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.

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.

Free Windows Authenticator OS

Warning: This app is not sanctioned by Blizzard, or tested in any manner – use at own risk! Blizzard have stated a stance of accepting that it works, but they prefer customers use the real sanctioned tools.

As the app runs on a pc, that app can be compromised as much as any other.

Wandering through the D3 and Blizzard discussions on security, I found a free Windows app which emulates the authenticators. Basically it is the same app as used on the mobile devices, except it is Windows software. And it is open source, currently v1.7.1314 and appears to be updated regularly.

screnshot of windows authenticator softwareRefs:

Wow, a pretty impressive give away of a useful function!

WinAuth uses the same algorithm as the Mobile Authenticator for Android and iPhone, and so generates the same codes when using the same serial number and secret key. One of the initial reasons to write it was to remove the dependency on having the phone available, but still use the same codes.

Whilst you cannot directly read the Mobile Authenticator’s private keys from an iPhone or non-rooted Android, you can now use the new Restore feature to copy your authenticator over to WinAuth.

Impressive, and now even less excuse not to have an additional line of account security for Blizzard games.

Cryptic Accounts Compromised

cryptic logoCryptic tell me via email today that my password and some user credentials might have been compromised.

Eff’ing what?

“The unauthorized access included user account names, handles, and encrypted passwords for those accounts. Even though the passwords were encrypted, it is apparent that the intruder has been able to crack some portion of the passwords in this database.

All accounts that we believe were present in the database have had the passwords reset, and customers registered to these accounts have been notified via e-mail of this incident.”

I want details, more detail than they supplied. It is a huge concern when the gaming market is going for micro-transactions, and those accounts can store credit cards, especially for inactive games. This event apparently only directly relates to Star Trek Online and Champions Online, but any breach is serious.

Cryptic are doing the right thing by owning up to it, and making channels available to the community affected. They’re doing the minimum right thing. But sheesh Cryptic – how many times has this happened to game companies in the past, and why is it so ungodly difficult to establish a secure database system? Continue reading

Edifier MP300

Th second little groovy audio system I have to try is the Edifier MP 300. Like its smaller Soundbar cousin, this unit is designed to be portable. But while the Soundbar unit is a single solid item, this unit is three separate pieces.

This lends itself to places where you want an unobtrusive sound unit, have limited space, but also are probably going to be setup for more than a few hours. For me this is perfect for our study, where space is a premium, but I stillwant good audio.

The unit produces far better sound that a laptop, and better than the crappy plastic pillar upright units that you see for sale in bargin bins by far.

The good:

  • Sound quality is nice and full. More than enough to fill a study, bedroom, or small living area.
  • Attractive design, which is a refreshing change from the black plastic or beige hardware seen in most rooms. Its also not overed in “extreme” icons and stupid symbols.
  • Setup was easy when using with an iPhone, basically plug in and turn on.

The Bad:

  • Many cables and cords, while needed are not handy if you have to pack up quickly. Thus the use in a semi-permanent or fixed position rather than a road device.
  • I had a terrible time getting the unt to work correctly with my laptop’s audio port. After a good 20 minutes of playing around, I just piked and tested the iPhone hoolup. This is totally the opposite of the SoundBar which worked straight away. This is probably due to the laptop having pretty strange audio devices in teh windows system, so not a total mess.

Overall: I’d be ok to have a set of these speakers, but would probably hook them up to a desktop unit, rather than a laptop or portable device. They are good enough for most sound applications, but do not require an extensive nest of cables, and also not as bulky as a full 5.1 sound system, which would be totally under utilised in out home office.

I still have a full 5.1 sound system sitting in my garden shed, as it is too power intensive Continue reading

Edifier Soundbar Review

Out of the blue recently I was offered the opportunity to test a few portable sound devices, so like any true blood geek I jumped at the opportunity.

A picture of the SoundBarThe first one is the Edifier MP 250 (a.k.a the Soundbar). It is a very simple and portable single unit speaker which improves the sound output of moble devices. It will work with anything that can plug to sdb (like a laptop), and also anything with a stereo plug (like amost every other audio device on the planet).

Here is a quick review.

The good stuff is:

  • It is darn small, and reasonably light.
  • No setup required (plug in, pause for recognition, then it worked straight away – fark!).
  • Comes with a nice handy carry sleeve, so that it won’t get wrecked by your other gear.
  • Far better sound quality than standard laptop speakers.
  • It looks nice – all silver and smooth, not a fugly blob of black plastic.

The bad (only the obvious and the trivial):

  • As it needs power from the USB, you’ll go through battery life in no time. Use it when plugged in to power and there is no issue.
  • No tech solution can deliver high end sound, especially high end bass sound in a manner to replace a good multi-speaker setup. Do not have the illusion that the SoundBar will be a home stereo. Better, but not a holy grail.
  • Carry case should be slightly bigger, so it can also hold the cables. You can squish them in, but it takes a few minutes.

Overall: It would make an excellent gift for a techie who works regularly with a laptop or ipod/iphone on the road, and for aus$60 its reaonsable. 

I didn’t want a Soundbar until I tested it, and now I am very glad to have it. It is already in my laptop bag.

Continue reading

RTS Build Order in SC2

Might be old news for the SC2 core, but darn impressive none the less. A programmer named Lomilar on the TeamLiquid site has used a highly intelligent and adaptive program dubbed Evolution Chamber to find the optimal build orders for StarCraft 2.

This program has devised a method of building units which was otherwise unknown, and leads to a very high probability of victory; particularly for those players who excel at speed builds (from what I understand). Players who use this are the guys who seek optimal performance, and its hardly surprising that somebody built an app to do it.

This is very interesting for gamers in general, not because it’s possible or just a freakishy cool and strange thing to do (well to me anyway), but because it raised a hell of a lot of dire ranting from members of all sorts of communities, for all sorts of odd reasons.

Q. Why is it possible? A storm in a teacup?

A. It always was. Because this is nothing new, and the computer program just makes doing the math so much faster that it is now tactically viable in terms of game affect. You could brute force open a safe, or the correct build order for units in Civ 1 as well, it takes time and programming savvy.

And yes, this will be added to the communities of interest for such things, absorbed, and developed into a finer mechanical bases for strategies.

Q. Is the game broken now?

A. No more than before. A RTS is about strategy, speed, and knowledge. You need a strategy to guide your thinking, speed to build and control units in optimal ways, and knowledge to understand the changes in a game and how to react. This app gives some of the puzzle a fixed path.

Q. Is it perfect?

A. Honestly I doubt it. I’ll bet that somebody already has a working counter-strat or at least a way to mitigate the overall affect. And that means that those games will come down to other factors to determine who wins.

Q. Who will use this?

A. Everyone will eventually benefit from this, although the affect on my RTS skills will be zero, as I suck badly enough that even with a strategy like this in my head I’d not be able to execute. The good players will get better, and the great ones will continue to be great. The advantage of this strategy will also fade over time amongst the community of solid serious players.

Q. Were the mega-skill-rts players going to win anyway?

A. Yes, but they beat you faster now. Get over it, or practice more. And they’ll beat each other in far more clever ways with this too.

Q. What next then?

A. Using the app mid-battle to alter the strategic recommendations is next. This will basically be a trainer app, which helps rote learn good responses to classic strats. I think it is not significantly different from a chess uber program being used as a training tool for high end chess players. Chess being turn based is a point of difference, but as a trainer – this app does the same thing.

Q. Does this destroy the enjoyment?

A. For some it increases it; for others it makes the game pointless for multiplayer. Each person probably already knows which they are, and this app does not change the battleground by much for those folks.

Read Further http://gizmodo.com/5679355/can-artificial-intelligence-beat-humans-at-starcraft

Scifi CoilGun is concerning

A very scary video of a magnetic gun, or Coil gun, via the typical Interwebs; the folsk at Gizmodo.

Holy hell:

Coilguns fire projectiles by swapping the explosive force of gunpowder for magnetic force, which is applied via one or more electromagnetic coils along the gun’s barrel. Youtube user Larsplatoon says that he made the coilgun in the video above over the course of two years, and that it has a maximum output of 1.25 kJ. MAKE calculates that this would mean it fires its projectiles with more force than a .45 handgun, and is rightly skeptical; still, it’s quite an impressive feat of homemade handiwork.

If you just want to watch it blast things, skip on ahead to the 2:25 mark.

I am scared by this is a very real way. The idea that it is possible is exciting from a geek-tech perspective. The idea that a weapon could be made to fire solid slugs at 50% speed of a normal handgun is bloody disasterous.

Unsafe, terrible, and especially dangerous if miss-used. Then again at age 13 I was building crossbows and other weaponry, so I guess this is just the next generation of nerd. There is also a huge amount of reserach, backyard tomfoolery, and images around; these toys are not new.

Now I want one. :(

WoW Armory for the iPhone released

We can now grab an official Armory iPhone app (wow.com article). Let me be one of the many that runs around in circles squeeling like a school girl about this, starting now – brb. *yay, squeel*

wow-iphone-istoreBy all accounts it looks nice. That reminds me…*yay, squeel*

I’ll write impressions after a few days of playing around; but for a starting question:

Q. Why can I login to this using my Username and Password, but not using an Authenticator?

A. No Fucking Idea – but that is not good at all! This could facilitate account hacking / hijacking.