Friday, November 30, 2007

TriggerTyme / SugarBottom

Okay... I think it's about time I followed up on a thread from last year. Last year I attended a 24hour scenario game at TriggerTyme paintball in South Carolina. I liked it because it was a huge field, the refs were competent, the facilities were relatively clean, and so on. However, while talking with the TriggerTyme owner over the behavior of a couple of non-sporting players, we were let on some drama. We consisting of FoxCat and Ryeata's players.

Essentially there had been some drama with a previous employee of TriggerTyme, and the result were hard feelings with the previous employee being persona-non-grata at TriggerTyme. The former employee basically had his own team of paintball players who were also under a state of non-welcome from Triggertyme, although they were not banned.

A few weeks later we found out that the previous Employee was now opening up his own Paintball field called SugarBottom. So, FoxCat and I trekked back to South Carolina to check SugarBottom out. Essentially, SugarBottom was a "pirate paintball" exercise held in a farmland.

Pirate Paintball means that the game is played at the players own risk. If you get injured, it is your fault. Most players of Pirate Paintball understand this, and it is considered one of the thrills of the game. Unlike a paid scenario field or a paid speedball field, you can quite literally take your life into your own hands if you screw up. So... don't screw up.

In comparison, when we attended the player briefing at TriggerTyme, the first topic of discussion was "Goggles down at all times on the field." You had to sign a release form to state that you were aware that you were firing .68 caliber weapons at each other that could run in excess of 300 feet per second. You had to chrono multiple times a day, and a ref could have you pulled off the field to have you chrony. Chrono / Chrony means checking the speed of your projectiles. If you repeatedly shoot too fast? You could be ejected from the game, and possibly from the field for a period of time.

The first topic of discussion at Sugarbottom? "Please don't sue us." No safety briefing. Just, a request to not sue them.

Things sort of went downhill from there. FoxCat and I came to the conclusion that we really did not like the home team SugarBottom fielded, which were friends of the former TriggerTyme employee. In my own words I described them as Halo Players. Our first experience at SugarBottom was effectively a case of all of the experienced players on one team, and everybody else on the other. Not exactly a good mix if we had been trying to introduce somebody new to the sport.

One of SugarBottom's party pieces was an old farmhouse set in the middle of a wooded area in the middle of the farm field. The people running SugarBottom had spoken like they had played in the location before. The claim was not backed up by the actions of the home team with some of them pulling barbed wire out of the wooded area. A quick check of the farmhouse revealed no paintball residue, nor did any of the trees show signs of being hammered. The quick conclusion we came to is that we would actually be the first group playing on SugarBottom, something we could not say we were comfortable with.

FoxCat and I decided to give SugarBottom one more chance a few months later. We agreed to help an associate carry paintball equipment up to SugarBottom so we could provide air, paint, and markers to new players. This time as we drove up, the Farmhouse wasn't there. It had been burnt down in an act that the police had already determined to be arson.

This is where the story gets more complex. SugarBottom blamed TriggerTyme for the arson. However, speaking from my own point of view, if I was going to torch somebody's field, I would have torched all of it. According to the SugarBottom people, only the areas that had been played in before had been burnt. The areas that had been marked off to play on for that day... had not been burnt. I floated the opinion to FoxCat that it was possible the home team for SugarBottom had torched their own field.

Either way, at that point FoxCat and I decided we did not want to have anything more to do with TriggerTyme or SugarBottom. We didn't care if TriggerTyme had committed the arson, or if the SugarBottom people had torched their own field. Somebody had raised the feud to a point that we wanted nothing to do with either.


So, if anybody was interested, thats pretty much why I stopped talking about TriggerTyme.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Users are leaving Mepis? - Matt Hartley

Recently another news site, OSweekly, ran a post by Matt Hartley stating that users are leaving Mepis. Now, Matt Hartley and I have some history, specifically me emailing him directly, as well the editor in chief address for OSweekly, calling Matt's bluffs and correcting his factual errors in his articles. Matt is one of the people whom the Why Walt Mossberg discredited himself and It Just Works were aimed at.

However, to this date, I do not believe that Matt Hartley has ever actually ran a retraction. Rather, OSWeekly has consistently failed to meet minimum journalistic standards for reporting and editorials. Well, I'm not giving Matt the benefit of doubt by emailing him this time.

I am stating right now that Matt Hartley is a troll.

Here's why: In his most recent entry Matt Hartley claimed that users are leaving Mepis for other distributions such as PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, and so on. Slight problem with his claim. The MepisLovers forums are averaging 10 to 15 new posters asking questions... each day. Many of these users are coming from PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, Sabayon, and so forth. Despite Mepis being in a state of of almost non-report from legitimate news sites, the project is still growing and attracting new users.

Matt Hartley also claims that Forum members lack experience. I find that hard to believe considering that many users receive answers on the MepisLovers forums. One of the current "it sounds like a joke" factors about Ubuntu is that nobody answers questions on their forums. However, in my own experience, as well as many other forum members of Mepis, it is not a joke.

What Matt Hartley did not stop to think about is that Mepis Linux has been around since 2003. Many of the current forum members are self taught, and have learned the hardway how to deal with certain problems. The Mepis Community was one of the first, if not the first, to put together a comprehensive Users Manual in PDF format for new users to Mepis Linux. As far as I am aware, no other Distribution has anything like the Mepis Users Manual to offer. To say that forum members lack experience is a direct insult to many of those involved with Mepis.

Lets also add some more factors into this consideration. Tex over at PCLinuxOS has said often that if he knew Debian packaging he would work with Warren in a heartbeat on a distribution collaboration. Many in the Mepis Communities consider PCLinuxOS to be the RPM Sister. Clem over at Linux Mint has also directly brought up the desire to work with Warren on a collaborative distribution.

So, let me pose this question: Why would other distribution developers want to work with Mepis... if the users were leaving?

Let me add in another factor : AntiX. AntiX has rapidly become one of the most active distributions in the lightweight sector for Linux development, and has also spawned a project to create an XFCE based spin. (Full disclosure, that would be me trying to put it together)

The point is, I can point to hard evidence that Mepis is growing despite the attacks launched by various news sites. I cannot point to any evidence to suggest that Mepis is losing numbers or that community members are fading away. I can cite the number of people providing updated packages or offering compiling services. I can point to users who have stepped up to work on giving the UI for Mepis an overhaul.

I can't point to anything that would support anything Matt Hartley has to say.

Right off hand, I think at this point OSweekly has crossed the line on it's editorials. Sites that hold to even minimum journalistic standards simply need to avoid linking to OSWeekly's articles. Enough sites refuse to pass the links on... and the site dies. Where as Distrowatch can reclaim some sort of dignity by apologizing to the Mepis Linux community, I don't believe that OSweekly can. It's time to just ignore them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No. DistroWatch was wrong.

Lately there have been a lot of commentaries made about Distrowatch declining to list the news that Mepis 7 Series had entered a Release Candidate stage. Some of the commentaries contained lines that the Distrowatch controllers "righteously" responded to the Mepis Community.

Sorry. Wrong. That line ends here, and it ends now. One of the major factual errors that Mepis has been fighting over the years is that it is a spin-off of Ubuntu or other distributions. I see countless articles, editorials, and posts go up that place Mepis after Ubuntu. Sorry, that isn't true. Mepis came before Ubuntu and is the grand-daddy of the Linux Desktop as a LiveCD. Yes, Knoppix came first, but Knoppix has always been a tech demonstration, a proof-of-concept over what could be done with Linux. Knoppix was not, and as far as I am aware, never, built as a usable Linux Desktop.


Edit: I was going somewhere with that train of thought and completely forgot to conclude it. One of the reasons why Mepis has been fighting the perception that Mepis is a spin-off is repeated attempts by Distrowatch posters and controllers to classify Mepis as a spin-off and remove the distribution from the list of separate Linux Distributions, placing it under Debian(pure) or Ubuntu. Distrowatch has shown a disturbing trend in the past to minimize or decrease the attention paid to Mepis, and from what I have read and heard, to other distributions as well. I find it disconcerting on a personal level that many of the same posters and controllers who argued that Mepis was a Spin-off worked to include legitimate spin-offs such as Kubuntu and Xubuntu as their own separate distributions. I think such is called a a double-standard.

I've also brought up before in the post titled It Just Works? that many of the known Distrowatch ratings exploits had been developed by Ubuntu members. Someone else raised the question of this: How did the Ubuntu Forums know what to look for to exploit the ratings system? I don't have a clear answer, and any answer I could give is merely speculation, hearsay, and conjecture.

Other posts I've seen around indicate that some controllers of Distrowatch have personal vendettas against certain distributions. I somewhat touched on that topic as well in It Just Works? when going over the F.U.D. that was and is being launched against Mepis, as well as how Mepis stepped on the toes of various reporters and analysts. Distrowatch Controllers have never explicitly said anything bad about the Mepis Community before, but there are recorded postings made by the controllers that contain attacks against the Mepis Developers.


Fact is, Distrowatch claims that Mepis never announced any change logs , it's primary defense against having not posted any information about Mepis: Wrong.

All of the ISO's released by Mepis are simply rollups of all the existing changes made through Synaptic, as well as modifications to the startup process. While the status of what makes up a Mepis release has come up multiple times before in the and forums, many legitimate news sites refuse to accept forum souces as factual information. The Mepis (Un)Official FAQ has been updated to clearly describe what makes up a release ISO.

As far as I can determine, rather than doing a little bit of research, or appearently even bothering to contact anybody within Mepis, Distowatch willingly chose to ignore Mepis.

Sorry. There was nothing righteous about Distrowatch's response, and nothing righteous about it's emailed responses to Mepis Community Members who had the guts to out the Distrowatch controllers. Distrowatch owes the Mepis Community a huge Front Page apology, and all of Distrowatch's defenders need to get their act together. I'm not saying they need to apologize, but some such as Debian-News? Might want to think real hard about what they post.

Personally? All this event does is prove just how out of touch Distrowatch really is with Linux Communities. It's just another reason why Distrowatch is rapidly being removed from the list of sites to visit when learning about Linux.

Last night : the sky

Okay, if I understand the Blogger system correctly... all you should have to do is just click on the pictures to get the larger versions.

This was last night. Gorgeous... ain't it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Bane Encounter.

**little bit different entry. I'm trying to brush up my skills on writing fiction. I'd like to get hired as a scenario writer for gaming, but with the majority of my online fiction consisting of the encyclopedia entries on Callaer, I don't have much to point to. So, I'm trying my hand at some fiction again. This story takes place in Tabula Rasa, but not in the current continuity. This takes place in a continuity where Bane ships can be taken as clan housing, and the AFS have captured a Bane Assault Frigate. This story also involves other players, taken from an old Planetside Vanu Outfit, Band of the Hawk**

A Bane Encounter

I sat there lounging back in my captains chair, an eye on the monitors. Out of the corner of my eye Ryeata was cleaning his net guns, giving them that extra special touch. In some ways, it was odd. We had only taken this ship from the Bane a few weeks ago, yet had already made it home. As my eyes rolled back over the main consoles I checked off the reports from FoxCat and CableDog. Nothing to report from them either. FoxCat indicated that Concordia Divide was as barren as it could get with no major Bane activity for hours. The same with CableDog's report from Palisades. I tapped the screen and grabbed the latest feed from High Command. Bane activity was at an all time low, and something was wrong. "Hey Ry?" My compatriot stopped his cleaning and looked up and over. "Yeah Z?" I paused for a couple seconds then brought up the dimensial maps for Concordia and Arieki. "What do you think about this lull?"

Ry thought for a few seconds, then put the incendiary net gun down, stood up, and walked over. "My guess is they probably found a new planet and pulled back forces for a while to keep us on our toes." I looked at Ryeata with puzzlement in my eyes. "Care to explain how you came to that conclusion?" Ry flumped down into the other captains chair, closed his eyes for a minute, then spoke choosing his words carefully. "They had to pull back for some reason right? It can't be a major offensive assault. Everytime they want something back on the Conts we have they just flood the CP's, junk the supplies, and hammer our bases keeping us locked in the med. So, they must have found something out there that they want more."

I ran my eyes over the maps one more time. Could Ryeata be right? Could the Bane have possibly opened up a new offensive? Why would they pull back forces from the planets we held? They never seemed to have any shortages before. Ryeata's theory just didn't add up. About that time I noticed a flickering warning in the lower monitor. Tapping the icon revealed a MayDay from Planet Arieki, specifically the communications tower. I pointed at the message to Ry, and we nodded. We had been doing this for so long it was almost automatic to accept the mission and link it for the bounty.

Our ship is only about 30 feet long, little more than a Bane Commander's private yatch. With only 6 real bunks, there wasn't much else to the ship other than the Command Center. Thus it didn't take us too long to prep our gear and activate the warp point. We kept it turned off most of the time while somebody was on board to discourage the more Creative Bane from using the Ship Warp point to avoid the random warp spawn defenses we had... added. All I'm saying is that a little laser turret in a magnetically shielded command center makes for a lot of Bane Sushi. Anyways, we tapped the ships onbaord warp point and popped over the High Command Cruiser.

The High Command Cruiser was a little different than our private yatch. At 3 miles long it was one of the largest ships that had been captured from the Bane. Most of the important parts of the ship, exampling the helm and exterior warp controls, had already been cleared and properly protected with stationary turrets, force fields, and the non-logos receptive APU forces. Originally we had used warp points built into the ship to get around the varios locations. The original plan had not lasted for long as the Bane were not going to give up the ship that easily. The Bane constantly assaulted the ship with long range random teleports into non-shielded sections, carrying ECM devices with each wave. The constant wave upon wave of Bane had effectively neutralized the Interior Warp Points, although their need to keep spawning in prevented them from interferring with teh External Warp Points.

While our scientists and engineers worked to convert the ships interior warp points to AFS secured devices immune from the Bane ECM devices, we were stuck with having to run where ever we wanted to go. That meant a near mile treck from the Bane's old Ship to Ship warp system to the loading platform's Warp Gate tying into the planetary systems. A near mile through several Bane Squads that wanted their ship back and were quite willing to die in order to achieve that goal. Thankfully that gave us some time to think about the MayDay from the Arieki Communications Tower.

FoxCat and I had been through there less than a week ago, successfully resecuring the main control room. We had left a couple of Privates and a Corporal there to maintain communications with the outside world, and had left the lower levels in the capable hands of the non-receptive AFS forces. I didn't want to believe that the Tower had been comprimised, not within a weeks time. As I mused about the Tower I plowed through the last of the Bane in my way, freezing the monstrousity with my Cryo shotun, then kicking right through him, over a ledge, and a 20 foot drop to the forcefield for the loading docks. I heard Ry thump to the ground next to me and we sprinted through the field, past the refueling dropships and into the gate.

Once we spawned on Arieki, it was just a sharp right turn to the Drop Ship pad, which was sitting their waiting. I glanced at the pilot as I hopped aboard noting that it was a older corporal, probably grateful for the relatively stressless job of having to dodge Bane aerial attack drones. A few minutes later we popped on the Incline. Ortho, perhaps the most secure control point out of the entire AFS areas. It had never been taken by the Bane, prompting questions about why it had not been converted into a full base yet. The answer was pretty simple, the Bane came knocking so many times no work could be accomplished. As we passed through the Ortho warp point and into Plains post I began to wonder again... Were we too late? Had another force arrived before us?

We crested the hill and ran into the Tower at a dead run. As the doors opened I dived for the nearest potrusion to shield myself as Ryeata went full stealth and dropped to the floor panning the hallway with his tourqeshell cannon. "Clear!" he yelled, and I popped around the corner shotgun at ready. I charged to the next potrustion and slammed against the wall, crouched while popping my incendiary polarity gun. I gave the handsignal to move as Ryeata picked up from his position and charged forward to drop and roll into position for the next hallway. This time, no clear was given, and I looked over at my pal. Then the mic went off: "Nothing." I blinked and hit my own mic button: "What do you mean nothing?"

Ryeata sat up and holstered his tourqueshell cannon. "Nothing. The place is ghost. No APU, no guard, no meds, no nothing. I don't like, not one bit. I say we call some crunchies to go ahead of us." I joined him and looked down the hallway to where the first guard set should have been. Ry was right, nothing was there. "No... if there is a problem we may not have time for reinforcements. I'll go first, hang back and cover me in case I need to self destruct." Ry nodded as he readied his netguns and I readied my shotguns. Our current plan was a reversal of the previous process. I went first clearing each hallway as Ryeata hung back. Thing was, his tourqueshell cannon was only really effective at a distance. In the tower, distance was hardly a factor, so every meter we could add to his range was one we might need.

Ry was right though, this place was a ghost town. The old fortification was void of any signs of AFS soldiers. Not even the bloodstains remained from previous battles. We eventually reached the tertiary control room to find the interior teleporter offline. "I'll go grab it" Ry offered. "Are you sure you remember how to press the buttons?" My joke was met with grumble. Hey, it wasn't my fault that his prank-call to a major on the AFS high command channels would get routed to General Cuppa. I thought she took being given the raspberry rather well; Ryeata only had to peel potatoes for 3 weeks. A few seconds later the teleporter started back up and Ry joined me again. Knowing that shotguns normally didn't have a place in Ry's typical loadout, I tossed him one my Cryos, and through the teleporter we went. My fears of encountering ExoDus were soon laid to rest, the robot was not there. The missing AFS soldiers, however, were. Staked to the wall with various bladed instruments.

"Um..." Ryeata looked as puzzled as I felt. "Yeah... we should radio this in" I said as I stepped up to the radio transmitter. "It's broken" I said a few seconds later. Ryeata looked over from where he was taking pictures. "Can you fix it?" I was already pulling out the equipment repair tool, so Ryeata nodded and proceeded to go back documenting the carnage. As I worked the repair tool I could hear him stating the names of the deceased into his mic, and the click and flash as each high-res photo was captured into his suits memory. Then, the worst sound that we could ever hear occured. The teleporter fired up. Somebody was coming through. Ryeata was relatively safe with his stealth bonus. I, on the other hand, was a sitting duck. I couldn't work the tools and fire the shotgun and all I needed was 10 more seconds, so I was reliant on Ry to blast whatever was coming through.

Suddenly two figures rolled through, one to the left and one to the right. AFS uniforms, a Medic and a Grenadier from the looks of it. It took me a second to realize I knew them. Ry took care of the greetings, by simply laying a hand on Ravinn's shoulder, and a well placed "Hi." She responded by lighting his face up with an incendiary shotgun. Ah well, at least Ry won't have to shave for a few weeks. Decimata stood up as he slid his rocket launcher into it's holster. "Greetings Zeria. Looks like you got the mayday as well. What's going on here?" Decimata stepped forward taking a moment to take in the scene. "I don't know Deci, we just got here from our clan ship." With a click I finished repairing the radio and Ryeata went back to documentating the names of the deceased and collecting their dog tags.

I turned around to look at Deci: "What's really puzzling is that none of these soldiers were caught by the medical recovery system. I think that is a bit more disconcerting than the fact that they died." I walked over to one of the APU units and ran a hand over the remote broadcast unit. "This should have gone off the second the pilots life signs went null, but it didn't." Decimata joined me and looked at the device. "You'd almost think the Bane have figured out how to block the medical recovery system" he said. Ravinn suddenly spoke up, "Guys, I think you had better come look at this." We hurried over and found Ravinn holding a data chip in her hand, a really old data chip. "I found this in the hand of the private" she told us, before adding "I think I can go ahead and tap them back into the medical recovery system and have their bodies transferred to Irendas's Hospital. Won't do them any good, but that is a better place to examine the bodies."

We nodded for her to do so as we looked at the data chip. "I wonder what could be so important for a private to have a death grip on this thing" Decimata commented. "I don't know, but I should probably turn it over to High Command immediatly" I responded as I packaged the chip up. We heard the humming start as Ryeata and Ravinn started popping the decased back into the Medical transport system. We made a quick radio report to Ortho requesting a heavier guard to be stationed at the Tower's Entrance and began our trek back. As we cleared the entrance, we heard several dropships lift off as near full Battalion of troops marched into the base. Colonel Hogan greeted us, introducing his receptive's NewKerk and Kartar. With the tower resecured we headed back to Irendas to catch our warp back to the AFS High Command Ship.

Decimata and I talked over the way. Neither one of us liked the lull in the Bane attacks, and the creepy event in the Communications Tower. Did we have a 3rd party involved with the Bane, or was that Eloh back on Concordia right... were we dealing with something a little bit beyond what we thought?

You cannot be a Christian and a Democrat

This is a topic I've been mulling on for a while, trying to decide whether or not I really wanted to broach it. I decided to finally go ahead with this entry after listening to a couple of AM talk radio shows, both local and national, and hearing people identifying themselves as Christians, but Democrats, calling in.

Thing is, you cannot be a Christian and be a Democrat at the same time. It is quite frankly an either / or position. The problem is clearly defining why this is so. Lets set some basic requirements for being a Christian. #1: There can be no other Gods. Jesus is the only God, and he is the only way to Salvation. #2: Christians are to hold a higher moral standard of Living, and are supposed to set the Standard on how to live. #3: There is a clear right and wrong, and it is a moral right and wrong that is determined by what the Christian Bible says.

Now, take these three requirements and apply them to the Democratic National Party, or just Democrats in general. One of the big cultural pushes being made by Democrats today is that of multiculturalism. Everybody's religion is fine, everybody has a different way to get to Heaven. All other religions are equal. This flies in the face of requirement #1. Christians cannot accept Jews, Mormons, Islamics, or any other religion as being equal. Christians can not, for one minute, think that anybody else can get into Heaven without having accepted Christ as their savior.

The issue is highlighted even further by the typical associates of the Democrats, the RIAA and MPAA. If you consider the music and movies, a lot of effort is put into place mocking Christian beliefs and behaviors. In popular movies the Christian is always the square who just doesn't get it, or is always the fool that gets killed first in a production of forced irony. Go ahead and count the number of movies produced by members of the Screen Actors Guild that portrayed Christians as reasonable and intelligent people. It won't actually take very long, and it is doubtful that you would use even one hand counting them all over the past 30 years.

So, being a Democrat means having to sign on as an ally to those who openly mock the Christian Faith. It also means having the party requirement of pushing beliefs and ideas that are directly counter to that of the Christian Faith.

Consider for requirement number #2, the standard of living. This again goes back to the music and movies industry. When Gone with the Wind was first released, it was given an R rating for it's singular use of one cuss word. Today, or rather a few years ago, Gone with the Wind was re-released into theaters and was giving a G rating. A typical PG film today is laced with obscenities and cuss words that most movie goers just take in as part of the experience. If you were to play a drinking game with such words on a current R rated movie, most movie goers would be drunk after a few minutes.

Lets bring that back around to the standard of living. Should Christians really be supporting, and allying themselves, with an industry that prides itself on pushing the envelope of verbal and visual filth?

The problem extends beyond Hollywood as well. Other liberal oriented institutions such as the ALCU and PAW go out of their way to protect and defend sickening behavior across the US. I've lost count of the number of stories about how liberal oriented institutions assisted in establishing gambling and Sexually Oriented Business's across various states, going against the wishes of communities where over 50% of the local population is dead set against such business's. Again, it really doesn't sound such Democrats are trying to set a higher standard of living.

When it comes to establishing socialistic programs such as HealthCare, again, Democrats are not known to set a higher standard. I've already been into that subject before with a post called Government is Not the Answer. Everytime a Government gets involved in a formally private, or also private industry, the Government lowers the standard.

In respect to requirement number #3, that of a clear right or wrong, Democrats fail even basic litmus tests. For example, Bill Clinton's indiscretions in the White House and against his wife. Everything was alright, just as long as he wasn't caught. Liberal Democrats are also known for saying things like anything goes. It is up to everybody to determine their own right and wrong. There are no Absolutes.

Well, speaking for myself, gravity seems pretty much absolute. The three laws of thermodynamics also seem pretty absolute. The point is, the Democratic party has systematically rejected the concept of a moral point of absolute wrong and absolute right. As a whole, the Democratic party rejects the Christian Bible as a standard of how to live, and as the final authority. Should a Christian really associate itself with a party that rejects the Christian's own standard?

I think my statement that a person cannot be a Christian and a Democrat stands then. Now, a Democrat can become a Christian, yes, but at that point, they will no longer be able to be a Democrat. Holding to the basics of being a Christian means rejecting the actions and motives of the Democratic party. The differences cannot be reconciled. One is always in violation of the other's primary beliefs.


Now, don't take this article to indicate that I don't like a good alien shooter, or a good monster movie. I'll root for Gojira to take down Tokyo just as quickly as anybody else. I'll also point out that Star Wars Ep4-6 proved you could have an intense action/romance Sci-Fi adventure without being vulgar. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings proved you could bring Epic Fantasy to life, without the typical Hollywood filth.

I'd also point this out: Rob Rock, Chris Impellitteri, C. S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien ... they are / were Christians. Chew on that the next time you go pick up a music cd or a fantasy book.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

80 times the power of a PS3? I don't think so.

Recently I caught a video from AMD talking about their upcoming Spider Platform. The Spider Platform consists of a Quadcore Phenom processor, the 790 chipset, and a Radeon HD3800 graphics card.

During the presentation one of the AMD representatives stated they were doing 80 times the power of a Playstation3.

I. Don't. Think. So.

Here's why. The AMD Phenom Processor is based on x86 technology, extended with x86-64. x86 generally isn't actually considered that great of a processor architecture. The IBM / Sony / Toshiba developed Cell processor is based on the PowerPC architecture. PowerPC is generally considered to be one of the better architectures on the market, with maybe the old Alpha architecture being considered better.

Now, bear in mind that there have been practical examples of PowerPC versus x86 in the market before. Exampling the Older Apple Mac G3 and G4 designs. At 500mhz they easily kept up with Intel and AMD designs over 1ghz. Consider the Gamecube, which many developers went on the record as saying it was easily more powerful than the 733mhz Celeron used in the Xbox, despite only having a 485mhz processing speed.

Now, keeping in mind that in terms if IPC, instruction per clock cycle, PowerPC is considered to be better than x86, consider this: The IBM Cell processor used in the PS3 not only has a PowerPC processor built in, it also has 7 SPE's (Synergistic Processing Elements). Anyways, the SPE is comprised of it's own memory controller and a 128bit RISC processor. One of the SPE's is reserved for the Linux based OS used in the PS3, leaving developers free with 6.

So, in a best case scenario, the Cell processor used in the Playstation3 can manage 6 different processing threads. Now keep in mind that the two most advanced engine on the Playstation3 today are Epic's Unreal Engine 3, and the NEON Engine developed by Codemasters and Sony. Right now, both engines are barely pressing 2 processing threads. They aren't even reliably getting beyond using a 3rd of the processing power available. Why? Well, because the engines have to work across multiple platforms where those 4 extra processing threads probably are not going to be available, say like an Single core AthlonXP.

This relatively low use of processing abilities at the start of a console's life isn't exactly unusual on the exotic hardware used in game consoles. Just go pick up a Super Nintendo, a Playstation 1, a Playstation 2, a Gamecube, or any other console but an original Xbox. You'll note a startling change in graphics quality as you look at launch titles and compare them to titles two or three years down the line. For example, go pick up Ratchet and Clank, Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal, Jak and Daxter, and Jak3. Now, play the original titles... then play the 3rd game. See a difference?

The odd one out in the console graphics improvement is of course the Xbox. Since it used a stock x86 processor and a not so stock Pixel Shader 1.4 graphics chip from Nvidia, there wasn't as much room for the system to grow as time went on. So what you had at the beginning of the consoles life... was pretty much what you had at the end of the consoles life.

So, what does this have to do with AMD's claim?

Well, lets think about it for a second. A quad-core Phenom processor is only going to be able to process 4 threads. An engine optimized for the x86-64 platform with 4 processing threads isn't going to run very well on the 6 thread Cell Processor, and vice versa. So, cross platform engines are never really going to be able to effectively push either system to it's maximum extreme. Engines that are designed from the ground up for each platform, however, will be able to actually use the platform, as witnessed in the Ratchet and Jak games.

At best then, in a dual socket enviroment, a Quad-Core Phenom processor system would be able to process 8 threads (4*2). Even with a high clock speed of 3ghz, a Quad-Core Phenom is going to have a hard time matching the raw performance of Cell.

From a strict processor viewpoint then, I think AMD is talking rubbish when it comes to outpowering the Playstation 3.

From a graphics viewpoint though, AMD might have a point. The Playstation 3's graphics are provided by an Nvidia chipset known as RSX. RSX was reportedly based on what was the 7800 series. Chances are, from the clock speed of the GPU at the Playstation3's launch, which was 550mhz, it is more likely the GPU shares more in common with the G71 7950 GT spin than the original G70 7800 spin. Thing is, either way, that is Shader Model 3 hardware.

AMD's new RadeonHD 3800 series though, is Shader Model 4 hardware, which means that all of the shaders are unified. In the RadeonHD 3800 the shaders can either do vertex shading, or pixel shading. Granted, the RadeonHD still can only do 16 textures per cycle versus the RSX's 24 textures per cycle, so the RSX will still probably be faster in texture based titles. However, with textures on the way out and shaders on the way in, the RadeonHD has much more to pass around.

It is possible then, that 4 RadeonHD 3800's coupled together, could approach 80 times the power of the Playstation3's RSX in terms of Shader Output.


The primary question is though... will that matter? The gut reaction is no. Most game developers have to target for a baseline of playability. Currently that baseline is the Intel Integrated Graphics, so most titles built against x86 computing are never going to press what 4 3800's coupled together can do.

That means that 80 times the power of a PS3 or no, it will be a while before such limits are even remotely pushed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Desktop OS- Vista vs. Linux

Couple of updates concerning the Microsoft Vista versus Linux Desktop install base. Reason why this is coming up, well, now, of all times is that I was finishing up a review for Tabula Rasa and knocking out a commentary on Cryptic selling the City of Heroes franchise to NCSoft. While checking up on Cryptic Studios website I noticed they had a movie and link up for the Marvell MMO that Cryptic was basically blackmailed into making a few years back. The system specifications for Marvell Universe Online indicated only Xbox 360 and Microsoft Vista as supported platforms.

So, as a parting shot to Cryptic I commented that they were not going to have that large of a viable player base. This goes back to an earlier one liner I laid out in this blog where I noted that many gamers where users of Desktop Linux. I didn't lay out much background behind that, but here's a bit of anecdotal evidence. Everytime I bring up the subject of Linux in the games I play online I get a relative ratio of 4 out of 5 other players stating they run Fedora, Suse, Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Mepis, or some other Linux distribution on a "side" computer or on a Dual boot system. If I include those using Virtual Machines under Windows, I'd estimate probably 7 out of every 8 gamers I've "chatted" with has some middling experience with running a Linux box. Now keep in mind that I play games like City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa, F.E.A.R. Combat, Ratchet and Clank, UT, and a couple of others that.

Now, recently Microsoft released their financial statements and, as usual, I've been picking through them. Also in the news back on November 9th, Vnunet reported that Microsoft and Novell had agreed to extend their technology agreement. These two events are semi-related.

A couple months back several vendors initiated a Vista to Xp crossgrade. Basically, if a customer ordered a computer and it came with Vista installed, the customer could get an Xp license instead. According to some of the reports I've seen (and I'm not sure if they are actually publicly available, and I happen to like having remade some industry contacts again), vendors who have started the Vista to Xp crossgrades have over a 70% adoption rate. Now get this, Microsoft does not count the crossgrade... as a sale for Xp. Rather, they count it as a sale for Vista.

Now, combine that data with public statements from vendors that Xp is outselling Vista on an average of 3 to 1. Now go take a look at Microsoft's sales statements for Vista and for Xp, and you'll note a startling difference. Microsoft's finance numbers do not add up if one accepts the numbers Microsoft has floated for sales.

Care to guess how the numbers appear to be adding up? If you are thinking that Vista is selling worse than Windows ME, you'd probably be close to what appears to be reality.

Okay, now lets tie this all back in together. Novell claimed several months back in a video ad that Desktop Linux users accounted for upwards of 30,000,000 different people. That's 30 million. Recent statements made by some Novell representatives indicate that they expect there are upwards of 50,000,000 Desktop Linux users. Microsoft has never contested the number of Desktop Linux users, and if anything the deal Microsoft signed with Novell was tacit agreement that Microsoft believed those numbers to be accurate.

The number being floated is now higher, and Microsoft just signed an extension of that agreement with Novell, again tacitly agreeing that Novell is right about the estimated user count.

Now, considering this for a factor. The Xbox 360 has confirmed sales just over 13 million. The Nintendo Wii, the top selling Console, has also breached 13 million sales recently. Lets accept the original number floated by Novell, which is 30 million. The entire Xbox market is just over 1/3 of the Linux market. If you accept the new number of 50million users, the entire Xbox market is just over 1/5 of the Linux market.

Now, Microsoft reported back in July that 60 million copies of Vista had been sold. Now start subtracting the crossgrades to Xp that are not counted as sales, and the 3-1 to ratio of Xp to Vista sales. Now, I'm not confident in my mathematics, but right now the best I can come up with is a realistic install base of around 40 million.

Yes. Desktop Linux Marketshare... is larger than Vista.

Now, lets put this in terms for game developers. Games written for OpenGL can run across the dominant installed OS which is Xp, the number two installed OS which is Linux based, and then on down to other platforms.

Thing is, gamers are not buying Vista, and I'll reference Tabula Rasa again. During beta there were several players who admitted they were running Vista, and then also admitted that they really didn't like it... only their vendor was not doing the crossgrade to Xp for them. Again, just about 4 out of 5 of the Vista users... stated they were running a Linux in some form.

Gamers are fleeing from Vista and remaining with Xp, or moving to a Linux base. And quite frankly, if game developers do not come to terms with the shift in gaming, they will be left behind.

I just don't think Cryptic has a viable market if they only ship on Vista and Xbox 360. Keep in mind that two of the biggest names in console RPGs, Final Fantasy Online and Phantasy Star Universe recorded the Xbox 360 as their lowest subscription platform.

So, personally, I'm actually sort of glad that City of Heroes has left Cryptic, because I'm not convinced that Cryptic will be a viable game studio in just a matter of months.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ads update

I've updated the ad filter to include several more sites running ads for buying Gold in Blizzard's popular MMO title. I've also visited and looked the site over. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a legit site that does not appear to violate Blizzard's Terms of Service.

AMD and the F.L.K.

Ever hear of the Aegis Combat System? It was a radar combat system developed originally by RCA. One of the jokes you might have read in Tom Clancy novels is that the Aegis's main radar was so powerful that if it was run at maximum output it would cause Funny Looking Kids for anybody pregnant within 3 or 4 miles. I want to say it was in "The Bear and the Dragon."

So what does this have to do with AMD? Well, I just ran a post that AMD hadn't really done anything that warranted commenting on. Now, according to several links in my inbox, and to various popular news sites, AMD is under attack from a former employee who was pregnant while working in a clean room enviroment for AMD. The former employee's child was born with both brain defects and limb damage, which the employee believes was directly caused by chemicals used in the clean-room enviroment.

Thing is, I'm not so sure the employee has a good legal case to stand on. Now, I should state that I've never actually met or talked with somebody who served on a cruiser with the Aegis Combat System. That being said, I know several friends and associates who have worked in combat positions with military forces, and those who have worked with hazardous materials in both combat and civilian positions with both military and commercial entities. I live very, very, very close to the Savannah River Plant, which is a nuclear facility, so I have a bit of personal experience seeing the planning involved with handling such materials, and the planning involved on what should happen if things go horribly wrong.

So, I feel very safe in stating that paranoia is a very common trait among anybody who works with hazardous materials, either directly, or indirectly, whether or not those materials are chemical, biological, or nuclear. Even getting into Savannah River Plant as a civilian results in several notifications that the Plant houses radioactive materials, never minding that I have a better chance of getting a check from Intel for product promotion than a civilian does actually getting within a "danger zone" of any radioactive materials. Everybody I have ever talked with in the past who has been involved with hazardous materials has a long list of the warnings, the procedures, and the training on what to do and how to act around and with such materials.

So... I am finding it very hard to believe that anybody involved in a high security operation like a processor FAB could possibly be unaware of the hazardous consequences the materials in use could cause. Quite simply I find it hard to believe that AMD would possibly allow anybody near the hazardous materials used in the FAB without making sure that their collective legal rear end was covered.

So, for this mother with the handicapped child, I can't possibly see how she could have worked at AMD, in a FAB, without knowing the consequences. That she chose to continue working in the FAB after becoming aware she was Pregnant I think removes any fault from AMD corporate. Simply put, the mother was working with materials (chemicals) that were known to be harmful to pregnancies. Her manager or supervisor would have also been in a position to know the nature of the materials. As soon as the lady knew she was pregnant she should have told her manager / supervisor, and consulted with a doctor. That such an event did NOT happen is a fault of the mother.

The question then... is how badly Dailytech and Anandtech are going to swing the story to make it look like AMD is at fault. There also is a question of how many other funded sites are going to go out of their way to paint AMD as a "bad guy" who put an innocent life at risk. I'm not sure I want to answer that, or try to answer that.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

on AMD and Google.

Recently somebody asked me how I felt about AMD and Google. While I've gone after Microsoft, Intel, Nvidia, and other vendors before, I have been relatively quiet on the subjects of AMD and Google. The associate wondered if my silence on Google was driven by the fact that the blog is published on a Google site.

The short answer is that no, Google hosting Blogger doesn't have anything to do with a lack of posts about Google. It more is the fact that I really do not have anything to say about Google. Yes, in some aspects Google creeps the living daylights out of me. Their whole "Don't be Evil" mantra on a corporate level, their explosive rise to power, and their less than ethical dealings with China and other socialistic countries, all are factors that make me nervous.

In one case specifically somebody doing a search for myself came across a document I had uploaded containing my home address, phone number, and other information in my resume. I surprised that associate by being unconcerned about the information being available through such methods. Thing is I put my mailing address on the MepisGuides site.
My resume with more contact information is located somewhere on Monster, although I haven't been there in a while. My phone number and other contact information is one file with the state of Georgia for Anybody who wants to do a background check on me can obtain that information simply by calling the State department that handles business licenses.

So why didn't Google being able to turn the information bother me? Google is a search company and they are really, really, really good at searching. However, mastering the techniques to search for information means mastering the material that is being searched to begin with.

For example, if somebody wanted to effectively search mass emails? The best way to determine the most effective search methods are to build a test email system from the ground up. That way the engineers get practical experience on how a mail system works by putting one together at the same time getting the developing the most practical way of searching that email. Of course, once you've built the email system, why junk it? Thus you have Google Mail, or rather Gmail.

Google took the searching one step further with Gmail by using the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) System developed for searching text in books to search images embedded in mail. Considering that many scammers use embedded .png or .jpeg files with the text they want to be seen while slipping the text past a purely text based scanner systems, Google came up with an effective way of identifying such spams.

Google Docs is another such entry. If Google is going to go through the trouble of building a document and spreadsheet system from the ground up in order to learn how to best search the saved files and how files are generated, why not put that coding to work in a practical sense?

Just a quick overview of all of Google's products reveal strong ties towards developing effective search techniques. Of course, once you have a whole bunch of coders in place who are experienced in building programs other than strictly search based applications, why not turn those coders to other tasks? Suddenly development of systems like Android don't really seem that odd coming from Google. In becoming a search powerhouse, Google has also become a software development powerhouse.

Google also gives a lot back to the communities, both Closed-Licensed and Open-Licensed. Google employs Linux Kernel Developers. Google funds the Summer of Code, a running project to pay students to develop Open-Licensed Software. Google's funding of Mozilla has enabled the Mozilla Foundation to go toe to toe with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

As I see it, Google strikes a balance between being a standard multinational corporation, and being a good community member. Most of the times I wind up having no opinion, or no viable opinion on Google's direct actions. I do not feel that I am qualified, or capable, to discuss Google's behavior with Socialistic Countries. I really don't feel I have much of a place to comment on their corporate mantra, and their rise to power is logically explained by simply being good at their job.

AMD, for me, is much of the same thread as Google. AMD does a lot to get involved with Open-Licensed software and Open-Licensed Hardware. Because of AMD employees many server and consumer motherboards are not restricted to using a proprietary BIOS as users can boot with LinuxBIOS instead. AMD has opened up specifications and driver information for a lot of their own hardware. AMD involved Linux developers with the creation of x86-64, and for a long time Linux was the only option for those running x86-64. AMD has a long history with funding Open Source efforts, and is behind the paychecks for developers pushing out Open-Licensed drivers for Radeon graphics cards.

AMD also pushed out Hypertransport, a bus connection technology that Intel still has no answer for. Already in it's third Revision Hypertransport allows for cable connections of computer systems at processor latencies. AMD is also responsible for Torrenza, which I believe I have blogged about before. Using Torrenza IBM could put a Cell based processor on the same motherboard as an Athlon64 processor, giving the user the benefits of both processors without having to have two different chassis.

Now, I'm not saying that AMD is completely pure in their dealings. AMD also at one time was running Presidio, a technology that mirrored Intel's TPM (Trusted Platform Module, also known as Treacherous Platform Module) that would remove users control over hardware. However, the last time AMD talked about Presidio was back in 2004... and the last time the topic was brought up by AMD developers was back in 2006. So, right now, it seems that AMD is not on the same boat with Intel and TPM.

About the only legitimate complaint I can level against AMD is that AMD/ATi has joined up with those offering HDMI output on Graphics cards. HDMI in itself is not a bad idea since it offers high bandwith video transfer rates with high bandwith audio transfer rates. However, HDMI implies utilization of the Intel Developed HDCP format to remove content control from end users.

But, AMD is also involved with DisplayPort, a license-free and royalty-free standard from the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). While AMD did develop DisplayPort Content Protection (DPCP), the usage of DisplayPort does not require the usage of DPCP. With HDMI, the specification reads as though it requires the use of HDCP. HDMI is also a licensed format and is not freely available to implement.

From my point of view AMD made the best of a bad situation. AMD doesn't have the market strength to tell the RIAA and MPAA the equivalent of HELL NO when it comes to removing users control over content... But AMD has taken steps to insure that those who avoid Digitial Rights Management (DRM) are not punished for by being unable to use the latest video technologies.

So, that's why you don't see a lot of writings about Google or AMD in my posts. I just really don't have a lot to say, and when I am given something that should be commented on... generally its in an area where I would not feel right making comments.

What bothers me about OHA's Android.

If you have not read or heard the news, Google released a statement to the press about the formation of the Open Handset Alliance and their new phone Operating System, Android. The statement covered several particulars of the upcoming Android and clarified that the software platform would be Open-Licensed, specifically the Apache V2 license.

Google's Press Release | Open Handset Alliance | Android Overview | Android FAQ

So... it looks good... it SOUNDS good... but there are a couple of items about the OS that bug me. For starters there is the list of companies involved, many of which have spotty records with Open-Licensed software. I see names like Intel, Nvidia, and Broadcom in the lineup. I also see some notable names not present.

AMD is one of them. AMD has a large hold in the mobile devices sector with it's Imageon lineup, as well other extensive embedded solutions. I would have figured that in an effort to promote an open-handset platform that AMD would have been one of the top technology and software vendors involved. Considering the move to open up the source code and specifications for it's graphic processors, AMD would have been the smart choice for any true involvement with creating an open phone platform capable of 3D acceleration on open-licensed software.

Another name that is missing from the list is MontaVista Linux. As the leading vendor of an open-licensed platform for high speed communication devices, (12-14% of the market) MontaVista's non-involvement is not a troubling no-show.

The last name that bugs me that I do not see involved is Nokia. Nokia of course has the Symbian OS, which is also jointly owned by Ericsson, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Siemens AG, and Samsung. While one might claim conflict of interest, Samsung is involved in the Open-Handset alliance. As the controller of the dominant share of the cellphone market (generally over 75%), that Symbian members are not more involved is a little disturbing.

Basically, I am questioning exactly how Open the Open Handset Alliance is. I hear a lot of nice sounding words about how the platform will work, but the real players of the industry... well, they just don't seem to be involved. As I see it, the Open Handset Alliance intends to go up against both MontaVista and Symbian which hold over 90% of the cell phone market.

I also see it as the losers of the telecommunications battles gathering up, grabbing a couple of decent software vendors and having another go at it. I'm not sold on that being a recipe for success.

Right off hand, if the Open Handset Alliance was truly interested in being open... we would see the platform being based on MontaVista and we would see involvement from AMD. We'd also see some involvement from the industry heavy weights to indicate that there is a genuine alliance between all parties involved.

There are some aspects that I am happy to see though. I for one am glad that Canonical is not involved. I must also state that I am very glad that Microsoft is not involved. I really hope that Android turns out to be a great product, and I think Google did the right thing by setting it up as an Open-Licensed platform. I'm also going to say that I don't mind the use of the Apache V2 license. I'm glad that the Open Handset Alliance chose to use an existing commercially proven license rather than creating yet another license.

I just don't think that they are going to eat very far into MontaVista and Nokia's sales.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Tabula Rasa - Success or Flop?

Someone recently asked me in-game whether or not I thought Tabula-Rasa was going to be a success... or a flop. My answer was... it depends, and it depends on a lot of different factors. Yes, the name Richard Garriot is a huge draw to the game as is. The fact that it is a shooter is also a huge draw. Yet... that isn't all there is to it.

The example I like to use is Sony Planetside. Back when Planetside came out we gave it a relatively high score, I think an 8 or above if memory serves. When Core Combat came out, since I was the one actively playing the game, I gave it a very low score, I think a 2 or something, in a badly written rant. One of the charges I laid against Planetside is that the developers forgot what made the game Planetside. I stated, on multiple occasions, that Planetside went after what was popular, but not what was Planetside. The long campaigns, tactical and strategic planning, and the heavy use of vehicles set Planetside apart from any First Person Shooter, much less any other Massive Multiplayer Online game.

As time went on, as I saw it, the developers focused on including features and items found in the hottest selling game of the day. For example, BFR's came into development as MechAssault was running away as a smash hit. The game play was changed to a more session based format where there was no long term goal or planning involved. The last time I logged into Planetside, which was last month, the core gameplay was barely different from Unreal Tournament 2004's Onslaught mode on a larger scale. The sense that Planetside was an ongoing RPG set in a planetary warfare enviroment... was gone.

It is my opinion that if Destination Games isn't careful, the same could happen with Tabula Rasa. Now, I am going to name the person. The name is Rosemont. Rosemont is not explicitly a troll, and it is my opinion naive is a much better term. Over the past several days of Tabula Rasa's launch I have seen many players in general chat attempt to cram their favorite features from World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI, Dark Age of Camelot, Ultima Online, and other such titles into the Tabula Rasa setting.

I have seen multiple comments, plots, and schemes laid out on how to integrate the missing killer feature into Tabula Rasa, and I have seen it constantly from both day and nighttime players. While Tabula Rasa does rely on several aspects of a traditional MMO gam, it in turn seeks to break several of the traditional aspects.

One of the key features of Tabula Rasa is the cloning system, which seeks to end the level grind players must go through in order to have different classifications of characters. Players only have to get their character to a certain level where they choose their classification, and before they choose they have the option to save a clone with all of the experience earned so far. Thus, upon activating the clone the player can take the other option and play the other class without having to start from lvl 1 again.

Tabula Rasa also seeks to change the way players look at the game. One of the problems Richard Garriot noticed with Lineage II, and confirmed by Cryptic's City of Heroes and the NCSoft developed/published Guild Wars, is that players were spending more time looking at their power and abilities than paying attention to the world itself. The game developers were building these huge beautiful worlds that collectively nobody was paying attention to. So, by utilizing a 3rd person shooter format, Tabula Rasa allows players to view the world without having to lock attention to their power bar.

Right now, Richard Garriot and his development team have a very clear goal of how to make Tabula Rasa. They have a very clear vision of how the world will come together, and how everything will interact. I, personally, cannot wait for maps that can only be navigated by using Logos, and for missions to be given in LogosSpeak only.

My concern is that the development team will lose focus on what makes Tabula Rasa unique, and instead focus on answering the demands and suggestions made by players within the game.

Okay, fine, I personally like my idea of how to solve Clan housing. Clans can defeat a Bane Lord in a special Task Force, and then the clans get access to the Bane Lords Spaceship. Hook the spaceship up with a wormgate to tie into Foreas base or another location, and poof, clan housing solved. It is an in-game method of delivering a clan housing that doesn't break the feel of the game itself.

But, when players ask for things like Black armor paint, white armor paint, or more extensive crafting, such players don't realize that they are missing the scope of the game. The crafting in Tabula Rasa is specifically designed as a checklist feature. It is there, but the general recommendation is that players use a clone token and dedicate an avatar to crafting alone. The design is similar to Cryptic's Implementation in City of Heroes. Players do not need to use crafting. It is not a requirement to enjoy the game, to progress in levels, or to achieve certain rewards. For those who want to take their character and do a little bit of tweaking, crafting is there.

Then there is the Auction House. I, personally, am adamantly against an auction house. I think an Auction House is only going to generate problems for the developers and players. However, the setup is again, similar to City of Heroes. Players do not need to partake in using the Auction House, much less visiting the trade channel (which incidentally has almost no posts being made to it) in order to appreciate, enjoy, or simply play the game.

This is where Rosemont comes in. What Rosemont does not understand, and this is representative of several players, is that requests and suggestions that change the fundamental nature of how the game is played, or the style of the game, need to be shut down as soon as they are brought up. No, there is not going to be a discussion about adding black or white armor paint. Such paint was left out, on purpose, at least as far back as 2005 (remembering my way too much time being spent on the E3 2005 demo).

At some point, the idiocy has got to end. Somebody has to stand up and make it clear that players need to let their old games go. I've already watched as one game I liked tried to include everything that was popular... and I'm willing to more vocal about preventing that from happening again.

As I see it, if Tabula Rasa does not remain unique, if it does not remain different, players are going to see no reason to pay for it when they already have established characters in other games that do the same exact thing... all over again.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ventaur Koss - or why piracy advocates bug me.

It isn't often that I use my blogs to out trolls, the last instance being Simon... somebody... griefing in CoH Issue 7/8 Hammidon. Ventaur Koss thus earns the distinction of being the second troll to be annoying enough to generate a posting. As before, an NCSoft game is involved, but this time it is Tabula Rasa.

What makes this more... out of the normal... is that the beta, pre-launch, and first few days of retail release have been filled with trolls much more obnoxious than Koss. I have a list of about 18 different people who only logged in at lvl 1, hung out in the training zone, and used the general chat to advertise and promote World of Warcraft. I have about 4 people who only log in, stand in one place, and shout that "this game sucks," and promote the wonders of HellGate London. I have others, like Lithos (third to be outed), that claim they were extensively involved in the beta, and then proceed to ask for high level equipment or how to perform certain commands that were never in the game to begin with. When confronted, some of these players respond with "what ever floats your boat" or other such comments unconcerned that somebody would dare call them out. I have others on my ignore list that simply did their best to get around the profanity filter. I've seen more ways to spell out slang names for parts of male and female anatomy in the space of 4 hours than I have after over 2 years in City of Heroes.

So, why does Ventaur Koss stand out? What makes him special? Because he was advocating piracy, and lamenting that certain piracy organizations had been shut down by "federal agents."

Now, I have a special hatred for pirates, most notably from the time of Sega World Weekly. Upon revelation that I had certain un-released titles and was able to comment extensively on them with other members of the press who ALSO had copies, one person refused to believe that I had said titles. The only way they would accept proof? If I sent the hard-copies to a known pirate organization.

Thing is, it is hard to argue with some people, like the members of The Pirate Bay. I hate the RIAA and MPAA as much as they do. In some cases, I really don't understand why TV studios are so concerned with bit-torrent copies of their content, especially if the TV Studio is an Over-The-Airwaves provider, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and whatever UPN is now (I don't care, don't email me). If I have a rabbit ears or digital tv antenna, I can pick up their shows without paying the studios one cent. What is the big deal if I obtain the episodes from an online connection?

That being said, I can also take steps to minimize my involvement with RIAA and MPAA, and content producers can also take steps to minimize their involvement with the RIAA and MPAA. For example, RadioHead and Nine-Inch-Nails have both left their labels. RadioHead's last album was released outside of the realm of the RIAA and MPAA, and Trent Reznor has announced that his next album will be released in a similar manner. Granted, I don't care for their music, and I'd probably raise a glass of champagne if Trent Reznor got smacked by a Greyhound Bus... but I do have to give props for breaking away from the real pirates of the music and movies industries.

With all that being said... why would Ventaur Koss's promotion of piracy bug me so much?

Well, because he was complaining about outright piracy of video games, and what I witnessed, a specific complaint against a group of people shut down by federal agents for remaking a console game.

My problem with this is that most game developers are fairly lenient about remakes or appearances of their characters in other titles. One specific example is Capcom which gave the Shin Megami Tensei developers permission to include their top selling, and top ranking, Devil May Cry lead character, Dante, in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Keep in mind that Atlus's hottest titles barely sell more units than Capcom's biggest failures.

Look at this way. Most game developers and publishers don't want to spend time or money remaking games, or re-imaging games for that matter. If a small time team brings a project to the publisher or developer directly, say, like remaking Chrono Trigger, chances are they will be able to secure a license for cheap, or in some cases, no cost. Square Enix and Nintendo specifically launched the Q fund back on the Gamecube to promote and finance such small time developers. Talking with Nintendo's development handlers back just before the Wii launched netted comments indicating that there are a few venture capitalists lined up to back Wii development for such developers.

What bugged me most about Ventaur Koss is that he was promoting piracy of video games... in a retail video game. Now, I honestly don't know if Blizzard considers such behavior acceptable in their leading MMO... but I think it's reprehensible. Now, I'm not dumb enough to think that I can stop piracy outright, and I'm not dumb enough to think that people like Ventaur Koss will just go away.

What I do think is that they should be kicked, perma-banned, and made clear they are persona-non-grata. Here's hoping NCSoft has enough guts to terminate his account.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Ad sense ads - blocking

The post after this one has generated ads for some of the sites I was directly fussing at. The ads are blocked as I see them come up and block their owners.

Friday, November 02, 2007

WoW as a Benchmark

I originally wrote the following with the intent to place it on Gamenikki. However, I don't think my arguments are all that well supported, or clarified. So, I'm tossing it up here for anybody who wants to read what is essentially a rambling rant against the state of World of Warcraft
Blizzard's World of Warcraft is one the most popular Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) currently running. With a reported userbase of over 9 million accounts, World of Warcraft is the equivalent of a 900lb gorilla. Keeping that in mind, how would you respond if I stated that World of Warcraft was not the benchmark for an MMORPG?

Look at it this way, World of Warcraft is the
is the safe option when it comes to gaming. Playing World of Warcraft is like having had a Playstation2, or having had a Xbox with Halo. In polite company, you don't come across as being too geeky or nerdy, and in more technical oriented company, you are not flat out rejected for being a non-participant of technical oriented activities. It is a nice happy medium.

A problem for World of Warcraft is that it is so large and it is a safe option. World of Warcraft is little more than a concentrated collection of cliches that make up Fantasy MMO's. It does nothing horribly bad, but by the same token, it doesn't actually do anything stunningly well. There are also cracks in the World of Warcraft armor. While World of Warcraft does have over 9million accounts, no mention is made about how many are duplicate accounts. Duplicate accounts are when a single person pays for two or more accounts in order to trade items or have two or more characters online at once. Little attention is given to the Gold Farmers, people who play the game for the sole purpose of selling in-game virtual gold for real world cash. World of Warcraft also gave rise to professional leveling services, or people whom a player pays to level their character for them. I've lost count of the number of Screen Actors Guild members that publically admit to hiring somebody to play their World of Warcraft account.

Little thought is also given to World of Warcraft's user base. Even hardcore gamers involved with World of Warcraft admit that the user population generally comes across as consisting of pre-teens. From my involvement, I would say that World of Warcraft is where all the script kiddies, AOL users, Prodigy users, and Myspace users hang out. From a community standpoint, its like an immature mob of crybabies.

The result is that when developers target World of Warcraft users as potential sales targets, I get the feeling that publishers and developers really don't understand what they are doing. A Sony Online Entertainment Representative is on record for having stated that the Starwars Galaxies
New Game Enhancement was intentionally modified to attract World of Warcraft players. Having run into World of Warcraft players in City of Heroes/ City of Villains, I think I can say without pause that the World of Warcraft players were not interested in learning how to play CoH/CoV, but more interested in cramming CoH/CoV into their view of how World of Warcraft was played.

When Cryptic, the
CoH/CoV developer, launched the Auction House identified as Went Worths (a play on Wool Worths) and Black Market, the result was a disaster. CoH/CoV players didn't want an Auction House, didn't need an Auction House, and wanted it removed post-haste, simply because it attracted undesirable players from... you guessed it, World of Warcraft. The introduction of an Auction House in CoH/CoV also introduced another facet of World of Warcraft. In-game spammers promoting services to buy in-game money with real cash, who, as you probably guessed, started their services on World of Warcraft.

Not all developers appear to be cluesess though. EvE Online is one such developer/publisher. Comments made by their developers show another side to the story. One of the reasons why World of Warcraft is so dominant is because it has basically perfected the Fantasy style of MMORPG's. Essentially, the Fantasy MMORPG market is saturated with titles
like Lineage, Lineage II, Guild Wars, Ultima Online, Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Everquest, Everquest II, Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Onlineand upcoming titles like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. As is, I've heard some comments that some people only still play the Everquest games because they have so much history in the titles, both with Guilds and their characters. I know several people who still play FFXI simply because it is still cross platform on the Playstation2, and the upcoming PS3 client is also reported to still be cross platform.

The point is that aiming for, and pulling from, the mass market World of Warcraft player group, is probably a bad idea. Such players really are not gamers, and probably are not very reliable, similar to the same kind of players found in
Dungeon Runners.

Rather, MMO's need to diversify, and seek different genre's.
Eve Online stands as a leading example of approaching a different genre of an MMORPG, in addition to being one of the first mass market MMO titles to officially support a Linux, Windows, and Apple Unix Client. Okay, granted, Eve Online isn't exactly my cup of tea, but major props to them for that.

NCSoft stands as another example of a publisher trying to actively push the genre boundaries. While NCSoft does have two traditional Fantasy MMOs, as found in
Lineage and Lineage II, it does have two non-traditional Fantasy MMOs, as found in Guild Wars and Dungeon Runners. NCSoft has also entered the Science Fiction genre with my personal favorite, City of Heroes / City of Villains, and is fielding another Sci-Fi title in Tabula Rasa. NCsoft also has a Mech-Combat title on the way in eXteel, another personal favorite, and is looking to turn another unconventional Fantasy title with the upcoming Cry Engine based Aion.

SOE also has gotten the idea that the genre boundaries need to be pushed, as it is fielding
Pirates of the Burning Sea as well as an upcoming spy MMO. Despite the complete collapse of Planetside, and Star Wars Galaxies, SOE has apparently gotten the hint that World of Warcraft isn't a good target.

All of this still doesn't directly answer the statement that World of Warcraft is not the benchmark for an MMORPG. The overall point is fairly complex. The MMORPG market has too many entries. There are too many products offering the same or similar experience to another product. Accepting World of Warcraft as the benchmark for how a game should be set up and run only invites the trouble makers over from World of Warcraft and all the problems that are a result of said trouble makers. In addition, such a configuration limits the ability to give players a genuinely different experience from any other game.

Speaking for myself, I'd rather have a completely different experience... than have the same experience over and over again.


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