Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Game Up Your Life

Many years ago I read a book by Jane McGonigal called Reality is Broken. While I remember not agreeing with many of her points (you can read my review of it here) I did find her main idea intriguing - the idea that everything not only can, but maybe should be turned into a game, to motivate people to do things they wouldn't normally do. Things that would not only benefit themselves by having fun (ideally) but also have an added benefit of helping someone or something else.

This is in fact something that has been explored further and even put to use in many different ways since. One that comes to mind is allowing the public to sort through vast amounts of pottery shards to find the ones that could hold interesting information in some ways. Rather than having some poor archaeology students spend countless of man hours on what would ordinarily be considered a tedious and menial task, you can turn the "pottery shard sorting" into a sort of mini-game and by making enough people interested you can not only get the job done quickly, but by people who are having a good time doing it.

The book in cuneiform.

That is the idea in a nutshell, and I love it. Like I said it has been used many times before and I think it holds great potential. I have also explored the idea before myself in a couple of blog posts. I guess you can see this blog post as a pre-cursor to this one. So yet again this idea had me thinking and it made me wonder if not maybe we could put it to use at a much smaller level. I mean much, much smaller.

How about using it as a way to motivate and even enthuse a child to the prospect of having to do something they would ordinarily not want to do? As the proud mother of a 6 year old I am always eager to find ideas that allow me to keep my child happy and me less nagging and annoyed. Some times when you just want and really need your child to co-operate you usually have two paths to take - the one of threats and the one of bribes. I am not a huge fan of either of these. What if there was a third path? One that made the child interested in the project at hand without you having to resort to future wrath or promise of goodies?

Well, in a way I guess this idea is a bit of both really - but packed and presented in a way that makes it clear that we're not talking about any real threats or bribes, but game-ones.

I'll give some examples from my own experiences:
Going from point A to point B (that'll take more than 5 minutes). I'm not even kidding, most of the time even though my kid can run around and scream endlessly if he wants to, when he doesn't want to he is suddenly struck with debilitating laziness and can barely walk. It can be beyond frustrating, especially if you have a time to keep (which is often the case). I've had my kid tell me he couldn't walk because his leg hurt so much, but if he got to take the longer way around it was fine. This kind of illogical reasoning is something that crops up all the time with kids, but it all boils down to one thing - this is boring and I don't want to do it.

Most of the time if I can allow my kid to get it his way (and it also suits my way enough) I will. But some times that is just not the case. Maybe you need to get to the train station and you just missed the bus? Your kid doesn't enjoy the prospect of having to walk (maybe exasperated by the fact they had been looking forward to a bus ride) and the idea of carrying him and the luggage the entire way is just not feasible. What to do?

The book in regular letters.

What about turning the walk to the train station in to a video game? If you've got time to prepare it's of course the best, but even a quick plan could work wonders. Quickly map out the path you're going to take in your head. Where could there be a "boss" for you to fight? Where is there a "pit" to jump or a "treasure" to find? Add "npcs" and "objects of interest" as it fits the path and a dash of invested story telling and you'll suddenly, possibly, have a really interested 6 year old.

I use the word "video game" but really it's just a game or any old adventure. To me personally it helps to think of it as a video game because video games are usually well structured in the way of "levels", "items" and "bosses". If Dungeons & Dragons is your type of reference that's just great.

Me and the 6 yo actually had to take a rather long walk the other day and while we could've taken the tram I decided I wanted and needed the fresh air. As we started walking it took about 3 minutes before my kid said he didn't want to walk any further. I told him he better get prepared because over at X place there was a boss waiting for him and he still had to find the SWORD to beat it with. He got a big smile on his face - "where is it?". I pointed to a row of stones - "it's behind one of those but beware, because the wrong ones have monsters behind them instead". He ran ahead to the stones and started to look. "Tough luck, there is a monster!" I said and he had a pretend battle with it. After a couple of other monsters he managed to find his "sword" which he proudly carried (invisible in his hand) all the way to the boss.

On this trip we also had to find a shield, kill that first boss, then find a scroll of turn-to-stone to get past the cave troll, then speak to the fairy to recharge the scroll, then find our wings to fly up a mountain... The entire time there wasn't a word about not having energy to walk, just eagerness to continue forward to the next thing.

Not the cave troll in the article.

Another example - cleaning/tidying. If you could grade kids on a scale of how easy it is to get them to at least do some tidying I think my 6 yo ends up somewhere around 2, 1 being impossible. It doesn't matter that he literally just threw every book in his bookshelf on the floor in the search for something, when I ask him to pick it up (even offering to help) the answer is always "I don't have the energy to do that!". Well duh. Like anyone does.

Suffice to say, many tactics have been used to try to motivate my kid to pick things up after him, or at least help out in doing so. Whenever he does show interest in helping out with cleaning it's often things where I don't really trust that things won't break like him doing the dishes or him swinging around a mop. I still try to encourage him when he does show interest, because at least it is something.

But what if cleaning could be turned into a game? I tried it. We drew up an avatar, I told him it could be anything (he chose a jellyfish) and I said there were different things he could purchase for this avatar i.e draw on to the picture. Things like spikes, sun glasses, a fish pal or a big shark. But these things cost points that he had to earn by doing different chores.

He was excited. "What can I do to earn points mom?". "Well you can start by picking up all these Legos, that's 10 points.". "How much is the fish friend?". "That's 50 points. The sunglasses are 10 points". "Ok, cool". He started picking up the Lego. I can't emphasize enough how much more nagging and time this would've have taken normally. Threats, which I am generally not a fan of anyway (but every parent resort to them eventually) just do not work on this kid, so that's never been a real option. Just asking him to do it out of the kindness of his heart and because it would make mom really happy... well let's just say he hasn't really grasped the benefits of that yet (I'll get back to this momentarily).


But with this system he not only tidied without any problems, he asked for more things to help out with. I soon struggled to keep him occupied - my fault really as I should've been ready with enough chores for him to do to be able to get every special item for his jelly fish. Funnily enough, even when he had enough points to buy things he decided he wanted to save them. Maybe for the next time we tidy.

So far so well, I can see this system with a bit of tinkering easily being adapted to a whole plethora of situations. I do have thoughts though and I don't think it's just a wonder wand of solving every issue regarding motivating my 6 yo.

For instance, as mentioned, shouldn't kids learn that tidying is its own reward? That listening to someone else and doing what they want can be a nice thing to do even if there isn't an immediate reward involved? Are immediate rewards really the right way to go about everything? Some things in life simply don't pay off until later on, and isn't that a really important lesson to learn as well?

Yes, I totally agree with all these points and they require some careful consideration. I often tell my kid that everything can't be fun right now. Some times, some things you do are not so fun right now so that you can have more fun later. Having a nice and tidy home or making your friends and family happy can be its own reward and a good one at that.

But I also subscribe to the Friends school of altruism, i.e that there isn't any. Everything we do, we do in some way or other for our own sake. If I give money to charity it is to make myself feel better about making other people feel better. If I clean my home it because I feel good about having a clean home. I don't think this is a bad thing. A deed can be "good" regardless of the underlying reasons behind it. I don't think a recipient of a needed organ for instance really cares of the reasons behind the donors wish to donate.

So where am I getting with this? That yeah, it's important to teach a kid about different ways things can be rewarding but I also think that it's important to find ways that something can be rewarding for that person (in this case my kid). When you're 6, it's good to hear someone ask you to be nice for its own sake but it's also good to just get to have fun doing something.

And maybe we do things for future reward because we haven't learned how to make it fun right now? I would feel good from doing excercise for instance, but that doesn't mean that the excercise in itself can't be fun too? I like when things are clean but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong in making the cleaning part fun as well?

The main drawback to this system would be that it requires either some planning or good on the spot thinking/improvisation. Also, as with anything else, different people enjoy different things. If your kid happens to be the kind that just listens and does their tidying then congratulations! What your kid needs really depends on what kind of person they are and there isn't just one way to do things. This isn't the way, this could be another way when you're sick of nagging or just having to do it yourself. I think it could also teach the lesson that things that might look tedious on the surface can be made fun if you try to.

I think the reason this appeals so much to me is because I am not easily motivated to do things I don't enjoy. The whole "just do it" or "discipline!" way of doing things has never worked for me. Fortunately it is offset by my optimistic personality and the fact that I see the possibility of fun in most things. But there are some things I just don't like doing. Exercising… cleaning… getting out of bed before 12 (before I had kids, now they're my motivation and I haven't slept past 9 for the last 6 years). I am not a goal hunter, I need to find the journey to my goal entertaining as well or I will struggle to get it done. I guess in that way I am still like a child, for better or worse.

As you've noticed it's an idea that really jives with me. We like to set up goals and motivate ourselves to get there, but maybe we should spend equal time trying to make the journey there fun?

Also, credit to a book that still has me thinking about it 9 years down the road.

Images from wired.com, skullstore.ca, fantasyflightgames.com, me.me.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Jade Empire (PC) - Review

The waning empire.
Definitely spoilers.

Have you ever come across a game that is almost offensively bad at living up to its potential? I'm guessing most of us who play games come across some every now and then that are more or less not to our liking, either because they don't strike any of our chords or because they're simply very uninspired.

I can't say that about Jade Empire though. It seems extremely inspired and could strike many of my chords but it never managed to bring any of its many, good, ideas to an interesting and fun fruition.

I had long been interested in checking out Jade Empire once I had first heard about it. A Bioware RPG? That no one really seems to talk about? A bit odd, isn't it? And it's about martial arts? Definitely sounds like it could be something I'd be having fun with.

Jade Empire was released in 2005 as an Xbox exclusive. That explains a bit about why it took me so long to take notice of it at first. In 2005 I had just started my 8 year adventure into World of Warcraft and was nowhere near an Xbox (I have still never played one). I don't think it was until 2007, when it was ported to PC or maybe even later than that, that it first caught my eye. As information about the game slowly trickled into my consciousness across several years my curiosity grew. It seemed really odd to me that the company behind games like Baldur's Gate, KoToR, Mass Effect and Dragon Age had also developed another (action) RPG that I at least seemed to be hearing very little about. Even more oddly, it seemed to have been originally well received and then fallen away into obscurity, at least when compared to the above-mentioned games.

KoToR, another game that frustrated me but for completely other reasons.

In it you play as a "Spirit Monk" and start out as the top disciple in a school for martial arts. So far so classic martial arts movie. I thought the game was off to a pretty decent start. The graphics looked typical for the time and functional enough without exactly being eye candy (I kind of have a nostalgic thing for those graphics though). 2005 was a year when game designers were able to start making character models detailed enough to not be laughable but still had pretty bland environments (just look at before mentioned WoW as another prime example).

Your master tells you of secrets he wants to finally divulge to you and you also get to try out some of the rather (wannabe-)intricate combat system that you'll be spending a truck load of time using throughout the game. In that first hour as you run around the school and try to make and break friendships the game seems quite promising. But it was also within that first hour I got the first glimpse into one of the bigger issues with the Jade Empire game design - the story telling and the pacing.

The overall story is nothing special nor worthy to write home to mommy about. You turn out to be, as mentioned, a special kind of warrior and you are quickly set on the path to save your martial arts master when the school is being attacked. As you travel through the world you meet new people that join your cause, for varying reasons, and also get involved in a bigger plot to save the kingdom from a seemingly evil emperor that has set the spirit realm in unbalance causing the dead to come back to haunt (and kill) the living. The story is fine, it's not bad and the characters you meet actually have the seeds of being quite interesting.

Might not look like fun, but I still wish I could spend more time in each area.

It's really unfortunate then that the pacing seems to have been set to "FTL". "Quickly" is definitely the key word here. Wherever you go or whomever you meet you barely get a chance to be there or talk to them until it is time to move on. When it first happened and I was unceremoniously thrown out of the martial arts school very early in the story I didn't think that it had to be a problem. But before long I noticed that this wasn't something that was limited to that first area. The second area you come to, a swamp filled with pirates and other scum people made it very clear that this was the style of the game and I started to get a bad feeling. In the swamp you get a quest to save a woman from pirates who have kidnapped her and are keeping her in a cave. One of the pirates is also linked to the martial arts school and your master, so seems to be a character that deserves a fair chunk of story time. Not so, the cave and the quest took some ten minutes to finish and that was basically the very swift end of that story line.

The game just continues at this break neck speed. Just like in Dragon Age and Mass Effect you're soon surrounded by an entourage of characters with which you can build relationships. Apparently. It was only by chance I managed to get into some sort of love story with one of the characters. Trying to build a relationship with them seems to not be encouraged, and whenever I try to strike up some conversation they shut me down after a few lines of dialogue by saying something with the essence of "enough talking and more action!".

Throughout the game you get the feeling that the designers have been extremely careful not to allow the player to grow bored of anything. But this is taken to the extreme where instead I am also not allowed to grow attached to anything. Areas come and go like I am looking through a Viewmaster. I am bombarded with new fighting styles a lot faster than I have time to try them out, develop them and have fun with them. The same goes for the characters that you meet. While they are all potentially interesting, from the young girl possessed by a guardian demon, to the crazy inventor or my childhood friend who can sense spirits, I am never given enough time nor opportunity to develop these relationships.

Speaking of the combat, it is another area in which the game unfortunately fails greatly. It almost saddens me to say it though because it really feels like a lot of love and thought has gone into the combat system, as there is, at least superficially, a lot to do and tinker with. Like I mentioned you get many different combat styles to fight in, and also magic and weapons. To use these you have both Chi (basically mana) and Focus (basically stamina) and depending on what you use to fight with you'll deplete one bar or the other. To add to this you can transform into various demons and ghosts and all of these different options have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on what enemy you are fighting. Each option can also have different areas strengthened with points you gain each time you level. For instance you can make a style or a demon hit harder or cost less chi/focus to use.

Enemies are varied, but not fun.

So there is a lot to do and take in and none of it is even particularly confusing. But why is it so gosh dang clunky to use? Your character moves like she is cosplaying a refrigerator and you get a lot more stressed about trying to wrestle your character around the fighting field than you ever are about the enemies. At normal difficulty the enemies aren't too hard, but the controls are so incredibly bad that you end up failing anyway because you can't target the right way, get in proper position to hit your target or avoid damage smoothly enough. It is extremely frustrating and feels through and through unfair whenever you fail a fight. It only took me a few hours into the game before I put the difficulty down to easy (something you at least thankfully can do) because I just couldn't take the rage-inducing struggle of the combat system any longer.

At the easy difficulty the game is unfortunately extremely easy. At normal difficulty it is probably quite doable but every fight becomes about a fun a chore as doing the dishes and just kills any desire to play the game. On easy I could at least breeze through the game quick enough to want to finish it despite its many flaws.

The soundtrack is one area where this game gets it right though. Heavily influenced with eastern sounds for obvious reasons, most (but definitely not all) of the tracks still manage to stay away from cliché territory and keep things interesting and fresh. But overall I find the tunes strong enough to hold for listening to even outside the game and I always consider that a mark of good quality. The sound effects too do their job well and there is a lot of different moaning, groaning and punching noises to accompany you in the many fights.

The transformations are fun and varied, but equally clunky to use.

Somewhere in the middle of the game you get to the Imperial City and I don't know why but suddenly the game really made me think of the first The Witcher game and how much better that game is than this one. Overall the two games feel similar in style and gameplay but The Witcher ends up being way more fun. While The Witcher is two years younger, it was pretty much agreed upon at the time that it was a bit outdated graphically and gameplay wise for its time. And still The Witcher gets everything right that Jade Empire doesn't. You get to spend more time in each area and with each story-character, allowing you to build relationships with them that make you care about what you do and what happens. The big city you end up spending most of your time in (Vizima) and the outskirts around it where you do a lot of the quests feel a lot more lived in and real and immersive. Quests and characters link together, you revisit them and they allow you to be a part of them. In Jade Empire it always stays at feeling like a stage that you will soon leave and even sooner forget everything about.

Yet it really seems like so much love was at least meant to go into this game. It's like they had all the time in the world to develop the ideas for the game and no time or money to actually create the game. Because, yet again, there is so much about this game that could've been truly great! You get to infiltrate an assassins guild and your master turns out to be the main bad guy in a plot twist that I stopped caring about before I even knew it was going to happen. You end up dying and have to fight your way out of the spirit realm. It could've been cool! It could've been fun! What happened?

Was it lack of time? Was it bad prioritizing? Like I mentioned before this game seems to have been quite well received when it was first launched, most of the complaints seem to have been regarding its short length (it took me 15 hours to complete playing about two thirds on easy, which to me seems like perfectly fine game length. But yeah, if you're comparing to Baldur's Gate that may seem short). Since I didn't play it at the time and haven't checked any revisited reviews of it I am unsure if it has just aged badly or really didn't click with me.

Jade Empire is just an empty shell of a lot of really cool ideas. It feels like such a waste both of your time but especially of all the things that actually could've turned out really well and made a good game. Some of these ideas Bioware did in fact take, either intentionally or not, and develop in later games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. While I am not a huge fan of either of those games either I would definitely recommend you play one of those instead of this one.

Images from mobygames.com, gamerselixir.com, amazon.co.uk, jadeempire.fandom.com, lparchive.org.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Albion (MS-DOS) - Unfinished Playthrough Review

This review contains spoilers for this 24 year old game, so beware.

Albion is the kind of game I wish I had come across 20 years ago, when life was... more full of time. I so wish I had the skill and patience for it because I know I could enjoy it greatly if I gave it the proper amount of love. There is a lot to like here, but it's buried under gameplay that doesn't jive with me anymore.

Albion, released in 1995 to MS-DOS and not to be confused with some other game named Albion Online, is a role playing game developed by Blue Byte. The German video game company Blue Byte are maybe mostly know for their Settlers series, at least by me but Albion and the Settlers couldn't be more different.

Maybe the inspiration for Avatar

The game takes place a couple of hundred years into the future and seems to be a pure science fiction game at first. In it you play as space ship pilot Tom Driscoll who is sent out on an expedition to scout out resources for his home ship. He and his co-pilot end up crashing on the planet which, contrary to reports, turns out to be inhabited. And not by any kind of life, but advanced and intelligent humanoid cat-people called Iskai.

The Iskai rescue you from your wreckage and you're quickly thrown into a plot where an important Iskai is murdered, you being outsiders are the first to be suspected, and the only way for you to get out of the mess is to uncover who the real murderer is. This is only an excuse to get the story going however, giving you both means and motivation to travel around and discover more about the Iskai race and their planet.

You'll quickly find that there is quite a lot to see and explore on Albion. The Iskai and their planet really feel well fleshed out and thought through, it is a world you want to know more about and definitely save from the threat of exploitation that looms from your home ship.

Visually and audibly the game sells its ideas too. While the audio can get a bit repetitive, this is 1995 after all, the visuals are colourful and bright and lovely to look at. Most of the time you have an idea of what you're looking at and when you don't it's not because of bad design but because it's alien to you.

Initially the game plays out with a top-down perspective, and you can choose to control your character (at least in my GoG version) either with the arrow keys or by dragging the mouse. Personally I found that the arrow keys worked a lot better since it ended up controlling more accurately. At the very beginning, when you're still on the space ship and preparing for your trip you play alone but it won't take long before you get party members and you can choose to control either one of them.

Soon you'll discover that instanced areas, such as cities and dungeons (but not the space ship for some reason), use a first person perspective similar to Doom. At first this confused me and it took me quite some time to get used to controlling myself this way. While eventually you get used to it I would've much preferred it if they had just kept the top-down view throughout the game. The first-person perspective makes it so easy to lose track of where you are, you have much less overview of your surroundings and I spent a lot of time just feeling lost. It is fortunate that there is a convenient map to use that allows you to see which direction you're moving, because you're going to need it a lot.

I am not sure what the thought process was behind the first person perspective areas, maybe they wanted you to have a more immersive experience. While it's not horrible I really do think the game would've been much better without this style. The first Iskai city you come to is pretty large, with many different shops and guilds worth visiting and I spent way too much time just trying to find my bearings.

I have no idea where I am

Combat plays out in yet another fashion, in which you're moved into a grid-like area where you move your characters on the fighting field like on a chess board. You can choose to do a number of actions each turn and there is both melee, ranged and magic combat in this game. Combat is pretty straight forward with your character swinging (shooting) away at the enemies as you command them. Some things are more obscure, like the fact that you can use items during combat. It's easily missed but on the other hand once you realize this it makes the whole combat experience one that works well enough.

You will be bad at it to begin with though and this is where one of the bigger flaws of the game becomes clear. Being designed according to the older school of "git gud", it is very easy to not only venture into areas that are well above your ability grade, but also to completely miss areas and items that are essentially crucial for your continued existence.

While the story is well paced and I rarely found myself stuck as to what I had to do next, it is too easy to miss things that are really helpful in your endeavours. Just after I had crashed on the planet and I found the first dungeon I just kept dying to some mobs that I found in there, also the first enemies I had even encountered and fought in the game. At first and for some time I felt really frustrated. How could the game already be so difficult that I didn't feel like I had a chance against the very first enemies of the game? Had I missed something?

The combat is actually well designed, too bad it's so dang hard.

Turns out, I had. First of all, apparently there was an entire area on the space ship that I could've gone to, which would've awarded me a very useful weapon even before I crash on the planet. But it is entirely possible, even stressed, to just continue with the story. At no point is there a hint or indication that there are other areas to check out in the space ship. The only way you'd find it is by ignoring the call to go to your launch and wander around exploring.

Usually I would enjoy gameplay that rewards curiosity, but in this instance it was too well hidden and I only ended up feeling snubbed of something I really needed.

Secondly, as I end up looking at a walkthrough I find out that these first enemies are optional, but it's definitely not something that is particularly clear. As you move through the dungeon there is a possibility to trigger a cave down that traps you with the enemies, it happens if you just move through the dungeon normally as one would do. What you're supposed to do though, especially if you're nowhere near ready to fight the enemies (which you don't know yet since it's your first combat), is to avoid triggering the cave down and not venture further into the cave.

Realizing at this point, some hour into it, that the game had already tricked me twice I felt a bit annoyed. There is definitely a fine balance that needs to be struck between rewarding curious players, and punishing the not so smart ones (like me). In Final Fantasy VII it is possible to find a lot of secrets that are cool and useful to you. But they don't just require you to be lucky enough to find them, for almost every one of them there is some component of extreme farming or skill involved to acquire these rewards. Furthermore, the game is entirely possible to beat without too much trouble even if you never find a single one of these secrets.

All Iskai furniture are made of plants, it's pretty cool.

In Albion however you realize that you missed a really important item just because you happened to not take the right turn at some point, and there is no going back for it either. You didn't just miss out on a fun item, you've missed out on something that makes a huge difference to your gameplay.

It is also too easy to stumble into areas that are way above your capabilities and there is little way to know if you're just doing something wrong or should head in another direction. Mostly it turned out I just really needed to farm for more skill and levels.

When it's so easy to get lost, die and have to start over it makes it all the more annoying when you know you've missed some item that could've made it so much easier for you. It makes me feel like a bad player, and that is pretty much the opposite of fun.

The inventory system didn't give me much trouble though.

Which is unfortunate, because I really do feel like so much about this game is great. There is literally a whole world waiting for you to be explored. A world filled with interesting characters and places to meet and see. There is a story that, at least for as far as I got, has a lot of potential to be really interesting. Not only do you realize that the planet you're about to exploit is actually inhabited, you eventually end up finding other humans, living rather humbly, on this planet as well. Where did they come from?

But the gameplay and world design ends up being too punishing for me. What killed it for me was when I set off on a boat toward another continent to continue the story. As I get there I find that I can barely move anywhere without really having to struggle for my survival. Yet again a walkthrough explains to me that unless I've come to a certain level and acquired certain skills there is no point in me going to this area yet. But how was I to know this? Grinding for levels and money is painfully slow and arduous and the prospect of having to do this throughout the entire game just put me off it, even though the story and world really intrigued me. Just watching let's plays of it makes me really want to give it another go again.

In the end I still want to recommend Albion. For a 1995 game it is actually pretty ambitious and if you're one who is more familiar and used to the older style of game design I think there could be a lot of fun to be had here. Me, I guess I have to give it another chance when I am a pensioner and have more time and patience. The game deserves it.

Images from: Private, gamesnostalgia.com, hardcoregaming101.net, mobygames.com.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Let's Talk About Addons [WoW Classic]

Let's talk a bit about addons shall we?

Oftentimes when I have thought about going back to playing WoW (before Classic was announced), one of the main things that held me back was thinking about all the addons that I would need to install and get into shape before being able to play. The mere thought of going "naked" into retail barely even crossed my mind and that's even knowing that Blizzard had implemented a great deal of the addons I used to use into their own UI.

Fast forward a bit and Classic was announced and suddenly my brain goes all puritan - now I want to experience the game with as few addons as possible!

But that doesn't mean I don't need a couple though… Technically you don't need any addon to play the game of course, and I did play it completely addon free for several weeks before I caved in.

Unrelated picture of me playing.

There will always be some addons that I will never* install. A quest addon is one such addon. While I do occasionally google a quest here and there, having help with every one of them feels like it robs a bit of the fun out of the game. I enjoy reading the quest text and having to think for a bit for myself, at least for the most part. Some times the quest text is so damn vague I wonder if the whole idea was to actually go have me run all over Barrens to find that one dude hiding in a hovel somewhere. Probably. There are points to that as well - more experience as you fight your way through areas and a good way to discover places you maybe wouldn't go to otherwise.

It didn't take long before I realized that just as there are addons I really wouldn't want to use, there are addons I really wouldn't want to play without this time around as well. And it all comes down to one of three things. Either it's an addon that gives me information about something that I really think the game should already provide me with. Or it speeds up a process I often use. Or it's just for fun. And considering I used to use somewhere around 30-40 addons back in the day, the four I've settled on so far feel like nothing.

Let's get the "for fun" addon out of the way - Recount. Yeah, I like to see how much damage people do. It's not just about peen-measuring, I actually use it to test the efficiency of skills and rotations that I use. If I see someone doing good damage I like to pore over their stats to see if I can learn something from it. I try not to be that person who links damage meters in chat every two seconds and I think I've succeeded pretty well.


Now for the information ones - VendorPrice and ClassicAuras.

VendorPrice: Classic has a combination of facts that in themselves aren't a problem, but combined become quite the issue. At least for me. Firstly, you don't really have much bag space. And secondly, everything seems to drop a ton of crap. Every murloc has the possibility to drop Murloc Eye, Murloc Fin, Shiny Scales, Shells and other stuff. Kill a couple and your bag will very quickly be filled with loads of things that is everything from grey to green (and even blue if you're lucky!). You will have to prioritize, ie throw things out, unless you want to run back to some vendor and unload every fifteen minutes. But how do you know what to throw? Is a 5 stack of Murloc Eyes worth more than a 10 stack of Sharp Claws? I don't know! And after having played a couple of weeks not knowing I decided money was hard enough to come by as it is without me literally throwing it away. So I got an addon that does nothing but show me the vendor value of items. That also allows me to see if it's even worth putting that stack of Linen Cloth on the Auction House, when the going price is just coppers above what the vendor gives me for it anyway...

I don't want an addon that tells me how much things are going for on the Auction House though, which might seem odd. For some reason I don't mind having to find that out for myself, and besides, the prices can fluctuate so much there that in the end that's probably what I would have to do anyway.

Spiders also drop a lot of crap.

ClassicAuras: Classic also has a big problem in that it doesn't show you the time left on your debuffs on your target. The fact that it doesn't actually absolutely baffles me and feels like straight up bad design. You might think, as I am guessing the designers did, that there isn't more to it than just looking at your target and seeing when the debuff runs out. That quickly becomes completely impractical when you've got more than one target, or even worse, another class using the same debuffs as you. Partying with another warlock is a nightmare when I no longer can tell if that is my Immolate on the target or not! I shudder to think how this works in raids...

Then the one that speed up some things - Clique

Back in the day I used to pair Clique with Vuhdo for some easy healing, because the in-game raid frames are frankly just... not good. At least they weren't back then. Since I only do lowbie dungeons now I have settled with Clique, at least for now. It allows me to bind my spells to clicks with my mouse, so that shift-right click does a certain heal on my target for instance. The default way is to click a target and then choose one of your heals in your bar. Clique not only saves me time since I choose spell and target at the same time, but it also saves slots on the action bar since I don't need to have my spells on there (I usually do anyway though, just in case). It just makes healing so much more practical, which doesn't matter much when you do lowbie dungeons but it makes a ton of difference when you're raiding difficult bosses. So now I'm so used to it I really don't like doing it the original way. (Clique has an issue in Classic though in that it can't distinguish between different ranks of spells).

I have a big wish for an addon to add... on... to this list here though. That is AutoBar. It's an action bar that auto-updates with contents from my bag. For instance it would automatically update with a Healthstone if I have one in my bag, or automatically put up any food in my bag. What I have to do now is locate any food in my bag every time I want to eat, or swap it out on my action bars as I get new types. It's just a little handy thing that doesn't make you a better player or anything, just saves a lot of hassle.

And that's it. For now. I know for sure I will get more addons because that is just how these things go. You tell yourself that one addon won't hurt. Then there is another. And another. And suddenly you're sitting there with 40 addons and wondering how the heck that happened and still you couldn't get yourself to turn off a single one. But I think I am still some ways off that yet.

What addons are crucial to your gameplay?

*never say never though.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

I Just Got My First Ignore [WoW Classic]

After harping on about how nice everything is in WoW Classic I guess it is only fair that I share an encounter I had with someone that clearly wasn't having a very good day.

My bf tricked me into going to Loch Modan with my level 18 paladin, when I realized I was too low level for most quests in Redridge and didn't really know where else to go. I say "tricked" because I don't like Loch Modan and I also outleveled a lot of the quests there.

After I had a successful group to kill Chok'sul, which is almost a story worthy telling in itself seeing that we pulled four elites on a group of three and still got out of it alive (well I wasn't but the other two were), I ended up running around and passed a Peacebloom.

I've decided to go for gathering professions on my paladin because I suck at collecting money otherwise and so I stopped to get the Peacebloom. I also really fancied some cake. I had been thinking about it for a while but didn't want to run off mid-elite-killing. So I started picking the flower and went to get cake thinking I'd auto-loot as usual. I was gone less than a minute. Apparently I had full bags, so when I came back my character was still in the loot window. No biggie I thought.

But oh no, there was a biggie.

I noticed someone had apparently run past me while I was kneeling there next to the Peacebloom and said "Either loot it or don't".

I could've just left it at that. Maybe I should've. But I like talking and for some reason I thought it could start a fun conversation, since people are generally nice and easy to talk to.

"Sorry, I went afk while looting and apparently had full bags" I told the person through whisper.

"Who goes afk while looting" they answer.

"Someone who really wants cake" I wanted to answer.

But they had ignored me.

Ignored me! Over a Peacebloom!

But it gets better. When I shift-clicked them to see their level I noticed their guild name - "No Offense Taken". Fighting over a Peacebloom. Some times, comedy just writes itself.

So I've just gotten my first (that I know of) ignore in WoW Classic, but I'll definitely try to step up and loot my herbs a lot faster from now on.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Field Report #26 - The Shamanistic Ordeal

I got the closest I've ever been to a dungeon run that was not great the other night. After having done some tanking and dpsing I also got the urge to do some healing. I pondered the different classes and decided on a shaman. I pondered levelling as a dps and healing in dungeons, similarly to what I am doing with my tank, but felt like I wanted to try actually being resto. So then I decided against questing because questing as a resto shaman just seemed too horrible.

So there we have set the stage for my run in Wailing Caverns. I had turned 18 and done several very successful runs in RFC. I thought I would be able to heal a group through WC without too much trouble. I was only partially correct.

Happy Halloween by the way.

We got there and I immediately notice that the (level 20 warrior) tank didn't pull back with the raptors. Anyone who has done a run in WC knows that it is usually a bad idea not to, but I didn't really have time to react to before we suddenly had several more mobs on us. And when I say "us" I really mean "me".

I don't blame the tank for anything but failing to pull the mobs back, and maybe he was new to the instance, so that's fine.  In the end it didn't matter because we made it through the overpull anyway.
Then the rogue speaks up. "Ey healer. Stop pulling all those extra mobs".

Eh, I'm sorry?

Ok, so we have another person who has never been to Wailing Caverns before apparently. It was true that I was low level (though not even the lowest level in the group). And because the mobs come running from afar they run to me first since I get aggro through my healing. I can see how the rogue put two and two together and assumed I was the problem. No biggie, let's just set the record straight.

I pointed out the emote in the chat and explained the mechanic. But the rogue refused to believe me. He claimed he had already done several runs without any issue. I didn't want to throw blame on the tank so I just said "fine, I'll stay all the way back here and we'll see what happens".

To no surprise, the raptors still came running. And they didn't just attack me. What was a surprise though, after I pointed it out the rogue actually responded with "I might have been wrong". Someone admitting they were wrong on the interwebs? That's as rare as a unicorn. But that is now the closest I have been to what could've turned into an angry run, and it wasn't very close at all. Classic is still showing itself at its best side, and the players playing it as well.

Speaking of shaman healing though...

Before level 20 when I get Lesser Healing Wave it is a whole lot of spamming Healing Wave! And unless you count throwing out the occasional Stoneskin/Strength of Earth totem that is literally the only thing I am doing (I interrupt some times too I guess). And since someone (yeah, me) decided levelling solely through instances was a good idea it's just been Healing Waves all over this place for the last four levels. Level 14-18 doesn't sound like it should take that long, but when all you do is press one button over and over it's unsurprisingly quite dull.

So why not just go quest? Good question. I've levelled my orc warrior and undead warlock pretty simultaneously, meaning I've done a quest on the one character and then gone and done the same quest on the other character (for the most part, the warlock did Stonetalon Mountains which the warrior has not). The thought of doing all those quests again on my troll shaman really didn't appeal to me. And especially not since I was going to go all resto.

For a short moment I thought about doing the quests in Tirisfal and Silverpine because I love those areas so much, but then I remembered that there is no shaman trainer over there so then the prospect of going back and forth every two levels to train didn't sound particularly fun either.

I am level 19 now. Next up is the horrendous Water Totem Quest at level 20 (if I remember correctly) and I'll get both Lesser Healing Wave and Healing Stream Totem. That's not bad. It'll give me a few more tools to work with.

Interestingly enough though, my ordeal with my resto shaman has made me come through whatever blockage I had regarding playing a healing priest (Heal! Shields! Renews! Lesser Heals! So many fun things!). So yeah, I am also leveling one of those now - a dwarf, because for now I've had enough of the horde areas for a while.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Star Trek: First Contact - Review

First Contact has always had a special place in my heart. I am pretty sure it was my first Star Trek movie and if I wasn't a Star Trek nerd before that, First Contact definitely made me into one. It had been a while since I last rewatched it and for some reason I noticed I seemed to be postponing it. Some part of me was worried (and still is) that I could never do it proper justice, but another part of me also worried that maybe my tastes had changed and I wouldn't enjoy it so much anymore.

Well, let's just say that the latter definitely didn't turn out to be an issue. When the credits started rolling I was literally thinking to myself "this movie is damn near perfect". So yeah, this movie is damn near perfect and the following review is basically just going to be me explaining to you why I think so.

As an anecdote, I find that First Contact has many similarities to the James Bond movie Golden Eye. It too was the first movie with a new lead and they're both absolutely amazing. But then something happens and the remaining movies with that cast are just nowhere near as good (still highly entertaining though). 

I'm going to try to lay out the general idea I have for why this movie works so well before I go into details about the actual story;
First Contact, knowingly or unknowingly, borrows some of the winning concepts from earlier Star Trek movies. Firstly it continues a fan favorite arc from the TV-series (just like Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan), namely the Locutus arc where Jean-Luc Picard gets assimilated into the Borg collective. Just like Star Trek II, it sees the Star Trek crew revisiting one of the better antagonists in the series.
Secondly it uses another fan favorite in the time travelling concept. This allows the crew to revisit a past part of Earth just like in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home. While this part of Earth isn't the exact same as our own, it is definitely a lot closer to us than to the future the TNG crew comes from and allows "us" to be part of the Star Trek universe in the same way that made Star Trek IV so interesting and fun to watch.

Other things this movie gets right;
  • The pacing is absolutely perfect. We get thrown into the heat of the story immediately and the movie keeps our interest throughout without just throwing things randomly at the screen. What happens constantly moves the story forward and we neither feel like scenes are needlessly added nor that we've missed out on vital information.
  • They've done the exact right choice when deciding what characters to focus on and how much space their character development should get in the story. First Contact focuses almost entirely on Picard and Data, arguably the only two interesting characters in TNG, but manages to squeeze in just enough of everyone in the rest of the crew that it doesn't seem like Picard and Data practically work alone (something the earlier Star Trek movies definitely struggle with).
  • By splitting the setting to "the crew on the ship" and "the crew on Earth" they manage to fill the movie with both one part that is humorous and one part that is tense and action-filled without these parts getting in the way of each other or feeling disjointed. Instead these parts run next to each other absolutely seamlessly and logically.

The movie starts with what could either be called one of the duller intro's I've ever seen or more optimistically described as an intro that doesn't try to wow you with silly effects. After a few minutes of names appearing over a blue smoke we see Picard having nightmares about the Borg. When an admiral Hayes contacts him he already knows that the Borg have come to Federation space to Borg everything up.

I could probably write a whole essay on what make the Borg such great enemies too.

I absolutely love the non-f*ckery about this. The movie starts and bam, we're literally right into the shit hitting the fan. The Borg are here to mess you up and everyone watching know what a big problem this is. Straight from the first minute we are fully invested and on our toes about how this is going to go down. Similarly to A Voyage Home it is fairly soon going to be apparent that all of this is only going to be an excuse to set up the time travelling part of the story, and this "back in our own time again" part of the story is never going to get resolved (within this run-time). After having watched it you might still have questions, but you'll be so satisfied with the self-contained part of the movie that you don't care.

Because Picard has been part of the collective the Starfleet doesn't really trust him around the Borg anymore and send him and the rest of Enterprise E to guard some sort of border with the Romulans. Everyone else in the crew agree that those orders are absolutely bonkers and to be fair it doesn't really make sense to leave one of the best ships in Starfleet out of what probably is one of the most defining fights of the Federation just because you don't trust the captain. Surely you would just remove the captain in that case and not the entire ship?

It doesn't take too long for Picard to say "screw this" and go to help the rest of the fleet. With his special inside-knowledge of the Borg (something you'd think Starfleet would've been keen on getting their hands on rather than sending him off to some border somewhere) he manages to unite what is left of the fleet to destroy the Borg cube that is threatening Earth. At this point it's not entirely clear why there is only one cube and where the rest of the Borgs are and that will never be explained later either (see point I made above). We get a short cameo of the Defiant from DS9, captained by Worf who moves onto the Enterprise when the Defiant is put out of use.

Unfortunately not.

A sphere breaks out of the exploding cube however and quickly moves towards Earth. The Enterprise goes into pursuit and the sphere disappears into a temporal rift into Earth's past. Enterprise is stuck in the temporal wake, manages to catch up to the sphere and destroy it, but not before it managed to fire off some shots towards the surface. Now they set out to find out what the sphere tried to do in this specific time period, which turns out to be 2063, very closely to the time and date of "first contact" ie when humans made their first faster-than-light-speed flight and caught the attention of some Vulcans who happened to be passing through our otherwise insignificant Solar System.

Apparently the Borgs had been trying to prevent this from happening because that would leave the humans in a completely different position in the future. Possibly, probably, there wouldn't be a Federation the way we know it at all. It's interesting to note however though, that since the Borg work under the principle of "adding your distinctiveness to our own", crippling and throwing the culture you're about to assimilate back hundreds of years technologically and scientifically seems like a counter-productive thing to do. The Borg are changing the humans so they'll be easier to assimilate, but in the process they're removing pretty much everything that made the humans worth assimilating in the first place (the fact that Borg don't bother with civilizations too underdeveloped has been established at this point afaik).

Picard takes Data and Crusher down with him to see what damage the Borg caused and this makes total sense - you bring the doctor for the wounded and the walking computer for the possibly damaged old-timey spaceship. While Crusher takes care of some wounded, Data and Picard move towards the missile silo where the rocket-gone-spaceship is being stored. Inside they are being shot at by an associate of Zefram Cochrane, but wait - I've forgotten to introduce Cochrane so far. Don't worry, I know you all know who he is and the movie doesn't make this mistake either. While the movie doesn't immediately tell us the significance of the "random" humans we get to see on the planet surface when the sphere attacks, it's quickly explained that one of them is none other than the inventor of faster than lightspeed-flight Zefram Cochrane.

Picard fails to assure the associate, named Lily, of their non-hostile intent and Data decides to take a different approach in a great scene. He jumps straight down some thirty meters and further confuses Lily when he is completely unharmed by her bullets. She faints and it turns out it was only partially because of shock, she's also suffered severe radiation poisoning and is taken onto the Enterprise by Crusher. This way the movie logically sets up and moves into the next part - the return of the Borg.

Lily (Alfre Woodard) - One of the better side-characters

On board the Enterprise some people have noticed that the climate control seems to be malfunctioning and the heat has slowly gone up. I wonder what that could be about!? Picard spider-senses (aka Borg-implant sense) that something is wrong and asks Worf if something is amiss onboard the ship. When he is notified about the changed temperature, he immediately decides to return to the ship while Riker, Troi and Laforge go down to the surface to oversee the repairs to the rocket and to find Cochrane who has gone missing.

We're about a third into the movie and now it smoothly transitions from what has so far been a fairly standard setup into the two-pronged story-line that I find truly makes this movie so well designed and fun to watch. On the one front we follow the crew on the surface who are trying to deal with an unwilling Cochrane, giving us a slower and more humorous pace. On the other front we get Picard and Data (and Lily) trying to deal with the Borg threat on the Enterprise, giving us suspense and action. The greatness is not just that the setup delivers on so many aspects of Star Trek, but that they harmonize so well together, running next to eachother throughout the remainder of the movie without detracting from eachother or confusing the viewer. I can't emphasize enough how well this works even though they are completely different in style, the crew on the surface have no idea what is going on aboard the Enterprise until the very end. Both the writing and the editing is absolutely superb here.

Like I mentioned the focus in First Contact is definitely on Data and Picard, and I don't mind because I find most of the rest of the crew to be walking blocks of wood with one character trait attached to them. It is credit to this movie then that what little we do get to see of the other crew really works for them. Why couldn't the writing have been this interesting for the TNG series? Troi manages to find Cochrane who, off-screen, gets her to drink a lot of drinks. When Riker finds them both they are listening to much too loud music and Troi is drunk. It's a fun scene that Marina Sirtis pulls off greatly. When they decide to tell the truth to Cochrane he responds with "You people are all astronauts on some kind of... star trek?". Lovely.

Zefram (James Cromwell) is well played too.

Oh, and I haven't said anything about it yet but the effects are really cool in this movie. They're so good in fact I've written the comment "cool effects" twice in my notes. One of the best ones, though I am jumping ahead of myself a bit here, is when the Borg Queen torso gets attached to the rest of her body, it looks practically flawless. For a movie from 1996 it looks exceptional.

So speaking of Borg then, back on the Enterprise it seems like the Borg managed to beam themselves off the sphere and onto the Enterprise just before it was destroyed. They've made themselves comfortable on deck 16 and are, as they're known to do, slowly assimilating their way through the crew. After some running around and losing track of each other, Picard ends up with Lily and Data ends up with the Borg Queen. One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie is when Picard tries to explain the situation to Lily who not only has no knowledge of the Borg but also has to quickly get accustomed to the fact that she is running around on a starship from the future. She exclaims "Borg? Sounds Swedish.". Then as they run into the Borg she corrects herself, "definitely not Swedish!". To me as a Swede this joke really hit home and I remember the entire movie theater bursting out laughing.

Data also gets a lot of good scenes with the Borg Queen, who seems fascinated by him. The emotion chip that Data implants in the previous movie gets a lot of use here as the Borg Queen grafts skin onto Data to let him feel both pleasure and pain. Sexy stuff is sort of insinuated, they definitely share a kiss, and overall their shared screen time together is great. They're so different, yet so similar (both being semi-humans seeking perfection in their own ways), and that is pretty much what the Borg Queen seems to think as well. Yet again everything is superbly delivered by Brent Spiner and Alice Krige who play Data and the Borg Queen respectively. She uses the emotion chip to break down Data's will, or at least so she thinks. But I am getting ahead of myself again.

How un-Borg. But what is Borg anyway? I have so many questions!

Picard finds out that the Borg are trying to rebuild the deflector dish into a subspace transponder, allowing them to hail the Borg of that time (though they are still in the Delta Quadrant) to come to Earth and mess things up. Cue another great scene where Picard, Worf and random red-shirt person who will die, gear up to go onto the outside of the ship to see if they can throw a spanner in the Borg works. They do it by literally removing the entire deflector dish from the ship, and the scene where the Borg, still working on the dish like nothing has happened, slowly float out into space is just brilliant and hilarious. There is a great attention to detail all over this movie too - when they put down their weapons at one point in the scene you can hear the click when the weapons magnetize on the hull, explaining why they don't just float out into space. The soundscape when they walk out onto the hull reminded me a lot of TMP too, which is a big plus in my book.

Speaking of weapons and the Borg though, there is something that doesn't really make sense in this movie. It's been well established at this point that the Borg adapt to any kind of energy weapons once they've taken a couple of shots. Throughout the movie we see how Worf tells Picard that he's remodulated the weapons to allow them to get a couple of more shots off. Then every now and then we get to see some hand to hand combat, and a scene where Picard shoots down some Borg in the holo-deck with some holo-bullets (which should count as energy weapons really). Overall it's portraid like the regular weapons aren't very useful and physical weapons work a lot better. So why not always use them? Equip everyone with a Bat'leth or a Magnum pistol and suddenly the Borg will have a lot harder time adapting, I'm sure. Maybe this is explained somewhere in the Star Trek lore, but it's not explained in this movie.

Back on Earth Cochrane is starting to feel that the whole thing is getting all too much. Laforge tells him about Universities named after him, statues raised for him and so on. Cochrane admits later on that he only did any of this for the money (and naked ladies that would come with the money) in a scene that adds a lot to the Cochrane character. Overall they've managed to make all the characters feel a lot more real and human than they generally do in TNG, something that series really struggles with if you ask me. All the main characters in the movie get their own little character development scene where we get to see that they are multi-faceted and not perfect. I've mentioned Cochrane's and I'll get to Data's.

Worf suggests to Picard that they destroy the Enterprise and that way they'll get rid of all the Borg in one hit. Picard refuses and calls Worf a coward for trying to end the Borg battle the easy way. Worf is, understandably and understatingly, not amused but since the captain has said no, no one continues to question him even though they all agree that he is wrong. No one except Lily, remember her? The associate from Earth who found herself on the future starship infested with cyborg-alien. She straight up calls Picard "Captain Ahab" and after some back and forth shouting Picard gets the hint. He is taking things too personally. It's a great and believable scene, especially if you have seen the underlying story arc from the TV series.

She ain't sugarcoating it.

Picard starts the self-destruct sequence and in the meantime another countdown has started down on Earth - the rocket is ready to launch and make itself known to the Vulcans. These two plotlines have been running parallell to each other and now they're about to fuse together again, seamlessly. But it's not over yet. Picard realizes that Data is in trouble and sets out to save him. The Borg Queen realizes that the rocket is about to do a fly by and decides to shoot it down. The stakes are still high as we move into the final act.

Picard comes upon the Borg Queen in the engine room, where all the scenes between her and Data have taken place as well. Picard offers himself in exchange for Data to allow Data to escape while Picard keeps the Queen busy during the counting down for self-destruct (silently), but it seems like Data has already been converted to the Borg Queen's cause as he goes to set off some torpedoes aimed at the rocket that Laforge, Riker and Cochrane are in. They meanwhile have no idea that they are about to be blown out of the sky. They think the Enterprise have moved in closer to give them a send-off, as they still don't know about the Borg on board.

The shots are fired, everyone is holding their breath... and they miss. Data has tricked the Borg Queen into believing he was now on her side, instead he breaks open a couple of plasma conduits (something that was hinted at earlier in the movie) and as the plasma pours out onto the floor Picard and Borg Queen try to flee onto higher ground. The Borg Queen clings onto Picard when Data emerges from the plasma clouds and pulls the Queen down. Her organic compounds become destroyed, destroying her in the process. It's another great scene showcasing some really well made special effects. Data, who has had human skin grafted onto his arm and face now looks like something out of Terminator. And all that is left of the Borg Queen once the plasma has been vented is a twitching metal skull with spine. It's exactly the climax and finale this movie deserved and it is so well done. (And then Picard runs back to cancel self-destruct, of course).

Maybe this is the evolution of the T800?

Then we get the finale of the other storyline as well and it is equally good. We get two great finales in this movie! Cochranes FTL rocket has gotten the attention of the Vulcans and they land on Earth to speak to him. This is First Contact. It happens in 2063. I could possibly be alive then (I'd be 78). This point, while suitably low in tone in the movie, holds so much weight and significance to us as viewers and fans because it started everything. From this point on we've followed so much of what this fictional humanity becomes, and we've loved (almost) every second of it. I starts right there in that scene. Watching it is just so... cool.

But… the germs? How do they talk without translators? So many questions!

And that pretty much sums up this movie. It's cool. It makes the right choices, from the start and all the way throughout. When I was 11 or whatever, watching it for the first time in the cinema I was absolutely awe-struck by how entertaining this movie was. Now that I am *ahem* somewhat older and have watched it a couple of times more, I can really revel in all the details that come together to make this movie so... dang... good. It might not be perfect in the sense that it has some plot holes and leaves some questions open (like what happened to the Borg invasion back in their own time?) - but just like A Voyage Home you don't notice, and if you do you don't care, because the things that matter are the things that work. It makes sense, it looks cool, it is action, it is funny and it is everything that is great about Star Trek.

First Contact is probably my favorite Star Trek movie. I'll throw in a caveat that my nostalgia-goggles may tint my impression of it some still after all this time (nostalgia tends to get stronger over time anyway when I think of it). But rewatching it I had an absolute blast and when the credits were rolling I was genuinely thinking "you know what, I could watch all of that again right now". I might not be a huge fan of TNG, but I'll always love them for giving me this.

Images from amazon.com, startrek.com, memegenerator.com, memory-alpha.fandom.net, giphy.com and thewebsiteofdoom.com.