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Real ID Revisited

So, last year, you know, 2010, Blizzard announced their new Real ID plan. To which I had this to say:

None of the “good” parts of Real ID, the cross server chat, cross game chat, seeing people’s alts, and so on, required the use of real names

Blizzard did back off a little bit. And now they unveil the new BattleTag!

Short version: It’s Real ID without using your real identity.

Now if they can just allow for a character exemption or “invisible” mode so I can choose to play but not be seen by my BattleTag buddies, they’ll have covered just about everything I care about.

And now it is too late…

Almost two months ago I wrote about the best show on TV that you weren’t watching, Terriers.  You were supposed to start watching, like, immediately.  But apparently, you didn’t.  And now they’ve gone and cancelled the show.

I hate procedurals.  They bore me, mostly because I want to know about the people solving the crimes, not the crimes so much themselves.  If I wanted to see crimes solved I’d read a newspaper or something.  What I want in my television are characters worth caring about, and most procedurals spend too much time on the science (half of which they make up anyway, or at least use in unrealistic budgetarily unconstrained ways) and not enough on the people.

Terriers was about people.  Sure, there were crimes.  Some of them were wrapped up in an episode, and some arced over several episodes.  But most the compelling part of the show was the people who were tangled up in the mess.  And ultimately, the core of the drama on Terriers was that it went to great lengths to illustrate that all actions have consequences.  Nothing in this show was wasted.  By the end of its run of just thirteen episodes, everything bore fruit, every action affected someone or something, every decision had consequences.

At this point, you’ve got a few options to see this gem in its entirety.  Head over to Amazon and buy it from video on demand, or get it from iTunes, or go find some less than legal avenue to download episodes… or wait for the DVD release, of which I hope it gets good treatment of extras and not just episodes on disc.

Of course, one of the biggest letdowns of the cancellation is that I won’t get to hear “Gunfight Epiphany” each week.  (Sadly, the song is only for sale on iTunes, and I hate iTunes.)

Just know… you could have saved this show.  But you didn’t.  And for that, I like you a little bit less today than I did yesterday.  I’ll get over it, but we lost one of the good ones here, and that’s on you.

Real Issues with Real ID

Lots of people are in a huff over Blizzard’s new Real ID.

I won’t go into it very much, but let me just drop this on you… None of the “good” parts of Real ID, the cross server chat, cross game chat, seeing people’s alts, and so on, required the use of real names and an “all or nothing” design.  Why aren’t some of these features part of World of Warcraft’s existing friend list design?  Why does it have to be ALL of my characters on ALL of my servers?  Do I have to get a second account now if I want some “alone time”?

I hope things continue to change, because right now all I am seeing is a feature I’d never use for more than maybe one or two people in the whole world.

Earth Day 2010

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

This is the mantra of the efforts to “save the planet”.  Now, while I’m the first to deride people over that particular turn of phrase (I mean, seriously, the planet is not really in danger – the ecosystem humans require to live in is, but until a comet lines us up in its cross hairs the planet is doing just fine), I do actually agree with many of the methods and goals of environmentalism.

I’ve blogged numerous times about reducing junk mail, and I’m about to do it again.  I simply cannot say enough about the program that was called Green Dimes, then Mail Stopper and is now called Precycle.  Back when I first bought my house we were getting a mailbox full of junk nearly every day.  There was so much wasted paper that it was a pain in the ass to bother dragging it to a place that would recycle it.  It seemed like such a no-brainer that better than recycling junk mail was to stop it from coming at all.  Combining the use of this service plus switching over to eBilling for nearly all my bills, I have an empty mailbox three or more days a week.  The junk is just gone.  So, not only do I not have to deal with it coming in, I also don’t feel guilty about throwing it out because I’m too lazy to recycle it.  Win-win.

We’ve switched over almost entirely to drinking water (or Crystal Light which is just water with some powder mixed in), so this means less cans and bottles.  Much like the Precycle above, not having things to recycle is better than recycling.

We also tend to buy in bulk when we can, which reduces the amount of packing materials.  Combined with the stopping of junk mail, I almost feel ripped off paying for weekly trash service because we only cart the can to the street once a month (more often if it’s stinky).  I say almost because driving to a dump and paying per bag ends up costing about the same, and since a few dozen of my neighbors use the same trash service (and more often than us) I wouldn’t be saving anything by cancelling our curb pickup.

Over the winter, the wife an I experimented with a space heater.  Rather than heat up the whole house we kept the thermostat relatively low and then just heated up the room we were in.  It worked out fairly well and we managed to save a little money.  It’s a plan we are going to try this summer as well with the use of fans.  Though while a heater is a heater, a fan isn’t an air-conditioner, so we may be met with limited success.

All in all, I really do feel like I’m doing my part.  I encourage everyone to take a look at their lives and see where they can make changes, not just for “the planet” but for themselves and their own pocket books.  Saving the environment is good.  Saving money is great.  When you can do both at the same time, that’s awesome.

I, Gold Farmer

I’ve been talking a lot about being turned away from subscription games over the last year, but I have to confess.  I lied.  The truth is that I am actually playing pretty much every MMO out there, with multiple accounts.  I’m also putting my programming skills to good use by writing scripts and the occasional key logger.

It turns out that it is both very easy and very profitable to be a gold farmer.

At first, I just used two PCs to play WoW and collect things in game, like leather, cloth, and ore.  I sold those in the auction house for ridiculous prices because people at the top levels who want to power level a trade skill have more money than time.  After selling a bunch of gold to other players, I used my earnings to buy a server capable of running multiple sessions so that I could run more accounts and utilize the new scripts I had been writing.  More profits, more servers.  WoW alone is netting me just over $1500 a month.  And with the economy in the shitter, finding companies selling off assets on the cheap is easy.

I quit my job.  I branched out into other games.  I hired my wife, my brothers and a few other people.  I wrote new scripts, I invested in technology to disguise our IP addresses, and I started key logging.  Did you account get hacked?  That might have been me.

Furthermore, while Blizzard continues to fight the good fight and bans my accounts (though not at a rate that even comes close to making it unprofitable), other game companies, I have found, can be bribed.  As long as I use my accounts to do some product testing for the, report duping bugs and the like, they are willing to leave me alone.  “For the greater good” is what we have agreed to call it.  Besides, they know, people want to buy gold, but they’d be ridiculed and flamed for trying to sell it themselves in addition to their subscription fee.  Simple as that.

Oh, and if you believed a single word of what you just read… shame on you.  It’s April 1st.

Enjoy the Internet today, and take your salt shaker…  🙂

The Failure of Facebook Games

As I have been diving in to Facebook games, I discovered that in order to succeed in the games I had to add strangers to my friends list.  Unfortunately, this has a side effect that is quite bad.  As Facebook has become more popular and the use of Facebook Connect and other APIs has grown, my Facebook friend list travels with me lots of place.  I don’t mind my real friends following me around, but game strangers who I only added because I needed more people to advance in a game since no more of my real friends would play I don’t want them around.

Last year I bought a Palm Pre.  Best phone I’ve ever owned or used, absolutely love it.  One of its best features is Synergy, which is what they call the blending of profiles without syncing them.  So, I added my Gmail account, my Facebook, my AIM, my work Exchange account, and so on, and when I look at my contacts it shows them all, in one view, duplicates are combined into a single entry but not sync’d.  For example, I have my older brother as a friend on Facebook, a contact on AIM and an entry in Gmail.  In the Pre, I see his picture with a small subscript 3 telling me that this entry is a blending of three accounts.  If he updates his Facebook profile, that will automatically update in my phone, but items in his Gmail contact entry only change when I update them.

Combining my Pre with my recent use of Facebook games and suddenly I had dozens of people in my phone, with phone numbers, whom I don’t know.  This is the side effect, and this is why I removed all those people as friends on Facebook.  Going forward, playing games on Facebook is going to be harder, slower.

The failure of most Facebook games is this: you have to choose, sacrifice social for games or sacrifice games for social.  That’s a horrid dilemma for a social gaming platform.  Facebook needs a way for people to be game-friends that links them for the game but for nothing else, and gives people the option of allowing that relationship to grow and step outside the game.  Until that happens, I choose Facebook as a social platform, not a gaming one.

Additional Note: I have noticed that in some games you can get what I am calling “former friend benefits”.  Taking Hero World as an example, once I add a person to my Super Team, I can remove them from my friend list but my team size doesn’t decrease. While this prevents me from using them actively in the game (training, gifts, etc), I can still use them passively (my super team is currently 37 people, even though I only have 8 or so that are on my friend list) for content that requires team sizes of a certain level.


Oddly enough, on the same day that a Democrat member of the House of Representatives announces that he’d like to legalize casual personal use of marijuana, Cheech & Chong announce they are planning to go back on the road.

Life is funny like that some times.

Directed Instancing

One of the things I find discussed quite often is the use of instancing in games.  Some people like it, some people hate it, and there is every shade of gray in between.  The problem with no instancing is that places can get crowded… you go out to kill orcs and find that all the orcs are being killed.  The problem with too much instancing is that it can seem like you are the only one there… messing around in Guild Wars with their version of instancing, in the city there are people, then I go outside and am usually alone.

Just spit balling here… but what about a “directed instancing”, where you have an area that is an instance designed for a few dozen people/groups each unit performing different tasks.  The idea would be that before leaving “town”, you or your group has to select a task.  Once you leave town, the task is locked and you zone out into an instance that all but guarantees that no one is performing the same task you are, but may be populated with people performing any one of the couple dozen tasks the area supports.  You might head into the forest to kill orcs and run across a player chopping lumber, another hunting bears for meat and skins, a group searching for a missing child, and a raid about to siege the wizard tower at the far end.

Would that work?


11 out of 13 nots.
for Card Counting fun and the best recent use of old Cowboy Curtis 

A couple years ago while watching yet another poker tournament on Bravo or some other channel, they ran a TV special about other card games, and their coverage included Vegas security and mentioned a book called Bringing Down the House.  Surprisingly, I’d actually heard of the book before and even snippets and summaries of the story it contained, but that special was enough for my wife to decide she wanted to read it.  She got the book (for Christmas or her birthday, I forget which) and she read it… then I read it.  I loved it, and at the time I recall thinking to myself, “Somebody should make a movie out of this!”

Well, they did.  It’s called 21 and it comes out tomorrow.  I managed to see a screening of it a few weeks ago, and I have to say that they captured the book pretty well.  Not exactly, of course, but the spirit of a team of people using a card counting scheme to win money in Vegas.

The movie had good performances all around, though I especially enjoyed Laurence Fishburne as the casino security man trying to catch the people “stealing” the casino’s money.

Completely 100% worth the price of admission.

My Domain

The truth is, I chose Probablynot.com after a couple of hours of randomly picking cool sounding words and phrases and finding them all to be taken already.  In the end, it came down to Probablynot.com and Definitelymaybe.com.  I went with this one, obviously.

When I picked it, I never considered the side effects of having this domain name.  The first is that I constantly have to assure people that it is a real domain when I give out my email address.  The second is that tons of other people in the world use this domain as a fake domain name for email addresses.

The second effect is really the more interesting one.  I’m sure it is partly the reason why my domain gets some of the spam that it does, and why I’ve found my domain blocked on more than one corporate network.  But a weird facet of this is that occasionally, randomly, I get people’s passwords.  For example, a few of my more recent ones were logins and passwords for photobucket accounts.  Unfortunately these are never people with cool pictures, just guys selling stuff on eBay who want to host some photos of their crap.

Its a minor ethical dilemma.  They use an email address on my domain as their address… the system emails me a copy of the login and password… does that make it alright for me to log in to their accounts?  I didn’t hack it.  I didn’t steal it.  In fact, the person out there specifically designated me to get email from the website.

Ultimately, it makes me really appreciate sites that require email validation, since they’ll never present me with this problem.