Gaming

Star Citizen – Operation Pitchfork to turn humans into Vanduul?

In the game Star Citizen, Operation Pitchfork is a fandom idea where at the end of the beta phase all kinds of people, not just the military, will invade the space of the war-minded aggressive Vanduul race as an act of retaliation and such. Thus the name: Basically a lynch mob of commoners armed with pitchforks.

And I suddenly realized while reading a news report from the galactic front…

Operation Pitchfork would mark the victory of the demons that drive the Vanduul by turning humans into their enemy; making them a tribe fully committed to being aggressors, fully expanding the war mind to civilians.
While I say that all the people should support good values like freedom and keep society healthy, the methods are very relevant. Among the most valuable functions of the military is their sacrifice of directly facing and dealing with the horrors that war inevitably brings with itself so that civilian life can remain that. Then military people will also have a healing sanctuary to return to and recover and remind them of what they fight for. The Vanduul is exactly what you get when you expand the ‘culture of war’ far into the civilian life.

Act on fear and fear you will serve.
Sometimes it is the coward who fights and the brave one who refrains.

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Why do game designers do incredibly idiotic things?

You can watch my detailed video about it or read the summary below.

I recently got an SSD and only now realized the full magnitude to something that bothered me a while ago.

The game: The Witcher 3
This game featured plenty of eyebrow-furling things. Some of them got fixed later, but the really stupid stuff actually kept coming. I’ll only focus on one issue here though that has existed all the time since the game was released.

When you load a savegame, you get a simple 2D-animated sequence and a speaker recounts the story position at the time of the savestate. That animation looks a lot like scripted to eventually end in a loop state until the load process has finished.
When it does finish, for a brief moment a regular loading screen pops up, with a nice picture and a loading animation, which looks kinda sloppy, but shows that there actually is an alternative mode for this.

Well, here comes the kicker: To use one example, you watch a loading process where the speaker talks for 18 seconds and the whole process takes 43 seconds until the game has finished loading, with the animated sequence looping for the rest of the time.
Damn, this game has long load times!

No, actually not, it’s just trolling you by deliberately wasting your time. While the devs for some reason decided to later add subtitles to those sequences that you cannot turn off even if you want to because you’re not deaf and have seen that story bit plenty of times anyway, what they never did is AT LEAST add an info telling you when the loading process has finished and you can now enter the game if you press a key. That would be the MINIMUM. That could actually be an optional feature, but not really that important when the loading process isn’t of patience-testing length, which it wouldn’t be without this artificial delay.

Here is another minor example of bad design decisions: The game has super-beautiful graphics, but taking screenshots without UI requires (not-so-ideal) fan mods, while a low-budget indie game shows how it’s done.

Why it is OK to negatively criticize a free game

You’ve probably read it a couple of times. There’s a free game, say, on Steam, and people complain about stuff and then others talk down to them, claiming since it’s a free game, they are bad people.

So let me widen the perceptual horizon here.

Justified critique is totally fine, especially considering that a freely published game, especially on a highly-frequented platform like Steam, is often a promotion instrument, a skill demo, so it’s not exactly for the pure love of the world. You’de be surprised how many people are way more egoistically motivated than they pretend to be. But you’d only be surprised when you find out, and you only find out when you can manage to put them to the test. (I’m digressing slightly here.)
Furthermore, critique is free consulting, so they’re actually getting a good deal. I mean, there are game devs who are totally inept design-wise, publish a piece of crap of a game, then collect the tons of critique and get to work implementing the suggestions and thus don’t need to be anything but a hacker monkey who is being force-fed with game design training. That business scheme seems especially popular with early access. People will even pay for crap and on top of that give you free consulting services, all fueled by the hope that the game becomes great one day.
In the most extreme case, an early access game is little more than: “OK, I made an empty world space. Pay up, then I’ll allow you to tell me what you want in it and I’ll put it there. (Unless I don’t want to.) Isn’t that great? Your own personal ideas implemented in a totally not generic game. Your ego must be so st(r)oked right now. Buy your own little piece of immortality today!
And the next day there’s an empty space with a pickaxe and a zombie.

I was inspired to write this when I learned about a free Steam game (Serena) that had some issues related to Steam being crap and Valve not caring (the usual), and I read up about the game, and it’s advertised as “…the result of a massive collaborative effort between dozens of fans and designers of adventure games.” while when you press ESC that story-progression-type game immediately quits, without so much as a confirmation dialogue. Unbelievable? Well, I’ve seen some wacky things. Totally justified to go “Dude! What the hell?!

Speaking of incompetence: Is there any major internet business that hasn’t made it its mission to destroy any usability? As I am writing this, I have to switch between Visual and HTML view, because HTML view doesn’t have quick formatting, but requires me to add code manually, while Visual doesn’t know what a line break is (!), yet in HTML view it doesn’t even need/show the code for it.
I’m not even gonna explain how to do it more elegantly. They need to figure such basics out themselves. My consulting services aren’t for free, since my expertise is apparently scarce.

Blizzard never rests … getting worse

Topic: reserved character names.
The unimaginative self-victimizing spineless whiners who would call reserving a character name using an idle char “passive griefing” to claim it is against the rules have won. As usual. But it might not even be directly this pathetic personality trait that was the reason. At the core, Blizzard cares about profits, and gamemasters having to manually deal with requests cost money, so now instead of acting mature and setting a standard, they cater to that mindset that is so close to their own by automating the process. And automation means it is being done. And the conditions are appalling:

——————–
https://eu.battle.net/support/en/article/requesting-a-name-be-released-for-reuse

“Requesting a Name be Released for Reuse

We often receive requests from players to free up a character name. Customer Support will no longer assist with releasing names. Instead, names will automatically become available if the account that holds the name has remained inactive for the past two expansions.

For example, if an account has been inactive since before the Cataclysm expansion, all names on that account will be made available when the Warlords of Draenor expansion launches.

If you are an active player, there is no need to worry that your character names will be changed, even if you have been playing other characters for a while.
Updated: 27-Jul-2015
Article ID: 200790 ”

——————–
Notice how it doesn’t say anything about character level. So if you found an awesome name that you can identify with, leveled the char to 85, got tons of achievements and rep and stuff, then stopped playing, and are now coming back to Warlords of Draenor, you might find your level 85 character has had its name taken away and given on a silver plate to a brat with a bloated sense of entitlement. Because that’s the target audience Blizzard caters to and always has. Some people just don’t understand that Blizzard doesn’t respect them, despite their best efforts to make that clear, like said case. If you are inactive for a longer time, you just don’t matter to them. Even though they lost tons of subscribers lately. They have given up and don’t expect you to return to the game anyway, so don’t be a fool and even consider it if you have any self-respect. They fully focus on the “whales” (rich and/or addicted) now. Supporting such a business has negative consequences for all of humankind and the world.

The nail in the coffin for my WoW subscription years ago was actually because of more automation and ensuing disrespect when a game master eventually talked total bullshit to me (as people usually do when reason collides with lowly motivations).

Any temptation there might have been for me to re-sub has been thoroughly averted by my self-respect. And preserving my self-respect even under severe pressure is an actual achievement.

Sidenote: RP is supposed to nourish creativity, but WoW isn’t really what role playing games used to be. People who complain that “all the good names are in use” are too stubborn to not have it 100% their way. They should just practice some creativity, which would work if the will was there.

I am probably the gold standard, because I have a hard time coming up with character names that are not unique, haha. xD

Selling your soul becomes closer to literal for businesses

Blizzard runs World of Warcraft.

They have their own website and a game forum specifically for World of Warcraft and the game’s login screen features an optional news window if something’s important.

It seems they maneuvered back a bit now (probably because of significant negative feedback), but a while ago you had to look for important info about stuff like unscheduled server offtime on Twitter. They really want people to go to Twitter. And they have Twitter integration in the game now, so I suspect marketing whoring to bring about the new world dominance.

Daybreak Gaming Company (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) runs Planetside 2. That game, too, has its own game forum, and just like in the case of World of Warcraft, you use your game login, which means that if you want to talk to the player community, there you will find the people who are actually playing the game.

Yet the go-to place for the devs to communicate with players is Reddirt. ( That was a typo I decided to keep. 😀 )

In other news, one of the big German internet providers (the privatized formerly national one in the form of the telephone company Deutsche Telekom) – T-Online – now decided to sell their own website.

Yeah, you heard right. T-Online.de. The company’s website. Where you can log in and do customer service stuff, web mail etc and where they offer their service packages, and also run it as a combined new portal. They sell it. The website that dons their name won’t be theirs anymore.

And it’s probably because of the news component, and not deciding to separate that, but keep it tied to the name, shows how highly names are valued in business, as a brand.

If this continues, selling your own grandma might soon become more than just a figure of speech.

And you know that this is all touching the topic of slavery, right?

When you are no longer in control of your own assets. When more and more that you thought is yours becomes owned.

Are you sure your name is still part of you and not just a legal person? Maybe it has been sold without your consent. (This is what happened to that German telephone company. Important things are not decided democratically here, but sufficiently indirectly to allow the plutocracy to rule over their subjects.)

Speaking of control: When businesses become so big that they consider the small stuff not lucrative enough, they dump that; leave the bread crumbs to the small businesses.

Amazon seemed to have realized that the small crumbs add up, so they decided to gain control over that, too. Can you still afford to run small online distribution without Amazon Marketplace? And Amazon gets their cut. This is the hybrid-solution of total dominance. It’s related to politics when you control and lead the dissent against you in order to crush or drown out any non-approved dissent.

Amazon might have a relatively good service for a huge corporation, but I don’t give them credit for that. Because they can easily afford it. It’s not like there’s still another big competitor like it’s so often the case when corporations wage a war and lose customer-orientation. Amazon now tries to intercept all potential competition and put them under their umbrella. They take all the benefits and reject the inconveniences. Amazon Marketplace is no benefit for small businesses because it only appears to be an advantage because it exists. It’s a bit of a mafia approach: You pay money for protection. Which would be a legit service contract if we didn’t talk about what it is that you need protection against.
This might end in what people who are afraid of socialism think is socialism but is actually a capitalism that they should be afraid of. Concentration of power is never a good idea. It has to be rooted in the people.

Encore
——
Wondering why so many businesses sell out? – It’s like a 3-layer system:
1) Some created their business to sell it once it gets attactive.
2) Those who didn’t might get an offer to sell it that is attractive enough to put money before the business. (Might also be due to special circumstances like with Mojang where Notch wasn’t ready for the responsibility of a fast-growing business.)
3) Those who refused to sell might be either signaled that if they don’t sell, the potential buyer will just push them out of the market with their greater might, or this step happens without communicating that course of action to them.

This chain can be broken by courage, resolve and skill. You gotta be smart enough to, when losing in a shitty game, step out of the game and create your own rules. It’s all mostly just a mind game anyway. The good thing about out-of-the-box thinking is that then you no longer live in a box. 😉

How marketing learns from imperalists

Doom, Doom 2, … Doom 3, … Doom. Oh no! You, too, id?!

id Software teamed up with Bethesda as publisher. One of the big ones. Those who all follow the same idiotic marketing bullshit (actually worrisome, more on that in a minute).

They talk about rebooting the series, which is almost double-bullshit in one short sentence. Doom has never been a real series. There were two quite similar games long time ago and then much later a creepy, jumpscare-themed graphics orgy, relatively different from the original material. And then, now, much later again, we get … “Doom”.

You know why this bothers me so much? Not just because it is becoming very popular, but because the mindsets that drive such marketing ideas are the same that you can find in politics. When you “reboot” a series so that you can exploit a popular name for doing things as you please, different than before, this is very similar to how empires erase culture and history (e.g. by burning books) in order to establish their ways as the beginning of everything, without disturbance from what came before.

Remember the double middle finger case of a confessing Star Wars fan directing a ‘reboot’ of Star Trek that ended up being like a Lost in Space quality Star Wars style lens flare festival?

Tomb Raider is another example of such naming crap. (‘I mean Tomb Raider, not Tomb Raider.’)

These things are being done so much because it’s an agenda. Marketing optimizes, changes, attempts to reprogram people. And when you want to fully control the present, you have to erase the past from people’s minds. That’s really oldschool imperialist insights. Basically, when people talk about Doom, the marketeers want everybody to think of their new product, not the original game … or a super-capitalist future.
Leaving franchises alone instead of dissing them? You can’t expect that from marketeers. That would imply respect.

I won’t hide how much I agree with Bill Hicks’ view on the matter:

UPDATE: Search “Bill Hicks – Advertising and Marketing” on Youtube. It seems if I directly link it here, it will trigger content ID claims. (Either that or coincidence.)

P.S.: Don’t accuse me of doomsaying. It’s marketing that spelled Doom.

Confusing virtual and real world – the non-clichée occurences

When people talk about confusing the virtual and the real world, it usually is about people acting out their video gaming habits in real life, e.g. killing sprees.

But there are other sides to this that are not void of irony.

One case is when someone is unable, or out of convenience unwilling, to acknowledge that in online gaming you’re interacting with real people. If out of convenience, it is used as a justification for treating others like dirt when they’re not physically present.
In such cases, I like to ask them whether it is also OK to treat people differently when you’re on the phone with them. After all, it’s just digital signals you hear, not a real person. Right?

Actually, I’d pose the thesis that it’s ALWAYS out of convenience. So often people deliberately render themselves unable because it’s easier not to take responsibility.

But the really appalling level is that people who never had anything to do with video gaming can practice the same confusion of virtual and real, as I have witnessed personally, when they consider their own small world as valid and real and anything that doesn’t fit their small-minded comfort zone as not real. Such people would then not just claim that an online game world didn’t involve real people, but they would go so far as claim that online gamers themselves aren’t real. It’s insane, but usually masked in a thin veil of rhetorics to make it sound somewhat less absurd; just enough to not get locked up in a lunatic asylum.

You’ve probably at least heard from cases where someone didn’t get their parents’ approval, where the parents were for example doctor or athlete or stock broker (the latter ones containing even more irony) and the son is an artist, video game developer, any of that, and would hear from his parents how he should instead live in the “real world” like they do.

That kind of small-minded fools might not run amok with a gun, but they’re much more likely to support others doing that. … Because, you know, stop re-enacting Postal in your local school and become a soldier instead and kill people in the real world. Right? Or what?

Frickin lunatics hiding in plain sight everywhere.

Here “Be real!” means “Live as an asshole in a world shaped by assholes!”.

If you are a pioneer in anything, you become the enemy of small, fearful, convenient minds.

What is called “personality disorder” is extremely widespread, but majority society has agreed on a certain level of it that is considered normal.

For way too long I doubted myself and assumed that I am the one with a problem because I saw so much sickness aroumd me. I eventually realized that it’s because of the harsh contrast between my sanity and the insanity of others. Smart and sensitive people dealing with such alienation can then suffer from issues based on that, and while they’re often conveniently thrown into the same bucket, they’re profoundly different. One side of the coin is the symptom complex of acting out a support of sickness, the other side is acting out the resistance to sickness.

Bioshock Infinite and the poetical metaphor of time travel

This is spoiler-heavy. You will probably need to know the story of Bioshock Infinite to follow this completely, although if you haven’t and don’t mind the spoilers, go ahead and read on. You will understand the core message.

Years ago I had a very profound and troubling experience on ayahuasca, during my heightened efforts to improve my life, and much later, when I played through the finale of Bioshock Infinite, I got a very unsettling feeling and my heartbeat increased and I was trembling – very much like at the onset of said experience. It was a reminder of an all-too-familiar experience – beginning when you step through the lighthouse door – the breakthrough threshold.
I think, based on my own experiences, that the overall message of this story that has been portrayed so elaborately and at length is this:

If you want to unmake something that has already happened for you (because you refuse to accept those painful parts of your life), then you have to unmake yourself. Your life experience is inherently your journey, beyond the confines of linear time, so if you want to change that, you have to change yourself. You have to kill a part of yourself; the part that reflects on the outside world in that way.
Comstock is the version of Booker who conveniently accepted to (because of the potential actual superficiality of the baptism ritual) abandon all influence of his past wicked deeds, while Booker, refusing the baptism, couldn’t forgive himself for what he did. Or at least he accepted the path that would offer a chance for him to maybe forgive himself some time in the future, as a gradual process.

Booker’s whole story is about being torn between two extremes, when the solution is to accept what you have done and decide to live with it, to forgive yourself without refusing personal responsibility. Refusing the baptism might have been the right choice of two alternatives, but following that right path eventually became too painful and depressing for him, so his own internal nemesis offered him to wipe away the regret and go in sync with Comstock’s path, which is like a mere relapse. He was acting based on the accumulated pain, thus inviting the other extreme.
This is really close to things I went through during said ayahuasca trip. It’s like the same message that I had been taught then, which I now mention here, since I recognize it in the writing of the game’s story.

Time travel themed fictional writing often follows the idea of inevitability of fate for a good reason. Time is ultimately just an illusion, and time travel is an idea borne out of the egoic mind’s desire for power. Thus, time travel is part of the limited egoic experience, and actions of time travel are incorporated into the flow of time in the first place. Time travel, for the egoic mind, changes the course of history, but that change of the course of history has been part of the plan all along.

This is, again, the very poetical and dramatic aspect of the whole idea of time travel, about not being at peace with the past and wanting to change what has already been done. About lack of self-acceptance.

Again: Booker chose the difficult path of the uncertain chance of eventual, gradual self-forgiveness. Comstock chose the cop-out of refusing responsibility. (Even changing his name – that’s like saying: “I’m not that person anymore anyway, so his actions don’t concern me.” Profound denial that doesn’t really erase the past, and deep down he knows it, thus he became such a problem for society, projecting his inner issues on the outside and condemning things he himself had taken part in in a righteous, holier-than-thou way.) So as the combined person of Booker-Comstock, the actual problem was that Booker was torn in the first place – that he couldn’t decide between two sub-optimum extremes and couldn’t find the middle path. Comstock is like a metaphor for regret at having made the wrong decision. You could even say that Booker eventually had wished he had chosen to become Comstock, and that made it possible for Comstock to exist and offer him that opportunity. Booker couldn’t forgive himself for his past deeds because he still kept Comstock as an alternative alive in his mind. The metaphor here is that Booker is at war with himself, which was depicted literally via the game.

This is why I appreciate the game: The story is remarkable. Some might say it’s just “standard multiverse stuff”, but they’re overlooking the crucial human touch, the metaphor, the poetry in this story.

Reasons behind the WoW pandaren critique

People complained about the pandaran race introduced in World of Warcraft’s Mists of Pandaria expansion. They still occasionally do.
One might wonder why, since the pandaran race has been canon since the pre-MMO Warcraft times, and so have certain other strange animal-like races.
I will tell you what the problem is. It is becoming quite obvious when you listen to the ‘reasoning’ behind the critique.

It is about male insecurities. People who are bothered by pandaren demand more blood, gore, violence and ugliness. This active rejection of beauty sounds very much like fanaticism. Behavior based on fear and suppression of the truth behind it. (World of) Warcraft has always had silly and cheesy elements. But pandaren are, at least in some aspects, more inclined towards peace, beauty and wisdom; attributes of a healthier society. One might argue they’re traits associated with femininity. So when a guy says: “This isn’t ugly and horrible enough!” it’s pretty clear that this is what’s going on. Masculine-ego boost. It’s the same reason why fans of My Little Pony get flamed. It challenges traditional role models and mass psychology induced by marketing/popculture. The resistance is the reactionary act of people afraid of loss of identity. So, basically, as said before: insecurities acting up.
Being fine with pandas roaming Azeroth is the mature approach.

Especially when they’re dual-wielding katanas and giving out free beer, haha.

Lack of customer-orientation in web design / marketing

One more encounter in regards to that. Businesses not really trying to appeal.

Wanted to check out Final Fantasy 14. Went to their website. Before anything else, before knowing about the game, I was ‘greeted’ with an unwanted popup, wanting me to buy the game or download the trial version. I clicked that away and then got an empty page telling me – Error, cookies not activated – and that was a dead end. I had lost interest at that point. I simply wanted to watch some screenshots, maybe read some text, and the very first thing is them throwing several layers of unnecessary hassle in my face.

If a person does that, you simply walk away, shaking your head. And that’s what I do with businesses, too. I don’t need even more interaction with disturbed characters than the internet already unavoidably provides. I will wait for positive surprises instead and give those my full attention.