Monday, May 28, 2018

El hombre de la montaña

El hombre de la montaña nos ha dejado claro algo cuando ha bajado al Mercado de la Plaza, ha aprendido algo en su viaje- El hombre del sombrero menciono al niño que viajaba con él, ambos observan con detalle al hombre de la montaña quien a su vez les observa con el mismo detalle de vuelta, les había abordado ya que veía en ellos una mirada diferente a la de los demás, esos ojos estaban llenos de curiosidad y vida al contrario que el de la mayoría quienes podían verse un vacío oscuro reflejado en sus ojos.
Es debatible lo que uno aprende cuando sube una montaña- Menciono el Hombre de la Montana quien apunto hacia su izquierda. -Una montaña es piedra que fue formada por acción volcánica, eso nos ensena que el mundo está vivo, que podamos escalarla es inútil discutirlo, es más por un mérito o buscar presumir algo, la montaña te ensena modestia, moderación, pero sobre todo te ensena perseverancia.
            Puede ser, pero existe un significado oculto de la montaña cuando lo observamos desde aquello que este mundo trata de explicarnos- Menciono el hombre del sombrero quien observo la montaña y suspiro, no mostraba el menor interés en subir algo tan alto simplemente por hacerlo.
            ¿Qué secreto nos oculta según usted? - El Hombre de la Montana levanto la ceja derecha y cruzo los brazos.
            La montaña representa el conflicto interno en el que vivimos, el llegar al pico y observar desde ahí prueba definitivamente que hemos perseverado en algo que puede verse desde abajo como el mayor reto de nuestras vidas, pero una vez arriba entendemos que ha quedado atrás, fue lo más sencillo que pudimos realizar en nuestro tiempo- Mientras mencionaba esto el hombre del sombrero tomo un pañuelo y limpio su frente sudada, lo mantuvo en su mano por el momento y observo pensativo la montaña. -También habla de un proceso de purificación, después de pasar por un momento tan difícil en nuestra vida donde solo podemos ver nubes, de pronto, el sol hasta arriba, iluminándonos con su infinita sabiduría y hasta abajo, el valle, donde podemos contemplar la serenidad con la que debemos llenarnos mientras pasamos por este momento de calma completo.
            Usted habla de meditación- El Hombre de la Montana hizo una mueca y levanto ligeramente su ceja derecha, no parecía impresionado por lo que mencionaba el hombre del sombrero.
            Si, pero mi punto se pierde con su viaje ya que usted no lo hizo por ese motivo, creo que nadie lo haría por ese motivo- Continuo el hombre del sombrero a lo que el Hombre de la Montana asintió, pero a su vez alzo el dedo índice derecho.
            Claro que nadie subiría una montaña simplemente para meditar, el proceso entero de subir y bajar la montaña es la meditación y aprendizaje más complejos por los cuales uno puede pasar, el hundimiento en la nieve y eventual transformación en agua nos deja claro que eventualmente todo se desvanece en el aire, nosotros también- El hombre del sombrero quedo pensativo con la última parte del enunciado y no dudo en preguntar.
            ¿A qué se refiere con eso? - El Hombre de la Montana hizo otra mueca y se limpió la nariz sin importarle quien lo viese o escuchase.
            El hielo pasa a un estado líquido, agua, y el agua pasa a un estado gaseoso, vapor, para después volver a caer en la montaña. Nosotros pasamos por un proceso parecido al aprender, somos duros, creemos saberlo todo, eventualmente algo quiebra y fluimos con ello, aprendemos algo, nos evaporamos ya que nos hemos extendido tanto como hemos podido para aprender y nos volvemos sólidos para cementar ese conocimiento adquirido, la montaña somos nosotros y viceversa, eso es lo que he aprendido de ella. -
            Quisiera decir que he aprendido algo del desierto, pero no creo tener algo tan poético e importante como lo que acaba de menciona- Respondió el hombre del sombrero, el Hombre de la Montana suspiro y paso su mano derecha sobre su rostro.
            Claro que tiene algo de que hablar, todavía no se da cuenta de ello al igual que yo no me di cuenta de la importancia de la Montana hasta que hablé con usted en este momento- El hombre del sombrero parecía sorprendido por la mención. -Que? Nunca le ha pasado que aprende simplemente por hablar con alguien más, no necesariamente tiene que ser un tema filosófico, uno aprende de todo lo que le rodea si escucha, observa y calla antes de decir una sola palabra, no había puesto en consideración todo lo que la Montana me había ensenado ya que nunca tuve el momento de meditarlo propiamente, el hablar con alguien más abre un momento de meditación para aprender que es lo que está mal con uno y con el otro.

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.

Death does not always mean change

The city changes and I feel nostalgia, I am starting to understand why it becomes such a big thing when one grows up and sees everything s...