RIP, Nexus 5x | My Encounter with the LG Boot Loop Tragedy

**I decided to publish this just for the hell of it during this late-night writing sesh. Don’t mind any incoherence, I’ll edit this post later to make it better.**

While this event isn’t nearly as relevant and widespread in recognition as something like the Note 7 disaster, the LG hardware boot loop phenomenon has affected thousands of customers in the past year or so. Any forum based on the Nexus 5x, LG G4, LG V20 and other LG products released throughout that timeframe will be riddled with posts titled “another one bites the dust” or “I thought I was safe”. Something along those lines… Well, I was finally touched by the plague late last week and decided to sit down tonight and type up a little article documenting my experience and outlook on the LG tragedy.

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Tangent on Why I Love RuneScape and my Hope for Future MMO’s

 

RuneScape is a game I had played towards the end of elementary school and throughout middle school. At that time I didn’t have much experience in MMO’s and the social side of these games, so I was able to become immersed in the world and spend hundreds of hours simply running around and grinding skills. At one point I was even in a clan that was fairly wealthy and brought some low-level players such as myself on crazy quests and equipped us with expensive items that I couldn’t have gotten on my own. All of this contributed to some very fond memories of first playing MMORPG’s (as I’m sure similar experiences have done for others) even though my taste in RPG’s and combat has changed significantly over the years.

 

Every once in a while, every few months or so, I’ll log back into RuneScape just to see the world and try to relive fond experiences. The time I played (2009-2012ish) was a strange point in the game’s development, and due to this Oldschool RS is too primitive for my taste and the recent version of RS3 is refreshing and modern, though vastly different from when I played. I’m unable to access my old account as it was either deactivated due to years of absence or I just won’t have access to the credentials for it ever again. With my new account, I would quickly get bored as I prefer action combat in any game to the slow single-target combat of RS, and the quests and skill grind just don’t feel as rewarding as they used to. I could never find a way to experience the game the way I did years ago and just decided that those would be nostalgic memories that I sadly don’t have a record of. Not being able to login to my old account meant I would never be able to contact any old clan mates or friends (if they even still played) and adventuring alone in RS just wasn’t the experience I remembered so fondly.

These days I have a lot of trouble getting into MMO’s even with beautifully crafted games such as Black Desert Online (which I have played and currently own) with an amazing combat system and stunning visuals. The problem is the social aspect, the Massively Multiplayer part of the genre. So many newer MMO’s are riddled with players that only want to solo, AFK grind skills, or just skip through most of the game on their own to play endgame content.

Disappointed and disheartened by recent experiences, I decided to check out RuneScape today and try again to search for what I found so great in the game before. This time I logged in, went on the grind for some mining for an hour, and then went over to the Grand Exchange to put my wares up for sale. Once I got there I saw a group of about 15 people excited and surrounding one high-level player who was mentioning something about a bond giveaway. Before I knew it I had spent two and a half hours with this group of randoms making jokes, doing some wacky fetch tasks for the chance of winning a bond or some equipment, and overall just having a good time. We had a party, shared items, talked about different things and I was once again immersed (socially, at least) in this game. Eventually, some guy named “Kushzzy” even gave me over 3 million coins for simply making him laugh and buying him some in-game beer (which is definitely not worth even a fraction of that amount of money). This was a great experience, and for the first time in a long time, I was able to have that same heartwarming feeling of enjoying a virtual world with random people even if just for a short while. I’m not in a clan, though I do have the person who initially was hosting the bond giveaway as well as Kushzzy added now and may return to RuneScape just to have fun socially again.

 
 After having a great time in a decades-old MMO doing things not even relevant to the game itself, I do have hope for another great MMO to arise that will deliver on both the gameplay side, via modern technologies, and the social side of building a community as fun-loving and welcoming as those who still log into RuneScape for a wacky fun time. I’m more on the side of roleplay for social interaction and being immersed in the gameplay and storyline of a game, but anything is better than logging into the beautiful world of a game like Black Desert only to see hundreds online that are either AFK fishing or auto-running to some quest. Even games like and including RuneScape are so much more focused on the grind and PvP aspects that are good for streaming and quick gameplay sessions rather than building a meaningful multiplayer experience. In addition to that, I’ve been hoping for a truly player-driven game with a living world and a meaningful economy based on player actions (similar to pre-Grand Exchange RuneScape, though on a much more grand scale).
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This is where a new MMORPG scheduled for 2018, Ashes of Creation, comes in. I try really hard to avoid hype since it has been dangerous in recent years for many games, though Ashes of Creation is something I am really looking forward to. The devs are hardcore MMO players themselves and fully acknowledge the flaws of big studios trying to craft a meaningful multiplayer experience yet who fall into the typical cash grab or pay-for-convenience tropes that have murdered many recent titles. They have talked thoroughly about how Ashes of Creation will be ultimately player driven with the world changing and evolving based on player and group decisions and the progression of the game changing based on player interaction on a massive scale. It is the plan for Ashes that gives me optimism for the next generation of MMO’s and I truly hope that in the next few years a game comes out that is impactful enough to allow myself and thousands of others to experience a world the same way I was sucked into RuneScape as a younger kid. Whoever can hit the sweet spot, whether it be Intrepid Studios with Ashes of Creation or otherwise, of social interaction, gameplay mechanics, and an immersive world will strike gold and form a new generation of dedicated MMO players to create new memories of truly experiencing and enjoying a multiplayer open world that can bring every type of person together.
Since I’ve mentioned Ashes of Creation, here are links to some videos that reveal a lot about the game’s plans and should outline why there is a lot of hype around the prospect of this game.

The Downfall of Physical Media: A Story of Nostalgia and Cloud-Based Contemplation

Every year a different form of physical media seems to fade into obsolescence. Records are replaced by CD’s, which would be replaced by MP3 downloads, replaced then by subscription based streaming. This evolutionary path paints a clear picture of the shift to a future where everyone can enjoy what they want without needing to own any physical media to access content. I have personally held a Google Play Music subscription for over a year now and have been loving everything it brings to the table and all it allows me to do regarding my music library. While this digital age is more convenient than ever with the cloud hanging overhead, it is good to take a step back and acknowledge both the positives and negatives of internet and subscription based services that replace physical media. It is also important to pay respects to physical media, even if just for nostalgia’s sake, as it still does offer functionality and even some advantages over web-based counterparts. Here is a quick breakdown on the plus and minus of subscription and internet platforms replacing physical media.

The Negatives

This post will start off with the negatives so the latter half can be a happy fun time. The first and most apparent downside to subscription-based media is that the customer doesn’t actually own any of the content they are consuming. With music, whether it be Spotify, Google Play, or any other service, the customer opens the floodgates to the vast library of media that whichever company pays to host. Being able to search for any song, listen freely to custom stations, and even download content is amazing every time, but once it comes time to cancel a subscription or a service simply shuts down, all of the content enjoyed is jerked from the grasp of the listener. Despite paying an undisclosed amount per month to enjoy the media, and that subscription payment totaling to some large amount of money, none of the content is personally owned by the customer and leaves as soon as the money stops flowing. While this fact is just plainly obvious and is part of the product, the success of these kinds of platforms shows that we may be moving towards a future in which customers don’t own any of the media they consume and merely pay to access it. Because of this, customers are at the mercy of the service they pay for. The same goes for movie and show streaming with services such as Netflix and Hulu. If the servers holding this content go down, there is no way to access it, and the customer is shut out from the content they pay for without much insurance. While this is a non-issue for most, as the model makes sense, it can still be bad for long-term consumers. If more physical media is forced into obsolescence by these types of services, customers will find themselves in a position where they have paid potentially thousands of dollars over the course of years for streaming with nothing to show for it after the service ends.

Moving to digital downloads it is much of the same. Currently, customers are pretty safe when it comes to music or video downloads, as a downloaded copy can be copied indefinitely and can even be put onto physical media by the consumer. However, this is not true for other forms of media such as video games. With a stark necessity to counter piracy and other forms of tomfoolery in the realm of digital downloads, many digital games have heavy DRM implemented. This will prevent users from being able to access the content without purchase but also adds a requirement to use some sort of third-party software to access the games purchased. Once a game is downloaded it is hard to stray from the software too, since separating the game from the software that validates ownership, such as moving it onto a disc, can in some cases render the game unplayable as it will be no better than a pirated version that is recognized as unverified. Personally, I have amassed a library of PC games close to 100 on steam alone. While that isn’t massive by any means it is still a large chunk of money put into this digital content. In order to play, though, the game must be downloaded through steam, and since it is tied to my account, steam must be installed and functional in order to run most games. What happens if Steam as a service goes out of business? It is unlikely, but if this situation was to arise it would seem that the thousands of dollars of content bound to Steam accounts would be rendered worthless as the service is required to run these purchased pieces of software. I like to tell myself that if this happened Valve would release some sort of tool that would allow users to legitimately remove Steam DRM and own their downloaded games as separate entities, but it is impossible to be sure as services such as Steam are only gaining popularity as physical releases of PC games, in particular, are becoming less and less common.

Another less intrusive, but definitely existent, issue is the loss of quality when relying on streaming media. For example, the music streamed through a service like Spotify is bottlenecked. Spotify doesn’t stream full quality audio as it would be fairly harsh on mobile data or even some wifi connections as well as introduce longer load times. This means that the audio heard through a streaming service can be of substantially lower quality compared to a CD release played at full quality through a good player and software. The same goes for movies. While it is now possible to stream 4k video and such, it is extremely taxing on internet connections and is out of reach for most consumers. This negative in particular, though, is part of the reason why physical media does have some life left and is even making a comeback in some regards.

The Positives

While that was quite the rant on why streamed and internet based media can be a bad thing, it is time to dive into the good stuff, and why I personally enjoy all of this web-based content despite how it could be a misguided investment in the long run.

First and foremost is convenience. As I had mentioned in the intro to this article, the features that a Google Play Music subscription, as well as similar services, offer are truly bliss to work with. The straightforwardness of searching for a song or show and receiving the content instantly makes life easy and makes interacting with content fun in a way. Every time I do end up with a few days and no music subscription, due to failed payment method or otherwise, it is painful being able to only access what I have owned previously and have currently downloaded on my devices or personal servers. That and playing stations with ads can be hellish. In this sense, subscriptions have a great value, even if it is only great in short term. While I could probably physically own a significant portion of my favorite music by now with the money I have been paying monthly, it is the instant gratification that sells the service. For whatever reason, it is easier to pay monthly to access all music for the time being than paying $10 once to own a certain album or movie forever.

Media being internet-based also allows the opportunity for updates and add-ons. This is especially relevant to the world of video games, as patches and new content to already released games can be a very positive thing overall. While the convenience of this potential does sometimes result in broken games being released as well as cash grab DLC, the ability to receive updates and support for a piece of software or game already purchased is extremely useful and important.

Physical Media: Nostalgia and Reliability

Moving away from the cloud media discussion, we will move into the topic of physical media and why it is good to have around. The first reasons that come to mind are nostalgia and reliability. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. It results in the amazing satisfaction of physically changing out discs or plugging pieces of hardware in. It brings back memories of when life was easy and carefree. It makes the simple act of rewinding a tape a joyride. However, this physical media isn’t just a pass to jog down memory lane. This media from way back when is when built well, just as reliable and functional as it was back in the day. That DVD picked up for a few bucks out of a bargain bin a few years ago still plays just as well and will play for as long as it is physically intact. That iPod with thousands of classic tunes loaded onto it? Playable as long as the device works, and that content can still be moved around and enjoyed via other devices. The fact that physical media is physically owned by the consumer and works as long as it resides functionally in this plane of existence makes physical media worth it. Even if some people just hold onto it for sentimental value, physical media can and does still have a place in the home and tech setup as it will just work.

Physical Media: Resurgence and the Vintage Comeback

Owning physical media in this day and age isn’t just limited to old VCR’s and the stack of CD’s sitting in most peoples’ garages as new physical media is being produced and older media has been making a comeback. Getting the hipster vintage collection thing out of the way, yes it is real and happening as it has been for years, and for good reason. While in some ways it is simply a hip trend, it is also practical. The quality available from physical releases of content is currently unmatched by streaming digitally. I’ve started to focus somewhat on collecting CD’s as it is a way to physically see the music I own all in one place and ensures that the content sitting on a shelf in my room will remain playable no matter when my debit card runs dry from feeding Google Play or when any other services inevitably come to a close. The same goes for collecting records, DVD’s, or even taking pictures on polaroid. Keeping a physical collection of these pieces of content that we all hold dear is still important and ensures it will be accessible at the consumer’s own will rather than the will of the service provider.

Purchase and collection of vintage media, as well as more recent media, isn’t the only way physical media is making a comeback. In certain areas of entertainment, physical media is continuing to improve. Newer Blu-rays are capable of holding and playing content of a quality that is equivalent or surpasses the highest quality of streamable media without having to worry about a network bottleneck. CD’s play audio with just as good quality as ever and most artists do release physically on both CD and vinyl despite a large amount of the audience relying on subscriptions or even services like YouTube for their audio needs. In the console world, most games are still released physically as it is much more simple and gratifying to see the disc containing a game a consumer has dumped $60 on. While video games all around are purchased through digital more and more each year, the fact that current gen consoles do still rely on a built-in Blu-ray drive and are serviced with physical content gives hope for physical media sticking around, even on a small scale.

 

Overall physical media is still great. While the convenience of streaming content and not having to think about physically owning media is compelling, CD’s, DVD’s, and all the others, still have a place in society and do offer some benefits to consumers whether it be the security of owning content or simply keeping it for sentiment.