The Death of Overwatch League

Ok, it might be a little early to proclaim death on OWL but it has been one hell of a bad year for them. Just for background… I myself am an OWL watcher but now OW player. I don’t particularly care for FPS games and Overwatch is no different. But for whatever reason, about a year or so before OWL started, I found that it was quite entertaining to actually watch teams play Overwatch.

When Overwatch League was announced, I was thrilled. I liked watching the game, and looked forward to more organized play. But more than anything, I always felt that one of the biggest issues with eSports was the instability of the games and difficulty to find a hook into being a fan of any particular team. I mean if you became a fan of a team, it was likely because they won a lot which isn’t my favorite reason to like a team. (Or you just grabbed one out of a hat.) I think the idea of a location based league in eSports is long overdue and I was happy to see someone take a shot at it, but I fear that the failure that is Overwatch League might actually hamper this from happening in the future. I wanted to go over the various reasons why I think the league is doomed to fail.

  1. Owned and operated by Blizzard. This is like if the NFL was owned by Spalding or Nike, there’s a huge conflict of interest here. There isn’t even a panel of league owners who make rule changes, it all comes from Blizzard, like it or hate it. I am sure league owners get to bug Blizzard about things they’d like to see, and I’m sure Blizzard has taken them up on it from time to time, but Blizzard is free to ignore. I don’t think it can happen in the modern age of “you can’t show our game without our permission” but if a league is going to work, it kinda needs to be independent of the developer of it. They benefit from the league being successful and should understand that and that should be the only benefit they get.
  2. Lack of transparency. What we know for sure is that Blizzard asks about 25-35 million per team sale, though I would guess it differs greatly from team to team. We know players get paid salaries, but we don’t know how much. We know trades happen, but we don’t know for what… often a player gets traded to another team with no visible return to the sender whatsoever. Players do sign contracts, no idea how long. Players supposedly get stipends for renting and insurance, we don’t know what that looks like either. We know that there are tournaments that award cash prizes, we don’t know how that is split between owners and players. We know there are t-shirts made for the teams, we don’t know if the players get a cut. We know that OWL signs deals with youtube and twitch and networks, no idea of the details and don’t know the cut the teams get from those deals. We know skins are sold, we don’t know if teams or players get cuts. We also don’t know if Blizzard gets cuts of merchandise. We basically know nothing about where all the money is going but my guess it is mostly going to Blizzard and i don’t appreciate that if I am trying to support my team.
  3. Lack of developmental process or parity. I don’t mean Overwatch for this… I mean there is no real minor leagues per say. A lot of teams take from Contenders and I do think Contenders was originally meant as the sort of Overwatch minor league given that the initial teams all had their own contender team that they sent lesser players to. Most teams have bowed out of Contenders entirely though. Teams seem to prefer to just dump players that still need development and pick random players from random Contenders teams, or the entire team, when they need to fill. They also don’t even need to take from Contenders… when Dafran was picked up by Atlanta, he didn’t come from Contenders, he was just a youtuber being picked up to increase the popularity of the team. There’s also no draft at all, which in conjunction to there being a lack of salary cap (at least I assume, there might be one but again no transparency) there is absolutely no parity to the game. Which means if a team pays money, they will win consistently regardless… They may not always win, but they will always be near the top… they’ve essentially created the bad part of the MLB and is it any surprise that New York in both seems to be the biggest problems?
  4. Lack of Stability. One of the reasons I wanted OWL to work was because I wanted to be able to root for players and their respective teams. But even the move between seasons 1 and 2 , there only a few teams that maintained their rosters… most teams were completely rebuilt, and this happened again between 2 and 3. And now in 3 we have the Titans just completely revamping their team mid-season. Stability is just not a thing at all. I have a hard time rooting even for the teams I want to root for, let alone two random teams that aren’t teams I like. When teams I don’t like are on, the last year I just stopped watching cause I don’t know who they are anymore. A good case of this is the LA Valiant whom in season 1 was one of my favorite teams, but by season 2 I didn’t bother watching because I didn’t know many players on the team. Another kind of stability that is lacking is just game to game stability. Blizzard will patch, add characters, and add maps mid-season and OWL will put them in mid-season. They do this purposely in order to “keep things interesting” but it means that if you build a team to handle a strategy that gets nerfed midseason, your team is out of luck and there’s zero heads up on how things will change mid-season for teams to even prepare. This got magnified in season 3 when they added the hero pools (which I’ll get to later). The changes that Blizzard makes to the league are similar to if NFL decided to limit 2 WRs on offense at a time instead of the up to 5 that are currently there “just to keep things interesting.” It’s just a terrible idea to do midseason, it’s unfair to the teams and the fans who follow them.
    1. 2-2-2: Adding on specifically… 2-2-2 was a terrible move on Blizzard’s part. It was bad for the game and bad for the league. They did it to try to solve GOATS as goats was widely using 3 healers and 3 tanks, and it was a slower game than Blizzard wanted but it was really powerful (In fact, Blizzard has since said they never really intended for there to be off tanks so it’s odd that they even went 2-2-2 which forces offtanks). The hope was that by forcing players out of that 3-3 format, the game would be more interesting if they had DPS. I understand why they did it, it just was a dumb move. One problem is that by the time 2-2-2 was implemented, counter strategies were being developed, including 1-3-2 or 2-3-1… which was way more interesting and fun than either the GOATS or the 2-2-2 comps). They were extremely exciting matches and in an instant, blizzard removed them for a composition that was dying. And the composition that players moved to… it’s pretty much GOATS just in a 2-2-2 format. It is still super slow and team based, it just has different characters being used. Blizzard instead should have enforced 1-1-1 which would have allowed teams to vary, but still forcing them to have a little bit of everything. Then we could have kept those excellent 3 DPS comps.
    2. Hero Pool: Another terrible idea… the Hero Pool. Now Fans have been asking for a Hero Ban pretty much since season 1, but this wasn’t what they were asking for. Traditionally, a hero ban makes it so that one team selects a hero, the next team selects two, the first team selects two, and so on. One character can only be used once on both teams combined. An alternative way to do this would be to allow each team to ban 1 character from the opposing team’s hero pool for a map. Both ways allow methods of strategizing how to deal with your opponent that can be planned by teams ahead of time. Instead… Blizzard decided to automatically ban 4 heroes every week with heroes that were heavily used being more likely to be banned than heroes that weren’t. To me, this screamed Blizzard throwing their hands in the air and saying “we can’t balance the game so we aren’t going to try.” This does make the games more interesting because they are an absolute mess with teams not having enough time to prepare for the heroes that they are allowed to use and having no idea how opponents might react to the same problem. It lowers the amount of strategizing by the team… I think this sort of thing would work as a once a month sort of throw down that teams would have a couple weeks to prepare for. But doing it every week has increased stress on players and coaches, causing many to retire mid-season, and has made the game such a mess it’s actually kind of obnoxious to watch.
  5. The Onscreen Personalities: They are terrible. They aren’t all bad… but they aren’t all good either. Most of them are extremely punny and overly-zelaous with the hyperbole. I for one, did not find it cute when so many of them said “we don’t have to lie about every game matters anymore” when talking about the removal of the 4 game format. We all knew you were lying bro. It’s not good to point out though that you are not an honest or objective observer telling us what is happening on screen. The unfortunate part is that many of the best personalities they had in the first two seasons are now gone. Their 3 best casters left before season 3 and to offset that, they moved their two most obnoxious desk caddies to announce instead. Ugh. Goldenboy was only around in season 1, but he was their clear best desk guy. The only real bright side remaining for their casters is Soe who went from being a “sideline reporter’ to the main desk host…. and she is great… Custa who has also done well on the desk and adds credibility to the desk…. and Jake… who struggles at times because it is his first year but shows a ton of promise.
  6. Only one game at a time. Can you name one sport that has only a single non-playoff game going at any point in time? The only ones you can think of really are special games and NFL’s weekly Sunday night and Monday night games. What’s funny about this is that they have 3 sets of casters… they don’t have to have them separate for any real reason outside of they want to milk everything they got. They probably realize that they don’t really have the viewership to cover 3 games at a time so they do 1 and hope that everyone watches all of them (or forgets the stream is on) and that artificially inflates numbers. But what ends up happening is all too many games that are equivalent to Mayhem vs Dragons or Dragons vs XL in season 1…. games that almost no one wants to watch, except maybe fans of the teams. I actually didn’t mind separating out all games in the first, even second seasons… it helped you learn about the teams which was good… but now that’s not needed. People have gravitated to teams. I think before COVID, they were doing 4 games on Sat & Sunday each separate, it would have been better to have 2 time slots on each day with 2 games playing a piece and then having a 3rd game on one of the days (or maybe even both) that was the “featured” game that had a higher level of competitiveness.
  7. Expanded too Quickly. They added 8 teams in season 2… this flooded the game with teams too quickly. It was a mistake. I think they felt they had to to try to even out the global map a little, but even so, they added 3 teams on the east coast (which was already flooded), 1 team on the west coast (take or leave it), 3 teams in china (needed) and 1 team in europe (needed). And with the flood of teams, came a thinning of talent. Which btw is the entire reason NFL doesn’t expand more. Has less to do with whether their is viewership for them and more to do with the fact that they just don’t have the talent to sustain it, and I feel the same is true in OWL. Granted, it showed just how bad talent evaluation is in OWL as there was an entire team in Contenders that turned out to be better than almost all of the OWL teams from season 1. They should have maybe added the 3 chinese teams and the 1 european team in Season 2 and re-evaluated, but I suspect that it was a money grab by Blizzard. OWL seemed hot after season 1, so they wanted to get the money from new teams while the getting was good.
  8. Homestead Weekends. When the league started there was a promise of home and away games. When they started doing homestead weekends in season 2 i thought it was a great way to test out away games because it was going to be technologically challenging no doubt. After they announced homestead weekends for the entirety of season 3… and they still aren’t really talking about it, my assumption is this is what they had planned for all along. Not the “every game has a home team and away team” that was promised, and also not the magical “7th member on the team” that casters keep talking about. What was worse about how they set it up is that it wasn’t even equal… I think originally Dallas had the most scheduled at around 7 homesteads, other teams had 3. If the 7th man is truly an advantage, that is a ridiculous advantage you are giving to one team. And if Dallas makes most of their money off these homestead weekends (again we don’t know how that money is split either), then they are also going to be making more money in general than other teams so it is a twofer. Part of the reason this was done, I suspect, was to alleviate issues that players had with traveling on a daily basis, which is a legit concern. But MLB already solved this problem like 80 years ago, why are they trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist? You can fix this by doing one of two things. 1) you could make it so teams play the same team 2 times every weekend and they only visit each team once, twice if they are in the same division. 2) Make sure when you bring in teams they are paired off in locality… LA & LA is a good example… If you Have NYC going to play LA Valiant, they hit up Valiant one day and Gladiators the next day. The next LA trip they do San Francisco and Valiant, the third trip is SF and Gladiators. This is easy peasy stuff to work around and I’m surprised Blizzard didn’t think of it. And yes, in addition to that, you increase the number of bye weeks, especially with international travel. Really Europe with only 2 teams presents the biggest challenge to this aspect. They should have had 4. Hell if they had 6/6/6/6 in each region, they would be in a great position. Even despite their practice attempts, the OWL homestead was riddled with technical issues before they ceased it due to COVID. I honestly don’t think these issues will subside without stadiums being built, and to date only Philadelphia has announced plans to do so… and even that I wonder if it will still happen (I think they may also own a CS team so that may be the reason).
  9. Skirmishes. This is a really minor and weird complaint. But am I the only one who thinks it is incredibly weird that teams play each other mid-season for practice? I remember when NFL teams used to do pre-preseason skirmishes between other teams and this practice stopped for several reasons… The primary reason… it offered a free preview on how to play other teams. It’s basically a scouting opportunity, which in a competitive landscape is a really bad idea. At least in the NFL it was before the season started and a lot of the times it was third or 4th string players. Well Overwatch League does it all season long with first stringers. Like seriously wtf. I know one problem OWL has is that they need another competitive team to play against… it’s too bad they don’t have a minor league team associated with them that they could play against… that would work better honestly. Yes you would have potentially players with less talent playing against players with more talent, but that happens a lot in major sports teams. They often pit second string against first in practice, not first on first (they do that too for the record). You might think, well you don’t get as much from them if you don’t get equivalent level of competition, and to a degree you are correct. But you sacrifice the practice almost completely if you can’t use real tactics in practice because the other team is actively scouting you while you do it. You are actually better to practice real tactics against lessor talent. Than no tactics against equivalent talent. Also it helps practice the minor league team and helps you find those gems in the minors that might mesh better with your team.

So I want to end this by saying that I don’t think all is lost. My assumption at this point is that season 4 will be played with Overwatch 2, which may provide some much needed fixes to how games are played all the way around provide new energy to the game. My hope is that with that stuff like the hero pool and 2-2-2 will go by the wayside as well as a better balance between characters. Hopefully some lessons get learned. Unfortunately, many of the issues noted above, are doomed to be continued… Hopefully, if OWL does fail, other games won’t point at it as a reason not to do location based teams, because it’s a good idea. This league is just poorly implemented. And I for one, am done watching unless major (positive) changes occur.

The Long History of Twinking & Soulbinding

Twinking is not really a thing anymore in modern MMOs, so I think it is worth explaining exactly what twinking is. Twinking is when you give lower level characters, whether your alts or friends, high level gear in order to give the lower level character an advantage in moving through the game.

In early MMOs, this was a big problem because higher level characters had more money, had more gear and had stuff to spare to give the lower level characters so this was easy for them. The problem for the game though is that it tends to ruin the power curve. Games are designed to take X amount of time to get from point A to point B and MMOs in particular are being designed to stretch out the amount of time it takes for players to get bored. They don’t want a player’s attention for a month or two…. they want it for a few years straight.

The initial method in which to stop twinking was actually the most effective, but not flawless. That was… the level requirement (and sort of class requirements… not that an item was limited to only certain classes, but that only 1 class could use an item). The level requirement is pretty simple… you have a powerful late game weapon, you make it have a requirement that it can only be used by late game players by adding a requirement that the player needs to be at the level cap in order to use it. This solves the extreme version of twinking pretty easily.

Now this method does actually kind of break immersion… if I know how to use swords, there’s really no difference between swords, they are all pretty much the same. This isn’t entirely true, of course… but the differences in swords are minute and have more to do with different types of swords than specific swords… for instance if you know how to use a Rapier, you may not know how to use a Great Sword… but that’s extreme. There are also minor differences to builds within the same class, but even so, you might have a minor disadvantage when first getting used to the sword but once you do, you’ll be fine.

It’s interesting to note that there have been methods to merge the level req with a more immersive and natural behavior. The first that I can think of is Dark Age of Camelot, which allowed players to use items higher than their level but the item was under-powered until you hit the weapon’s level… this actually kind of sounds like what I said in the previous paragraph, that was unintentional. I can’t remember if it was also DAoC or another game, but another concept has been to have durability go down faster if you were below the required level, which is a similar concept just done a different way.

The problem is, it doesn’t solve it completely. Not all items are the same even if the requirements are. If you have have 100 levels, and you are max level but want to help a level 5 player out so that they have an easier time…. it’s quite easy to buy them level 5 super rare super powerful items that aren’t easy for them to get due to rarity. So twinking generally still happens.

This lead to the birth of soulbinding. Soulbinding is when an item can only be used by the character it is soulbound to, and this soulbinding usually occurs on the character acquiring the item (though there are games, such as GW2, that has some items soulbound on use). This method instantly takes away twinking… because… obviously you can’t give the powerful items to other players. I believe (though could be wrong) that this idea originated with EverQuest, but was expanded upon with newer MMOs and even within EQ. Originally, it tended to only get done on super rare items and quest items, but the idea of soulbinding has expanded exponentially. There has also been an addition of Account Bound since its inception, meaning that you can trade it between characters within the same account.

I do think that the idea of soulbinding has been expanded upon for a reason other than to stop twinking to be honest. It has become a staple largely to help deal with the high level economy. The problem modern MMOs have is that because there is no durability and no death penalty in most games, there is no way for items to be removed from the game. Raising level cap fixes this issue… but that creates an issue of forcing developers to create a lot of in game content in order to appease all the players at a now higher level. The problem here is that players tend to move faster than developers. I know in WoW… players tend to reach the new level cap within a week (oftentimes days)… now it may take them a month or two past that to start getting the best gear. But once they get that gear they can start twinking other players with the best gear who now also can start twinking other players when they start getting duplicates and so forth. Soooo soulbinding to the rescue. A hardcore player may be able to get the best gear in the game rapidly, but they are going to punish themselves instead of the developers for that so that other players will still need to work for it, giving the developers far more time before the remaining 95% of the player population starts receiving their max gear.

There is, of course, a negative side to soulbinding gear in this fashion. And that’s player interaction. While twinking, overall, is a negative when done prolifically, it isn’t necessarily all bad. Players generally don’t just give each other their best gear, they sell it more often. Generally, straight up giving is held for guildmates and friends. And in reality, this is what an economy actually is… buying and selling things. By soulbinding everything, a game is getting created where the level economy and the boredom economy is taking precedence over the actual economy. And if I’m going to be honest, there are actual players out there who are more interested in the actual economy.

There is also the case for gold farming… by making items soulbound, gold farmers cannot farm high value items and sell them as easily and thus flood the market with those items. But there are better options at dealing with gold farmers and the reality is that game development companies just don’t want to. As evidenced by the fact that gold farmers still very much exist and are as prevalent as ever, and game developers stopped dealing with them completely outside of adding more and more soulbound items.

What I’m trying to say is that, switching to a system that relies heavily on soulbinding in order to stop twinking, keep players interested because they have to actually get their gear, and help prevent gold farmers… is yet another system that is going into place that interrupts player interaction in a negative way. And ultimately, the genre is COMPLETELY built around player interaction. There’s a ton of systems that have been added to the modern MMORPG that has disrupted player interactions, and this one is actually rather minor unless taken to an extreme. But it is an avenue all the same and does have negative repercussions that, I would argue, are actually MORE difficult to fix than the actual issues you are trying to fix by adding in soulbinding in the first place. You could, theoretically, just add another way to force players to interact in its place, but it would likely feel more forced and players resent being forced to interact. And really, nobody is doing this because it feels like more and more in the genre, all they are trying to build are single player games with a built in chat room.

Few games have gotten even close to UO in terms of tradeskills

Even past the ‘interactions” concept, making the most powerful items in the game soulbound, completely borks the idea of tradeskills. It continues to amaze me that game development companies continue to include tradeskills in their games while putting in such low effort into making them work, and more often then not making them specifically not work. Instead, because of something like soulbinding, we often end up with generic tradeskills that must be done by players themselves, rather than buying a tradeskill player’s goods as is supposed to be the case.

I will say that, I am not against soulbinding in general… and I’m certainly not against level requirements. I actually think a lot of early soulbinding usage was appropriate. If game devs build in a system in which to get legendary gear that takes a character a long time to acquire and these items are supposed to be the hallmarks of a character’s life… it’s totally appropriate to soulbind that item. I also have concepts in my brain to allow the player to choose soulbinding as a way to pay off positive attributes on their items, which I may or may not get into at a later date. I feel like soulbinding has its place, but it needs to be considered when it is used as it really does take away fun from the game to do it.

So I want to go into a little more how Guild Wars 2 is addressing this because I think that GW2 is proving to be an extreme case of soulbinding in particular. I also want to go into some thoughts that I have on what I would do in order to combat some of these issues without delving into the usual methods. But I feel that this post is long enough, so I’m going to split these into two other posts that will be released in the future. I think this is actually going to be something I do going forward… I will have one post giving a background of a concept and give arguments as to why I like or dislike certain aspects, follow up with a case study of the concept (good or bad), and then followup again with my thoughts on what could be done in a potential game.

MMO State of Mind

MMORPGs are really the genre of my heart. While I do love RPGs and strategy games, I always want to return to MMOs and hope to find something to sink years into and find new friends to chat with. It is a genre I feel so strongly about that for over 15 years I have been designing my own MMORPG in my head and on paper just for my own mental play and have even written articles on this blog about my thoughts. I have considered at many points creating my own on my own and have made minor attempts at it through the years in various ways.

Yet looking at this blog, I haven’t mentioned MMO’s for 3 years… an article where I talk about FFXIV… before that… 2012… where I talk about upcoming MMOs that looked interesting (only Elder Scrolls Online really worked out and I never played it)…. and it has seemingly been about 10 years since I really talked seriously about MMOs from a design/analytical standpoint.

Part of this, I realize, is that over the last 5 to 10 years, I really just have vacated the blog sphere entirely. Life etc… The other part of it is that I have also almost completely vacated the MMO genre due to the WoWification of it. The FFXIV spurt of articles that I wrote came because I was really jonesing for the genre so I went to the best available game, which fortunately or unfortunately was FFXIV.

Since about… August… I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2. I have played this game periodically on and off since near launch. I think the most the game has ever hit for me previously was the 3 to 4 month timeframe. I did take a break from GW2 for about 4 to 6 weeks over December and January, but I seem to be back in… We are now sitting at probably… 8 or 9 months of play which is fairly substantial for me these days.

So this coupled with the recent announcement that GW2 will get a third expansion and so I’ve been contemplating things I’d like to see in the game for that expansion, coupled with a lot of downtime due to Coronavirus… and I’ve contemplating game design for MMOs again of late. To add to it, last year about this time, I got a promotion at my job where I am developing programs with Java, and while i’m still new at it… I think I’m pretty freaking good at it and so the concept that I could program my own MMO is resurfacing as a very real possibility.

So… short story long… I kind of want to get some of these mental discussions back into blog form with the extra time that I have been granted. The one thing doing this really does for me is that it helps me focus. Because I can take a single topic. Talk about it and my ideas on it. Really dig in… and because it’s getting written, i don’t circle around it quite as much.

Who Did I Used to Be?

In recent weeks, I find myself very interested in a woman that I am somewhat friends with. She is beautiful, funny, and very much the most intelligent person I have ever met. And more important than anything, I have a great time sitting and talking to her. She’s not perfect but, she’s the first real interest I’ve had in a few years.

I am in a situation where I find myself contemplating how to cross the gap and ask her out. I actually think there is a possibility she is somewhat interested in me, but am extremely scared of the rejection, I’m scared of losing another friend, and I don’t know… just scared. This is really a culmination of a few really bad experiences over the last 7 or 8 years which have left me frightened, depressed, and with an extremely low self esteem.

But it occurred to me tonight… I used to be able to attract women who were, in my opinion, much better looking than me. Just much better than me in many ways. I can name in particular 5 women 10+ years ago, 2 of which went beyond just friends (the other 2 I wasn’t really interested in, 1 the timing just never was right). These girls were gorgeous, varying levels of intelligence and really good people.

But then the last 2 serious interests happened and really those 2 were doomed from the start. They were both married, 1 of them didn’t even live in this country. Yes, I was a bad person for being interested in married women, no I didn’t have a choice in the matter, I didn’t want to like them. On top of these doomed relationships I had bad video game dynamics with both of them in the fact that I met them both playing video games which had very toxic environments where back stabbing friends was promoted and desired.. and well I kind of entered a perfect storm of bad where my interest in women was being coupled with a paranoia perpetuated by games.

But then… I return to the thought… what was I before this period of my life where I could attract women fairly well and I had the confidence in myself to go after them and how do i get back there?

To figure this out, I kind of wanted to go back and look at the words of how I talked even if it was casual, but alas, trying to find 10+ year old emails… that shit ain’t easy. I used yahoo (I believe) at the time, and they only seem to store 1 year’s worth of emails unless you purposely save them, and It looks like my gmail account only went back to 2007 (I also recognize, that even with the first of the two women, I didn’t use gmail, I used a secondary email account for privacy). Sooo I think back on my personality as my flawed memory can go…

Sarcasm… I’ve always been a sarcastic fellow with a quick wit. I do think this has been one of my primary assets in life as I have always had a capability to make people laugh. And I still can. I do think that due to my job with 12 other men in a call center that my humor has gotten more juvenile as I have gotten older (weirdly enough), and consists of a lot more sexual jokes and that’s what she said jokes. Easy to make people sort of smile, but they are cheap laughs. Maybe I should lower those more as I don’t think they are a great look for me (also they aren’t good for flirting, I used to be able to better direct the sexual vibe into real flirting in a way I’m not good at anymore…

Flirting… I think it’s worth moving onto flirting… I never was spectacular at flirting, not going to pretend otherwise, but I did enjoy the flirt, and it’s something I don’t do almost at all anymore, especially with girls I am interested with… it’s really bad. The girl I am into now for instance has on multiple occasions has gone into a sexual place and I have basically stopped it in its tracks not really knowing at all what to say, but previously if a girl I was into said something even remotely sexual, I would very quickly apply my wit in a quick and powerful way and with a slight grin on my face and it would start play… In particular I remember one girl where we would flirt with each other in regards to sticking your tongue out meaning that you were interested in kissing.

Self Esteem – Ok Look… I have always been very self deprecating and there have always been a lot of things about me that I have been self conscious about (weight in particular). If I am going to be honest, I was pretty self confident before despite that. I didn’t think I was perfect by a long stretch, but I was smart, funny, hard working, and I even at times felt like I was pretty good looking (looking back at pics from that time… I disagree I ever was lol). Self Esteem took a DEEP dive in the last 10 years… I don’t think I’m anything other than funny (I don’t even think I’m particularly smart anymore). And I don’t really know how to get back there. All I can really do is work on improving myself and hope that it helps with my self esteem. And… fake it…

Intelligence… Yeah I still think I am smart…. I don’t think I’m as smart as I used to be. I don’t remember things the way I used to. This may actually have led to my biggest self esteem drop as this was the thing I liked the best about me and so to see myself as less smart has definitely hurt. I have absolutely no idea on how to improve brain functions but this is something i need to look into badly. I think I’m going to start by actively reading books, something I haven’t really done since college. I think this will at least help get my vocabulary back into shape…

Anger… Finally anger has been an increasing problem in my life. I was a very nice guy, and really in my heart I know I still am extremely nice. I tend to think well of everyone even if I understand they will likely disappoint me. But between terrible jobs, terrible friend experiences, and growing pain…. I am quick to anger. This was actually something first noticed by me due to the customer support job back in oh 2009. But I think with the other bad things that have started happening in my life this has gotten worse. I need to fix this first and foremost and I have started going to therapy. I think if there is one thing that I fixed that could potentially help me get women and friends again, it’s fixing this. I think I can be the kind soul again who will do anything for his friends, and give freely to anyone who asks again.

Amazon Wishlist

I’m going to be honest, the Wishlist on is probably THE biggest feature they have. And as it turns out this is the most difficult feature to find anywhere else to any sort of decency. I actually was surprised at how difficult it was to find an alternative, and even what I landed on, I’m not particularly happy with. What I wanted from a wishlist site was the ability to add from any source, preferably a search function so that I didn’t have to go to websites to add it, and an image of each item on the list. On top of that, I also wanted the ability for guests to mark it for removal without having the guest log in and without the owner getting notified. I wanted the site to do price comparisons of various online stores to list the best price available. And I wanted the ability to make categories and subcategories. This was a lot to ask for, and I only got a fraction of it. One of the predominant issues with almost every site was that you really couldn’t allow a guest to mark an item as purchased, and even if they allowed that, the guest would have to sign up to the random site which I also wasn’t fond of. There were also issues with sites not allowing multiple wishlists (this seemed ridiculous to me). And no site had the ability to price check various websites. Some sites also required you to manually upload pictures which just wasn’t cool either. The site I landed on to do my wishlists was Pinterest. I know, it took me a week or two of research to land on Pinterest?!?! Well yeah. Pinterest isn’t a great option either. But it is super easy to add stuff to lists, it’s easy to make subcategories on the list, it’s easy for random others to view the list, and you can also create private lists which only friends and family can view. It has no pricing capability what so ever and no ability for people to mark things as done, but these were things not many sites had anyway. And let’s be honest, the last one isn’t something Amazon has either. They don’t even price compare on their own site. They only tell you the price of the item you selected, so if that item is listed multiple times, the other versions will be completely ignored. I did have a moment where I decided to look up who exactly owns Pinterest. I thought at some point someone may have bought the company out, and thought that company was Facebook. But as it turns out Pinterest is privately owned, I think I was thinking of Instagram.¬† So know that if you buy into Pinterest, you aren’t giving your data to a different big company, they are their own thing.
If you decide to take up Pinterest as a wishlist software (which I don’t think I’m the only one who does this), I would strongly recommend downloading their browser extension that throws the pinterest logo on every image for easy adding. This makes it so that you can go to a store and peruse and be like “I want that” just as easily as you could peruse Amazon, except now your choices can be anywhere on the net, not just on the juggernaut.

Amazon – Easy Alternatives

Let’s get the ball rolling in this by talking about the easy ones and get those out of the. Because there are certainly some Amazon alternatives that are glaringly obvious.

Amazon Video Alternatives

So this is probably the easiest thing to find an alternative to. Amazon Prime has its own streaming service, but it clearly is not a focus, it’s more of an add-on. The reason I say this is because the Originals are sub-par and they don’t get a ton of third-party support either. However, Amazon does have deals with HBO & BBC to show their older backlogs, although neither of these is all encompassing. (As an example, they don’t have the very excellent Coupling TV series that ran on BBC from 2000 to 2004, they do have Downton Abbey.)

I do strongly suggest Netflix as the primary alternative. There’s actually a lot of duplication for what third-parties show on both, so for the third-party stuff, you don’t lose much by going to Netflix. Netflix even has a lot of BBC shows, my favorite being IT Crowd. They don’t have much from HBO, instead they tend to pick up Showtime series such as Dexter or Californiacation. And then there is obviously the originals. Netflix, realizing that they will be losing third-parties sooner than later, has more originals pretty much than all other streamers combined. Though there is a lot of give and take in quality these days. (Their early shows are still top notch and worth watching.)

Hulu, I feel, is a strong compliment to Netflix, though their advertisements on a paid service continues to bamboozle me. Still, they tend to pick up most shows off most networks, both old and new. They partner with NBC, ABC, and Fox, so there’s just a lot there. Like Amazon, their originals are fairly weak overall, even with the Handmaid’s Tale. And also like Amazon, they do offer add-ons like Showtime or HBO or even live TV.

If you absolutely must have HBO shows, HBO Go is out there. I don’t suggest it though. They have great originals and a good backlog, but the cost for what you get is actually quite terrible compared to the other 3.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that, if you don’t mind ads, a lot of networks now just put their current stuff out on their websites for free. For instance, you can watch The Daily Show and South Park on Comedy Central’s website, or The Flash on The CW’s website. It’s actually surprising how much is free out there these days.

Video’s Ugly Step Child

Perhaps the one area of Amazon Video that is more difficult to cut out is Twitch. If you don’t watch Video Game Streams, then this isn’t a problem. But I do, so it is. Twitch is a juggernaut in the streaming realm, and they get stronger every year. And truthfully, I don’t have a great solution to it because of things like Overwatch League being exclusive to Twitch.

But I’ll give it a go all the same. My overall suggestion on replacement is to use instead. Why? First, I do think they are trying to come up with ways to innovate the streaming space in positive ways, and for the most part it works. They have low latency, their recent addition of paying out streamers for certain levels of “sparks” earning gives a solid way for streamers to monetize without costing viewers a dime works a lot better than anything Twitch has, and the interactivity can be pretty cool if used correctly. They also do A LOT to help streamers get noticed, they have several channels that randomly host, they feature smaller channels, and they even have an “up and coming” section. These are great for newbs.

Youtube also has been trying to enter the streaming space. And they also have low latency. I think they tend to give preference to live streams in search results too which helps. But, it is ridiculously difficult now to get and maintain partnerships as a new streamer, and they have fewer avenues of monetization even if you get there. Their interface is also just terrible. Pretty¬† much the only place that it is easy to find just random streams is by using there gaming app. Which is VERY specific and not overly casual friendly, especially if you are on the PC. I rate their interface as a whole similar to Amazon Video’s… a lot of clutter and hard to find what you are looking for. Odd for a search engine company that prides itself in its simple interface.

Mixer has flaws though which stop it from being better than Twitch in the first place. One, it just doesn’t have the traffic. That is not just viewers, that is streamers as well. They are kind of in a paradox here though, they can’t get viewers because they can’t get streamers because they can’t get viewers. It’s hard to be in that position. It also doesn’t have the plug-in support or the clear path to Partner that Twitch has. Twitch also has more avenues to earning money (bit purchasing and ties to amazon come to mind). Also, for some reason, the only way you can watch Mixer on TV is via Xbox One. No app that supports Roku, Fire Stick, or Chromecast. No app on PS4 or Swtich. It’s odd.

Still, as weird as it is to say… Mixer is the clear underdog. And I say that is weird because it’s Microsoft. The company that got the title of stock worth the most back from Apple. But in the competition of Google vs Amazon vs Microsoft… Microsoft feels like the clear underdog to me. And I want to support underdogs where it is worth it and I think Mixer has a lot going for it.

As an aside. I recently started Streaming on Mixer. So head on over to to hang with me sometime!

Pet Supplies

This one seems obvious to me, but maybe it isn’t to everyone else. But Chewy has made quite the name for themselves recently and have quietly carved out a chunk of Amazon’s business. For months, I have already been using Chewy primarily for all my pet needs. I buy cat toys, litter and food (both dry and wet). From Chewy, and I actually order pretty frequently because cats go through things fast.

Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure why I’ve moved to Chewy but I have, and so has all my friends, and looking at the recycling bin when I’m throwing out my boxes, a lot of others have as well. Both Amazon & Chewy have similar prices on their goods. Both give discounts if you subscribe. Chewy gives free shipping at $49 and it is 1-2 day shipping. You can get these things next day with Prime but at $25 you get free 3-5 day shipping.

I will say, $49 is a lot more difficult to attain than you might think. I usually hit like $43 with a huge bag of litter and 2 boxes of wetfood and then am struggling to figure out what to add to get the free shipping. The downside, I feel, with Chewy is that the boxes are heavy! They very rarely split those $49+ boxes, so you are lugging these huge boxes around, I have never ordered pet supplies from Amazon, but I am sure they have the same issue.