Tuesday, August 21, 2007

IGN Spreads Ill Will

Kotaku's got a story up about Direct2Drive offering up Bioshock.

Apparently some people were able to jump the street date and play it right after downloading.

Now IGN is sending threatening letters to anyone that downloaded the game.

Kotaku is making it sound as if all these people were actively hacking. But from what I'm reading elsewhere, people who simply pre-loaded are also receiving these letters because the files were sent to their PC. They didn't even have to try to launch the game.

Get this down: People who paid money to pre-load the game and then pre-loaded it are being sued because some other people might have been able to play the game a few days before the street date.

Sue first, admit your own screw-ups never.

I'm really glad I got it on Steam.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online Revisited

My reaction
to the LOTRO beta can be found at this link.

I've actually been playing for the last month and started a subscription. The game is much improved since beta. I also updated my PC, which really shows off the gorgeous amount of detail in the game world. It can be an adjustment coming from something as colorful and stylized as WoW, but the graphics definitely fit well with the lore and themes. The LOD is still ugly, but I've learned to deal with it.

One of the best things about the game is how much the developers interact with the community. Book 10 goes live this month with countless changes based upon player feedback. Book 11 is also due out this year. The goal is to put out as many free updates as possible, not just tweaking classes but adding in new content across all levels.

The main reason I got tired of WoW was the focus on high-level content. I never leveled a character beyond 54. But I leveled at least six characters into their 30s, and even more into their 20s. I like to try everything, but nothing ever got added to the low-level game. It was always Wailing Caverns. Over and over. No soloable instances.

Developers should not put all their focus on the people who burn through all the content, get to the highest level, and raid over and over. Yet ultimately those are the people who bitch the loudest and threaten to quit because now they have nothing to do. Boo hoo.

Try enjoying yourself.


A good example of the way that players can completely subvert design intentions is LOTRO's Monster Play.

Monster Play can be accessed once your character reaches level 10. You can make one of each class of monsters (or "creeps," as they're called).

Creeps were designed to be considerably weaker than player characters (or "freeps"). They're the underdogs. The best way for them to win is zerging.

Turbine never planned on making Monster Play a focus. They didn't consider that some players might grow attached to their creeps, often to the exclusion of their freeps.

They also assumed, since players can be monsters at level 10 but must be at least level 40 to enter the PvP zone as a player, that monsters would greatly outnumber freeps. This was a faulty assumption for several reasons:

-As a creep, you are dropped into a PvP zone without a revealed map and no idea what to do. If nobody is willing to help, you will probably leave and not come back. A lot of first-time creeps are on for five minutes, then leave and never come back.

-You are also much weaker than freeps. If you get into a skirmish you will probably die A LOT. Again, five minutes can turn someone away forever.

-The entrances to Monster Play are in out-of-the-way places in major cities. They also don't show up on maps. Some people have probably gotten into the higher levels without ever knowing where to access Monster Play.

-Some people do not enjoy PvP.

I would hazard about 50% of players try Monster Play and only about 10% stick with it long term. When you factor the "flippers" (people who PvP as both freep and creep) the number of creeps rarely gets above 40-50 at a time, max. Sometimes much, much lower.

What this means is that more often that not creep and freep numbers are balanced, but the deliberate imbalance of creep stats/skills puts them at a very, very noticeable disadvantage.

Turbine could've just left it at that, explaining that PvP was never a priority for the game (which would be true).

Instead the Senior Content Designer engaged the community and collected tons of feeback from PvPers. Book 10 is going to introduce a lot of changes to Monster Play to make the creeps more viable for the long term (including access to your monsters from the login screen).

I'm sure there will still be a lot of work (after all, how do you balance something that is meant to be unbalanced?), but the process of actually dealing with a community is pretty great to see.


Look, I have
the greatest respect for Freeman Dyson.

But just because you know very much about a certain thing does not mean that you know very much about certain other things. Just because you are fairly certain about the things you know very much about doesn't mean your certainty is automatically transferred to things of which you know very little.

To put it simply: You know about as much as I do about climate science. You even admit your lack of knowledge.

But then you rationalize your bullshit contrary opinion with the notion of climate scientists who never go outside, never take real measurements, and somehow work only with computer models. Climate science is not wholly done by simulation-only shut-ins. Even fucking weathermen look out the window and use barometers and thermometers and all kinds of real world science.

Climate scientists correlate much more data on a much larger scale. This isn't rocket science or advanced physics. It's basic knowledge about a very general field of scientists studying our actual physical world using actual physical data. They don't sit around and say, "Hey, it's warm out, must be global warming."

That kind of sloppy thinking is pretty much confined to mush-headed corporate apologists and disingenuous fundamentalists: "If there's global warming then how come it's so cold outside right now?"

In other words, Freeman Dyson is very intelligent, but that doesn't mean he isn't acting like a moron.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

You Can't Kill the Revolution Tie-In

I attended
the Virgin Festival in Baltimore.

As Ben Harper played and sang the same old songs about revolution I thought about how easily movements are co-opted, how ideology is a game of constant hypocrisy we call compromise.

Harper needs a carrier wave for his thoughts of against-raging and spliff-smoking and his label needs to target the demographic of dread-locked college kids, old hippies, young hippies, and People Who Give a Shit (Who Will Never Change Anything). So they engage in this sickening relationship, a commercial venture that binges on the culture of excess and purges it with war whoops and anti-government bravado.

But he plays the dobro like he wants to crack open a fault line, eking out roaring waves of feedback that clang and clatter. This is what the Devil's fiddle-playing sounds like, and it's heavenly.

I saw Ben Harper almost ten years ago and he hasn't altered his shtick a whit. How could he? Being a revolutionary means always saying the same thing.