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Red Undead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption: Undead NightmareToday’s Zombie Wednesdays post was going to be about my initial impressions of Dead Rising 2, however due to a slew of free movie screenings this week I might not actually get to play it until Friday.  Instead, I bring you the artwork for Red Dead Redemption’s upcoming Undead Nightmare DLC.

Now, some people are upset at this because they feel that it detracts from the realistic feel of the original game.  That the supernatural has no place in the world crafted by RDR.  Then again, no one is forcing them to buy and play this expansion.  I can see why they might be upset since Rockstar is “wasting their time making crap like this” or whatever, just like people get pissed when Harmonix releases another batch of DLC songs they don’t care about.  Get over it.

Personally, I can’t wait.  Zombies in the Old West?  Yes, please!  And this time the bulk of (or all of) the DLC is single player, so I don’t have to rely on finding random people to play with when I want to play.  I look forward to the new missions and retouched world with an undead flavor.  Squeee!

There is supposed to be a trailer available on Thursday, so look for it.  The only question is… will I have to go up against zombie John Marston?

Dragon*Con 2010: Day Four

And we comes to Day Four of Dragon*Con, the cruelest of Dragon*Con days.  Why?  Because most people don’t stay through Tuesday, seeing as how everything is done by 5pm (the panel schedule is so light that most people won’t find much to attend), it means they have to check out.  By noon.  Or 11am. Or whatever hour their hotel kicks them out.  And many people when faced with the dilemma of having their luggage sit in the holding area under bellhop guard or just proceeding out to the car and heading home will head home.  Checking out means Dragon*Con is over.

Where will I be today?  In the Sheraton, Savannah room, hiding.  We run a panel on legal issues in MMOs, another on Guild Wars 1 & 2, and our last panel of the con is where we talk about how the track did: what rocked, what sucked, and what we missed.

But what about yesterday?  The Guild panel was great.  Sandeep (Zaboo) and Jeff (Vork) are both great guys, oh and Sean Becker too (the director).  After that I took my annual tour around the exhibitors and dealers halls, things were bought, pictures will be posted in the aftermath post tomorrow.  I enjoyed the rest of my afternoon in my hotel room, trying to stay off my tired little feet.  But after not going to and later hearing about the Kingdom of Loathing party, I knew I had to go.  Plus, you know, last night of the con.  Essentially, it’s like going to a room party in a hotel, only you don’t have to have a secret handshake to get in, we post it in the schedule and invite everyone!  Day Three was a smashing success.

And look at that… I didn’t stumble into bed until nearly 5am and my 8am post is only 45 minutes late.  I am a con warrior!

Dragon*Con 2010: Day Three

Day One, 8am post… Day Two, 8am post… Day Three? Not 8am.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

Today I’ll be work the Guild Q & A with Vork and Zaboo and then I’m done.  The track has a few nifty things for the MMO-inclined like a Global Agenda panel, EVE Online, City of Heroes, a session about guild management and more.  Then of course, we have the Kingdom of Loathing party tonight, which was great last year so I’d expect it to be great again.

Now, let’s talk about Day Two… We had almost 600 people show up to see us show off Cataclysm.  Then nearly 200 to hear Sandeep Parikh talk about The Legend of Neil.  180 came to hear about the best WoW Addons.  At 5:30, we did the WoW Meet & Greet with fun and prizes, which I don’t have numbers for because I worked the camera instead of the door.  This was such a blast, especially the dance content due to the insane guy who actually did the WoW Troll dance.  Then we had over a hundred people for a second night of machinima.  And then… At 10pm we opened the doors on our MMO Gathering of Heroes.  I don’t have any final numbers, but I hear over 1,000 people dropped by throughout the evening.  We danced.  We drank.  We danced some more.  I stumbled back to the room around 3am.  It was a great day.

Movie Round-Up: August 27th, 2010

The Last Avatar Takers: Special Exorcism EditionYou might notice a small addition to the movie round-up.  I will now Photoshop an amalgam of the movie posters to accompany the post each week.  Enjoy!

Takers:

You know, part of me watches this trailer and wants to make fun of it.  Another part of me thinks that the movie might actually be fun and even a bit thrilling.  When I’m split like this it often means I won’t go to the theater, but I do think I’ll seek this out on video.  One thing is for sure though, all of me agrees than Hayden Christensen’s hat looks downright silly.  What the hell were they thinking?

The Last Exercism:

I managed to see a screening of this film a couple weeks ago.  My opinion of it then, and it hasn’t changed, is that they put together a very nice movie.  It has tense moments, and the lack of a soundtrack adds to the feel of it… and then they completely blow it in the final scenes of the film.  I was so dissatisfied with how it ended that it actually made me wish I hadn’t enjoyed the earlier bits.  Completely not worth the $10 unless you really really really feel the need, but when it hits DVD it’s worth seeing at home.  Alone.  With the lights off.  Did you hear something?

Avatar: Special Edition:

It isn’t really fair to put this here. It’s not a new film, and the 9 extra minutes just makes me want to punch James Cameron in the face, because it’s like when they release a DVD, then later that same year they put out a Special Edition, and then the next year they put out a 2 disc Special Edition.  Screw you!  On the other hand, the only way to truly see this film is in 3D on the big screen, so another theatrical run makes sense.  I’ll probably end up seeing this again.  I am both a sad and happy panda.

The clothes make the hero.

Lord of the Rings OnlineArguably, the title is true for most MMOs since they are all pretty heavily gear/item based.  But what I’m talking about here is just the look of your character in game.  Over two years ago I wrote a post trying to find drawbacks in implementing a system that divorced form from function.  And just four months ago, I made another post on appearance items.  Now, thanks to Melmoth over at KiaSA, I’ve learned that Lord of the Rings Online is implementing a Wardrobe System.

What’s really interesting here is that they even went a step farther with their design than I imagined anyone would.  First, putting an item in the wardrobe will copy the name and look (no stats) and then you can sell, give away or even destroy the original item.  Let me say that again, if you like the look of an item but don’t care for it for any other reason, you can copy it to the wardrobe and then get rid of it.  Second, with some restrictions, your wardrobe is available to all the characters on your account on the same server.  Got an awesome looking hat that you want to wear on all your alts but it requires doing a high level quest and having certain reputation?  No problem!  Just put it in the wardrobe and all your alts can wear it!

This is one of those features that every MMO from here on out needs to copy.  The days of mismatched, ugly but good gear or self gimping with weak gear to look good should be over now.  As Melmoth says, no excuses any more.

Not as private as you may think

Are you a Facebook user?  Do you like posting photos and status updates?  Do you enjoy posting on people’s walls and having them post on your wall?

One of the main issues that I have with Facebook is the illusion.  You log in and you are presented with your news feed.  Over on the left you see the smiling faces of your friends that are online, and your feed is full of them telling you about random stuff.  And see all this friend-centered stuff and you think, “Hey, I’ve got something to say, let me update my status and share it with my friends…”  Who can really see that?  If you’ve gone into your privacy settings then it might just be your friends.  More likely, it’s your “Friends of Friends” or even “Everyone”.

You might have heard that horror story about someone who bitched about their boss and the boss saw it and it got them in trouble, so you haven’t friended your boss.  However, you are unaware that your boss actually went to high school with someone who is your friend.  You’ve got your status updates set to “Friends of Friends” which means your boss, who is a friend of your friend, can see that you just called him a twat, so maybe you don’t get that raise or promotion.

That photo you posted of your girlfriend meeting you at the door when you got home, naked with a beer and a steak… sure, the plate covered all the naughty bits, but you just posted that to your Mobile Photos album (since you uploaded it from your phone) and that album is marked visible by Everyone!  That’s on the Internet now.  Tagged and cached, for-ev-ver.  The next time your girlfriend goes looking for a job, someone just might Google her name, see that photo and decide her future based on it.  Maybe she doesn’t get the job… or maybe she does and her new boss treats her like a girl willing to have half-naked photos of her posted on the Internet… or maybe it doesn’t matter…

I prefer to err on the side of thinking that it matters…

A caution about privacy and the Internet might seem odd coming from a guy who blogs and mentions his real life now and then, but know that every tidbit of information I put into a blog post is carefully considered.  I ask myself, “Do I mind if everyone knows this?”  I have over 1,100 posts here and I’ve probably put just as many in the trash bin.  It’s actually common for me to come here, write out a diatribe on the latest frustration at work or amongst friends, let it sit in draft form for a couple of days and then delete it.  It’s one of the reasons I love blogging and haven’t been a huge fan of most social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, because they are immediate, there is less chance for careful consideration.

So, my Monday morning bit of advice this week is to go to your privacy settings in Facebook and make sure all your sharing is at levels you are comfortable with.  At the very least, be aware of who can see what you say…

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.

Facebook wants to turn you inside out.

This is a post I started about a month ago and had left sitting in the draft bin, but due to yesterday’s post and topic, I decided to dig it up and polish it…

Most people, unless you’ve grown up entirely in the Internet enabled world, think of “being social” as joining groups.  You play sports.  You have a book club.  You form a tabletop gaming group.  You go to a party.  You sit at a lunch table.  You go to the company picnic.  Your kids play at the same park.  And so on.  Being social involves joining people doing something.

When I first joined Facebook, it was all about joining groups.  Your college, your high school, your jobs both past and present.  Groups still exist on Facebook, but just barely.  When people post things in the groups I belong to it doesn’t show in the feed, in fact it doesn’t show anywhere unless I go look at my list of groups.  Groups are a thing of the past, now everyone are “friends”.

Facebook is all about getting all your “friends” together from every activity and dumping them all into one place.  Of course, people in general don’t really function that way, and it has caused issues for many folks as they have dived into the “social web”.  Work friends and other friends used to be separate groups, and with a lot of work on your part they still can be on Facebook, but by default they are all the same.  Facebook doesn’t want you talking about things in groups privately among your friends, they want you to put everything in your feed where everyone can see it (unless you’ve taken the time to protect your feed and group your friends).  Facebook wants to take your segregated group, integrate them with the whole and put them on a stage, and they want to put ads on the page in the column next to it.

Facebook, Real ID and other such efforts are slowly eroding privacy.  Is this a bad thing?  Not everyone cares, especially younger folks, but many of them haven’t run into an issue where something they said on Facebook or Twitter or some other forum has cost them a job yet.  Maybe they won’t.  Maybe by the time it matters for them, the people doing the hiring and firing won’t care.

I can see the draw, I really can.  I grew up watching Cheers on TV and singing alone with “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name” and the social web feels like that sometimes, it feels like this intimate group of people who you can talk to, who you can trust.  But can you?  Once you’ve racked up over a thousand “friends” on Facebook that includes former coworkers and employers, current ones, old friends from a decade ago, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, and all the other random people who’ve come into contact, can you really trust them all with that thought that just ran through your head, down your fingers and spilled out onto your keyboard?  Do you want that random thought to exist on the Internet forever?  I know I actually consider everything I put out there before I hit the publish button here.  I’ve scrapped entire posts because I didn’t feel comfortable with the content, and others I’ve hacked up and removed specifics to keep a level of separation.

What the hell am I getting at?  I don’t know… perhaps I’m just an old man yelling at the kids to get off of his lawn…

Are you having fun?

The title of this post is often the measure people use to determine if an MMO is doing things right.  But it is a horrible measure.

I could be playing World of Warcraft right now.  And I would be having fun doing it.  I enjoyed playing the game.  I liked running in to town and getting some quests and then running out of town to polish them off.  The wife and I liked playing together, and we built our characters so that we could do so.  However, despite that, I became acutely aware that the one thing I love most about MMOs was missing in my WoW time and that was community.

Having come from loving EQ where chatting was the norm, where I would regularly simultaneously hold conversations in group, guild, shout, ooc, and a handful of private tells, going to a game where chatting was a hurdle, where the game was “active” enough that my hands didn’t have the time to chat unless I stopped playing, and the world advancing to voice chat (which I loathe because I cannot simultaneously chat in as many areas as I can text chat, I get locked in to one server where I can’t just say “Hi!” to a random stranger) lead to a fairly silent gaming experience.  Without community, without other people, WoW, like EQ, is actually a really simple and sort of soulless game.

So, realizing this, I decided to stop paying Blizzard for a game I was enjoying but was lacking features I desired.  And by doing this, I joined the minority.  The fact is, most people would prefer to pay for a game they find moderately satisfying than to save their money, play nothing, and wait for a game that fits better to come along.

11 million people can’t be wrong.

That’s the battle cry of people justifying why WoW is a great game even if it isn’t exactly the game they want to play.  They’ll also tell you that if enough people want change then change will happen.  Only, it’s not that easy.

Would you like to play a classless levelless MMO set in a zombie apocalypse?  I would.  However, I can’t.  I want change, and it is possible that there are 40 million people in the world who would like to play the same game, but we can’t until someone builds it.  No amount of demanding is going to get Blizzard to drop classes or levels from WoW, or to replace all the monsters with zombies.  Nor get Sony to change EQ2, or even to get the Fallen Earth folks to re-envision their game.  Once a game is built, change within that game is limited.

In conjunction with the video I posted on Monday, I’ve come to realize that most MMOs are going through the motions.  They copy WoW and make minor changes in an attempt to lure away people and maybe become the new king of the hill.  Even games that strive to be different from WoW still end up cloning their style of combat (the kind that’s too active for community to exist unless the players stop playing to chat) and becoming a game that I can have fun playing but is still missing what I want most from games.

I don’t think the industry needs to be wiped clean like Wolfshead, but it has become clear that I need to seek out more games, perhaps smaller games, and find designs that aren’t following the WoW path to money hats in order to find the game I really want to play.  I’m open to suggestions…

Jury Duty

I really wish this was a post about how I was going to serve on jury duty, but it isn’t.  As a person who is ready and willing (even eager) to do his duty I will probably never be summoned.  The wife, however, got a summons and is spending this week on a jury.

One of the things I learned this week as she attended her days of duty is that in some places because of the number of people trying to get out of jury duty they’ve had to make changes to what excuses are valid.  No longer can you be automatically excused if you are the sole breadwinner in a family.  Single mother?  Not excused.  Former police?  They’ll still let you sit on misdemeanor cases, just not felonies.  Medical issues?  Only if they prevent you from sitting still for stretches of 4-5 hours.

Another thing I learned is that some companies hate America.  Yeah, I went there, and yeah, I’m exaggerating.  However, our county pays $25 a day for service.  The wife makes that in about 3 hours of work.  To do 5 days of jury duty, she’ll earn $125 but miss out on about 30 hours of work.  (30 / 3 = 10 * $25 = $250)  So the result of this week is that it will cost us half her wages.  (It’s not 40 hours because she works retail, and therefore weekends.)  She talked to her boss and the company she works for makes no concessions for jury duty except the promise not to fire people if they end up on a lengthy trial.  I spoke to my own boss, he said I’d be paid my normal wages AND it wouldn’t cost me any vacation days either.  Probably another reason I won’t be called to serve.

The jury system is one of the things about this country that I love.  It is sad to see people treated quite poorly for their service, not by the government, because I understand they can’t really foot the bill for everyone’s wages (and seriously, they have to treat people equally, if the wife and I were both serving, it would be wrong for me to be paid more for my time on a jury because I make more in the private sector), but by the companies they work for.  Plus, it contributes to the idea that a trial by jury is actually a trial by a group of people who are probably a little upset for having to be there because of the impact it is going to have on them financially especially when the economy sucks.

Anyway… it was on my mind, so here it is…