The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Don’t Call it a Comeback

It’s been a while.  I’ve been itching to do more writing and to get the blog flow going again.  So, coming soon, I’ll be bringing the blog back to life.  I’m really looking forward to sharing ideas with you guys again soon.  Please keep an eye out for moar bloggage !dont-call-it-a-come-backV2

Remembering Ferdinand “Fred” Morrone – 9/11/2001 (Re-posted from 9/11/09)

F. Morrone

(Reposted  from 9/11/09.  Even though I don’t really blog any more, I want to keep Fred’s story alive)

I never met Ferdinand Morrone.  This is his story…

Before he ever became the Superintendent of the New York Port Authority Police, Ferdinand Morrone had a law enforcement career that most cops would envy.  Born in Brooklyn, he started his career with the New Jersey State Police in 1963, and continued his education and got his PoliSci degree from Stockton State College in 1974.  He followed that up with a masters in Public Administration from Rider University in 1977.

In 1981, Justin Dintino was running the Intelligence Unit of the State Police.  He recalls;

I was running the Intelligence Unit… and he was assigned to me as an investigator.  He was a tremendous investigator.  He was like a bulldog.  I would give him the toughest cases – organized crime, solid waste, and he would always deliver the goods.  …  If he got on your tail, you might as well cry uncle, because he was going to get you.

One of the last cases he worked as a State Policeman was the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.  He was one of a few dozen cops the NJSP lent to the feds to work the investigation.  Morrone finished up his 30 years with the NJ State Police in 1993 and took his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel.  Cops like Fred didn’t just lay about the house though.  By 1996, he had taken the job as the Superintendent of the Port Authority Police, a force that is in charge of all the transportation and shipping jurisdictions in NY and NJ.  Still living in New Jersey, Fred would sometimes work at his office on the first floor of the World Trade Center, or sometimes from his office in Jersey City, depending on the day.Port Authority

Superintendent Morrone wasn’t just a cop though.  Even though he was always spoken of as a “Cop’s cop” he was also a devoted family man.  His family, Fred, his wife Linda, and his three children, Fred, Alyssa, and Gregory always knew that he would be there for them if he could on holidays.  Especially on Christmas, the family stuck to it’s traditions. He was also known for doting on his wife.  For their 25th anniversary, Fred took Linda to Hawaii for a second honeymoon.

After he had started working for the Port Authority, he had even tried to learn to relax.  He was used to being good at what he tried, so golf was a special challenge for him.  “He was very athletic” his wife said. He wasn’t very good at it.  At first, it frustrated him.  But he learned to be content doing something that he wasn’t adept at.  “I thought it was great that he reached a point in his life that he was comfortable being bad at something he loved.  It showed a real growth in him.”

In his 5 years with the Port Authority, he was credited with establishing a residential training program at the Port Authority Police Academy, toughening the training standards for the recruits, creating the International School for Airport and Seaport Security, starting a program to train officers in the use of portable heart defibrillators, establishing bike patrols in the airports, starting a scuba team, a Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit, an Airborne Services Unit (Helicopters) and a Motorcycle Unit.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Fred was working in Jersey City when the news came in.  A plane had struck tower 1 of the World Trade Center, where Fred’s office was.  As soon as the people who knew him heard about it, they didn’t need to ask.  They knew he was on his way to help.  He phoned his wife to let her know that he was going to the city to help.  “To this day, people don’t understand why he went there” she said.  But he was a “Cop’s cop.  He would never send men to do a dangerous job if he wasn’t willing to go in there and do it himself.”  She said it was the “Cop in him” that put him in the car that day and took him to Ground Zero.

flagraisingThe last time anyone saw Ferdinand Morrone, he was on the 45th floor of the World Trade Center.  He was trying to evacuate as many people as he could, including many of his own men from offices on the 66th and 67th floors above.  He was calmly going about his business and urging people to safety below.  Within hours of the attack, the tower had collapsed, and Fred and nearly 3000 other souls were lost that day.

His wife and Children attended mass together on Christmas Day that year.  “We tried to honor him” she said. “We wanted to keep the holidays as close to the way he would want us to celebrate them.  We tried to honor my husband with the same family love and affection that we always showed each other during the holidays.”

On this, the 8th anniversary of that horrible day, I’d like to encourage people to remember Fred and the others like him who paid the ultimate price that day for nothing more than being Americans.  Remember the huge price the New York and New Jersey law enforcement and fire departments paid for doing what they lived to do; to help people to safety under the most oppressive and dangerous conditions.  Every day of their lives.

I was encouraged to do this memorial when  I heard about Project 2996.  The project is an attempt to memorialize the 2,996 people who perished that day on the ground and in the air as part of the terrorist attack on the American way of life.  The idea behind the project is that a different blogger would write about each of the people that died that day in 1991.

I was saddened that just 8 years later, there weren’t going to be enough bloggers volunteering to be able to do a proper memorium for all 2,996 who perished.  If you are a blogger, I challenge you to take this up next year and volunteer.  There are 2,996 stories to be told, and we as American are too soon to forget.  Too soon back to our routines, too soon forgetting the horror of that day, and how it outraged and galvanized us as a nation.

Please remember Ferdinand Morrone and his family today.  And please remember the other 2,995 people who also lost their lives.  Just for being Americans.  Just for not having the same beliefs and values as the terrorists.

Thank you Ferdinand for not hesitating to help others that day. Rest in Peace.  You sir, were a Great American.

And thank you Linda, Fred, Alyssa, and Gregory.  God bless and God speed.  We miss him too, even those of us who just got to know him.  We can’t imagine your loss.

Here’s the original story, along with the comments;


Good Night, Vanguard

So it has been a really long time since I have been in this chair.  Writing a blog post that is.  With where I work, it’s best to be silent and thought a fool rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt. Vanguard Collector's Edition This  way I don’t accidentally say anything that gives away any company secrets accidentally.  So I have been silent.  I would imagine that this blog has fallen off most if not all of the blog readers, what with me posting every 3 or 4 years lately.

It came to my attention today that at 8PM Central tonight, Vanguard was closing down for good.  I knew it was happening.  Honestly, I had thought that it had already happened.  But when Nick Parkinson posted a Vanguard box as his Facebook avatar today I had to ask why.  And he let me know that today was the day.  I’ve long since stopped playing Vanguard.  I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for most of the ten years it’s been online.  I still thought about Vanguard from time to time through the years.

I’m having a ton of mixed emotions to be honest.  Vanguard was the game where I went from being just another gamer to just another gamer with a fansite.  The time that I spent on that site was incalculable.  I was working at a job that kept me on the road a lot and whenever I was in an airport, or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or a hotel room I was working on that damn site ( There were volunteers that I was never really able to do much for if anything who put in that kind of time too.  Moderating, writing, and managing was my job.  The volunteers also did a ton of moderating and also maintained the always-under-cyber-attack wiki.   Vanguard was going to be my next game home.  At it’s peak the site had about 60,000 users.  Even after the game was obviously failing I kept the site open for a while and it was one of a small handful of sites still running farther into Vanguard’s life.

The stuff that happened with Brad McQuaid is well documented both here and elsewhere so I won’t beat that dead horse again.  That is, other than to say that it floors me that there were still people throwing money at his Kickstarter campaign in spite of what we know about his business challenges.  Thankfully for them, there wasn’t a critical mass of people foolish enough to get it funded.

The time that I did get to spend getting to know a lot of folks at Sigil really was a highlight of my gaming life in a lot of ways.  I really believe that without that experience I wouldn’t have ever come to work at Blizzard, even though what I do isn’t related to game development.  Those countless volunteer hours prepared me for how to work with, and how to speak to game developers.  I’m thankful for all of the access that I was granted to the developers at Sigil and for the opportunity to work not only around them but also with them in many ways.  I went to E3s (the old ones) and lunches and dinners with my friends at Sigil.

That team has long since been scattered to the wind.

To all the folks in community at Sigil (Cindy, Nick, and James in particular), and all of the development folks (especially Salim and Justin) I thank you.  You guys were always open, friendly, inclusive, and fun.  Those experiences literally changed my life.

As of this past June I have been working in the game industry for 4 years.  My career wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for my Vanguard experience.  So thanks to all of you who have read my rantings or my news articles or my fansite.  I miss you guys.  And I’m thankful for being able to spend all the time together we did.

I wonder if SOE just told us the ship date for SWTOR.

SOE is shutting down SWG in December

According to John Smedley in an interview over at Massively, SWG is on it’s last legs.

Unfortunately, on Thursday we learned that just won’t be so. Sony Online Entertainment has announced that Star Wars Galaxies will be shutting down on December 15th of this year, marking what is in my mind the most significant sunset of a major MMO to date (and a personally painful one for many on the staff at Massively, including me). I know what you’re thinking, and no, the impending closure is due neither to the hackings nor to a dwindling playerbase. Past the break, an audibly regretful John Smedley, President of SOE, sits down with us to chat about SWG’s sunset, explaining the reasons that led to the decision and offering a new hope for the future.

Well I guess we had to see this coming.  It’s not likely that LucasArts wants to have 2 MMO’s licensed at the same time.  Just the same it’s a shame.  There is still a lot to recommend this game, even after the ravages it has suffered over the years.

Peter Falk and this on the same day.

Shoulda stood in bed.

I’m toast.

This from Gabe over at Penny Arcade about SWTOR…

“I don’t want to drill down into too much little stuff about the game but there is one feature I have to tell you about because I think it is really cool. If someone in your party is off grabbing quests while you’re selling junk at a vendor you would have to wait for them to share the quest with you later in any other game. In SW:TOR you get a little message that someone in your party is taking a quest and do you want to join via holoprojector. The first time I saw this I actually said out loud “Shit yeah I want to join via holoprojector!” and sure enough your character appears there in all his or her shimmering blue glory. You can interact with the NPC right alongside your partner. It’s a little touch but believe me when I tell you the game is full of smart little bits like this.”

Gabe’s in the Friends and Family Beta for the game and he gave some of his other impressions over here…

Casualties of War? Coming soon to SWTOR

So as many of you are aware, Bioware has opened up guild creation for pre-launch guilds in advance of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  One of the ideas is that you can form your guilds and alliances with other guilds.  On launch day, they will try to get everyone who wants to be together (both allies and enemies) on the same servers together.  It’s a good idea I think, especially in light of what happened with past games like Warhammer and, in most recent memory, Rift.  There are often groups that are separated unwillingly because of shifting server populations and other uncontrollable issues (by the players) on launch day.

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Vanguard Crafters is Closed

Since March of 2005, Vanguard Crafters has been operated by me or by other volunteers to serve the community and the developers in Vanguard and the associated crafting community.  I have not been actively involved in it’s operation for quite some time.  The amount of link spam and the attacks on the wiki recently,  paired with the decline in the size of the Vanguard community have led me to the difficult decision to shut it down.

If we are all honest with each other, the site is a shell of it’s former self, and the amount of effort by unpaid volunteers to keep it up has become unconscionable to ask for.

I want to apologize to those of you who still used the site.  I know there are a loyal few.  Please understand that the whole episode is very heartbreaking for those of us in the community that had hoped that Vanguard would succeed.

I’ve temporarily redirected the site’s traffic here for an explanation.  I’ll be taking this down and shuttering the site permanently in the coming weeks.

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed over there over the last 5 years.  I’m really sorry I let you all down in the end, but it was very much fun while it lasted.  Best of luck to all of you and many happy loot drops!

MMO Elitism and You!

ElitistLast week, Wolfshead’s thoughtfully written and nicely crafted article about Why the MMO Industry Needs a Real Cataclysm set me to thinking.  First of all, I don’t have nearly the industry pedigree that he has.  Second of all, he took an idea from mid air and fleshed it out with cogent arguments.  Third, it was thoughtful and passionate.  Good on him.  Let me tell you why he’s wrong.

He’s not wrong for the same reason Tobold says he is in his rebuttal Blizzard and McDonalds.  Tobold’s rebuttal is also well written and uses an analogy that is very apt to rebut the ideas that Wolfshead presented.  Don’t misunderstand, Tobold is right on, but his analysis is different from mine and is largely from the company’s point of view.

I wanted to address this even before Tobold did, but his article got me wanting to post.

Let’s look at this from a player’s point of view first.  Then I’d like to address the evident contempt that is out there for Blizzard from others in the development community.

First Wolfshead starts out with a section called The Farmville Curse.  I couldn’t agree with him more on that point.  Those aren’t “MMOs” and I think I would say that Facebook games in general are pushing the definition of “game” to it’s limits.  I have no argument with him there.

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Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty to hit stores this summer

Blizzard announced that the much anticipated sequel to it’s mega-popular Starcraft will indeed be in stores this summer.  As a matter of fact, it will street on July 27th, 2010. According to Mike Morhaime;

“We’ve been looking forward to revisiting the StarCraft universe for many years, and we’re excited that the time for that is almost here,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Thanks to our beta testers, we’re making great progress on the final stages of development, and we’ll be ready to welcome players all over the world to StarCraft II and the new® in just a few months.”

It will be interesting to see if this catches on to the same degree as the original 1998 (yes it really has been 12 years) release did.  I’m also going to be very interested in how the “new” works out.  It’s going to have a huge impact, since it will be used by both the sure-t0-be-massive Starcraft base and the already large World of Warcraft players.  It has the potential to be a very rough day for Blizzard technically.  Almost as impactful as their sales will be.

Are you going to get Starcraft II?

Darren is going to Blow A Gasket

Forgive me Father, it’s been almost 90 days since my last post.

A while ago, you might remember Darren over at The Common Sense Gamer losing his mind a little when one of the publishers had the audacity to ask for $10 for an in-game horse.  Well Darren is going to absolutely flip over this then.

Blizzard is selling a mount on the Blizzard Pet Store.  You can get your Celestial Steed now on the Blizzard Store for only $25 US.  What a deal, right?  I know Tarkheena is looking for her credit card right now.  I think they are going to sell a TON of these.  What do you guys think though?  How much is too much?

I still think that any of this stuff that is not germane to game play is fair game.  I don’t need it to craft, or to store items, or to access content.  It’s purely cosmetic.  As a matter of fact, reports are that the mount will scale to the speed of your fastest mount.  So it’s almost literally just a skin on whatever you already possess.  I’ll probably end up with one.  They are pretty cool looking.

There is some understandable Nerd Rage about this, but I go back to the fact that it’s an in-game collectible, and nothing more.  If Blizzard starts asking for money for unlocks, or crafting goods, or bag space, then you will hear more from me.  Until then I think I’m going to enjoy seeing what they come up with next to separate us from our money.

Thank You, Panama

February of 1995.  My wife at the time was expecting our daughter.  We had just moved into our new apartment and we wanted to warm the place up.  We went out and found ourselves a little kitten for our new home.  He was little tiny and orange.  I remember him being active that brought him to our attention.  We brought him home and named him Panama.

A young Panama circa 1999

When he was little he was a terror.  He’d hide behind things and jump out at us.  He’d tear around the house and chomp on our ankles. All I remember from those days was what a terror he was and how he used to drive my ex crazy.  We bought a house and moved in Panama and eventually added more cats.  As the elder statesman of the house, he always had to bear the indignity of kitten attacks when a new one was brought into the house.  My ex had a thing for acquiring animals but was never that big on keeping them.  A couple of dogs came and went.  Eventually we split (you already figured that out).  By now, Panama was an adult.  He wasn’t quite the typical cat.  He would always want to be in the same room as me.

She moved out of state and didn’t want to take the animals with her.  So there I was with a house and some animals and that’s when Panama and I really bonded.  He would come sit at my feet, follow me around the house, and he adopted the habit that a lot of cats have of liking to sit or sleep in boxes and box tops.

When I met my wife and decided to move to Texas, I packed up a UHaul and Panama and I drove from Colorado to Austin Texas.  When we got here, there was a period of adjustment with him and Tarkheena’s cat, Shadow.  Before too long though, we would catch them curled up together sleeping.  Or they would be playing together, chasing each other around the house.

Panama also always would come when he was called.  He knew some commands like; “Lay down” and “Don’t Bite” when we were playing a little rough.  Panama always wanted to be in whatever room we were in, and once he got to know Tark, pretty much wanted to be in her lap.  This wasn’t a small thing as he was a Maine Coon, and in his prime he was often between 16 and 18 pounds.  He was long as well, and could stand on his hind legs and put his paws on the kitchen counter.

It's Panama

Panama in his prime

I know everyone thinks their pet is special.  I’ve had a lot of pets in my day and this cat was by far different than any other. He was great with the kids, even when my youngest son would run up on him, or flop down on top of him, he wouldn’t bite or scratch.

Like most animals, as he got older he got a little thinner.  He lost a little of his mass and we couldn’t get it back on him no matter what we did.

In February, we got really concerned.  On a trip to the vet we found out he had hyperthyroidism.  In cats this is treatable but expensive.  We were ready to forgo our planned vacation and get him his treatment.  In the run up to the thyroid treatment, he started showing some unrelated symptoms.  We took him back to the vet and found out that it looked like our little friend had a brain tumor.  He was declining fast.

On Thursday February 25th, we had to let him go and we had the vet put him down.  It was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life.

My younger kids cried when we told them, and Tark and I both spent several days with tears in our eyes.  One of the reasons I haven’t written much for the last few months and even took so long to post this is that it was just too painful for me to share my feelings.  I know it sounds crazy but he was that important to me.  He and I went through a lot together, and he was always there, a faithful and loving friend to just hang out with.

For 15 years Panama was a wonderful pet and a great companion.  He was special, and there will never be another one like him.  Pictures don’t do him justice.  He was elegant and handsome as a cat can be.

So I am writing this to say; Thank You, Panama.  Thanks for the wonderful and unconditional love and companionship you gave me and everyone who came in contact with you.  Thanks for adjusting to new cats, new houses, and new places.  Thanks for sitting next to me in a UHaul for 2 days and never freaking out.  Thanks for being a lap cat, and coming when we called you.

Panama's last days

Just a week before we lost him.

You were the pet of a lifetime and we’ll never forget you.


12/1/1994 – 2/25/2010

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