Thursday, August 21, 2008

CoH - Fire Aura - random snapshot

Another quick one. I caught part of a conversation in a global channel. Since I don't exactly have the permission of those involved to post their names, these snapshots were quickly and badly edited with GIMP.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Tabula Rasa - oh yeah, it's still bugged

more a quick blurb than anything else. As part of the Operation Immortality promotion, canceled accounts were re-activated. So I logged in, and went to complete one of the Mires missions, specifically the Making Your Way mission. This mission has been bugged, I think at least since January 2008, if not earlier. You would think then that after the equivalent of an expansion pack, that the mission would be fixed.

No. It wasn't. Still wouldn't complete. While I applaud Destination Games and Richard Garriot for an innovative promotion, Tabula Rasa still has bigger issues that need to be addressed.

Open Licenses survive another court challenge

If you haven't heard yet, the case of Jacobsen v. Katzer has been overturned. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that copyright law was invoked by the Artistic License, and that breaking the Artistic License equaled breaking copyright law. There's been a couple different spins on the story so far, with Sourceforge probably having the best take on the matter:
There was much rejoicing by Dana Blankenhorn at ZDNet and Matt Asay at CNet, who considered it a great victory for open source. I think it is too. PJ at Groklaw had a different spin, though. She believes that the open source community pretty much dodged a bullet with this judgement, and needs to be a bit more savvy about license creation in the future.
I find myself siding with the Groklaw take. If the case had really been a simply and clear victory, there would have been no need for an appeal. The fact that the case went so far to begin with indicates how close the decision was to going against Open-Licenses. PJ's not exactly alone in her assessment of the state of Open-Licenses. Eric S. Raymond went into the aspect of Microsoft's own attacks on the terms of Open-Licenses on the Open Source Institute blog system, and even as recent as 3 years ago, as evidenced by a news posting involving HP, the OSI was working to limit the proliferation of Open-Licenses.

The simple fact is, many people working on their own projects have taken available licenses and re-written maybe one or two lines to get a complete new license. Just take a moment and browse the existing list of OSI approved licenses, then drop by the Free Software Foundation and read the list of Open licenses that are compatible with the GPL, and those Open Licenses that are not compatible with the GPL, and then the list of Closed-Licenses.

There's dozens of licenses that are available then, but they really only fall into six different classes, the five Open types clarified in a 2003 posting by Eric S. Raymond, and the sixth being a closed license.

From a historic perspective then, the potential legal crunch on Open-Licenses has been an overshadowing factor for years. There are multiple licenses in use that do qualify as being an Open-License, that probably won't hold up in court. While most analysts expect legal challenges against the Apache licenses or the GPL licenses due to their extremely large list of users, those aren't the licenses that a smart lawyer would go after. The lesser known Open-Licenses that haven't been written by lawyers will be the target for any successful legal challenge. The Artistic license quite nearly was that failed challenge.

While it's pleasant to read that the US Court System upheld the concept of Open Source through an Open License, it's worrying that it took an Appellant court to do so. It is possible that future court cases against Open Licenses could result in the first ruling that the
case of Jacobsen v. Katzer received. Open Source then isn't out of the legal challenges yet, and that's something I don't think some of the analysts covering the Jacobsen v. Katzer story realize.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tabula Rasa - Operation Immortality

Since I'm a previous player of Tabula Rasa I've been asked what exactly is my take on the current Operation Immortality promotion. For those who haven't heard, Richard Garriot is going to visit the international space station. Tabula Rasa is spinning the story that the real reason the General is going into space is because the Bane are coming. Select soldiers will have the opportunity to have their DNA preserved aboard the space station so that they can be cloned for the upcoming fight. All soldiers will be able to leave a personal message of their choosing, along with having their avatar preserved about the space station.

It is, hands down, the most creative and best promotion, ever, for any video game... and I couldn't care less.

For me, I left Tabula Rasa because the development team just didn't get it. I
dinged Tabula Rasa because the beta worked on Windows 2000. Then the developers implemented a coding change that wrecked Windows 2000 compatibility, a coding change that couldn't be justified. On top that there still is no Linux client, and even with the latest updates from Cedega and WINE, Tabula Rasa still isn't playable. As I went over on Gamenikki, Linux support is a requirement for the modern PC game. It's not something developers can just slag off.

The disconnect between the developers and the paying gamers are why Tabula Rasa grabbed the lowest amount of sales in NCSoft's financial report. I went over what I saw as the faults of the games a couple of times, both in Oh how Trolls Congregate and Success or Flop, and hit on the subject in Why Trolls should be perma banned. I went over it again on Gamenikki, not only in the review, but also in a comparison against Planetside.

Tabula Rasa's strength was it's team play and PvE combat. It's strength was it's epic storyline, a storyline I liked so much I started writing a fan-fic set in the Tabula Rasa World. It's strength in 2007 was the adamant position of the developers that Player versus Player combat did not belong in the story, and was to be depreciated as much as possible.

Then... things changed. As I wrote on the blogging system, which unfortunately isn't exactly configured for consistent linking, the developers kept messing with various settings. Then, Richard Garriot got promoted, and a new design leader took over whose letter on indicated he was going to focus on PvP content.

No. No. No. No. No.

I couldn't say no loud enough, or fast enough to respond. Ryeata, who aids in a lot of the multiplayer testing that I go through, commented that Tabula Rasa was following the same path as Guild Wars. You spent the entire game speccing for team play and PvE combat, then on the last level, you suddenly respec and set yourself up for PvP combat. Guild Wars made the PvP approach work because you didn't have to level up every single character to the level cap to go PvP.

In fact, this is what I said in the blog:
Also, Tabula Rasa has been out for a while now, and the performance problems reported in our review have largely been addressed. This isn't a formal going over, so we'll keep it short. Right now the game is in a serious state of overhaul as various abilities and skills are swapped around and some of the classes are re-worked. The basic concept hasn't changed, but there are some concerns about forward development.

My personal concern about Tabula Rasa is that the General (Mr. Garriott) and other developers will focus on adding end-game PvP content and designing the game around the Guild Wars model of high-level player versus player combat. I find myself heavily disagreeing with many players who want Tabula Rasa to go full-on PvP for the end game, as I think it's a recipe for failure. We'll probably go a little bit more in depth again with Tabula Rasa next year.

Well, not to blow my own horn too much, but after the sales numbers? I was right. Tabula Rasa hasn't been selling. It hasn't been retaining player numbers.

Yes, Operation Immortality is a great promotion... but if the game itself hasn't kicked the PvP idea to the curb? Players who sign up aren't going to stick around. Even if Destination Games did get a Linux client out this week? I wouldn't be sticking around either.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why the F.U.D. against OpenGL 3.0?

One of the big announcements at this years SIGGRAPH was the release of the OpenGL 3.0 specification. OpenGL is the definitive open-standard Application Interface for graphics in the computing industry, and is supported on hardware platforms ranging from the cellphone sector to the high end gaming console. I've talked about OpenGL quite a bit before on this blog alone, as 12 different previous articles mention the API.

One of my favorite points about OpenGL is that it's rapidly becoming the only graphics API available to game developers and publishers pushing multi-platform content. I went over this point in detail on an article clarifying why the DirectX API was a multi-million dollar mistake.

So, it was with some interest to read on TheRegister and Slashdot that the release of OpenGL 3.0 was met with heavy resistance by existing developers. Strangely, Wikipedia user Paeator Alpha's post seemed to be the most balanced immediate report on OpenGL 3.0, and lets face it, Wikipedia isn't known for being accurate.

It was even stranger to read then from one of the developers actually attending SIGGRAPH that the backlash reported by Slashdot and TheReg, just wasn't happening.
The OpenGL BoF went really well, I think. Nobody showed up with torches or pitchforks. Of course, the free beer may have helped. The most useful part of it for me was the mingling period after all the presentations. I talked with quite a few people and, contrary to the /. reports, nobody was furious. Whew!
So... why the F.U.D. I think the answer is actually simple, and relates to the reason why DirectX is becoming deprecated. Many vendors, such as EA, Valve Software, and Activision/Blizzard are having to learn OpenGL development. From what I've heard from WiiWare developers, that's also using the OpenGL API.

There are a lot more people involved in OpenGL than ever before. It's the same problem KDE has with 4.0, as looked at by's Bruce Byfield. KDE 4.0 was stuck in a bad position between both distributions and development. It wasn't final desktop ready code. It was simply the underlying basis to make a desktop enviroment. That didn't stop many distributions for packaging KDE 4.0 and releasing it as a ready to deliver desktop enviroment. End users suffered as a result. Many distributions made no effort to clarify that KDE 4.0 was simply the library and API completion, which had to be completed before applications themselves could be completed.

As Phoronix turned around and pointed out, it's going to be a while before OpenGL 3.0 is actually in drivers. At best, Intel, AMD, and Nvidia probably won't be delivering OpenGL 3.0 support until the end of the year. Okay, that's 4 months away. Then consider that Khronos is planning a release called Longs Peak Reloaded, which will basically be OpenGL 3.1, and then another release called Mt. Evans is timelined in about 5 months, or early next year.

So, what Khronos has done is put the hardware vendors and driver developers on notice. It's given them the basic underlying specification that allows the likes of Intel, AMD, and Nvidia to go ahead and start work on OpenGL 3.0 drivers.

In other words, Khronos has done the same thing that KDE did. They've gotten the basics settled, and are given the end developers time to start building against the new API.

So, Khronos has run into the exact same problem KDE ran into. A lot of people are simply armchair analysts with no actual graphics experience. That's why the actual developers at SIGGRAPH responded so differently than the reports from TheReg and SlashDot would have people believe.

In the long run it is encouraging that OpenGL is pulling much more interest than before. However, like the KDE Foundation, Khronos have to deal with people who don't know what they are talking about assuming positions of authority.

I hope that answers why the release of OpenGL 3.0 was marked by F.U.D.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

CoH - Completed ITF: no tank

My apologies for the lack of updates. I am reluctant to talk about my health, and recent attempts to write have descended into pity posts. Anyways, I was finally on a team that managed to complete the Imperious Task Force in City of Heroes without a tank, and without a taunting brute. While we did have a brute, the player stated they were set up for offensive play. As I've come to find with the real numbers addition to CoH, the strength of a Brutes armor is identical to that of a scrapper, which is about 30% less than that of a Tank. However, Brutes do get the HP caps that tanks get. Anyways, the rest of the team was comprised of a claw scrapper, a blaster, a kin corrupter, a dark corrupter, a storm corrupter, a warshade, and a kin / elec defender.

Now, if you've read any segments of CoH on this blog, you probably know that I really don't like controller kinetics, specifically fire kinetics. One of the factors that I cite is that you can't be a good kinetics, and a good anything else. This factor was backed up during a dialog between fights.
How many kins do we have on this team?
Feels like 4.
Ego petting aside, the kinetics corrupter was just as good my kin defender at keeping everybody speed boosted and fulcrum shifted, and when asked by a friend online what the corrupter's primary set was, I was lost for an answer. I hadn't really seen the corrupter attack.

So, the mix we took into the TF was one of high DPS and High Debuff. Between the two kins, we were dropping regeneration rates on transfusioned enemies for about 20 seconds at a 50% drop each. When we concentrated on a single target? That translated into a 100% loss on regen rate coupled with a -12% endurance drop for each hit, on kinetics that were pumped on both speed boost and siphon speed. So, nothing had a regen rate, nothing had any endurance, and that's not even accounting for all of the debuffs a dark can dish out, nor the slow debuffs from the -storm, nor the debuffs that a warshade has in their mires.

Which was why we got away with no tank. During the fight against Romulous at the end of the ITF, the entire team had it's damage boost capped, Romi had no endurance, no regen rate, no recovery rate, and the spawning nictus was only serving to help fuel fulcrum shift.

So, yes, it is possible to get away with taking Romi down on a tankless team. You just need a metric ton of debuffs and offensive. Take a couple of kins, really, take us. We... well I... can't do much on my own.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

blood pressure

Don't think I don't feel tacky for posting this... because I do feel really tacky.

One of the reasons I left Sitel Corporation involved my direct health. I had a skyrocketing blood pressure, and was pretty much ordered by my doctor to get out of that job. About a month or so ago I made a concerted effort to cease drinking caffeinated soda's, reason being that I developed a noticeable... shake.

Well, on a trip to the Doctors office in the past week for something not related to blood pressure, I was informed that my blood pressure was reading at 185 - 190 on the top number (no idea what that is), and was told if it didn't go down immediately, I was going to be put into a local hospital.

My blood pressure is now, after medication, about 30 points lower. Anyways, if you were interested, that's whats been going on with me.