Real Issues with Real ID 2

Continuing from here and in light of Blizzard’s decision to tie real names to forums posts…

It is frightfully easy to find information on people.  You can only control so much of the data.  Sure, you limit your Facebook and what you put out there, but the government, the phone company and so many other places have public records that you are not invisible (unless your name is so horrendously common that you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone with the same name).  Go to Spokeo or Zabasearch, put in your name and see how long it takes to find you.

But… we are talking about an MMO.  A fantasy world where you get to be someone else.  Of course, we’re also talking about World of Warcraft, which has gone to great lengths to tell us their game is about levels and loot, and the world it happens in is just window dressing.  Want proof?  Just look at the sheer number of real world jokes crammed into the game.  WoW is a playground, not a virtual world.  And still, people go there and play characters that aren’t them.  Women play men, men play women, the meek play strong, the social get alone time, shut ins make friends, all possible without the “limitations” of their real lives.

Sure, we all want to reduce the number of asshats that make the forums a cesspool, but much like the other features of Real ID, this could be achieved without your real name.  The real problem with the WoW forums is that you post as one of your characters, which you select, so you get people who create a level 1 character on a server they don’t really play on as their posting persona, and they troll.  It’s the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.  Instead of real names, make them pick a forum name, which they can’t change, and when they post provide a link to a list of all their characters.  Or make the forums smart and under the forum name put the name of their highest level & longest played character.  If you have a 3 year old level 10 and a 3 month old level 80, the level 80 is posted, if you have two level 80s, the oldest one is used.  Posting in a class forum?  The name of your highest level of that class is posted, or if you don’t have one it will say “I don’t have any characters of this class”.  Or, you know, hire more moderators.

There are many many solutions that would work equally as well for removing trolls.  But… there is a greater thing at work here.  See, Blizzard has all your information anyway (most likely).  Your name, your address and billing info, email, and so on.  They can’t do anything with it though because it is privileged information, it’s private.  However, once Real ID makes certain items public, it becomes sellable data.  Facebook, much to the ire of it’s CEO, lets you keep a number of items private.  However, one thing they absolutely do not allow you to hide are your “likes”.  The reason is that what you like is the most marketable item about you.  At the heart of this whole Real ID situation is a partnership between Blizzard and Facebook.  In the end, Real ID isn’t about cleaning up the forums or even making it easier to communicate with your friends and find them in game.  Real ID is about money.

I quit playing World of Warcraft a while ago because I was bored with it and wasn’t finding what I wanted (strong community) within the game anymore.  I was actually looking forward to Starcraft II.  I participate fairly heavily in a number of smaller, tight knit communities.  I don’t need another bland “everyone is connected to everyone” social network, so I’m going to opt out in the only way Blizzard allows – not to play at all.

The Advertising Twist

Assassin’s Creed has been out long enough that I don’t feel any remorse discussing the game.  If you haven’t played it and you have managed to learn nothing about the game, then please stop reading.

When the game first came out, people I knew who played it kept talking about “the twist”.  So, when I finally got the game, in October as a birthday gift, I jumped in and started playing.  As the story unfolded, as it drew me in, I kept looking for the twist… but there never was one.  In fact, I was kind of startled when the game ended because I was still waiting for the twist.

I went looking.  Did I miss it?  Was there an alternate ending that I didn’t get because of some tiny detail I missed in the game?

What I found was that “the twist” wasn’t in the game.  It existed only in the space between the advertising and the moment you booted up the game.  Well, not exactly the moment you booted it up… you had to get through the first tutorial mission type thing and exit the animus once.  Of course, even before then you could see the “glitches”, flags with a glow around them that looked like computer code, people who flicker during dialog.  The twist of Assassin’s Creed was that the advertisements made the game look to be about you as an assassin in the past, but the reality of the game is that you are in the present (or maybe the future) and you are reliving genetic memories of one of your ancestors through the use of a machine in an effort to help some people find out some information.

I really hate when games, or anything really, does this.  Its like when the trailer for a movie makes it out to be a slapstick comedy, but it turns out that all the funny bits were in the trailer and the movie is actually a tragic tale about cancer or suicide with occasional humorous scenes.

As for Assassin’s Creed… I enjoyed playing it.  Climbing all over the city and performing the tasks, I even enjoyed looking for the flags (still haven’t found them all), but I didn’t like the end of the game.  I was waiting for the twist, and in the final moments of the game nothing happened.  Not just no twist, but the story of the game, which had been great until then, had no ending, it just sort of petered out.  I uncovered the conspiracy, found the bad guy in the past which let my future overlords find the information they wanted, and then they walked out of the room, into what I have to assume is going to be Assassin’s Creed 2.


I don’t mind sequels.  Telling another story with the same people in the same world can be good.  But breaking one story into two (or more) games is irritating.  I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed, but I’m glad now that I didn’t buy it when it came out, and I won’t be buying the sequel when it comes out.  I’ll be waiting for the discount racks again.


Last week, Raph Koster laid down an analysis of why strategy guides are cheating. He contends that playing the game is what you are supposed to do, and anything outside of playing the game is a form of cheating.

I agree. Raph says:

… RPGs do not give you the location of every spawn in advance, the stats on every weapon in advance, the solution to every quest in advance, and so on. For a reason. Finding the spawn, discovering the stats, solving the quest is part of the game.

Now,we may argue that this part of the game is tedious (“why should I have to click all over the screen to find the hotspot??” is exactly like “why should I have to traipse all over this dungeon to find the specific kobold!”). We may say that the game would be “better” if it provided you a waypoint directly to that location. But that is beside the point – the game chose to hide this info from you, therefore you are not supposed to have it, and having it is cheating.

Any info you get that isn’t presented to you by the game in normal gameplay sequence is not supposed to be available to you.

This is how I felt as I played through Ultima Online and EverQuest. I avoided strategy guides and spoiler sites as much as humanly possible. Most often when I did resort to hitting the web for EQ, it was because I was certain that I was right given all the information in the game but it wasn’t working, and probably 99.9% of the time, I was right and the game was broken. I felt immersed in those games because I was always “in” those games. Sure, I’d pop out and read some message boards and rant sites from time to time, but usually those times were to seek out other people trying to discuss and figure out the hidden information. Theorizing and learning.

In any event, however, my ability to play the game was never hampered by not going to spoiler sites. Everything I needed to play the game was in the game. As time has gone on though, some games have gotten so horribly vague with their in game information that parts of the game are practically unplayable without going to look at a strategy guide of some sort. When a quest giver says “south of the big rock” and that area encompasses miles while you are searching for inches, that is just silly. Making a player wander around aimlessly to waste time is bad design. Would it have killed the developers to say “south of the big rock near a cluster of orange leaved trees”, cutting the search time down from hours (even days) to a more manageable thirty minutes at most?

Following the comments on Raph’s post and after seeing similar discussions elsewhere, I keep seeing the same defense, and it leads directly to what I just stated above, games are beginning to suck in their ability to provide players with what they need to play the game AND keep that play enjoyable. To which I can only say, as I did over on Raph’s, if you find yourself unable to play and enjoy a game without using a strategy guide or spoiler site, you should not reward the developer by continuing to pay for their game.

Product Placement

I was watching Flash Gordon the other night. No, not the movie (which is awesome), but the new Sci-Fi Channel TV show (which made dozens of needless changes to the Flash Gordon mythos but has potential if they can avoid more silly crap like the “IMEX”). In one scene, Flash goes to Google some information… no, wait, he doesn’t Google it, he “”s it, or something like that.

Seriously, does Google (or Yahoo or MSN or whoever) really charge a ton to be able to use their site in a TV show? This kind of little junk is usually what ruins TV shows for me. How can I ever suspend disbelief when they completely detach from reality like that? I thought companies paid money to get product placement… why are no TV producers taking advantage of having their actors actually drink Coke on screen instead of “Cola”?

Wake up guys. People are not watching commercials anymore. Except maybe during the Superbowl. If you want people to see your products, you need to get people in these fantasy worlds to be using your products.

On the flip side, last week when the esurance animated superspy chick showed up on Who Wants to be a Superhero? I threw up in my mouth a little bit. It was like someone hit the show with an esurance bomb and it got esurance goo on everything. There is a line… please don’t cross it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

No spoilers here, so don’t worry. All in all, a decent book and a fitting end. I was satisfied, and as long as Mrs. Rowling doesn’t write any more books in this world she has crafted, it is a very nice collection that feels complete.


Since the Order of the Phoenix, I’ve seriously felt like she should just have been honest and titled one of her books Harry Potter and the Boring Chunks of Exposition. Up through Goblet of Fire, J.K. was pretty good about keeping the action, the story, moving, only stopping once in a while to fill in a gap here and there. It is something that tends to happen in any book that tries to keep secrets from the audience, since you have to omit certain things to retain the mystery, there will come a point where you have to show that it has been figured out. How uncomfortable or odd that telling is usually depends on the type of information hidden and how much. In the Potter books, entire characters are essentially hidden from the reader, and trying to get that much information back to the reader is hard. J.K. Rowling, by Order of the Phoenix, just started resorting to “the lecture”, which is to say you suddenly (or not so suddenly) get an entire chapter of one character explaining things to another character. In many other books this is usually avoided by having the unknown information spread out among a handful of characters who meet up and share, the back and forth of it and the fact that many characters are also finding out stuff too involves the reader much more deeply than when one character just dumps fifteen pages of backstory on another.

In that respect, Deathly Hallows was the worst book of the series. There probably nearly a dozen chapters of someone dumping information on Harry, only some of which he has figured out on his own and where he hardly participates in the conversation except to repeat back some of the information in the form of questions to prod the other person onward.

I also can honestly say that I wasn’t very surprised. The book consisted almost entirely of telegraphed punches, you can see every twist coming if you are paying attention. Of course, this is, after all, a children’s book, so don’t bring your CSI trained analytical mind with you and you’ll enjoy the book much more.

And just to make sure people don’t think I’m hating on the book, I really did enjoy it, and I gladly recommend this series to anyone. It is worth the read.

Useless Technical Websites

Most of today I have spent my work time searching the Internet for a solution to a problem that I have. One of the things I have been looking for is information on how to best use HTTP Modules in .NET. Allow me to provide you with an depiction of 99% of the websites I found:

HTTP Modules are great and can do much if you use them well.

When using HTTP Modules, you need to consider exactly what you are trying to accomplish, and then take the steps needed to accomplish it.

In conclusion, HTTP Modules are awesome!

Now take that, make it five hundred or more words and you have a good idea of what I’m getting at. It is an article, written with wonderful verbiage and great care… to make sure they do not actually explain anything. No examples, nothing. Just “This is neat! Its neat because it does stuff! Isn’t that neat?!?” with no bother to actually go into any detail at all about what is does or how to actually use any of it.

And of course, every page is simply overflowing with ads.

Hey you… yeah you, the one who writes pages exactly like the one I described… you are ruining the Internet!

There is just so much noise, I can’t even tell if there is a signal at all anymore…

The Path Not Spoiled

One discussion that always seems to come up with me over and over again is the problem with spoiler sites.

My first issue with them is that they are usually just information dumps. There is never any care put into the presentation of the information. Here is the quest, here are links to the item stats and maps for drops and comments from users including location coordinates and more. I would love to see sites that actually care for the game offering tiers of information, a couple levels of “hints” before the final reveal. Of course, that takes effort and since many spoiler sites ultimately strive to be ad driven click fountains of cash, its much easier to just dump information in its most Googleable form to generate as much traffic as possible.

The next issue is the justifications used by players who frequent spoiler sites. The big excuse is that they want to know what’s up with a dungeon or instance before they go so as to minimize the chance of a wipe out, especially since wiping out wastes time and costs in-game money for repairs and/or recovery. I tend to avoid spoiler sites, and when I get in groups and head into dungeons, I do my best to force my group to assess fights before charging in, to consider consequences. We don’t usually wipe out, but even if we do I try to ensure that everyone has fun doing it. Encourage people that we can do it and try again. The people who wipe out most groups are often the ones who went to a spoiler site. Either they got bad information, or incomplete information, or worse… they got spoiler tunnel vision. This happens when you need monster X for a quest and find the directions on where to find him and how to beat him, but the page you looked at didn’t mention the trap encounter in the room prior, or the 57 other encounters you have to get past before the one you want. After enough outings like this, the spoiler-reader will just up his research, making sure they know a dungeon inside out, soup to nuts, before stepping foot inside. People justify going to spoiler sites to avoid wipe outs, but it seems to me that most wipe outs occur from people using spoiler sites to avoid actually learning to play the game.

To me, games like MMOs are about the journey, the “how” of getting to your destination. The social interaction, working with others toward common goals, that is where the fun is at. It seems, from my experience, that lots of people focus entirely on the destination, and the answer to “how” is “as quickly and easily as possible.” I just don’t understand why people would invest so much time and effort into the game reducing it to collecting widgets, be it levels or items. Why play a game in a manner that intentionally avoids most of the game?

I used to play tennis. I was actually pretty good. Many of my opponents were confused by my play style (I have no back hand, I actually switch hands to utilize two fore hand swings). But I wasn’t great. I practiced, I played in a league, but as much fun as I had and as much as I wanted to play, there was a ceiling to my level of skill. So, I settled into a level of play where my opponents were challenging, where I had opportunities to both win and lose without dominating my playtime with either. And that is the approach I take toward all gaming. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and I try to win more than I lose, but neither winning all the time nor losing all the time is fun. But even so, I enjoyed tennis most when practicing and leading up to a match, or playing the match. At the end, I won or I lost, and neither matter to me at long as I felt good about how I got there.

Was I raised differently than most people? Can someone help me understand why so many folks are focused completely on the ends and are willing to justify so many means to skip right to it?

The Definition of Insanity

The clinical definition of insanity is the repetion of the same task expecting a different result. Like, if you have a button that turns on a red light, pushing it over and over again expecting one of those times for the light to be green instead.

So, at work, there is a woman who asks me to create an entry in our database. She does this about once a week. Every week she provides me with the name of the record. Every week, I ask her to send me more information and list about twenty fields that need to be filled out. Every week she replies with the information I need and says she forgot.

The question is, is she insane because she keeps sending me one piece of data expecting me to be able to create the record or am I insane for expecting her to learn and give me all the information in the first email?