Charity Rant, part two.

November 29, 2010

A while ago EVE was sponsoring a charity event, donating PLEX to help out victims of the Pakistani Flood. I wrote about my reactions here. The organization sponsored was the Pakistani branch of the Red Crescent, which is an Islamic version of the Red Cross.

Well, it looks back in 2006 Iran allegedly used the cover of the Red Crescent to smuggle arms into Lebanon during the second Lebanon war. The Jerusalem post reports on it here. The Guardian also here. The data was from Wikileaks massive info dump released earlier today. The summation seems to be that Irani intelligence officials used IRC ambulances to transport weapons and a cadre of elite officials.

This is a tremendous blow for the legitimacy of the Red Crescent as an organization, even if individual branches are are on the straight and narrow. This calls into question its neutrality, and that neutrality is vital to its humantitarian work. It also casts doubt on the other branches of the organization: if Irani intelligence could infiltrate it, what other organizations could? Was this done with local complicity?

Or even worse, did EVE players support an organization that could have been infiltrated and abused? Is the Pakistan branch blameless?

It needs to be said that the IRC strongly denies this, and even if the Irani branch was used to further political aims, that doesn’t mean any other branch did. It also needs to be said that more time is needed to verify this due to the chaos from the Wikileaks DDOS. But because of this, moreso than ever it is VITAL that the IRC open itself up to independent observers to regain any credibility it has, if only for the peace of mind for those who trust it to do well. Transparency.


Think I might have found a solution to CPU spiking.

November 27, 2010

I wrote earlier that I was having trouble with CPU spiking causing a lot of heat. I think I found a solution.

There’s one svchost. exe process  in windows 7 that takes up roughly 80k of memory. It is used by multiple services: windows audio endpoint builder, superfetch, and most importantly two homegroup processes. The homegroup processes are what I think are causing the spiking. They are to allow you to share stuff as part of a group: you disable them  from starting up in control panel->admin tools, and stop the processes in task manager. It seems to be working: cpu spikes are down and the fan hasn’t sounded as much. Time will tell though.

So..where’d all the game coverage go?

November 24, 2010

Massively is the site that got me hooked on MMO news. But what’s up with it?

I’m not talking about their latest redesign. I think that was a positive step. But where is the coverage of games? It’s like all Massively does is regurgitate press releases apart from the columnists they assign to a few dedicated games. There are a bunch of games that seem to have completely dropped off the radar. What’s up with Mortal Online? Or The Secret World? What happened to that indy game Dawntide, and what is Love doing? What happened to Blade and Soul? Or Crimecraft? Or the Agency? How’s DUST514 coming along? What future F2P MMOs can we look forwards to?

You can break down most of the coverage to a few games: FFXI, Aion, DDO, LOTRO, EVE, EQ2, TOR, FFXIV, and AOC. The rest of the games covered tend to be posting press releases, with some infrequently getting deeper coverage: Fallen Earth and Runes of Magic are two of those. But I think there is a lack of MMO news, as opposed to reliance on evergreen articles like the Soapbox.Hopefully they can start investigating and being proactive rather than reactive.

Tech Dumb

November 23, 2010

I’ve been noticing recently a mindset I call Tech Dumb. It’s not limited to technology by any means, but it has its perfect expression in it.

Tech Dumb: The idea that the disruption caused by new forms of technology will always be beneficial.

This is based on the wrongheaded idea that because it benefits me, it should benefit everyone else. Usually it ignores the entities that the disruption hits the most keenly, because to the Tech Dumb, they don’t matter. If you want the perfect expression of Tech Dumb, browse sites like Slashdot or Ars Technica and read the comments section of any article.

Here are a few examples of disruption:

Netflix: I use it too. But sometime, for fun, try driving out and renting from a physical store. You’ll notice you can’t find any.

Netflix and Redbox have combined to put dedicated video stores out of business. While this benefits by lowering the cost and reducing things like rental fees and overdue costs, it has destroyed other things. We’ve lost jobs and taxes as the independent and chain stores have folded. We’ve lost something else: the experience of being in a discrete store where we can meet other people, and just talk. In a way its a loss of community: we get our videos quicker and cheaper, but we are isolated from each other doing so.

Piracy: The big Tech Dumb sacred cow. Tech Dumb people always underplay the effects. Usually they focus their rage on the publishers and distributors, without realizing that piracy harms content creators as well. The disruption from piracy and its various Tech Dumb solutions (making content free, charging not enough to make content worthwhile) is not small on content creators, who are just as vulnerable when they go without a publisher as they do.

Piracy is giving us solutions now which also tend to be accepted uncritically by the Tech Dumb. Steam, for example. I hope you like downloading PC games online, because Steam and digital distribution is killing off box sales. You can’t underestimate this, because boxes persist even beyond digital distribution. I can still buy an old console game, but for older PC games, you are at the mercy of the content owner who decides if rereleasing is worth it.

F2P games: Remember, Tech Dumb is only not seeing the harmful aspects of disruption. It doesn’t mean you are dumb. F2P games constantly get boosted because they promote choice, allowing people to “own” their characters since they can log in at will without paying anything. This is classic Tech Dumb, because it focuses solely on the person’s own immediate benefit.

F2P has had a ton of disruptive effects. It’s flooded the market with many poorly and cheaply made MMOs that draw subs away from good ones due to the ability to play them entirely for free. This can’t be understated: reading the game list at show a majority of the games released are such.

It also has become a crutch preventing real change for games. Your game can’t hold on to its audience due to questionable design decisions and devs not thinking? It adds nothing new to the genre? Rather than make the hard work of changing elements of gameplay, just cut a fast f2p conversion to boost numbers. They’ll play it for free, and maybe a few more will sub.  Never mind your core base getting annoyed that any flaws wont be corrected because it makes more sense to focus on the F2P side and keep the numbers churning.

I’m not going to go too deep into this to avoid a multi-page rant. The take away point is in ignoring disruption due to immediate benefit. The Luddites are often a used as a joke now, the typical anti-technology haters. But few people remember they arose mostly out of the disruption technology provided by destroying jobs and transforming not only an entire industry, but the meaning of work itself.

It may turn out that the disruption a technological advance may cause is minimal. But each advance needs to be analyzed and discussed to make sure that we are not ignoring a potentially harmful paradigm shift. Whether in MMOs, or in digital distribution, or even in things you wouldn’t think of, like the technology of divorce: how many divorce advocates would have thought when champion for no-fault divorce we’d see over half of couples choose it? To counter Tech Dumb is to put yourself beyond your own immediate benefit and consider all sides of a change. It also means to be literate in tech, to a basic level.

This is something we have to learn to do, and fast. Disruption is only growing greater each day. Cable did not exist 30 years ago: neither did video games or cell phones. Tech spurts now hit every 5-10 years. We can’t afford to be tech dumb now, because it wont be long till the effects of the disruption become evident and tech becomes entrenched.

For Syp, with love.

November 23, 2010

You wouldn’t think I’d let the crack about anime slide, did you? So, behold! A link to the character classes of the new Taiwanese MMORPG XAOC, from MMO Champion. For those not willing to wait for all of them to load, one to whet your appetitite.

guaranteed to give syp fits

This is a dual gunner class. Jokes about what her guns are and where they are may be made at your own level of comfort.

While the in-game graphics don’t match this level of detail (You can see here, they have a nice although low-res look) they follow the tried and true method of underarmoring in an anime style of way guaranteed to give our friend at Bio Break cause for another rant. I think it has to be said though that ironically, the few JRPG MMOs that have come out have never reached this level of undress. It seems to be both Korean and Chinese MMOs that push the envelope.

The cynic in me thinks we will see more of this as China emerges as the larger MMO market. This is due to some seriously skewed sex ratios in China, leaving 1.1 men to every woman. While women in MMOs are ranging from a tiny minority (EVE at 5%) to a normal distribution (WoW) in the west, the sex ratio combined with cultural differences might be shrinking the pool of female gamers in the east. If that’s so, expect to see more MMO versions of “lad magazines” like Maxim, targeting young men specifically.

Interesting times.

Onlive debuts: not many people care

November 22, 2010

It looks like cloud gaming service Onlive has finally launched. You can find their site here. What you cannot find is a single MMO game offered. In fact, the gaming catalog looks a little…sucky. You have some name games like Borderlands and Assasin’s creed 2, but a lot of the games are things like World of Goo or Lego Batman: games where you probably can already run them on a halfway decent computer bought in the last few years.

Oddly enough, there are virtually no games which would minimize the weaknesses of the Onlive platform, like civ games, roleplaying games, or other slower games. Almost all of them are fast paced-action. These games are the most likely to suffer from latency between your computer and the cloud.

For a balanced review, arstechnica has one here. Onlive has some good points: you can free trial any game there, and some let you rent the game for a week or less rather than pay the full amount to have constant access. The microconsole they developed is only a hundred bucks.  It’s also one of the only ways to get decent gaming on a netbook. However considering how big cloud computing has been in the blogosphere lately, the launch of Onlive seems underwhelming.

Mega Man Online Gameplay

November 22, 2010

Well, uh, at least it looks nice. It looks like they are taking the Vindictus route by forcing you to play as predetermined characters, namely Megaman and Zero. Hopefully Forte and Roll may be available. But is anyone else tired of all these “MMOs” that really just are the online modes console games used to have for free?