Month: December 2018

She Never Did Win The Lottery

In almost two decades of working various ends of retail and service, there were few employees quite like the grizzled warrior we’ll call Granny. This story is almost ten years old, but my Facebook feed reminded me of this lady so I had to share.

At a popular fast food restaurant where I had worked in various positions over a four year period with the promise of becoming management (a promise that was never fulfilled), a lot of people came and went. Granny was not one to be forgotten. She was in her 70’s, and the sinew and grizzle that made up her body couldn’t have put her at more than five feet tall. She was hired for about 6 hours a day, four days a week, to essentially work in the back as a baker and dishwasher. She probably spent three of those hours each day smoking. She hated the people she worked with almost as much as she hated the customers that bothered her while she was smoking. It was hard to say why she stuck around for about the eight or so months she did; some might say keeping her on was a charity case. Others might point out that our turnover was high and a lot of the employees that worked mornings did not want to be stuck doing the prep work and dishes she did.

I am not kidding when I say you did not interrupt her when she was smoking. One particularly cold morning when the morning rush was more than a skeleton crew could handle, she made the decision to slip out between oven timers to smoke. A parked drive-thru customer was marching in from waiting for what they claimed was forever but was probably closer to five or ten minutes, and made the mistake of taking their anger and frustration out on her. I was running food out for another vehicle when I got to witness the exchange, which was to say the least heated.

The customer was a man about as old as I am now (mid thirties) angrily demanding to know why it was taking so long for his food and why she was smoking. Granny’s response, dead pan, was that this customer should mind his own business. (!!!) The customer wanted to go for broke on this old lady, instead of the usual standby of wanting to talk to a manager (which is always the fan favorite.) I remember him vividly screaming “It’s bullshit I have to be late for work because you people can’t get food out on time. But I guess that’s why you are making the fucking big bucks, isn’t it?” And this old lady responds, practically spitting venom like a Dilophosaurus, “Didn’t your mother teach you not to swear in public? She must be ashamed.” In a perfect world this man would have seen the error of his ways and crawled back to the car he came from and waited for his food like an adult (before calling the 1 800 number and complaining to get free food, because you know, customers). Instead he wanted to escalate things, and he actually tried getting in my way as I came back from handing out the food I originally was outside for. A manager had to get off the cook line to apologize profusely and attempt to smooth things over. Granny was scolded (not that it did any good, she gave zero fucks) but did not lose her job.

Granny and I got along because while she hated everybody, I was a professional who on the surface loved everyone because that’s just what good customer service is (TM). So I went out of my way to help her out when I could, lifting things, getting materials from the shelves she couldn’t have reached if there was another one of her stacked on top of her, etc. So after a few months she got as warm to me as she would anyone, which was to say she felt comfortable enough to talk to me on some of her many smoke breaks. Most of what she had to say was how lazy everyone around her was, how nobody knew how to do anything, how she had to do all this extra work… you know, the short lady who I was constantly helping out. But I also learned a little about her: she used to work for what was once a huge retailer, starting in a warehouse and actually finding herself at an office job with benefits. She has one son, whom she claimed disowned her. She didn’t like animals because “they make messes everywhere.” She hated asking for help, even as she clearly needed it. And one day, she was going to win the lottery, tell this place we were working at to go exploit themselves, and travel the world. Two things this woman would not give up – smoking, and playing the lottery. She has “a system” that “will pay off someday.” In the time I knew her, it never did.

Granny may have been more than a liability for the company, but she had a strange way of being thoughtful too. For Christmas, she decided to show her appreciation to some of us by purchasing us lottery tickets. Not everyone, just like three or four of us. Of course, she made sure we knew that “when” we won, we would have to share half the winnings with her. For better or for worse, none of us did.

She was kept in the back, and not allowed to deal with customers. This was because she had the disposition of a demonetized alt-right pundit. I remember one day she was “helping out” washing tables. This is in quotations because it was, to the letter of the job description, her job to do this… but usually she didn’t. A family was leaving, and decided for some reason not to take their tray of trash and cups with them – just left them on the table. There were complaints by other customers who heard her loudly complaining about how “in my day we would have spanked the laziness out of those kids” and “no one has respect any more.” At the time I really just felt she should shut up and clean the tables, but especially as time has gone on I got it and I got her frustration. But she made the cardinal sin of letting the customers hear her…

Sadly, Granny is no longer with us. I don’t want to get into the specifics too much, but she needed medical care. This taught me two things. One, this old lady who seemed to only tolerate me for banter while smoking and to do her bitch work apparently trusted me enough to list me as someone to speak to from Family Services. Second, I discovered she was actually an illegal immigrant (from Canada, of all places!) working on a work visa that had expired some ten years prior. Family Services had reached out to me in part because she had been given them my name, and in part because no one knew who else to contact.

One day after work me and a few coworkers helped pack her things. She was incredibly ungrateful, as she often was, about how lazy we were and about how we better not steal or break anything. She did offer us cigarettes though, so she must have appreciated us in some way. Arrangements were made for her to be moved to a nursing home just across the border. I learned from management that she apparently passed away not even a week after moving, and that the very son that was unreachable to help her move was asking questions about her storage shed so that he could grab her things, and contested the sale of one of her vehicles. Pretty depressing.

Today, I’ve got a reminder of her on my Facebook wall. A picture of her was taken at work for a holiday thing, and after she left I made a digital copy. Hopefully, she’s in a heaven or a reincarnated life where she has already won the lottery, and no one is interrupting her smoke breaks. Also, it makes me sad, because over ten years later, I feel like I’m falling into that same trap she was, where the only way I’m going to reach my goals and enjoy life as I was meant to is if I win the lottery. At the time, I felt it was silly she would expect to have a chance at winning; now I recognize the desperation behind the belief.

Why I Uninstalled Dragalia Lost Today

I have played Dragalia Lost since it released; I finished downloading and installing on September 27th at three in the morning. I remember showing it off to a coworker who looked it over with lukewarm reception, before reminding me that I was at work to, well, work.

Today is December 3rd. Not even a full three months in, and I am uninstalling this game. It’s not that I dislike the game; I get a lot of enjoyment out of it that I haven’t had since the last mobile game I sank years into (Brave Frontier.) I love the music, and I feel the artwork is solid. But the game has some problems, and the developers have made some choices, that I feel don’t bode well for the way I play games, or for that matter where this game is going in general. It’s time for me to be proactive and bail out, while the bailing out is good.

Dragalia Lost is a mobile game, developed by powerhouse Nintendo and mobile developer Cygames. Cygames is perhaps best known for the mobile franchise Granblue Fantasy; Nintendo’s most well-known foray into traditional mobile gaming would arguably be Fire Emblem Heroes. These two coming together to make a game seems like a recipe for success, and on the surface I’d argue it is. Dragalia Lost is an action RPG with a town management system and something of a dragon romance simulator all thrown into one. A good portion of the early game is focused on solo play; the end game focuses on players working together either with a single character as a group of four, or as a team of four working with three other teams to accomplish a goal. Along the way weapons need to be crafted, character abilities need to be unlocked, and dragons need to be fed and leveled. One of the unique pulls to Dragalia Lost is that the rewards aren’t just drops for better items and growth, but actual story – unlock enough character abilities, for example, and you’ll unlock story segments about why they want to be a part of your team, their personal struggles, and how they advance. It is notably well thought out.

What isn’t thought out is the part where you, as a player, get to play with other people. As a game where Player VS Environment is the sole goal, one would think there would be better tools in place to gather with your friends and complete these goals. Yet surprisingly, Dragalia Lost completely drops the ball in this regard. There is a friend’s list, which allows you to use a character pre-set by other players to complete solo content, but no way for those friends to join up with you if you are queued for a mission. There are no guilds or player houses in Dragalia Lost to meet up with like minded players you might know. Instead, you can que for a room and wait for random players to join in, or you can lock your room and hand the room ID out to players through other means like Facebook groups or Discord. You’ll probably want to go the “locked room” route because if you leave your room open for randoms to join, you have little control over who joins; if a player who is too weak to assist wants in on your run, there is no way to kick or remove him. Likewise, if a player joins but then fails to mark themselves as “Ready” the whole group cannot move forward unless you as the group leader make the decision to either do the event without the player (thus having an empty slot) or throwing the entire team out and starting over fresh. It’s frustrating.

There’s also something to be said about the cost of playing. This game is free to play, in the sense that anyone can download it and play it. However, to have competent units, you’ll need to participate in the gacha system. Getting a higher tiered unit is unlikely; the best chances I’ve seen so far are you’ve got about a 2% chance each pull of getting a 5-star (top-tier) pull, and that pull will be either a unit, a dragon, or a Wyrmprint (this game’s version of an equipped accessory). For a dragon or a Wyrmprint to be at its best, a player needs five of them (one base, four more to “Unbind” it and in the process upgrade its inherent abilities.) The most common way to pull is the “ten-pull”, which for 1500 of the game’s currency allows for ten pulls, at least one pull of which is guaranteed to be a Four-Star pull. 1500 of the game’s currency costs roughly $32 American dollars.

There are players that have spent literally hundreds of dollars on this game and have yet to get a single five star unit. Yes, by comparison there are those who have rerolled (started the game, pulled with the free currency they were given, and then thrown out the results and started again) until they have a 5-Star unit for free, but even this can take dozens upon dozens of tries. The game does hand out free pulls periodically, but this seems to do little more than to make the player feel like what they really want is just another pull away.

There is also something to be said for the number of events that have come out. In about 10 weeks, there have been no fewer than 5 events. Most of these events have a similar focus: get a team to a certain level of skill (“Might”) and use to in solo fights and raid battles, to meet specific goals and acquire certain points. Often, these events hold a “Blazon Pull”; this grants players who are doing events “Blazon tickets” and two tickets allow for a pull for an item out of a pool of around 400 to 700 items depending. These are exhausting. Lower tiered fights may grant less than ten Blazon tickets; the highest tiered fights around 30. Players will need to go through five separate pools to acquire the key items advertised (usually a Wyrmprint and a dragon).

Competing in these events requires good units with good skills, and some of these skills are tied to your player castle. The buildings here affect everything from passive boosts of element types to passive boosts to the users of specific weapons. Keeping up on all this can be exhausting. Of course, if you have the cash, you can always purchase packs that give you the items needed to upgrade these buildings so that you don’t need to spend hours farming them yourself, or you can spend cash to upgrade your buildings now instead of waiting what starts as hours but quickly evolves into literal days.

In short? A little over ten weeks in, and I’m already feeling burnout as I try to keep up with everything expected of me to keep up, and I’m not even one of the top players! The encouragement to spend money to hopefully get the best units, or to definitively make the best weapons better, coupled with the need to spend hours at a time on a game just to unlock wyrmcards that won’t be relevant after the next event and dragons that are barely useful when fully unbound leads to a frustrating and unsatisfying experience. The game is also proving to be exceptionally repetitive; sometimes it feels like an event is just an older event reskinned for a different gacha pool and elemental resistance. I am at a point where I see these problems getting worse, not better, and that’s why I feel the need to stop playing this game now rather than becoming further invested in it only to be further frustrated down the line.