Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MLGSCE is Official!

I've finally done it! I've cast six professional level game and uploaded the videos to my YouTube page. I'll embed the one I think is best here. I was super nervous doing this at first but I felt like I was just getting better and better as I went. Not that hard after all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Positive Experience #1

I'm reading a book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Here's a TED talk by the author. The purpose of the book is to inform that people become more successful when they are happy and not the other way around. I know I've gotten stuck in the mindset of "When [I've finished school] I'll be happy" or "When [we pay off student loans] we'll be less stressed." While those are good, positive things, science shows that there are active, measurable activities that people can do that will make them happier people. Those happy people then proceed to perform better in work, school, and in their personal lives than neutral or depressed people. I'll do a full review once I finish it, but up to this point I highly recommend the book. 

One of the things that improves happiness is to be grateful. This includes take a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for each day and another idea is to write for 20 minutes three times a week about a positive experience you've had. My wife, Aubrey, and I are already doing the first one of those. We even bought a fancy little journal that we write in each night. I want to start doing the 20 minutes thing too. And it just so happens I have a blog! So for the time being, I'm going to start taking 20 minutes three times a week to just throw something that made me happy down in my blog. I might start to ramble from time to time, but I'm going to try and make it about one particular experience as opposed to just a bunch of nice random things. I'm planning on doing this on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Also, they will generally not be proofread because this is supposed to be a quick exercise. Sorry if that hurts your brain.

Positive Experience #1
Today I pulled off my very first blog giveaway! I'm pretty excited about that. Sure, I think I may have only gotten one new reader (if that) but it's exciting to see that people actually notice some of the work you do. And I got to give them cool stuff for free! Maybe I should start practicing to be the next host on The Price is Right. I used to watch that show a ton when I was little (and to a much lesser degree, The Young and the Restless, which came on right afterward) and it turns out giving stuff away to happy people is a blast. One of the DOTA copies went to a good friend of mine, so I look forward to getting to do that with him. Additionally, I might have ended up with three copies of DOTA 2. So I might have another one I get out there to the people who entered. That'd be awesome.

Turns out I might not actually people able to write about that one topic for a full 20 minutes. But I'll keep going the best I can. So yeah, the giveaway was cool. I really enjoy doing this blog. I know most of my page views seem to come from bots or Adsense checkers or whatever but it's still a good outlet. I remember when I was a Freshman in college (7 years ago) and finally learned that the key to being a good writer is not following a highly-structured guide but just putting down whatever you were thinking and making sure your grammar is good enough that people actually understand it. That was a real brain-opener for me at the time. Aubrey teaches high school English and she's always trying to help kids understand that. It's too bad that so many people write off writing (lol) as just a hard, stupid thing they make you do in school. It's actually pretty fun. Not to mention a great way to get your thoughts out there.

Speaking of positive things about the blog. I totally set my mom up a cooking blog that you should check out. She's in her 50's and has raised five very weird children. But we all seem to be doing okay at least. Now that we're all good and out of the house, she's decided to go to culinary school to learn some new skills. She's already a great cook, but I'm super proud of her for making an effort to keep learning. She's way older than the other people in her class, but so far it sounds like she's doing great and really enjoying herself. The website is It's pretty blank at the moment because...well...I keep forgetting to tell her how it all works. It just updates through blogger but she called me with a question like a week and a half ago. I should call her back. (Note: I call my mom and dad every Sunday. This just didn't come up the last time.)

Speaking of things I've mentioned on this blog, I am so super exciting to apply for a full time SC2 casting position with IGN. Sure, I'm totally not going to get it. I casted my first couple games the other day (which I've been putting off a long time. It's really nerve-wrecking to get started!) and they were definitely not professional quality. I'll have to keep practicing on that. But the fact that there really are jobs like that out there is so awesome. I really need to keep practicing so I can get into that one day. I like programming, for sure. But I would LOVE to be a SC2 commentator. Can you even imagine showing up to work and getting paid for that? I can't think of anything else I would want to do more than that. I think that comes from a few different areas of my brain though.

I really like playing video games. Duh. Particularly the kinds that require some thought and planning. And then you get to see your plan pay off. That's a great feeling. Secondly, I really like helping people learn things, especially if it's something I'm passionate about. Commentating Starcraft 2 is synonymous in my mind with teaching Starcraft 2 thanks to watching Day[9]. So getting to have a job where I do both would be freaking amazing! It makes me so excited just to apply and motivates me to keep up practicing and keep up this blog because it might actually amount to a sweet job in the eSports industry. I'll admit I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing at first. Aubrey convinced me that I should just go for it. She says that because she thinks I'm a lot smarter and more capable than I really am, but it's still nice to have someone believe in you so much. And I figured the "rejection" wouldn't be any worse than the buttheads on the internet now a days that just ask you to send them a resume and you never hear even a peep back. That's totally crap.

Anyway, we're being positive here. My twenty minutes are up and I hope that everyone has a great and happy day. I'll cast some more Starcraft games later. Hopefully I start to improve drastically with practice!

DOTA 2 Giveaway results!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tyler and Justin both won a copy of DOTA 2! Congrats to them and I hope they have a great time playing. Hopefully Steam (or anyone else who may feel generous) will keep sending things my way so we can do more giveaways.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last day for DOTA 2

Hey. Today's the last day to register for the DOTA 2 giveaway. You MUST have signed up using the widget to qualify. Click anywhere on this first paragraph for details. 

Secondly, I casted my first two pro Starcraft 2 games. There is definitely room for improvement. But I'll keep it up. You can check them out on my YouTube channel. Feel free to comment if you had any constructive feedback.

Thirdly, remember when I was all like, "I'm making a video game plan and I'm sticking to it!" That's been going pretty well so far. Granted, I decided to switch back to Zerg this morning because it's just better. But other than that things have been going pretty smoothly.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Applied Problem Solving Through Refrigerator Malfunction

DON'T FORGET about the DOTA 2 giveaway! More info here!

I've transferred universities yet again. More on that later. I'm currently in an introduction to Computer Science course and in our first week I read all about the history of CS, what an algorithm is, and various forms of binary. For my first assignment, I had to write an essay defining what a problem is, discuss how I solved a problem in my own life, and provide a general process of how to solve a problem. I did. And it turned out kind of funny, so I'm going to go ahead and post it here. Enjoy!

Applied Problem Solving Through Refrigerator Malfunction

Mike Harrell

Regis University


This paper defines what a problem is and provides a generalized approach to solving any problem of any kind. The process is illustrated through a personal experience of the author on the day of writing this paper. On the day in question the author’s refrigerator stopped working, causing the author to systematically implement the provided generalized approach to problem solving in order to prevent of his family’s food from going bad. All parts of the solution are demonstrated and elaborated upon.
            Keywords: problem solving, general solution, potatoes

Everyone seems to have problems of some kind or another. However, people approach their problems in very different ways. When reconciliation time approaches, there is one general pattern that is followed. To solve any kind of problem one must first define the problem, identify the source of the problem, brainstorm solutions, and finally alter or fix the source of the problem so that it no longer causes issues.
            A problem can be described as an object or circumstance that prevents or inhibits optimal progress toward a desired goal. I had such a circumstance this afternoon. My wonderful wife, Aubrey, was microwaving two potatoes for dinner when the microwave went on the fritz and most of our major kitchen appliances suddenly lost power. This included the refrigerator, the microwave, and the dishwasher.
            In order to solve the problem, we first had to define it. In this case the problem was that some of our appliances had stopped working, most importantly the refrigerator. We can do without a microwave. We can wash our dishes by hand. But, in order to lead a happy and productive life, I require that my perishable food items remain in a state where they retain as much freshness as possible before I consume them. If the fridge isn’t working, all of our food will go bad in a day or two, and we can’t really afford to replace them on such short notice. This was our problem.
To begin reparations we needed to identify the source of the problem. It seemed unlikely that a microwave could have directly influenced the refrigerator on a functional level. We needed to determine was had happened with the electricity in the room that caused the fridge to cease its regular function. We tried unplugging the fridge and plugging it back into the wall. This yielded no change. We then tried plugging in a phone charger into the same socket and found that it received no charge from the wall either. Thirdly, we plugged the same phone charger into another wall socket in the kitchen and found that it did work. The refrigerator had stopped working because there was no power coming from its regular wall socket.
We then had to brainstorm potential solutions. In this case, we needed to determine what could have stopped electricity from flowing to those specific sockets without affecting the rest of the apartment. We decided to try the circuit breaker in our apartment and found that one of the little switches was indeed flipped to the “off” position. This was the source of the problem. The microwave had blown the fuse, making the breaker disable all of the wall sockets on that side of the kitchen. In order to restore functionality to our refrigerator, I would need to move the switch back to the “on” position. I proceeded to do so, when the little switch broke in half and fell into my hand. It was now stuck in the “off” position.
At this point I could no longer manipulate in the switch in any way in order to directly fix the fuse. Not without potentially electrocuting myself anyway, and that was off the table. Having identified the solution to the problem but finding myself without the resources to address it specifically, I had to construct some sort of workaround. This is often referred to as “treating the symptoms.” I could not restore power to the wall sockets at the present time but I still needed a way to keep my perishable food items in an optimally cool and dark state until such time that I chose to eat them. The key to this workaround would be to find an alternate source of power until we could call the landlord to come fix it. We couldn’t do that immediately because he’s a very cute, old, man that lives on the other side of town and he doesn’t really do anything on short notice. Also, it was pretty messy in the apartment and we didn’t need to hand him any more ammunition. Aubrey found this alternate source by plugging our refrigerator into an extension cord and running it into one of the working sockets on the other side of the room. This restored power to the refrigerator and provided our food with a choice environment yet again.
However, this will prove to be a temporary solution. Tomorrow morning, after we’ve cleaned up a bit, we will call our landlord who will take the breaker box off the wall, disconnect the wire to that switch, replace the switch, reattach the wire, and replace the box to the wall, which will return both the switch and the wall sockets that our refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave normally inhabit to their normal working order. This will restore our appliances to their typical functionality as well (except maybe the microwave, which may be a whole other can of worms). We will also no longer have 15 yards of orange extension cord going across the kitchen floor.
By defining the problem specifically, identifying the source of the problem, brainstorming solutions, and fixing the source of the problem so that it no longer inhibits progress, we were able to solve our refrigerator problem. Or rather, we will tomorrow. In the meantime we have been able to employ a short term solution so that our food doesn’t go bad. This same process can be used for any type of problem no matter how big or small. Simply adapt it to your circumstance. 

Also, people are allowed to comment on posts. Feel free to do that. You know, tell me how awesome I am. Or that I'm full of crap. Whatever you like.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feeling Ambitious!

I'm going to apply for this: IPL Starcraft II Caster Search Contest!

Sure, it's a long, long shot. But hey, I gotta start trying at some point, right? I'll be trying to put together a good application package over the next couple days and I'll keep you updated! Maybe we can at least get some more readers for the blog, right?

Also, news broke today that Heart of the Swarm will have leveling and cosmetic rewards incorporated into the ladder system. Exciting! Now let's hope that they put in separate ladder ranks for each race. So it's not all wonky with matchmaking if you want to change things up. That would make me happy.

Finally, DON'T FORGET about the DOTA 2 giveaway! More info here!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Changing Gears

I'm giving away two copies of DOTA 2! Click this link for details!

Want to know how big of a dork I am? So big that I'm constantly planning out my gaming time and intentions. Today you'll get to be part of that planning.

The main goal here is that I want to play more Starcraft because I really want to get good at it and have a better understanding of the game so I can contribute more to the community. However, there's about a billion other fun games to play. I've gotten way into Dungeon Defenders in the past week and I've hardly played anything else at all. Guild Wars 2 just had it's first major patch with a ton of Halloween content. There's this new game called FireFall that I don't know anything about but is getting hyped out the yang that I might want to try. Plus there was that whole Panda thing that just happened....

And then, of course, there's my real life. Taking my wonderful wife on extravagant dates. Classes. Finding a full time, benefited, job so that we don't have to live just over the poverty line. Keeping new content on the site. Remembering to take the trash to the curb on Mondays. I'm a busy guy.

So here's my gaming plan:

  • At the end of next month, I'm going to let my WoW subscription die so I wont have to pay that anymore. I'll go back for major updates, but other than that, I've got too much to play. I've got some triple experience refer a friend bonus stuff doing on until then, so I'll try to get my priest and my monk up to 80 to take full advantage of that. Done. 
  • I'm going to stop playing Dungeon Defenders like a freak.
  • I'm going to check out Guild Wars when there's a major update and whenever I get that MMO itch.
  • I'm going to play more Starcraft. I'm actually going to start putting it into my weekly schedule.
  • I will start to actually follow my weekly schedule. I'm an adult. It shouldn't be that hard. Right? ...Right?
And here now is my structured Starcraft plan:
  • I am going to be playing exclusively Protoss in 1v1 (and usually streaming it).
  • I'm going to be focusing on what I feel like I am "sucking at."
    • First, I will be choosing one build order to improve. 
    • When I'm feeling really good with the one, I'll move on to one for each match up.
    • From there, I'll address specific things and change my play to incorporate them more.
      • For instance, I never use air as Protoss, so I'll use an air-heavy build.
  • I will do this until I reach Master league.
  • I will then buy another copy of the game and start the same process for another race. 
  • I realize those last two are very ambitious. I might stop at diamond.
  • I will start casting one pro game a week to help myself get more familiar with players, builds, and maps.
And that, my friends, is a gaming plan.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Great MikeySCE DOTA 2 Giveaway!


I have two copies of DOTA 2 to give away so we're going to have the first-ever giveaway on the site. Here's how it's going to work.

  • TWO winners will each receive ONE free copy of DOTA 2 through Steam.
  • In order to enter, all you have to do is subscribe for email updates for the blog and share this post on Facebook.
  • You will need to use the widget on the bottom of this post to enter.
  • If you cheat on the widget I'll be able to tell and you will not win. 
  • The contest will end at 12:01 a.m. EST on Tuesday October 30th.
  • After the contest is over, I'll compare those who entered using the widget to the list of subscribers to determine eligible entries and, using a random number generator, pick two winners from the list. 
  • I'll contact the winners through email to get a confirmation and then send them an email that containing a coupon for the game. You will need Steam on your computer to play this game.
  • Also, this is my first time doing this, so I'm sorry if I completely screw this thing up. But I don't think I will. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Holy cow! We can have a giveaway!

Ok. Get this:

I just got two free copies of a DOTA 2 and I want to do a giveaway on the blog. Only...I don't really know how to make that work for my website. Do I make people subscribe or repost on Facebook or give me their email or what? Comment here if you know anything about this or have a good resource.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Ultimate History of Video Games

The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World, by Steven L. Kent, is more than just a book with a really long name. It's still the best book I've ever read about video games.

This fantastic book covers video games from its inception until the release of the Playstation II. Kent shows his extensive research with very detailed accounts and descriptions of all major (and minor) events in the industry during this time, generally with direct quotes from the people who took part in the them. The more modern part of this history (late 90's and beyond) begins to feel a bit rushed, but this is 100% worth to read to see how our favorite addiction began to be. Despite being nonfiction, which I admit I sometimes struggle with, Kent's work is not only readable, but enjoyable to read.

My favorite anecdote from The Ultimate History is about one of the guys who would pull the coins out of Atari arcade games each week. One of his stops was in a bar at a college campus. Once the game really took off and he was pulling hundreds of dollars of quarters of the machine, he started started to panic that one night he would get mugged. So he decided to bringing his wife along, who would carry a baseball bat just in case.

It was here that I learned about the very first video game, why video games suddenly had ratings, and that the people at Atari were a very colorful bunch. Whether you think you know everything about video games or not even one thing, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this wonderful book and get to know an industry that has changed the world!

I give The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World a very solid 5 stars out of 5 for being the book to which I compare all other books about video games.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Mists of Pandaria: Haters Gonna Hate

Just my luck to devote a blog to Starcraft just as a WoW expansion comes out.

If someone's really all that curious about Mists, there's about a million sites and videos they could watch, so I'm going to make this a pretty simple review.

1. The new continent has a great sense of presence for the player and the environments and music are all fantastic.The Pandaren and other new races all look great and fit right in with the game.

2. The Monk is good. I've been leveling up a tanking monk and it feels fresh and fun. Thumbs up to the Monk.

3. Questing is better than ever. There are several driving story lines that I promise are not "juvenile" or whatever it is that people are so worried about since there are giant pandas. There was one quest line in involving some raccoons that was particularly good.

3.5. The factions are all pretty cool so far and give awesome mounts when you hit exalted. And they're even going to buff reputation gains for alts soon. That's going to be pretty great. Unless of course your enjoyment of the game depends on things taking a long time so you can gloat that you have it and other people don't. Then you'll hate that. And pretty much everything else in life as well.

4. Pet Battles = awesome. Sure it's a total Pokemon ripoff, but anyone who played Pokemon back in the day knows it was a great game and it's nice to have it incorporated into WoW. I know I'm really enjoying it.

5. And the big one: there's a ton to do once you hit level cap. There's lots of rep to get. There's two new battlegrounds coming out. There's the pet battles. There's three raids plus LFR coming soon. There's a bunch of heroics as well as scenarios (shorter, more story-driven, dungeons). There's challenge modes (special versions of dungeons for speed runs and exclusive loot). There are world bosses that drop raid loot. There's the Black Market Auction House. And Blizzard's already about to put the new patch on the Test Realm with even more new content. The future looks bright!

All in all, people who want to whine will do so. The rest of us are having a great time.

P.S. Here's my main dude. He's a stud.

Bonus pic:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mike's Starcraft Story

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Alaskan in need of anything at all must be in want of a Costco. Seriously. They really do. When I was growing up we looked forward to going to Costco more than we did the mall (this is still true for me). We even got a lot of our clothes there. And I definitely bought all my computer games at Costco.

This is The Costco of my youth. Google Street View will
get you right into the parking lot!
In the early summer of 1998, I began to hear rumors of two new games. Unreal and Starcraft. I was a little more excited about Unreal because I the graphics were supposed to be amazingly awesome. Starcraft looked cool too, but I already had Warcraft 2 and Red Alert and I figured it couldn't possibly be better than those.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend with both of them. I went over and we tried them out. Unreal was, just like I expected, completely awesome. The guns all did more than one thing. And you could aim up and down, in addition to left and right. Then we tried out Starcraft.

Starcraft blew my mind. The three races were fundamentally different from each other. The campaign was full voiced acted with a dramatic storyline. The Terrans were funny, the Protoss were mysterious, and the Zerg were scary. There was blood! When you used nukes, they actually blew things up! (This was Red Alert's major downfall.) To the point: I had to have this game. My friend let me borrow it (what a pal!)  so I could show it to my brother or something. And we proceeded to play the crap out of it for about a week. We went all the way through the storyline, cheated like crazy in skirmishes against the AI, and I even gave it a whirl online. I got my butt handed to me, of course, and we only had one phone line at the time so that complicated things a little. Then Friend wanted it back. Boo.

So my brother, Dave, and I hatched a plan. We'd save all our money and the next time we went to Costco he would get Unreal and I would get Starcraft. Somehow this happened pretty quickly. I'm not sure how we ended up with $80 together but I distinctly remember us having a budgeting summit where we had all of our money (and all the money we could find) lined up in piles on our bedroom floor. Now that I think about it, I think I was a little short and Dave gave me another $5 or so. That's a good brother for you. A few days later, we heard the magic words: "We have to go to Costco."

We went. I had done my homework too. There were three different covers for Starcraft, one of each race. There also appeared to be a re-release of some kind because the version with the three different races was rated M, while the originals (of just the Protoss cover) were rated Teen. I definitely had to get the Teen one. I was 11 at the time, so I guess I wasn't going to try and get away with any more than I had to. Game ratings were so new then I don't think my parents even knew to look. Either way, I got the Teen rated Protoss box, Dave got Unreal, we paid, ate Costco pizza (why wouldn't you?) and we headed for home!

I recall few drives home from Costco more joyous than that one. We both had awesome games in tow and each had a good manual with lots of info in them. We read our own manuals, switched, and then switched back. It was the best of times.

That's when things started going downhill.

Unreal, it turns out, wouldn't run on our computer because it didn't have enough RAM or something. That sucked. Then, two days later, my mom overheard Arcturus Mengsk swearing up a storm during a campaign mission and she said I had to return it! CURSE YOU MENGSK! It got worse from there. Mom then mobilized The Mom Grapevine and pretty soon all the moms in our neighborhood knew that Starcraft had cussing in it and all the kids were getting in trouble. I didn't take too much flak for it in the end, but it was sad knowing that I had blown it for everyone.

I was now Starcraftless. At the beginning of the next year, I heard about Brood War coming out but didn't get to play it until three years later (at that same friend's house). I wasn't even aware of the pro scene or anything. And I spent a few years being obsessed with the Final Fantasy series. But that nostalgic feeling came back when I heard that a Starcraft 2 was approaching. Naturally, I pirated it off the internet and playing through the campaign again. It...hadn't aged well. Still awesome, but pretty ugly by 2008.

Starcraft 2 happened a couple years later and I bought it the first week it came out. Thinking back, I should have sprung for the collector's edition, but whatever. After a few weeks of playing the campaign and messing around against the computer, I decided to go online and see if I could get some tips. I found a lot of tips. I also found the infamous Husky, The Starcast, Day[9], Teamliquid, and the Global Starcraft League. This was when Starcraft became much more than a game to me. It was a skill and an art with a huge community of players and followers. For lack of a better word: it's a sport. The first computer game to make eSports a real thing in my mind. The first sport I ever really cared to follow and be a part of.

Sure, I've had some long spans of time between actually playing the game and I'm still in Bronze league, but I've finally decided on one race and I'm determined to start climbing that ladder! I bought the digital edition of Starcraft with Brood War a few months ago to finally make good on it (it's even uglier after playing SC2). I even wrote a critique of it for a term paper last year. I am psyched for Heart of the Swarm and want to get into some casting once I have some better game understanding. There's totally some wing places near my apartment where I'm hoping to get some BarCrafts going in the next couple months. Watch for it on this blog!

Also, should you come by a Heart of the Swarm beta key, feel free to send it my way.