Tag Archives: internet

Playing Tabletop on the Internet with Roll20

roll20 Last night, I ran a Pathfinder game using the Roll20.net virtual tabletop. While I don’t think it quite compares to having everyone present in the same room, I think it went pretty well overall. Since Roll20 has opened up so many possibilities for me to game with people, I thought I would talk about some of the pros and cons of playing tabletop games on the internet.

1.) The tools are versatile enough to use with a wide variety of games.

Want to play a tabletop wargame? An RPG? Wanna just play some board games? Roll20 can handle it. It has a built in dice-rolling system, and you can import maps/terrain/boards to cover just about any kind of game you want to play. During play, I had no problems importing maps on the fly. My only complaint is that moving the PCs tokens (the virtual tabletop equivalent of miniatures) from map to map was a ponderous task that slowed the game down. Being able to mass select tokens would really help in that regard.

2.) Like any Internet-based video chat, there can be problems.

That annoying pinging sound from microphone feedback can happen quite a bit during a game, and that can really make the experience difficult for everyone. Cross chatter can also be a problem. As well as mic problems, video problems, internet connection problems… basically anything that can normally mess up your technology could be a potential problem while playing an internet-based tabletop game. It’s not Roll20’s fault, but it is something that has to be overcome.

3.) It brings people together:

I played a game with people from five states and two time zones. Most of us are people that wanted to play Tabletop games but couldn’t find groups. Some of us were beginners, some of us were veteran gamers, but we all were able to play thanks to Roll20 and the Internet.

This is really what I imagined doing when I first discovered the Internet back in Jr. High and was playing MUDs and primitive MMOs. Finally, I can play a game on the Internet where my only limit is my imagination. Sure, somethings from the rulebooks have to be streamlined, but that’s okay. I can’t wait to play again.

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Close up Pandora’s Box

pandora1  The Music Genome Project was supposed to change the way we listen to music online, or at least how music is organized. According to the founders, “the project was an effort to capture the essence of music at the fundamental level using almost 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them.” Under the direction of Nolan Gasser, the musical structure and implementation of the Music Genome Project, made up of 5 Genomes (Pop/Rock, Hip-Hop/Electronica, Jazz, World Music, and Classical), was advanced and codified.

The Music Genome Project is the backbone of the popular online radio service known as Pandora. Pandora utilizes the genome as a jumping off point toward something called a “distance function.” In essence, when you input a band, song or basic genre, a station is built using the above attributes. The distance function includes songs and groups that may not include all of the attributes of your original entry. Basically it moves you from your comfort zone toward new music you may enjoy.

When I first stumbled onto Pandora in 2004, it was a breath of fresh air. I enjoy a wide variety of artists and genres, so having access to such a vast quantity of songs was fantastic. I enjoyed being challenged by some of the selections on my stations. I spent a fair amount of time adding artists and songs to my established stations and using the “thumbs” to indicate my likes and dislikes. Pandora was a big part of my Internet time. This has continued as Pandora has grown and has been included on most devices. I now play my custom stations in my car, on my TV, and on my and phone.

My very first Pandora station is still active. It has over 900 adjustments and includes almost everything I can think to add. Over the past 9 years my tastes have changed slightly, they have grown in ways that I must attribute in part to Pandora. However I am considering shutting the whole thing down over the following 3 points:

How many times must I tell Pandora I don’t like Bryan Adams?:

You tell Pandora what you like or don’t like by hitting the thumbs up or thumbs down icon attached to each song. These ratingsbryan-adams sort of work…in a way…sometimes. If you “thumbs down” an artist (Say Bryan Adams) and that artist was ever part of another band or appeared on a film soundtrack etc. then you will have to “thumbs down” each individual entry (All For One, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves sound track etc.) Also as you create additional stations you must go through this process each time. The ratings do not carry over to other stations.

There is no way to eliminate an entire genre or era:

I am a lover of classic rock, though I feel the word classic is kicked around with little criteria to define it. Say you want to eliminate the 80s or 90s from a straight forward rock station. You can’t. Let alone get specific enough to remove, say, ’80s ballad heavy roots rock from Canadians. Canadians named Bryan, for instance.

How many times must I hear the same commercials?:

In the beginning, Pandora was ad free. When they began adding commercials the frequency of ad play was as predictable as traditional radio. Now I cannot determine the sequence. At times I can hear 10 songs with zero ads, others I get an ad every 3rd song. This would not be a big deal except they only appear to have 5 ads. These are played completely at random, so you wind up hearing the same ad three times in the same 30-minute period. Imagine if that ad were for a Bryan Adams’ greatest hits package or tour; it would be unbearable.

So I find my time on Pandora more and more limited in an effort to avoid frustration. These few complaints are causing the music to have the opposite of its desired effect. Also Bryan Adams sucks!

 

 

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NBC Keeps on Failing

From Wikimedia Commons

NBC keeps failing.

As I watched the coverage of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, I couldn’t keep myself from yelling at Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira to just shut up and let the program happen. It wasn’t a freaking parade!

Then, I started to wonder why NBC keeps screwing up so royally on everything. I still don’t have a definitive answer, but I do miss the ’90s when they were running shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and Mad About You.

So what, that I can see, is NBC’s problem?

A lot of things.

Identity – NBC is struggling to figure out what kind of network they are. Remember how I mentioned the ’90s? NBC used to be a darling for acclaimed shows. Law & Order, Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, etc. were all widely watched and critical hits. However, after the ’90s ended, cable channels began to rise in prominence, bringing the new critical favorites: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Weeds, and others. The list goes on and on.

Cable channels can do things that NBC can’t. Now, NBC is left trying to make poor copies of what cable is doing (The Playboy Club…really, NBC?).

As for Law & Order and its million spin-offs, it’s been replaced by CSI, NCIS, Person of Interest, Hawaii 5-0, and all their billion spin-offs.

What NBC is left with is… nothing.

The audience that NBC wants right now seems to be young, smart, media-savvy people, who like to have their media choices scheduled by corporations. (Pro-tip: I’m not sure that audience exists. Too bad for Community.)

The Writer’s Strike – Of the Big Four networks (CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC), NBC was hit the hardest by the 2007-2008 writer’s strike. None of the shows it put up to replace the scripted shows were a success, and ad-revenue and ratings dropped by around 10 percent. Making Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno return without a writing staff didn’t garner any good will from the Writer’s Guild, either (It should be noted that David Letterman managed to come to an interim agreement with the WGA).

The Writer’s Strike also managed to shorten the season of NBC’s most popular show at the time, Heroes. It’s my opinion that the show never recovered from the shortened season, and the quality of the show plummeted during season two.

The Tonight Show Controvesy – This debacle probably hurt NBC the most in terms of public relations, but it also hurt them  in the ratings.

When Jay Leno was moved to his prime time slot, and ultimately failed to get the ratings (affiliates were pretty upset), NBC was left with a hard decision. Rather than have a show fail in one time slot, though, it effectively failed in five. NBC had to find a way to fill five prime time slots, none of which went on to garner huge ratings (I believe that the only show from that time that is still airing is Parenthood, which I think is a great show, by the way).

The firing of Conan O’Brien really hurt the network in the PR department. Many celebrities and fans immediately rejected Leno as The Tonight Show host, and although Jay’s ratings have recovered, his image was permanently damaged.

The Today Show- NBC’s biggest moneymaker is the morning show staple, but even its ratings have been declining as of late. I’ve heard a lot of reasons given for this, but I’m going to focus on two.

1.) Matt Lauer is getting harder and harder to work with. Rumor is that the guy isn’t very nice to his co-workers and was basically behind Ann Curry being fired.

2.) It’s become waaaay too pop culture oriented. I don’t watch a whole lot of The Today Show, but what I see when I watch is coverage of popular YouTube videos, news sensationalism, and interviews with useless pseudo-celebs. If other channels are picking up the slack and covering real news, I can see why the ratings are slipping.

Asim Bharwani [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Streaming, Cable, YouTube, Video Games – NBC, like most of the networks, wasn’t ready for the Internet entertainment revolution. NBC also doesn’t seem to understand that the younger demographic they are targeting with shows like 30 Rock and Community aren’t going to watch a lot of TV when it initially airs. There are too many other entertainment choices out there. Plus, NBC hasn’t figured out a way to make a lot of money from Hulu, yet.

The Olympics -This is what got me thinking about the topic in the first place. I’m not sure how NBC could do the Olympics better, but they could start with not airing promos including who won the gold medal before they publicly air the event.

Also, could they air better events? I’m sick to death of gymnastics and swimming. Let’s see some fencing, boxing, judo, and other events where people fight. Those things are awesome.

Cris Colinsworth – I hate this guy with a passion, so I had to include him.

All-in-all, these are the reasons I think NBC is failing in the ratings game. Its biggest problem is that it just doesn’t know what it is anymore, especially since other cable networks are doing it better than they are.

Also, The Office has overstayed its welcome. Can we let it die already?

Also too, just give Alison Brie her own show.

[Featured Image: By ASTaylor [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

 

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