) and fight the massive mothballs of up to 100K barbarians, sure the slaves and money I would get from them would be absolutely great and with the right politics you could get freedman and citizens in a considerably breeze (quite some time to be honest) which would in turn help Civilization push further out and bring the rest of the territories into being gloriously Roman (because what else is better than to have 100 Civilization and be the center of all European civilization, eh?)

As a Historian with a formal education one of the things that drove me to study History were the Total War and Europa Universalis games, I was amazed by the Roman and Medieval eras and to this day they continue to be some of my interests as a Historian, I also believe that teaching through videogames is one of the best ways for the current generations to learn about the many interesting aspect of Humanity (even if this vision is eurocentrist).

Now, if only Paradox Interactive would take their time to rework that Sengoku game they made, I know that would be another really interesting period to visit and while we are at it, a Victoria 3 game, anyone?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Back during the recession (2008/2009) in San Diego

Back when the economic recession started I had just gotten a job, mere chance actually, doing IT Desktop Support for a large medical manufacturer (not sure if the largest in the city and if not the case then second largest). The recession hit us hard down in Tijuana, downtown quickly emptied from the usual American influence it had seen for decades and crime was at an all time high (if memory does not fail me it was either 2008 when we had more than one thousand murders related to drug dealing). All of this made it very clear that we were in for a rough ride yet I could not fully understand the level of the recession until I went to San Diego somewhere in 2009, I was going to see Testament at the House of Blues in Downtown San Diego, for whatever reason the ticket I had paid for did not go through (no charges to my credit card though) and I had to buy them on the spot, the concert was not as full as I had expected but this was in a way understandable seeing the current situation.

During my ride on the trolley I saw two things that was so ingrained in my mind that even to this date I cannot forget them.

The first was this lady wearing a very expensive coat and a pearl necklace, she was carrying around a large trash bag but I could not see what was inside of it and then I see her moving next to a trash can, opening the thing and picking up and smashing aluminum cans and plastic bottles, the contrast of what I was seeing at that point made me think that even the mighty can fall hard and that humans will do everything they can to survive.

The second thing I remember was a sort of architects office inside Downtown, there was something akin to a rent for using a table on a weekly or monthly basis and the place was full of drawing tables all over the small place, when I looked slightly closer I could see some kind of bulge sitting on top of one of the tables, a coat maybe, and focusing on this particular object I noticed it was a person, but it wasn’t just one, it seemed other people had taken the same alternative of sleeping there, this got me thinking that they had probably rented the table and slept over the table because, well, it doesn’t matter what you use the table for if you rented it…

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Random Memories | Old Videogame Guy (May 1st, 2018)

I once met an old guy who worked at a flea market, one of the old ones, down at the last line of small locals, or was it the new one?

The old man had his store packed to the brim with old games, NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Master System, he even claimed to have a Sega Neptune but I never saw it. The old man sold games at a super cheap price, even when I informed him on the prices on eBay for some of the games he didn't care because "he was a gamer at heart and wanted newer generations to try out what he had loved so much", this man was around 60 when I met him.

What surprised me more is that he had some of the original tools to open the consoles and cartridges, he knew them in and out like no one else apparently, but what surprised me most was that any old game that did not work or was not selling he would change for a PCB of Super Mario Bros. 3, when I asked him why they were in a plastic bag he told me that that's how he had bought them, at that point he baffled me with what he said.

"Back in the early 90s I met a Nintendo representative here in Tijuana, he was selling me a lot of 1000 unused PCB boards for Super Mario Bros. 3, I thought the offer was good and took him up for it, that is why I have so many copies left and that's why they are all still in the bag, unused".

So basically he had a lot of those boards in the back of his shop (I saw them, they were in unmarked boxes, they all looked brand new) and here I am wondering what this man thought he could achieve by doing this, sure he had the boards but not the cases yet here he was, removing old labels from the games, printing new ones and giving them away when he sold or fixed NES consoles.

I have not seen the old man in many years now.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Random memories (April 28th, 2018)

When I worked in one of the many Call Centers here in Tijuana I had to chance to meet this lady who was a killer top model employee doing collections for several agencies, from what I heard back then from the co-workers, team lead and supervisor she was always in the top bill and had managed to once collect more money than all of her team mates combined, and from what I heard once she “couldn’t do it, she didn’t have the heart, it wasn’t for her”.

Turns out it was for her, she made very large bonuses for this and got paid in cash, dollars, no taxes in between.

After she got her bonus she would disappear for a couple of days then come back and keep working the same pattern, when I asked the supervisor about it he said he did not care, as long as she was making the numbers way above everyone else the company could care less about this.

Years later I found out that the reason she was missing work was because she was getting high on crack, this really surprised me but apparently her daughter in the US who was studying college (who may have or not existed for this matter) was not getting that extra money she was making.

The way they found out about this was because they found her at some sort of picadero, a place where junkies drop and pinch their shit in (whatever it is). Aside from finding her there it turned out she had ripped a little bit of her face (I confirmed this by chance when I found her randomly on the street), this was part of the high and drop down from the crack.

Tijuana sigue cambiando

Los días pasan rápido y sigo conociendo cosas nuevas, sigo observando como la ciudad cambia y se mueve al ritmo del mundo, como culturas chocan y “negrito” baila en el mercado de la Villa, vendiendo café y juntando dinero para traer a su mama desde Haití; en el centro las caras cambian, ya no es tener dos cervezas por un dólar, mares de gente pasando por toda la calle Revolución, bares abiertos las veinticuatro horas todos los días, bares en decadencia que incluso después de cobrar nueva vida con la calle sexta, la Plaza muere y revive en un lapso de diez años, nuevos turistas “inteligentes” nos visitan, no compran nada, toman fotos, no hablan ningún idioma de este continente pero aun así los vemos por las calles, la gentrificación cada vez mas obvia, la vieja Tijuana sigue y sigue muriendo, cada vez mas lejana a todos los que la conocieron, la ciudad global y moderna crece pero ahora lo hace mas hacia arriba que a los lados, lo obvio se ha vuelto más obvio después de tantos años de crecimiento sin control, si buscas con suficiente cuidado en las calles y en la gente podrás encontrar todos sus secretos, en el mundo están los pedazos de lo que fue alguna vez y que unidos son como la arena de playa, y cuando mas les duele recordar es cuando menos cosas quedan porque:

1.  def valor_cosas(cosa):  
2.      valor =3D 0  
3.      print("%s vale %s [nada]" % (cosa, valor))  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Slap Card

When playing TCGs some… maybe 15 years ago (around 2001/2002?) I remember this tendency of throwing cards at the table, not throwing them off the table but rather on the table itself, to represent anger or frustration with your opponent's action, we even made fun of it by getting a random card from the opponent or anyone and doing the same thing, that slap it produced (when inside the plastic foils) is priceless but it would wear it down and then you needed new foils, so someone came up with an idea (I think it was Edgar but simply because he could, not because we needed it).

Enter the Slap Card

The slap card was a random card, any trash card would do, which would be wrapped in black electric tape until it was completely covered. Once this was done you could maybe go for a second round and then there it was, a slap card. It sounds stupid enough to try and do it, watch the video and you will understand why.

Imperator: Rome, a sequel to Europa Universalis: Rome

At last, after so many years Paradox Interactive has decided to push out a new Grand Strategy game in the Roman Era, their previous develo...