Friday, May 26, 2023

Sleeping Dogs

It's Friday and it's waaaay too nice out to be sitting here in front of a screen. I'd love to take Beryl for a long walk in the countryside but she's really not a morning dog. It'd be like dragging one of those old-school suitcases that don't have wheels, only a grumpy suitcase that gives you a disapproving stare, like it can't believe you didn't just leave it on top of the wardrobe, happy and content.

Not that Beryl sleeps on top of the wardrobe. Or that we have a wardrobe. She sleeps in the armchair in the front room, where I had my PC set up all through the winter because that's the room that has the gas fire that works. All winter she was behind me most days, while I gamed or wrote, if she wasn't upstairs with Mrs Bhagpuss as she crafted or watched historical documentaries on YouTube.

Now that it's nearly summer and I'm back upstairs, where it's airy and cool, Beryl only visits me occasionally. Here, she either has to sleep on the tiger rug on the floor, like an actual dog, which she finds beneath her dignity, or in Mrs Bhagpuss's old computer chair that got retired from use because it was listing to one side and that spins in a half-circle when Beryl jumps onto it, which freaks her out somewhat, so she doesn't often bother.

I guess this post could use a picture about now. Wait a sec. I'll go take one...

Okay, I'm not gonna argue. That is not a great shot. I didn't want to wake her up so I took it quickly and got out. Also I used my Kindle Fire because it was next to me and I was too lazy to go get my phone. The camera on the Kindle is about as good as the old Kodak Instamatic I had in the 1970s. Actually, probably not that good...

That cat cushion behind Beryl is the single ugliest cat cushion you've ever seen, right? Someone gave it to me a long time ago and it's just sort of been there ever since. I don't notice it any more - not until I do something to draw it to my attention, like accidentally take a picture of it.

You know how how you stop seeing things after a while? It's part of the psychological phenomenon known as Inattentional Blindness, the best-known example of which is the experiment (Much loved by people running management training seminars) involving the gorrilla that nobody notices

A more apposite example relating to that cat cushion would be the one where someone leaves a coffee cup on the floor in the middle of the room and after a while everyone in the house just walks around it, neither kicking it over nor picking it up. They retain some unconscious impression of its presence, enough to avoid it, but no conscious awareness that might lead them to do something about it.

I remember reading that a few years ago but I can't source it now. I tried googling but that didn't even get me to the basic concept of Inattentional Blindness. It just kept giving me links to medical conditions involving visual hallucinations. In the end it was Bard that gave me the correct information. Here's what I asked and what Bard replied:

"Can you find a source for the idea that if you leave an object on the floor for a certain amount of time the human brain eventually stops registering it and the person will walk around it as if it wasn't there."

Sure. Here are a few sources that support the idea that the human brain can ignore objects that are present in the environment for a period of time:

    The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons: This book describes a series of experiments that demonstrate how our brains can filter out objects that are not relevant to our current task. In one experiment, participants were asked to watch a video of people passing a basketball and to count the number of passes made by one team. While they were doing this, a person in a gorilla suit walked through the middle of the video. Most participants did not notice the gorilla, even though it was clearly visible.

    Inattentional Blindness by Arien Mack and Irvin Rock: This book provides a more detailed overview of the research on inattentional blindness. The authors discuss the different factors that can contribute to inattentional blindness, such as the complexity of the environment, the focus of attention, and the expectations of the observer.
    The Psychology of Attention by Michael Posner: This book provides a comprehensive overview of the psychology of attention. The author discusses the different types of attention, the neural mechanisms of attention, and the role of attention in cognitive processing.

In addition to these sources, there are many other studies that have demonstrated the phenomenon of inattentional blindness. This research suggests that our brains are constantly filtering out information that is not relevant to our current task. This allows us to focus on the most important information and to avoid being overwhelmed by the amount of information that is constantly bombarding our senses..."

And so on for another three, long paragraphs. I'd have to say that this is some solid evidence for why you might want to use Bard instead of just googling. I'm already starting to do that, although I always then check the salient points I'm going to use by running them back through a google search as well. Still, it's proving pretty reliable and useful so far.

Believe it or not, this wasn't going to be yet another post about AI nor, for that matter, about our dog. I just started with a five finger excercise to get myself warmed up. I often do that when I sit down to write but usually I delete the opening couple of paragraphs in the edit so the post begins when I get to the point. It's a bit late for that, now we're sixteen paragraphs in...

What I was planning on doing was a good old Friday Grab Bag. I know I did one on Monday but I find those posts easy and fun to do, plus I like reading them when other people do them, so why not? 

I was hoping to be able to say something about a new MMORPG about to launch on Steam. It's called Cinderstone and it looks... well, it looks a bit nuts, actually, but it could be interesting. The game goes into Early Access on Monday and there's a "Playtest" up and running right now that goes on until then. 

All you have to do to get access is press a button on the Steam page and Steam will send you an email "when the developer is ready for more participants". I pressed that button yesterday and so far I've heard nothing so I guess they've got enough people for now. If I do get an invite, maybe I'll have time to play long enough to form an opinion worth posting. We'll see.

I do have an opinion I'd quite like to post about another game I have been given access to test this weekend and which I have already played a little but unfortunately I had to sign a draconian NDA to do it so I can't even tell you what game it is. I know I said I wasn't going to test things that I couldn't write about any more but hey, remember my mantra

What I can say about that experience, which I'm pretty sure I'm safe in revealing without risking a visit from the company's lawyers, is that while I was playing it last night I had to stop suddenly and log out because Beryl was batting my arm with her front paws and sending my character veering across the screen. She may not be a morning person but evening is another matter entirely. I never start anything in a video game that can't be interrupted, like a tough dungeon or a group with other people, after about seven in the evening because it's hard to play with a dog barking and jumping up and down next to you, particularly if she also starts pawing at your mouse hand.

That's partly why my progress on the main storyline in Noah's Heart stalled months ago and I'm even stymied on a boss fight in the seasonal content there. It's also partly why I still haven't finished the Adventure Signature Questline in EverQuest II's last expansion, Renewal of Ro. Of course it is only partly the reason. Clearly I could be getting stuck into any of those instances right now instead of writing this. Beryl barely moves until late afternoon, if not prompted. I could run a four-hour raid every morning and she'd never raise an eyelid.

No, it's mostly me, if I'm honest. I just think about the effort involved and can't be bothered. I keep thinking I'll just let my characters get more powerful through incremental factors like time passing and game updates until I can go into those instances and half-ass them without having to pay a lot of attention.

I think I can now say with a degree of confidence that I enjoy MMORPG content on an inverse scale of challenge. The less challenging it is, the more fun I have doing it. It's not that I don't like the dungeons - I still find them interesting, when they're well-designed - but I find the amount of time and energy required to do them when they're "challenging" feels increasingly out of proportion to the pleasure succeeding gives me. Instead of feeling exultant that I won, I feel somehow feel cheated out of the time it took, which I could have used to do something else more useful or enjoyable or both.

It's not a new sensation. I remember feeling it for the first time back when the Bloodline Chronicles Adventure Pack arrived in EverQuest in 2005. I did it in a group and there was a bunch of stuff about hiding behind something when some boss did some attack or other and I thought "I really can't be doing with all this..." It's been pretty much downhill ever since, with the absolute nadir being the mid-period Living Story in Guild Wars 2, when ArenaNet padded out every boss fight so it would take twenty minutes of attritional combat just to make the piddling little updates they were giving us seem like they lasted a respectable amount of time.

Compared to that, the Noah's Heart instances are a doddle and the EQII ones a pleasure. And yet I still don't much look forward to doing them. They're a hurdle to get over on the way to the next part of the storyline that I do enjoy, the part where I just talk to some NPC or do some fetch and carry quests. That's the kind of content I prefer, these days.

That said, I did manage to complete the first part of the Planes and Prophecy Tradeskill Signature Questline with Mitsu last weekend, even though it's a fairly lengthy, very fiddly affair, something I was very well aware of, having done it several times on other characters. Thanks to the peculiar way XP works after Level 100 in EQII, there's no other practical means of levelling to 110, unless you fancy grinding out about three hundred rush orders.

Fortunately, since I've done it before, I knew doing just Part 1 of the six-part sequence would get me all the way to 110 and onto the quests from the following expansion. In the event, I piled on all the XP boosts I could find and dinged all the way to 118 on the final hand-in. That's the kind of reward that makes it feel worth making the effort, for sure. Just seven more levels to go!

Mitsu is progressing nicely but my regular characters on Skyfire are in something of a holding pattern, at least until I get on and do the rest of the Adventure Sig. My hopes for an easy upgrade path by way of the Overseer system have dimmed somewhat, now I've opened enough high-quality missions to see the full scope of the rewards. 

Unlike previous seasons, there doesn't seem to  be any gear that's better than the quest rewards from the Sig Line. It looks like it tops out at 400 Resolve, which is a small upgrade to some of the quest pieces but not as much of a boost as I was expecting. It's great for kitting out alts so they can whizz through the questline faster but I haven't even got one character to the end yet so that's not really a problem I was looking to fix.

At the moment, I'm thinking I might as well wait to see the Summer Jubilee dungeons are like. Naomi Denmother seemed to be suggesting they offered the possibility for some decent gear upgrades. Let's hope I read that right. 

If not, pretty soon we'll be so close to Panda time and then the new expansion I'm not sure it'll be worth playing catch up with gear from last year. That's the perennial problem with vertical progression, especially in a game like EQII, where meaningful gear upgrades come several times a year.

Oh well. Don;t want to complain. Nice problem to have, I guess. Better than the opposite, that's for sure.

And I seem to have freestyled an entire post without even getting to any of the Grab Bag topics I had bookmarked, so I think we're done! Tomorrow it's going to be a music post, most likely. I'm working Sunday and - unusually, because they asked me to fill in for someone who's on holiday - Monday as well, so feel free to come back Tuesday if you don't share my musical tastes.

Don't worry. I won't be offended. Almost no-one does!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide