Is being watched in an MMO by Spooks OK?

By now most gamers have head about the NSA watching games like WoW and SecondLife for dangerous individuals. If you’re also watching out for potential impacts from the NSA’s activities exposed recently, you’re probably now saturated with odd and scary stories.

A meandering thought or two is below.

Frankly the entire concept reads like fiction to me, and is scary enough that I’m seriously considering changing a huge amount of what tools I use and what I do online.

By way of really dreadful example – please consider these revelations about what is plausible for surveillance. It is an video explanation of the methods recently exposed. Actual hardware hacks, device exploits, and all other manner of “hacks and hijacks”.

Continue reading

I’d back a MOO2 clone in a heartbeat

BioBreak blog reminded me today how much I loved the PC game Master of Orion 2. By today’s games it is a contradiction to all the features that generate buzz:

  • single player
  • turn based
  • fully offline
  • no time limits
  • still images, or sprite graphics

Why was it so good? Well for a start it supplied a backdrop for my mind to fill in the story. Continue reading

Wildstar actually sounds interesting

warrior_logo_mbThe more tangential information I read on Wildstar the more I think it might be trying to approach a different audience and supply a different game.

A few things sound interesting, like having playstyle pathways where you pick the style of challenge you want, and the game as aspects built especially for that style. If you like combat, you kill monsters. Prefer discovery, then be challenged to find nooks and special areas.

I also like the art style of the game. Having an overtly cartoon world means the rendering could be sympathetic to longevity in graphics, and also potentially avoids the problems of the uncanny valley which most “real-looking” games face. The tech and resources needed to render out a human face which looks “right” are crazy complex and high. A styled cartoon looks right as we fill in the detail mentally. Our minds are the sketchpad and resources which gives the game appeal.

A non-real style also means that emotional, special, and blood/damage effects can also be skewed toward imparting the meaning without a special particle engine. Take the presentation of a spaceship for example. I have no idea what a Devastator class warship might look like in a space game, but I can tell you without a second of thinking that rendering of water in Farcry was incredible and still looked like cgi. I accept the spaceship as real, but I call bullshit on the water’s repeating pattern at max camera distance.

I have no intention of playing Wildstar, especially as my old pc will not be up to the challenge; but I am interested. That is more that I can say about many of the other games being published and in Beta at the moment.

Interesting times. I’m going to keep watching it. TyphoonAndrew

I suggest you do not trust Perfect World

PW-nope

I wrote a post recently about disliking Perfect World’s spammy emails, but then credited them with with a single click unsubscribe. Well that feature is not working, so they really they fail on all counts. I wrote:

The best feature that Perfect World offered in that email was a “one click remove” link which removed me from all future offers.

Love that! A darn good feature right there. They got that dead right and kudos for them for doing it. I respect a company which lets folks opt out.

Well I was grumbly then, but they’ve sent the same junk, so now it is actually spam filter time for them. Then I do some digging through their policies, and while they claim to respect and protect as normal good companies do, they follow it with this junk:

No guarantees

While this Policy states our intended policies and practices for the collection, use and handling of personal information and we endeavor to follow such policies and practices, we are not in a position to guarantee these standards. There may be factors beyond our control that may result in disclosure of personal information or in the handling of personal information in a manner other than as stated in this Policy. As a consequence, we disclaim any warranties or representations relating to maintenance or nondisclosure of any personal information collected from visitors and users.

What utter fail. And lastly:

If you object to your personal information being transferred or used as described in this Policy, please do not use this Website.

Well we agree on that.

I had started toying in Neverwinter but cannot see that happening again now until my boredom rises past Warcraft, through SWToR, and back through Diablo 3. If a company cannot handle a simple opt out, I cannot trust they’ll do much else correctly, especially when they’ve written a part of their policy to disclaim any responsibility without consideration to the cause. It would be fine to disclaim events beyond their control, but they’ve written that they disclaim everything.

I suggest you do not trust Perfect World.

Have we lost Titan? End of days…

I both loathe and desire the Blizzard fan-base, as they make threads like this – where Titan is announced as delayed…(snarky-warning)

“only reason i got bizzcon tickets was to see titan info. guess its time to double the price and ebay em, really a shame”

You paid a huge amount of cash to attend the hopeful launch of a game which we know almost nothing about. Continue reading

Camelot Unchained Kickstarter thoughts

Apparently the Camelot Unchained design goals are a counter-revolution. By focusing on design principals which harken back to MMOs of yore, they seek to provide that which has become lost in an age where (apparently) every MMO is replicating World of Warcraft, and wow is selling out to the greater dumber audience.

Sorry, not buying into this hype. Not again. For a start somebody better tell Eve that it is a wow clone, and ignore the plethora of smaller online games which have existed for ages…Puzzle Pirates comes to mind.

As I wrote in a comment in Keen & Graev’s blog – I get that CU is going back to earlier design goals of MMOs and the designers cite WoW as an example of what is bad in mmo game development trends…such things as pandering to casuals is specifically raised. Now the devs of CU have every right to believe this, and have formidable game development experience to back this thought, but holy hell what an arrogant perspective. That aside what struck me about the blurb on CU is the design is not really a step forward evolution at all either. It stinks of back in my day thinking. OK. Got it. At least its been said up front.

The idea of looking backward is not new, CU is going back to hard difficulty pvp based worlds. That is a good thing for the audience that loves it, but it is not an innovation at all. Killing lots of folks in an online game ain’t new.

The community of wow is the same community of people in every other game. Do you think the online chess community doesn’t contain dickheads? Gevlon disparaged WoW until he left and now disparages Eve’s population of morons and slackers. The nights where Wow was patched the server pop in Star Wars jumped up, and the same shitty people played against the same brilliant people. Community in CU will contain the same range of people as every other game, unless the build also includes the budget for a previously impossible amount of moderation and gm involvement – which seems doubtful given the reduced subscription cost.

When I read the CU kickstarter all I saw was a dev company using the strong thematic dislike for mainstream (theme park?) MMOs as a platform to fund the game style they like. Good on them. It has the same hyperbole, and will have the same spread of players as wow – but they’ll have bought into the idea that they are special snowflakes playing a different game. A revolutionary game built for them. Good for these players too, but until I read a feature-set which is actually an evolution I’ll call bullshit on most the CU hype.

Taking a massive cheap shot at WoW in an opening bid for funding is a strategic marketing gambit. They had better hope they don’t get 3-4 million players because that will create exactly the same in-congruent feedback which makes the wow community so polar.

In the rush to cash in on the WoW phenomenon, publishers/designers tried to simply “out-WoW WoW”, leading to most MMORPGs becoming more risk-averse, more “casual player”-focused, and overall, less challenging. This produced, among other things, a loss of the pride and sense of accomplishment that came from succeeding in the older, more difficult titles. We’re not talking about spawn-camping for 24 hours straight, but rather the sense of pride from succeeding in a challenging game rather than one which hands you everything on a silver platter. In CU, you will have to earn your skills by deeds, and they will increase slowly over time. Magical items will not be found everywhere like road-kill on highways, so gamers won’t feel the pressure to “keep up with the Gandalfs.”

The current design “foundation principals” are listed on the CU website. My fav is #13 called Chaos Goes Boing which I couldn’t understand on the first read, but embraces the chaos that can occur in an MMO. The foundation principals make for good reading too, although they do somewhat meander. Again, more power to them, in communicating in advance about what and why the CU devs are giving a very open view to their potential customers.

They are a small dev shop looking to create something that they love, and seeking a very effective and valid way to measure the interest and gain capital to make it happen. This is exactly why Kickstarter is a great service. Consider though Kickstarter itself is more revolutionary change for online games than another RvR MMO is.

To be clear – I hope the CU game is created and I think there will be a small and dedicated market for the gameplay. I’ve taken a few shots at CU here, but overall it is more a dig at their approach to the comms/PR than the actual desire to create something. Warhammer Online had some of the same banter, and could not stay afloat, CU by comparison looks at this initial stage stronger.

New game, known dev house, quasi-related IP reuse, reliable known theme and features, niche/different audience, boosted funding from a community; thus a respectable goal. Alas not worth my pre-investment.

Camelot Unchained by City State Entertainment — Kickstarter.

LucasArts Closed

Rhetoric surrounds the closure of LucasArts. I feel for the folks who have lost their jobs, and agree with the popularist cynical view that most of what made the company iconic originally has not been the daily activity for many years. That said the company did have some interesting different games in production for Star Wars and I was excited. 1313 was a new direction, and I was watching it. I was even a little excited despite feeling that the Star Wars MMO failed to deliver anything different or as good as WoW. It will be a shame if those games do not get picked up by other software development houses, and hopefully some of the staff too.

Of course the comments are a range of support and snide, the move is not totally unexpected given Disney has Star Wars now and can do as it wishes. This is a significant point in time to watch…will Disney provide vision for the franchise, or produce garbage?

IMHO Disney is a monolithic company operating in ways that only rarely connect with my daily life. I watch their films when I get around to them, and generally don’t buy merchandise or go to theme parks. They have purchased a powerful brand in Star Wars, with a very passionate support base. With that passion comes expectation and management of feedback, some fans are not forgiving.

I hope they have a new angle and create something in the spirit of the first Star Wars film. That would impress, and have a chance of providing a continuing fan-base well into the next decade.

Src: LucasArts Video Game Development Shutdown by Disney.

SW1313 flushed down a hole when Disney cancelled it

Continue reading

It’s quiet, too quiet…

Aside

I’ve been hiding from World of Warcraft recently due to work overload. A weekend of business report writing, amongst babysitting, and replacing a broken modem/router was enough to have me tuckered out. Then I had to work Sunday night. Blarrrg.

I have been sneaking in the odd TV fix though – I’ve added the Walking Dead to the mix of shows that I treat as a naughty secret from the rest of the family. When the house goes dark and the child is asleep the zombies come out. The Mrs and I watch Mad Men together and amid Don Drapers last escapade with a brunette with morals as poor as his own I started wondering how cool a cross-over would be.

The Walking Mad Men – a cool chic zombies, huffing cigarettes and booze between solid bites of brains and flesh (and because of rule 34, I found it already created online). Then Peggy and Dom brain storming how to really appeal and distract the undead, or perhaps how to make them eat the competition.

I can see Draper getting serious with a handgun and cleaning up his beloved city, if only due to his strong survivalist instincts, and loner tendencies.

mad_men

Perhaps more sleep is needed. TyphoonAndrew.

Kings Landing rendered in Minecraft

Holy insane dedication batman! 100 people, 4 months. Stunning Full image gallery (re-posting from other blog because its awesome).

Kings-Landing-Minecraft

Incredible. These folks win at Game of Throne Minecraft. You might need to understand what Minecraft is to appreciate the effort, or be a GoT fan to not think it is a little extreme use of time – I’m both. Impressed. Thanks to Ant for the link.

Pizzainacup on Reddit – It took me and about 100 other builders a little over 4 months to build the whole thing. We estimate theres around 3000 unique buildings, all hand made and all fully decorated on the interior.

The insanity level might be moderate, until I found out that they rendered the interior spaces as well.

And because insanity needs a project, they’re also doing all of Westeros.

Refs:

Interesting Permaban in LoL

Penny Arcade’s recent comic is about players who get banned (its a clever Silence of the Lambs), and not just any players – but the worst of the worst. The comic itself is a reference to a LOL (league of legends) player who has been perma-banned. Not the players account – the actual player. And he’s had his accounts closed permanently 3 times before. He also played with two others who are also facing bans.

Penny Arcade (webcomic)

The level of transparency in the ban and the actual severe ban for this guy is wonderful to see. If for nothing else I might try LOL to see just how virulent the community is, and also experience their behaviour reporting system.

Every online community can do with this type of system; especially WoW. LOL has the Summon’s Code, a purpose written set of guidelines for player behaviour. I respect the right of a player to express frustration, to get heated, and to flame on a bit. It frequently goes way too far often when the person faces no actual ramifications for being overtly rude or disrespectful.

A quick click through the comments found almost total support for the bans, but a few voices speaking out against it. That is to be expected when (a) there are many more borderline players who might be at risk of bans, and (b) the community has been frustrated for a long time.

“Speaking as someone who always has all-chat turned off because of the boring verbal harassment that goes on in every single game, I have to say that all of the Riot punishments are rather meek. I don’t understand why this is the first time I see lifetime ban, but good going Riot.”

I’ve seen one repeat criticism of the bans which is that Riot should not have used the login names in the bans. I disagree. Using the login names and especially linking them to the other accounts where these same players behaved against the guidelines demonstrates the commitment to improving the community. Name and shame on an account name is not severe at all, and certainly makes sense. It shows the rest of the community that a standard was set, and the penalty for not meeting that standard.

Love this…ban them all and let their gods sort them out. Continue reading