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Monday, April 28, 2014

Rivals

Back in the day, I played World of Warcraft. All obvious assumptions or interpretations aside, I lost myself in a fantasy world much more fulfilling than whatever else I might have been doing at that time. In hindsight, it filled a gap left by the inability to find adventure in my life.

Mostly, I found myself taking up guide roles as either a healer or a tank. Even though I was reluctant to do these things, I found that I was not only really good at them, but my retention of knowledge within the game allowed me to expedite many processes that were otherwise deliberately designed to take up lots of time.

During the golden era of player versus player combat (approx. right before the first expansion and for a good while until the end of the third expansion) my usefulness found its pinnacle with mid-range "twinking." Twinking involved taking an alternate character, leveling them to the maximum within a bracket, and finding the best possible armor and weapons available for that range. For example, my warrior, Dalwyn, was one of only a few characters capable of defeating another twinked rogue (whose name now escapes me, unfortunately) in both the 30-39 and 40-49 level brackets.

For the first time in my life, I was not only fulfilling a definite purpose, but I also had a definite rival. Now, in retrospect, I wish I had communicated more with that rogue and feel slightly disappointed in myself that I did not turn it into some kind of oddly forged friendship.

Another one of my characters, Kynaro, was a max level druid (a hybrid role, and thus my favorite). Mostly, I played the hand dealt to me, and usually filled the role that the talent points were strongest for. Sometimes the best was healing, sometimes more geared for tanking. The best, undeniably most fun role to fill as a druid was what was known as a "boomkin." Basically, a moonkin was an owl beast that utilized the power of the moon's light to blast enemies, and thus, boomkin. The boomkin's main ability was wrath; a ball of green light that was similar to a semi-automatic moon rifle. I specifically remember competing in raids for the top damage per second spot with other dedicated damage-dealing classes, such as the rogue, mage, or hunter.

Speaking of hunters, I should mention that my first character, Kusaris, was a hunter. Admittedly, I followed a stereotype where new players typically played hunters, and when they were at max level, served a limited use due to low skill and therefore low damage output. I didn't realize that I was more or less wasting my time until the second expansion, after I had spent many days worth of time in-game running through a place called Dire Maul. Outfitting in World of Warcraft was key to "skill." In other words, the gear you had told people up front whether or not you could be trusted to fill your role appropriately. In other words, my hunter could fill no role, except maybe meat shield.

I think the point of all this is to remind myself that despite of its slanted perception and the sheer amount of time dedicated, playing these games during their prime defines who I am as a person, and helped form my demeanor and principles to what they are now. Despite the observable lack of friends produced by playing online games like WoW, I feel that even now, many years later, and after having abandoned what at the time were more or less "bad habits," the things I accomplished in virtual worlds - with hardly anyone to prove it - were still enough for me to find joy in my life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spaaaaaace!


Screenshots from my adventures in survival mode 1-1-1 in Space Engineers. The lone platform got turned into a hangar open on one side and with a piston-driven door on the other. The small green ship in the first image is a mining drill, the winged ship is a pirate craft designed to either attack other ships and/or to remove the contents of their storage, and the giant ship in the forth picture is actually just a really big vacuum cleaner. Gravity cleaner to be more exact - it uses five gravity generators to pull mining debris into the funnel and into its cargo bay. At no point has this game been in creative mode! It makes me feel accomplished.

Tertiary Societal Needs

  • Recreation / Nature

Although it is arguable that greenspace is a secondary or even primary human need, our history tends to show us that cities and societies in general do not prioritize nature. It is still important, however, and the lack of space for parks, recreational activities (such as festivals, marathons or concerts), and oxygen-producing plants creates problems that are not easily measurable or fixable. Going stir-crazy is a good example of one problem.

  • Shopping / Trade

Consumerism goes hand-in-hand with capitalism, which is the form of trade principle most western societies embrace today. That being said, when designing commercial districts it is beneficial to combine recreational space and nature with a nearby or connected shopping or trade space. The same goes for distribution centers.

  • Transportation

In terms of societies, transportation is a vital tertiary need. The idea of transportation also includes the principles of traffic flow and dedicated use, which means that buses are not an effective catch-all of transportation. Highways are built with cars in mind, not large trucks, not buses, and not with any other mass-transit option. In other words, societies should be designed with dedicated passenger railways, streetcars, subways, light rail, monorail, etc. as their primary methods of transportation second only to walking. When an urban area is designed with walking in mind, it flourishes.

  • Communication

Societal intercommunication means that no ideas are isolated from the rest of the world. Basically, this means that societies should include internet infrastructures and other telecommunications into the basic layouts in order for people to stay connected over long distances.

  • Healthcare

Societies without healthcare tend to wane after a few years of high rates of death, injury, and illness. Like many things in any society, healthcare needs to be decentralized and simple to access. It also needs effective principles regarding how to treat people who cannot afford treatment, how to handle malpractice and price gouging, and how to make innovations to current inefficient treatments.

  • Safety and Regulation

Theoretically, a society left totally without police enforcement will work just as well as a society with heavy police enforcement. Crime and injustice is contextually high in both scenarios. Laws regarding safety and regulation should be designed to help guide society towards minimizing the detriments of individual bad choices. Without enforcement, however, many laws will fall unheeded. Logically, it is good to have an effective system of enforcement and rehabilitation, but these systems should be highly reserved. Passive methods of enforcement are desirable.

  • Company

This idea stems from people's inherent shyness and loneliness when living in a large, dense group of people. The best way of preventing or alleviating this interesting side-effect is to entice individuals into scenarios where they need to interact with others (in similar mindsets) to achieve some goal. Playing games or building something together, for example, are ways for people to find good company without being alienated by societal expectations.

  • Religion

Another time-proven method of allowing people to find good company is religion. Indeed, it's one of religion's main purposes. From a societal standpoint, religion is necessary in the sense that it is a unifying force with a positive message. In other words, religion allows people to organize around weak points within a society in order to try and fill or fix them. Albeit, most religions have trouble with solving issues without creating more, but it is important to be an inclusive society, not an exclusive one.

  • Education

Arguably the most progressive method of creating effective societies is the openness and inundation of information. Effective education programs mean unbiased teaching of a wide variety of (optional) subjects to people of all ages. Teachers should need to be certified that they know about what they want to teach, and then paid accordingly with a number of enticing compensation options. Young people should also be enticed, not forced, to attend schools which focus on various subjects. Societal placement should be a priority. In other words, it is in the entire society's best interest to find out what young people want to learn, and what they want to do with their lives. When they don't know, the best option is to simply have many available paths for them to try.

  • Creative Outlets / The Arts

Akin to recreation and exercise, creative outlets allow people to relax through a form of work. Dance, music, painting, sculpting, writing, singing, etc. - these actions need to be backed by the whole of society and, just like education, need to be options for everyone to try. Without art, society quickly devolves and begins to phase out other societal needs, such as recreation and nature and entertainment, and other needs begin to suffer because of it.

  • Risk

A substantial number of people in any society need to feel the adrenaline of risk. Without the ability to take risks and potentially reap rewards from said risk, these people begin to bite the hands that feed them. Good examples can be found in teen behavior. Doing risky things often involves breaking laws, making people upset, and generally being a nuisance to society. Like many other things, however, embracing this predictable behavior eventually results in quelling it. Casinos offer people the risk of losing all their money in return for possible gaining much more, and areas with casinos see drastic increases in crime. Having these institutions, however, centralizes the problem to a containable district instead of allowing it to rise up (unregulated and untaxed) in less governable areas.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Secondary Societal Needs - Pt. 2

  • Sewage Treatment
Smaller societies can get away with simply dumping their feces into nature, allowing it to enter waterways and groundwater without many consequences. Nature is wonderful in that it can process feces without any human involvement. Sewage, in context, is an amount or concentration of feces that cannot be naturally returned to the Earth without contaminating nearby water sources. There are a number of modern ways to treat sewage, but the important note about needing sewage treatment is that there must be flowing water. Without flowing water, sewage stagnates and causes numerous problems for anyone nearby. In order to process sewage, flowing water carries waste to a facility designed to process the waste out and return clean water back into the system. Societies have in fact existed without any sewage treatment or even disposal. It must have been a horrible smell, and perhaps why incense and other aromatics were so popular in history. In order for a large society to remain, it should have sewage treatment as advanced as technology will allow.

  • Work or Purpose
Most societies provide for this need automatically, without any design required. Simply taking care of the primary societal needs often creates enough work year round for people to feel they are needed and to keep them busy. Keeping people busy means they have less time to think about causing trouble both in their own society and for other societies. Even with that negative connotation, a sense of purpose is a powerful motivator in a person's life. More importantly, as technology becomes more advanced, education and political leadership improve, and societal systems become more efficient, a surplus in people and a lack of jobs will create a void where a substantial portion of the population will be without an acceptable purpose. A good example of this is already happening around the world: Social media is a form of work for many people, even though it produces nothing physical and serves a very limited purpose from a contextual standpoint (mining coal to generate electricity is a still a higher priority than keeping twitter prevalent). Work is necessary for people to fill their lives with a constant sense of importance and accomplishment. At the very least, a large society should anticipate providing for large sponsored projects with decent frequency in order to give purpose to those who have trouble finding their place. The Egyptians had pyramids, Pope Urban II began the crusades, and the British Empire had a lot of colonies - historically creating the internal and external purpose categories.

  • Entertainment
Aside from pushing people into jobs and working them all their lives, societies need to understand the immense power of joyful distraction. Indeed, as technology gets better and societies become more advanced in general, policies could balance work and play evenly with the same results we see now. Instead of the work week being at a normal 40 hours, it could be 20, with the remainder of the week dedicated to play. Movies, table-top games, computer games, arcades, theme parks, tourist attractions, festivals, sports, etc. Take your pick, playing games has been a part of human life since before we could write or even count. What were your first actions as a child? You probably played with some object or were fascinated by something you saw. Maybe you poked it or tried to eat it. Our curiosity with our environments and the experiments that result predictably lead to games: a set of rules that people follow to accomplish some goal. What people do in their free time heavily influences how they act. The concept of entertainment has a similar effect as work - it keeps us busy, and it helps to prevent problems that might arise out of the lack of something to do. Without entertainment, people, and the societies they belong to have trouble keeping their composure and risk breaking down from stress. Entertainment is also a wonderful way for groups of people to find cohesion.

  • Electricity
Whether or not this is important enough to include as a secondary need is under debate. People have lived without electricity for much longer than they have lived with it. Instead of burning candles and warm fires, we burn coal or oil or gas in a centralized plant to produce electricity. It's arguably no more efficient, but that is besides the point. Electricity is mentioned as a secondary societal need because of our reliance and dependence on it currently. While it is mostly used for light, electricity is necessary for a number of other important aspects of society. Work often requires it to power machines, fans, conveyor belts, etc. Entertainment can exist just fine without it, but forget about movies, television, and computer games, much less anything new and exciting. Water pumps commonly require electricity. So on and so forth. It isn't much of a question of why we need it, but how to organize it. Currently, all our electrical systems are highly centralized: A plant produces massive amounts of electrical power, which then flows through lines to power stations placed by the need for conversion and phasing; the power then flows through a breaker box in your house to all your outlets, which you must then run cords to. All this distance means vast amounts of waste stemming from loss to heat caused by resistance. Ideally, electricity would be very decentralized. Smaller plants could produce more focused and less wasteful electricity to local areas, or better yet, each home could utilize its own power source. Highly advanced societies will be rated by how efficiently electricity is produced and how well it is utilized.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Secondary Societal Needs - Pt. 1

  • Clothing
While shelter protects people from the elements while they rest, clothing protects people from the elements (and from other people in various forms) while they are out and about. Clothing is a secondary need for a few reasons: Over time, societal standards evolved with local environments; Peoples in temperate or warm environments tend to value clothing much less than peoples in colder climates; Also, people in temperate environments wore minimal clothing more as a standard of modesty instead of protection from the sun, wind or cold; Another possible reason to place clothing secondary as a societal need is its role in mating: clothing slows reproductive rates in order for large populations to exist without quickly overwhelming the primary resources. In general, societies without clothing will quickly fragment into unstable jealousy-driven nudist groups.

  • Sunlight
This might seem like one of those deal-breaking living-organism requirements, but in terms of societal needs, sunlight is only important because of the symptoms suffered by people who get too much, or too little of it. Mostly related to vitamin-D deficiencies, the lack of sunlight can cause slower metabolic rates, immune system weaknesses, and bone weakness. On the other hand, over-exposure to sunlight causes heat stroke, cancer, etc., but overexposure only lends to the reasons why shelter is a primary need. Sunlight is a secondary need because the human body is designed to utilize a photosynthetic reaction in order to create some of the nutrients it needs, but the lack of sunlight for many hours at a time certainly won't result in lower survivability or quality of interaction with other people.

  • Exercise
Akin to sunlight, the need for humans to exert extensive physical effort is required for us to remain healthy, energetic, and attractive. While attractiveness is not a part of any societal necessity, the function exercise plays in keeping a society together and active is all inclusive. The Greeks had gymnasiums, the Romans focused on rapid expansion, the Chinese have Tai Chi, and Americans have treadmills. Generally, most societies simply rotate their food consumption with the work required to acquire it, which in turn provides the needed exercise. As food production becomes more efficient, however, dedicated exercise activities become a requirement in order to keep people from becoming lethargic, antisocial, and generally ineffective at any physical task.

  • Solid Trash Pickup / Recycling
Waste in the form of unused or discarded materials is more of a modern societal problem simply because of the increased use of oil-based products. These materials typically take decades if not centuries to decompose instead of the few years simpler molecules require. Historically, trash included old fabrics, rusted or worn out metal goods, broken pottery or glass, rotting food, and ash from firewood or the like - just to mention a few examples. Most of these items, as mentioned, are absorbed back into the environment almost as quickly as they were extracted. Modern goods, made of inks, dyes, plastics, and other intensely complex polymers or difficult-to-separate mixtures require removal and either proper disposal or recycling. Without proper trash and recycling methods in place, society would quickly deteriorate into a destructive, pseudo-nomadic horde of litterers.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Primary Societal Needs

  • Air
73% Nitrogen
21% Oxygen
5% Water Vapor (max)
0.934% Argon
0.04% Carbon Dioxide
0.001818% Neon
0.000524% Helium
0.00018% Methane
Temperatures must range between -50 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the air must remain at moderate levels (between 55 and 88 degrees) for at a minimum of 3 months out of a 12 month year in order to grow crops. More drastic temperature changes, or consistently high or low temperatures prevent societies from expanding in those areas. Atmospheric pressure provides that most societies cannot exist more than 12,500 ft. above sea level.

  • Water
Freshwater is generally 0.002% salt by volume. Temperature of water must remain between 33 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit to remain in its liquid form, and not below 40 or above 120 degrees to keep as drinking water. Generally, the smaller the temperature range, the better piping will be able to withstand cracking or leaking. Also, at least minimal filtration is recommended to keep sediment from eventually clogging pipes. Intelligent ways of water management include wells, aqueducts, canals, reservoirs, and irrigation ditches. In terms of filtration, flowing water is always better than dormant water. In terms of structures and societies, properly diverting rainwater prevents disasters such as mudslides and floods.

  • Food
Since there is a huge variety of plant and animal life that can be consumed for nutrients, food is a wide topic. Regardless, the macro level of food distribution and the availability of many types of foods to a group allows the group to survive and thrive. The bare minimum of food is gained from hunting, fishing, and foraging wild plants. In order to maintain a stable, permanent settlement, food must be cultivated in crops and orchards, as well as having domesticated animals (for both work and as a food source). Most foods must be prepared in some way to reduce the effects of food poisoning, dysentery, or disease. This means the food category also includes methods of preparing food, such as fire, cookware, utensils, and containers, as well as food preservation techniques, such as granaries, chilling, or pickling.

  • Shelter
In order for human society to withstand the changing seasons, each family unit should be provided with its own, individual shelter. Given limited technology, it's acceptable to propose that multiple families could utilize the same shelter, but it is not recommended for multiple reasons. Firstly, to help prevent widespread disease: regardless of the closeness of urban societies, separating family units prevents illnesses from spreading quickly. Secondly, privacy and space allows for each family to expand and relax within its own boundaries. The alternative, or inverse, blurs the line between different family units, complicates the gene pool, and generally creates indoor chaos. Indoor chaos tends to lead to social problems, which indirectly affects an entire society's ability to exist. Shelter is not simply about protecting people from the elements and nature's unforgiving wrath, but also about keeping people from competing against one another for space and attention.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Societal Needs - Categories

Primary - each primary need must be available as an easily accessible, unpolluted, and temperate function of life.
  • Air
  • Water
  • Food
  • Shelter
Secondary - although not absolutely necessary, providing for secondary needs allows large groups to exist in one location over a long period of time.
  • Clothing
  • Sunlight
  • Exercise
  • Solid Trash Pickup / Recycling
  • Sewage Treatment
  • Work or Purpose
  • Entertainment
  • Electricity
Tertiary - these needs allow for many large groups to coexist with others harmoniously, and for even denser urban areas to function over longer periods of time.
  • Recreation / Nature
  • Shopping / Trade
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Healthcare
  • Safety and Regulation
  • Company
  • Religion
  • Education
  • Creative Outlets / The Arts
  • Risk
When creating either a real or fictional society, these needs should be provided for. Although it is absolutely possible that a society of people can live and thrive without a few of these needs, such as electricity, ever being made available, a modern society will encounter problems related to a lack therein. Many societies will face the heightened probability of crime or even war when these needs are not met.