#286: The Queue

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Role queue is a new feature recently added to the game Overwatch, and it’s changed everything. Previously, you were able to choose heroes freely, without having to worry about what role they filled. You could have an entire team of damage dealers, or supports, or tanks, and the game would do nothing to stop you from trying that hilarious (but probably ineffectual and frustrating after awhile) strategy. Role queue is meant to fix that problem, among other problems present in the game’s social side of things, by forcing a 2-2-2 team composition on every team that plays in Quick Play or Competitive Play from here on. While initially I was hesitant to accept the limitations towards creative freedom that role lock posed, I became more in favor of the idea the more I heard from people on the PTR who said it drastically improved their playing experiences. They were able to queue for whatever role they wanted, and it didn’t matter what other hero people picked. They knew that their team would be good from the outset, at the very least because it was 2-2-2.

Previously, there was always the lurching fear that your team would descend into total chaos because one of your healers switched to a damage dealer, or your only tank swapped to a healer when you already had three healers. There have been innumerable instances of playing Overwatch where the other team wins over us just because they have a better team composition than we do, and now the field is a bit more level. There can still be times where your two damage dealers are Bastion and Symmetra on Offense on a 2CP map (*cough* *cough*), but at least the odds of that happening are less and less. Eventually, role queue will be coming to Quick Play, and I’m looking forward to that so I don’t have to do Competitive as much!

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#207: The Solo Mode

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When it comes to playing Hearthstone, one of my favorite parts is the solo adventures mode. There are other modes, like the ranked and practice and arena offerings, but to me, the solo adventures are the icing on the cake that is Hearthstone. It’s considered PVE (which stands for Player vs. Environment, rather than Player vs. Player), so it’s against computers rather than actual human beings. That’s fine with me, as it takes a lot of the stress out of playing the game. Consequently, there’s no turn timer, so I can take as long as I want on my turns and not have to worry about it being too long. Patience is key and, especially while doing other, more productive things, I can focus on one while ignoring the other and not feel rushed around.

The solo mode typically features around 8 bosses, one faced after another, and you have to build a deck of cards by picking from 3-card offerings after each boss. You have to build your deck from a basic starting deck up to something more meaningful and powerful. You pick treasures that are absurdly powerful after every few bosses, but you soon realize that the bosses themselves have absurd powers as well that you need to counter somehow. It’s difficult to predict what bosses will come and when, but your goal at the end is to survive all the way through the run. It’s a lot of fun to try and compete this way. I have the card back for completing the original dungeon run in Kobolds & Catacombs with all 9 classes, which is something I cherish and will likely never take off. It’s one of those accomplishments that not everyone has, so you feel special for having earned it against the odds. I’m glad they’re still coming out with these modes, even though people may seem them as being stale.

#78: Card Games

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Instead of talking directly about Hearthstone again in another blog post, I decided to talk about card games in general, considering Hearthstone is indeed a card game.

I love playing card games, of all shapes and sizes: collectible card games, trading card games, battle card games, card games with boards. Poker, blackjack, uno, crazy eights, war, solitaire, Hearthstone, Artifact, Yugioh, Pokemon, Magic: the Gathering, Duel Masters. No matter what kind of card game I’m playing, I’m interested in it.

I spent a lot of time (and money) on Magic: the Gathering back in high school and college, as it became a common hobby among our group of gamers. We built Standard-format decks first, then moved into Modern and EDH (Elder dragon highlander) formats. EDH is still my favorite, offering players decks of a hundred totally unique cards. There’s so much room for creativity in the deck-building process, but inconsistency in the playing of the game; because the deck is composed of totally unique cards, the odds of you drawing the exact card you want at any given time is around 1-100. My friend Joe probably still plays Magic to this day, as he invested much more money into it than I ever did; however, Joe is smart and knows how to make money back by selling his old cards on eBay. He even helped me when I decided to sell my stock of cards away.

Oddly enough, despite my interest in card games, I’ve never learned successfully how to shuffle cards. I still smash two titanic halves of the deck into each other, mushing them together until it looks as if they have disappeared into one deck. Then I repeat it, again and again, until I’m somewhat confident that there won’t be any major repeats of cards when we start drawing through the deck. Every time I have the responsibility of shuffling the deck, that’s my biggest fear: that the deck wasn’t shuffled well enough, that there are repeats and errors throughout, and that we have to go back and shuffle it all again, prolonging the beginning of our game.

#75: Hearthstone & Teeth

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Careful! There’s a fire burning above here, for some reason. It has no relation to today’s blog post topic, “Hearthstone & Teeth,” it just showed up under the Free Photo Library for the search term Hearth. I guess it works.

Hearthstone is a video game I’ve put tons and tons of hours into, probably more than I ever should have. It’s kept me occupied on study abroad trips, on Michigan plane rides, and after pesky orthodontist appointments. While I was abroad for six months in London, I spent a lot of my free time playing this game, as it had just released and I wanted to grind out games with my Control Warrior build.

But I also remember when the game first came out in 2014 as the year I got my wisdom teeth pulled. The release of the game’s closed beta — a pre-release copy of the game, with no strings attached, that you have to have been sent a “beta code” to enter — coincided with my wisdom teeth, actually. Maybe the beta came out in 2013, then. Either way, as I explained, a beta code is hard to get. Famous video game streamers on Twitch were offered codes in exchange for streaming the game, so that it would attract the attention of the general video game-playing audience. (Twitch.tv is a website that people stream playing video games on. It’s a massively popular site, where the highest earning streamer earns over $1 million a month.)

Well, I remember coming home from my wisdom teeth appointment, feeling super numb all over myself and in no mood to entertain anyone, and after opening up my email on my phone, I saw a message: “Beta Code for Anthony!” How cool of a coincidence is that? It blew my mind at the time, and I remember spending the next few days of numbness and frustration building decks and trying out all the cool new strategies available in this special card game.

I realized after writing this that I didn’t spend much time talking about Hearthstone itself, just its personal relation to me. Maybe I’ll talk more about the actual game in another post. So, don’t be surprised if it makes a return coming up.

Reminiscing on the Snowstorm of 2011

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While the blizzard of 2013 snowed me into my dorm and made traveling around inconvenient, it affected the other people that I know and love much more, causing me to worry for their safety.

At college, I somewhat enjoyed being snowed in. I managed to share time with my roommates and other friends in the same dorm.

The blizzard made its presence known quickly and it seemed as if everyone sought somewhere safe to rest until the snow had stopped. The record-breaking Snowstorm of 2013 brought a great deal of wind, which in turn brought snow drifts.

As soon as I caught sight of snow, I noticed it drastically increase in size, piling up everywhere. Snowstorms bring people together, but with those who carry the responsibility of protecting others from the hazards of snow, snowstorms are dreadful. My family lived the snowstorm nightmare for a long time every winter until I went to college.

Since I was able to hold a shovel and push snow around, I helped my Dad shovel around the house and sometimes plow other driveways. He trucked through the driveway with the plow, and then I grabbed a shovel and finished the sidewalks. For every snowfall above three or four inches, we were out all day clearing twenty or thirty neighborhood driveways and sidewalks for safe travel.

The worst snowstorm I experienced was in 2011. In the 2011 blizzard, my father and I plowed, shoveled, and cleared each driveway (including our own) twice, both occurring in the middle of the night. It continued for what seemed like days. The snow drift flew in our faces, and the night sky tired us. When the blizzard halted, we sighed relief, only for another, lesser blizzard to arrive the week after.

At college, I knew I wouldn’t be available to help out at home during snow season. While there have been a few snowstorms in the general area, my father was capable of doing the work on his own or with a work partner. I didn’t bother worrying.

When I heard that a blizzard was arriving last week, I was unsure how devastating or drastic a toll it would inflict. By the time I awoke last Friday to find snow surrounding the dorm, it was too late for me to return home and help with the plowing. At that point, I was worried.

I remembered the snowstorm of 2011 and how it affected us. The money for having to plow each house twice on two consecutive days was great, but the hard-work was, at times, back-breaking. I called home often to check in and see how things were going. I called my father to see how he was feeling.

Once the snowstorm subsided on Saturday, the long, thirty house plowing spree began. I heard from home that Dad was dreading it. I know I would have felt the same in his position. It was difficult to move out of the driveway because the roads weren’t cleared. However, he managed to do the job regardless. That’s an act to appreciate and respect.

Although I already appreciated my father, I appreciate what he does for our family much more after this blizzard. I had forgotten what it was like to be on this end of a snowstorm, having to clear it out of people’s driveways and passageways for safety from the dangerous winter hazards. I worried for my family, but it was fine in the end.

I will remember this snowstorm for my increased appreciation for my family, for holding through a winter storm and then some. At college, it was much more relaxing than at home. I wish I was there during this past weekend. And with a new snowstorm coming today, I am beginning to worry again.