Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Zero Deaths Bigger "News" than Seventy

"Six o'clock TV hour, don't get caught in foreign tower
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline."

R.E.M. - It's the End of the World

I was going to do a whole spiel on that yearly celebration of torture, Easter, since I haven't ragged on the fundies lately. Unfortunately they kind of upstaged me over there in Pakistan, what with the making with the boom-boom and such. Then again ... Muslim bombings. Is that really news anymore? Let's check.

Go to whatever news-ish organizations you feel like. Try NBC, CNN, NPR, USAToday, Euronews, even Google news, whatever. See which of them considers the murder of seventy people worth discussion, worth higher billing than Trump's campaign manager bitchslapping some yellow hack. Fuck me with a yatagan and call me Ali Baba's brother if the only place where seventy people getting murdered for the sake of mass delusion counts as front page material wasn't Wikipedia.

Fucking Wikipedia. Checking the dictionary has now become our only source of journalistic integrity. See, this is why nobody's crying over the death of newspapers or large "respectable" organizations: over a century of spineless toadies spreading disinformation and propaganda straight from the pockets of society's masters. Oh, some tidbit about the Lahore Easter bombings makes the front page, and Euronews at least put the Brussels investigation front and center. Do any of them take some kind of stand against the degenerate brainwashed backbirths who still want to reshape society to fit their idiotic stone-age fairytales about life after death, or at least faithfully report each and every atrocity committed by fundies? Fuck no. They divert. They feed you a "news" item which kind of sounds like that's what they're talking about.

While the lead about seventy people getting blown to bits gets buried somewhere on page fifty (right after the ads for golf clubs) pretty much every ersatz "news" website lists some inconsequential factoid about the Egypt Air hijacking within its top ten stories. An event in which no-one was hurt and the plane landed safely. Amazing. Hell, Batman causes more property damage foiling a jewelry store robbery.

But then again, the name of an Islam-infested country combined with "plane hijacking" certainly sounds like they're doing their due diligence in addressing the primitive deadheads with high explosives, right? That's a fancy freakin' lead-burial right there, complete with paid weepers and marching band. And somewhere in the back of the articles we get to find out that, besides the event having little or nothing to do with religion, the guy didn't even have an actual bomb.

How's about telling us about the subhuman filth that do have bombs, and the reason they use them? How about admitting that faith is a mental disease at best, if you're not willing to call it the sadomasochistic devolution it's always been? Not that Wikipedia's not spineless enough in its own right, but at least that front page exercises some minimal editorial prerogative instead of completely abdicating the inherent right and duty of critical thought. CNN, on the other hand, considers a mass murder resulting from mass delusion less newsworthy than Patty Duke.

Look, if any suicide bombers are reading, please, take out the newsies first. I'd at least like the satisfaction of seeing you rabid sub-sentient apes blow them to bits first before you get me. Then again, they'd probably doubt their own deaths are worth commenting on. I hear Elton John's got a new hairdo!

Wikipedia also does what every official news and politics site is too gutless to do - they're keeping a list.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

In Remembrance of Retrodamsel

Heh, I love this: some kid wrote Retrodruid into the urban dictionary. Not that doing so (or using her as a negative example in a blog post or in any other way) would inflict anything besides pride and glee in her at being the topic of conversation. She was, from what I remember about her, a consummate, unflinching and tireless attention whore.

With Leeroyyyyy nnnJenkins finally seeming to fade from our communal memory, I've been getting the oddest impulse to look up some of that good old-fashioned vanilla WoW stupidity. See, while we lacked Leroy and that chick who traded sex for an epic mount (pun intended) Tichondrius server had its own share of jokers, griefers, ninja looters, forum warriors, drama queens and outright imbeciles. For instance, we had Thados, a paladin who would constantly challenge other players to duels, lose yet still brag "I owned you with easy" and followed that up by blindly jumping off a cliff trying to kill a horde mage who feather-fell to safety - an act which he and the other cretin who took that plunge tried to laugh off as intentional. The other cretin being a guildmate of mine whom I already detested.

Yeah, the internet was smaller back then, games included. A bad reputation within a relatively small community usually implied rolling up a new character or petitioning GMs for a name change to hide your shame. Yet one griefer never needed a name change. Here she is still wielding her crowning achievement, Sulfuras, the straw that finally broke the camel's back. Sulfuras was, for the first couple of years of WoW, a big deal. THE big deal, the most powerful weapon in the game, an item assembled from pieces acquired through arduous non-stop raiding. Forty players would dedicate weeks and months of their lives just so one of them could proudly show off this status symbol and "melt faces" as the saying went, with its (for the time) very powerful on-hit fire damage effect. She apparently ninja-looted the main component for it. The real kicker, of course, is that WoW druids didn't even use weapons to hit anything. We carried them around as passive stat buffs, not active damage.

This all happened a little while after I'd already given up on World of Warcraft. However, long before I left, Retrodruid had already earned a routine spot in the chorus of complaints about detestable players. While everyone had their own personal shitlist, you could ask any group of alliance players on Tichondrius for cautionary tales about ever dealing with Retrodruid. My own ran something like this: she joined a team with me in Blackrock Spire and upon reaching the instance entrance /sat her character down and refused to play unless she got a heartfelt apology because, you see, she'd gotten ganked on her way in and none of us had run back to her rescue! Never mind that we didn't know, and even though I don't remember the details such an action would likely have resulted only in one more of us falling prey to the same gankers or that no-one had promised her an armed guard or that the rest of us had made it in just fine, or that she was a freaking druid who could probably have stealthed to the instance entrance instead of dying like an idiot.

Tip of the iceberg. The stories about her spanned half a dozen guilds, endless episodes of drama, ninja looting, badmouthing, unreasonable demands, flirting and crying over voice chat, threats of suicide if she didn't get her way, constantly trying to turn other players against each other, etc. In short a psychopath, or at least borderline personality disorder.

She kept getting groups. She kept getting into guilds. She kept getting second chances, through I believe at least a couple of years of this behavior. Attention-whoring's in no short supply in any persistent online community, yet most others of her ilk either moderated their griefing or were quickly branded pariahs. Thados was rather summarily run out of town on a rail. He was a he. She was a she. Most were he-s and if nothing else, we'd all already seen what happened to most gamers when they start talking about killing themselves, whether in Counterstrike, Starcraft or any of the games of the time. The usual replies ran the gamut from "choke on dicks faggot" to "shut up and jump, loser." Only for someone who could garner instant unthinking sympathy by drawling out a few words in a neotenized feminine whine would such a tactic have worked.

While the image of the drama queen or "fake geek girl" may seem unfair, remember this is how women made their noticeable entry into the medium last decade. Since we didn't put up with any personal harassment by horny teenage boys, the guild I was in while playing WoW actually attracted a good handful of competent and cool-headed female gamers who just wanted to play the damn game without any drama. Many hid being female specifically to avoid any such attention, an action I've always half-deplored, half-applauded in the interest of keeping games separate form the real world. However, for every one of them there were at least one or two running around Tichondrius who had figured out that joining a 90% male hobby enabled them to easily manipulate the hordes of young fools desperate for a kind word from a female voice, whether to profit in-game or just for the rush of power, who basked in lengthy Ventrilo cybersexless marriages and random gifts or other attention from males whom the rest of the female half of the species had already chewed up and spit back out.

Add to that the hefty percentage of gamer couples composed of a skilled, dedicated, involved male and a semi-afk female keeping tabs on his online activities, who he nonetheless insisted be accorded the same rank as he.

Consider also that full advantage has been taken of the taboo nature of criticism of such behavior, that male gamers have had to put up with it or be shunned for hitting a girl, to give all these psychopathic bitches second and third and endless more chances where they would have ostracized each other on the first offense, because somehow the cognitive dissonance of constant favoritism and constant claims of victimization never shatters.

Listen to a bit of this. Try to imagine a male gamer who'd just stolen the most valuable item in the game crying "I fheel unprotected by-y y-you a-a-aalllllllllll!" For a bonus, try to imagine the other men on voice chat gently soothing his tears and reassuring him. Imagine a quarter of the population of a WoW server trying to build one guild after another around catering to this person's constant impulsive screams for attention.
Over, and over, and over, and over again.
Would it take years for everyone to figure out they're being manipulated?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The man constantly crying "uncle"

Have you noticed nobody gets angry or sad anymore? Everyone just gets "triggered." We've all somehow become spy movie sleeper agents waiting for mysterious code-words to send us whirling into action - except instead of kick-ass high-flying jiu-jitsu moves we get to huddle in a corner bawling our eyes out because some casual reference on teh internets insulted our one-sixteenth Inuit heritage.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Trine 2

Oh, what's this crap, the heroes have names now? They didn't need names, they're universal RPG archetypes. To think I offered the original Trine as the positive counterpoint to Defense Grid 2's stupidly overwrought backstory. Worse, every fan and review site seems to be going along with the retconning, but if any of the three heroes were named in the first Trine, I sure as hell don't remember it being mentioned.

Anyway, the original Trine won some well-deserved fame for revitalizing one of the oldest video game genres since games acquired video. Trine 3 on the other hand I've heard described as a flop, with players complaining of its sort length, suggesting developer effort sank into something other than gameplay. Perhaps they forgot that video games are not just videos? Certainly while playing Trine 2 one can spot the creeping Hollywood envy worming its way into the series' basic concept.

Aesthetically, Trine 2 comes across as more of a kids' game than the original. Instead of a nostalgic throwback to games' fantasy basics of decades past (the archetypal fighter / thief / mage and undead as all-purpose boogeymen) it tries to address an audience too young to realize how tired such tropes have become, and in losing that sardonic ribbing manages to lose almost all the charm of the original's dialogue. Luckily the expanded array of visuals manage to make you forget the insulting expectation that you'll be surprised at the shocking plot twist that the witch wearing black is the wicked one.
Now that is freakin' lush. And, as should happen, much of the eye-candy in Trine 2 proves edible to boot. Watering plants and riding air-blowers, among other new interactable elements, add some good variety to the puzzles. Unfortunately, here I must protest that the puzzles feel a bit too much like puzzles. By removing a great deal of the player-controlled environment interaction (like the wizard's pyramid, plus much fewer wooden boards to grapple for the thief) Trine 2 lost much of its flow. Instead of a more or less continuous adventure it got bogged down in sequential puzzles in which you're obviously being pushed toward executing the one right sequence of jumps. Not only that but some abilities like the knight's hammer throw end up being simple gimmies. You invest in hammer throw to break open experience boxes which simply cannot be opened otherwise. No synergy. No variation.

As always, simplification and hand-outs go hand in hand with the removal of resource management, so it's little surprise that mana pools also disappeared.

The two boss fights (especially that utterly retarded dragon fight) resolved to very disappointing clickfests in which the carefully timed acrobatics and environment interaction on which the entire game is based were almost completely removed in favor of brainless twitchy pew-pew. Don't ask me where game designers got this idiotic notion that an ending, instead of being a culmination of their product's features, should be some pared-down, bare-bones caricature of only one gameplay gimmick.

Though still fun overall, Trine 2 was obviously already heading down the mass-market sinkhole. Collectible paintings I would assume were outright dictated by Valve and not Frozenbyte, since they had nothing whatsoever to do with the game and everything with achievement unlocks. More funding was poured into cutscenes and cinematics which add nothing to the game experience as a whole, trying to glitz in the nine-year-olds. As always the degradation of ideas also brought along some predictable pandering to political correctness, especially feminist propaganda.

The knight is no longer a dumb jock because we're not supposed to acknowledge that blatant association of dumbness with jockness (though amusingly, he is dumber than ever in the sense of having almost no lines) and the wizard has become such a sniveling, spineless little twerp that he could be pulled out of any anti-intellectual sitcom trope. Someone felt the need to punish him for his womanizing, so now he's a family man who, when in danger of getting torn apart by goblins, is only worried about worrying his wife. The thief, who already got the only non-satirical ending in the original Trine, has now somehow morphed into the ultimate moral authority, talking back at the narrator, popping up as the default character on the opening screen, rolling her eyes at the dumb males' dumb gullibility 'cuz boys are dumb, wagging her finger at the wizard's thought crime for noticing a woman other than his domineering wife and just generally having no flaws whatsoever, because we all know that sugar and spice and everything bullshit.

Look, I get you spineless pixel-jockeys didn't want to become victims of the latest feminist lynch-mob but for the love of frontal lobes, how much politically correct pandering did you need to cram into a damn sidescroller?

P.S.: When riding the air-blowers, the wizard should totally have done the Seven Year Itch thing with his robe.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Two centuries' institutionalization

Back in second grade I borrowed Jules Verne's Deux ans de vacances from my school's library and never returned it. It haunts me to this day.

First, this being one of Verne's less known works, think of it as a rather tame thematic precursor to Lord of the Flies: a group of boys stranded on a Pacific island struggle against nature and each other. If you haven't heard of it, seems it's big in Japan.

Second, never underestimate what may set off a neurotic personality. I loved the damn book and as eight-year-olds are wont to do fantasized about Mary-Sue-ing myself into the action. Given the protagonists' age ranging from eight to fourteen, I imagined myself as the youngest yet of course smartest and bravest, amazing one and all with my precociousness. Then I re-read the book a year later and realized that at the grim old age of nine I was already over the hill!

Finally, I'm reminded of the oldest boy in the story and de facto leader, Gordon, the only American in the group, whose maturity, will and especially Yankee practicality not only hold their ad-hoc society together but provide the leadership necessary for the group of British and French boys to secure food and shelter and of course fight murderous pirates in finest tween adventure novel fashion.
Wow. 1888, huh?
Yankee practicality. Wonder what happened to that.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

From skill choice to class warfare in EVE

"I had a little monkey and I sent him to the country and I fed him on gingerbread"

Marilyn Manson - My Monkey

Here's a cruiser in EVE-Online called a Maller. Though one of my current Mallers, it's not "my" Maller, the stalwart survivalist of song and legend, which naught but a divine smiting could vanquish. I bought My Maller a couple of months into the game as I seem to remember. It lasted for several years, through various rage-quits and account cancellations. It outlived my first few battleships and industrials. It braved both low-security and lawless space, lived through ganks and ran gate camps, was brought to almost zero hull several times and repaired. At one point after a fleet battle, armed with the newly-invented prototype cloaking device, it led a group of about twenty enemies in a merry game of hide and seek through several solar systems.

Then at long last one sunny day (always sunny in space) woe most woeful betid our valiant hero! One of my alliance's more Branniganesque fleet commanders scattered an enemy gate camp then, drunk on near-victory, led us on a not so merry chase for forty solar systems as the obvious enemy trap became more and more obvious. Finally the retarded piece of trash ordered us to jump into a system with an enemy titan (the not quite copyright infringing EVE equivalent of a death star) which summarily vaporized our entire fifty-player fleet in one blow, including the ship which had survived everything else in the game except a worthless fucking idiot in a position of power.

"My monkey, my monkey, my monkey's bought the farm, yeeaaaahhhhh!"

See, as one of the first ship classes included at the game's launch, the Maller received a rather archetypal defining role. It was a tank. Its armor amount, armor resistance bonus and huge energy pool for repairing made it the toughest nut to crack within its weight class. Most importantly, it received no offensive bonuses, leaving the player free to fit weaponry slots as he saw fit. Many, like me, fitted their Mallers with autocannons instead of energy-intensive lasers, leaving that much more energy available for defense. That was then. That was while World of Warcraft also included the concept of hybrid classes in its druid, paladin and shaman mechanics. You may notice the ship in the above, much more recent image, has a laser damage bonus in addition to its armor bonus.

EVE started as a skill-based game. It gradually became a class-based one. At the game's launch, many players fitted a gun onto their industrial transport ships, otherwise defined as defenseless space trucks, to add some damage to a potential gank defense. Mining ships were regular cruisers fitted with mining lasers instead of guns. A ship's role was not immediately apparent and half the game's fun revolved around seeing what you could cram onto a hull based on its available slots, power, CPU and other stats.

"Sanity's a little box"

Then the wave of mass-market cretins began taking over MMOs instead of the nerdy old clientele and EVE adopted industry standards. Players demanded thought be left out of the equation. They demanded easy answers. CCP provided them. EVE now features designated sniper classes, crowd control classes, rogue assassin classes, etc. as in any WoW-clone. Class items inevitably followed classes, filling the game with gear only fitted to one or two ships per empire. Each ship now not only depends on specific bonuses, almost always pigeonholing you into using one particular setup, but tells you in big friendly ideograms exactly what to put on it. Intellect is obsolete.

Know what's special about my Maller story? I didn't have to fit it defensively. I could have taken its defense bonus as-is and stacked it for laser-damage instead, banking on dishing out as much damage as I could while the ship's considerable innate defenses lasted, as I in fact did with several setups. Don't even dream of showing a setup like that to EVE's current customer base. You'll get ostracized faster than the noobiest noob that ever noobed a noob, like oh emm geez NOOB! How dare you not use the spoon-fed "winner" choice?

Here's how far EVE's fallen: doctrines. I couldn't even join most of my alliance's fleets during my little three-month stint since the holidays because in order to be allowed to play with the cool kids, you must bring not only a specific ship hull but must fit it exactly to the top honcho's specifications, down to every last fitting. Instead of playing the game, you're reduced to a sock-puppet for some knuckledragging little snot-nosed imbecile to feel big about himself for making others march to his tune. And they call these cookie-cutter builds (utterly un-ironically) doctrines.

The MMO which out-shone its competition at launch thirteen years ago in the amount of freedom it allowed for player thought within its skill-based character development now out-shines class-based games in anti-intellectual reductionism as well. That nosedive's got to count as some sort of achievement.

"We are our own wicked gods with little Gs and big dicks
Sadistic, constantly inflicting a slow demise"

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Crisis of Over-Redaction

It strikes me that capitalist systems don't really sweep things under the rug so much as constantly pile on bigger and bigger rugs. At some point our heads have got to knock against the ceiling.

Monday, March 14, 2016

ST: TNG - The Child

In an effort to relive my early teens, I am re-watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is both better and worse than I remembered it, as was my youth most likely.

Seriesdate: 2.01
The Child

What a perplexing choice for the plot of a season-opening episode. Apparently it was dredged up in lieu of nothing due to a writers' strike at the time, and it shows. Deanna Troi gets immaculately impregnated by a fleshlig- I mean flashy light. Before I get to that, though, what else is goin' on?
Look, we have props now! No, not the thing Picard's holding. I mean Riker's finally grown his beard. The whole start of this first showing of season two plays as a charmingly artless attention-grabber trying to prove to fans that the show's improved. We're given a tour of the cargo hold complete with shuttlecraft and glossy new force field special effects, plastic polygons as handy gratuitous props plus the ship's bar. Make sure to note we got us one-a-dem space-age negresses serving drinks. Class, pure class.
But that's not all, oh no. Dr. Pulaski (whom I always preferred to Crusher) finally makes it on board, Geordi's promoted to grand poobah of tinkertoys, sweet promises of Wesley's departure fill the air and did I mention Riker has a beard now? He does. He is totally bad-ass. So totally badass that he leaps tall chairs in a single bound... except the chair's awkwardly tall so Frakes ends up looking like a dog taking a leak while the other two stare at him with apt consternation. But hey, it wouldn't be Star Trek if it didn't spoil something by over-reaching a simple gimmick. Well, over-straddling in this case. Fine, I know it's a very minor point, one second of the episode, but if he wanted to play the devil-may-care bad-boy with a chair-back that size he would've just flipped it around to straddle it or leaned on it without sitting.

Alright, fine, let's move away from Riker's crotch over to Troi's where the real action is. Nobody seems to consider an immaculate conception worth more than a casual "huh?" so we proceed to a thinly-veiled after-school special version of the abortion discussion, a meeting in which Troi stares down her nose at Picard, pouts her ruby-red lips and declares:
 "Captain, do whatever you feel is necessary to protect the ship and the crew but know this: I'm going to have this baby!"
Oh, isn't she brave folks. Round of applause, everyone, for the plucky young heroine. What else can the captain of the ship do but meekly abide?

Okay, first off, if you're gestating some flesh-eating monstrosity that'll gobble up everyone on board, the captain's duty is to yank that half-betazoid, half-whatever freak out of you and give it the old Office-Space copier treatment. Your bodily autonomy doesn't over-ride that of everyone else you're endangering. I believe I can cite precedent in the case of Ripley vs. Chestburster, 1979.

Second, I did not realize how much of a token female Troi had been at the start of the show. I've remembered her over the years as the self-possessed ship's counselor at the captain's left hand, warning him of imminent danger, going into hysterics when a psychic uber-being approaches, calming the crew or working the magic of psychobabble on that one crew member with anxiety issues. However true that was in later seasons, up until this point her role has consisted of playing a drunk party girl swooning in Riker's arms in episode three, then a bride in an arranged marriage and finally "petulant pregnant chick." Her only good showing in Tasha Yar's death episode was dragged own by... well, that whole episode.

Third, how is it that whenever this "choice" of abortion makes it onto TV, we kind of already know what the right choice is? That line "I'm having this baby" has been repeated more often than "eat my shorts" and what's worse, passed off as some sort of grand self-assertion by plucky young heroines defying tradition. Bullshit. Having the baby is tradition. How about Troi instead saying:
"Captain, do whatever you feel is necessary to protect the ship and the crew but know this: if you don't get this parasitic, mindless proto-ape out of me, I will synthesize a damn katana and do it myself!"

Anyway, she gestates the little leech to term in three days (jumpin' stretch-marks, Batman!) and delivers it in a heartwarming (completely painless) procedure with Data (and not Riker) at her side in loco paternis because... stuff? Oh, right, the professional writers were on strike.

Also, we dedicate a plot-crucial minute or so to little kids playing with puppies 'cuz... yeah, ratings. Finally after a few days and the inevitable dramatic link between the Enterprise's dangerous, dangerous plague cargo and his presence, Troi's insta-bake man-child self-immolates, martyrdom being part of the whole "immaculate conception" deal.

Oh, alright, the show's got its high points. Whoopi Goldberg does great as the wise old Guinan from her very first scene, Geordi seamlessly steps up his game as a major character and Dr. Pulaski's serious, competent presence manages to somewhat balance out the teary-eyed magic baby nonsense. Even Wesley's much less Wesley than usual. The actors do their jobs, as do the rest of the film crew. Just, oh, man, that hare-brained excuse for a plot...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Right Customers (redux)

"The ego that feeds you, ties you up and suffocates
Your favorite little monkey
Drags you down and complicates you
Love and hate combination
Won't survive the separation
Soul and body coexist
Face the antagonist"

KMFDM - Stare at the Sun

You're seeing about seventy ships pouring out of a space station in EVE-Online, at the beginning of the only big fleet battle I participated in during my little comeback tour. By the time we got to the battlefield our number had doubled. We were met by a roughly equal number of enemy players and lo, the joyful scrapping didst ring out across the galaxy.

The lag was freakin' terrible.

However, I'm not here to bitch about the lag. Our fleet commander (who happened to be Dutch and giving orders about destinations and aligning; thus hilariously ended up sounding just like a KLM pilot repeatedly telling us to bring our seats to the upright position) thanked us for our participation at the end of the day as we retreating survivors scattered off again towards our various home systems. For once, it sounded honest. For once, it didn't sound like a real-life petty bureaucrat talking out of some public-relations pamphlet. He thanked us for coming because organizing something like that, being able to log in and get dozens or hundreds of players to drop what they're doing and cooperate in a coordinated fashion is what keeps him in EVE.

Yeah, I can believe that. It's not just about powermongering. As I said half a year after starting this blog in this post not all players are created equal. Intelligent players will not be retained long by the simplistic limbic pay-off of endlessly inconsequential, repetitive machine-gun duels. They need to make things happen, and persistent world games need them to make things happen. Whenever an MMO stops making effort worthwhile, stops rewarding creativity and coordination, you can bet it's a couple months away from bleeding subscribers until it has to consolidate its servers. You can track that incipient decay in empty chat windows. No matter how little of your customer base is composed of intelligent, opinionated gamers, they are the ones showing others how to make the most of your product. Their idiosyncratic nerdiness keeps things moving and guess what, it can be exhausting.

"Be a prime mover" I told my old LotRO guild because "It's been ages since i've been able to just idle in kin chat and have someone else say "let's start a group for instance XYZ" so that i don't have to be the one pulling teeth." Now that I'm only occasionally popping into Planetside 2, I see endless sad excuses for squads wandering around completely disorganized, getting nothing done. My partner in crimestopping in City of Heroes praised my cat-herding ability for being able to organize groups for content most players had never tried, badgering and holding hands until everyone got up to speed. I led a guild back when WoW launched which collapsed in the month after I left it, a story I've seen replayed countless times since. If you lose the guild and raid leaders, most of your paying customers will follow. I don't lead guilds or raids anymore, or rarely even small teams. Across the industry you've dedicated too many work hours, too many simplistic gimmicks to making my intellect obsolete within your online communities. People like me are in it not for prizes or achievement badges but to make things happen, to see our convoluted plans come together. We're not alphas. We're mad scientists. We're in it for the madness, to create new patterns. You've obsoleted madness. You try to shelter your customers from us, to make everything safe and predictable, then e-mail them pages upon pages of questionnaires because you just can't figure out why-oh-why they're cancelling their subscriptions.

Because they're fucking bored !

Without Mr. KLM-voice giving orders over Teamspeak, seventy or two hundred players would have spent yet another day getting bored of mining or rat-farming, wondering why this crap's supposedly worth $15/mo. With his help, they gained an exciting memory to associate with CCP's product. Without me, nobody plays that one instance in the corner of the game map in LotRO or TSW or drops sniper spawn beacons in Planetside 2. Without the likes of me, nobody tries that memorable suicidal strategy in a PvP battleground. MMOs need mad scientists. Your customers need my snarling, putrid teeth at their backs. Yeah, they're scared of me and say they don't want to put up with angry nerds like me, but if you let them escape the big bad Werwolfe they'll soon get bored and escape your game altogether.

So give us lunatics some reasons to be in your games. Intelligent content is the price you pay for our service. Do that and we'll gladly spice things up for the sheep.

"Don't take this the wrong way but nothing is for free
It's only an illusion, impossibility."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hu Iz Alyss Roaz' GrandSlave?

I plugged (for a certain definition of "plugged") the webcomic site Big Head Press a few months ago, saying basically that although American-brand libertarianism cannot be applied to a system of naked apes without vacuuming power into dictatorships, it does make for the sort of chest-puffing idealism found at the core of so much memorable SciFi. Their latest (and longest-running, I believe) story, Quantum Vibe, has reached that classic, cozily predictable plot-point SciFi fans learn to anticipate with glee, the pedantic long-winded sit-down in which the mentor outlines to the hero just where society has gone wrong. Luckily in this case the mentor's female and wearing something flimsy to hold your attention.
Oh, if only more of my attractive female high-school teachers had gone that extra mile, I might actually know calculus. Yes, I'd be plotting points on graphs as tiny little boobs, but y'know... still. Also, Excel totally needs that option.

Anyway, Nicole Oresme, now Alyss Roaz (like we didn't see that dramatic reveal coming a mile away) once-heroine under the mentorship of whomever, you don't care, is now mentoring later chapters' new generation of bright young heroes. At first the scene's hyperbolic slam against socialist Utopianism annoyed me, but luckily Trump's nuclear hair delayed me a few days until the myopic idealism fully face-planted. Skip the basic paranoia that any resource-based socioeconomic system will inevitably fail (no, really they've got twenty-five imaginary planets to prove it.) Skip also the weird accusation that a society in which all basic human needs are provided for to allow individuals freedom to pursue their intellectual or artistic interests is somehow one in which you will be forced to play the violin.

Skip to the parts about the robots and grandchildren. Part of plucky eight-hundred-year-young Alyss' future history lecture runs like this:

"advancing technology offered the prospect that all mundane physical labor and manufacturing could be performed by robotic slaves"

(Italics added by original author for emphasis.)
(Sound effects added by me. For emphasis.)

This is the fundamental libertarian fear that avoiding paid work is an abandonment of intrinsic responsibility - not only dangerous but utterly villainous. You know who avoids mundane physical labor? Slavers! Yeah! Only four pages later:

"In my society, there is no welfare-state. We tend to have lots of children, so we have a network of people we know we can rely on if we need help."

No, see... bwahahahah... wait, hold on a second. Hee-hee-hee. So enslaving my toaster's wrong but progeny's fair game? Which one of Nicole's endless resource-gobbling brood will have the honor of changing her Depends when she finally goes senile? No, I'm sorry, mundane labor is just that - mundane. It does not result in individual growth. Also, when cousin Bob's car-repair home business goes belly-up, expecting to pawn his homeless carcass off on relatives only punishes the good relatives and rewards the bad, those who'll throw him out on his ass. See, families are governments too - rather more socialist ones, as a rule.

The United States' peculiarly bureaucratic beginning as an amalgamated federation has allowed its capitalist puppeteers to focus the public's resistance to authority almost entirely on a largely fictitious ever-encroaching Federal government. Where it intersects libertarianism, anarchism and other anti-authoritarian mindsets, this has resulted in a grimly comical blindness to the pervasiveness of power structures in human society.

Religions are governments. Schools are governments. Backwoods gun-hoarding militias are governments. Corporations, hooo-boy, are those ever governments, and dictatorships to boot. Let's not forget the oldest and most pervasive form of government of all, the family/tribal unit within which the individual's role is redefined through the stultifying evolutionary lens of survival of shared genetic material. The interpersonal emotional weakness imposed by our kin-recognition instincts is a tool of control, more apt toward subjugation than the cat'o'nine-tails could ever hope to be.

This is the dirty little secret swept under the neoliberal rug whenever a public service gets privatized. When you can't get to the hospital because there's no public transport system, when the hospital kicks you out half-sick for lack of public funding, you will still be taking resources from some kind of socialist safety net. It's expected that someone will be driving you there, someone will be taking you in. You are expected to inflict that harm, that loss of time and resources, on whomever you can socially manipulate. It's the rich who profit off an increase in the work-force, but it's the individual poor who sacrifice to raise those future cogs for the system. Dogs never ate other dogs with such bland, unthinking acceptance.

By the way, if you think robot slaves will doom their human masters to a slow death, go to any large city. Back-alleys are filled with elderly victims of their children's non-robot uprising - and when you feel one of those tremulous, wrinkled hands shiv you in the kidneys, don't you dare protest. That metal penetration's naught but the sublimest hatefuck you've courted all along in the guise of faux-libertarian capitalism.

Look, I like Quantum Vibe. It's a comic about creativity, daring, integrity and most importantly intellectual progress. Its latest chapters are fundamentally a classic SciFi plot about a society which has abandoned the all-important principle of self-determination, which remains a perennially crucial thought-exercise no matter under which political wing you shelter your personal dogma. However, on the topic of the juxtaposition of an impersonal, diffuse social safety net with the time-honored communist dictatorship of our social instinct, I'd like to offer a quote I've used once before on this blog by a bad writer who wrote a few excellent passages, a troubled mind who nonetheless saw many things very clearly. Given the splash page which adorns the beginning of Venus23, I'm guessing Quantum Vibe's author may also have heard of the book:

"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."
Ayn Rand - The Fountainhead

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I Make No News

It's weather. Maybe the rain was really that bad in California and maybe they're just whiny earthquake-addled Californians and they're not used to having actual, y'know, weather. Either way, as one of Jon Stewart's finer moments reminds us, when life gives them drizzle our glorious media moguls will gladly make disaster-ade out of it. However, for those still on the fence about this whole "reality" thing, it does suggest a fun exercise. Global warming doesn't just mean warming. It's an almost imperceptible process which will more visibly manifest as changes in supposedly stable biodiversity and weather patterns.
So if you'd like to check up on that slew of scientists' conclusion yourself, keep an eye out for that weather that should not be: winter tornadoes, hurricanes in New England, that sort of thing. Climate change is a process too slow for individual human awareness, so by all means help yourself along by being more aware of the stuff which would catch your attention anyway like "I hate having to carry an umbrella." Then look up some actual scientific data to see if your observations hold up.
Hint: Sean Hannity is not a scientician.

U.S. News:
Donald Trump is still an asshat. Big surprise. But oh lordie-loo am I ever glad this schmuck decided to run for president. It's like a bunch of rednecks whispering nigger jokes to each other were suddenly confronted with their drunken uncle in a pointy white hood, dragging a big wooden cross with one hand and waving a can of lighter fluid in the other. Yes, that's you. His Trumpness embodies what's been the American Republican Party since the late '90s at least. You just never wanted to admit it and fuck if it ain't so damn gratifying to see your noses rubbed in it. The social Darwinism, the belligerence, the insanely wasteful greed and petty sadism in treading on the backs of the poor, the backwardness and stupidity and crass ball-grabbing machismo, this was King Bush II and his whole coterie despite their veneer of smarmy WASP-ish respectability. Trump is your pointy white hood, the unvarnished embodiment of your bellicose greed and knuckledragging, your culture-less reactionary stupidity. Wear him proudly.
It could only get better if hell froze over and he actually got elected because he really would make the greatest president this voting public deserves.

International News:
North Korea's nuking everyone again. Well, shit, what else is new? They've been nuking everyone for some generations now. Yes, there's some danger that the boy who keeps crying wolf will actually produce said wolf. As Christopher Hitchens (among many others) noted after his own foray into the demesne of Fat Man and Little Boy (no doubt the latest Kimmy thinks of himself as the Tsar Bomba) North Korea itself would be wiped off the map instantly if it ever dared use its Trump card. However, totalitarian dictators tend away from rationality and yeah, fuckers might just be stupid enough to do it.
Amusingly though, littlest Kim's paranoid ravings about American Imperialism contain a grain of truth. Noam Chomsky may be singlemindedly obsessed with pinning absolutely anything and everything on American Imperialism, but he's got a point. The Pax Americana really is conducting exercises in monopolizing violence with various other militaries 'cuz ... ida know, stuff?
To me it immediately brings to mind a forgotten detail about the World Trade Center bombings, Bush Jr.'s constant statements during that spring, from the time he grabbed the scepter out of Clinton's sticky right hand, that the U.S. would be increasing its already obscene military presence abroad. Say it loud, say it proud, say it all across the world, say it especially to all the delusional cretins who might actually do something symbolic and ineffectual about it, like bomb embassies. Rattle that saber 'til someone gives you a black eye, then start stabbing random people. Media-blitz fundamentalists' predictably violent reaction to build up some flimsy casus belli to scare your own voting public into continuing to pay into your military-industrial money-laundering scheme.
Easy money.
Breathe, people. Kim et co. ain't comin' to getcha. Hell, by all accounts most of them are so underfed they can barely stand under their own strength. Unlike you, my dear American readers, who are so overfed that... you can barely stand under your own strength.

To bring this back to the obviously more relevant first-world problems, I was talking to an EVE-Online player last night who joked that as long as they don't nuke Iceland (CCP being originally an Icelandic company) we'll be okay. Not to spit on his cupcake, I pointed out that EVE's server cluster's actually located in London, a more likely target for terrorism (along with most of CCP's crew and I'm guessing a good chunk of their customer base.) Really, though, the best North Korea can hope for is flattening Seoul, so it's a good thing I'm not playing Lineage 2.
My dog... I just realized something terrible. This could be the end of Starcraft as we know it!
(And also twenty-five million people.)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I Make No Excuses

I got no brains, no talent, no ambition, no money, no looks, no drive, no hope and no future.
No shit.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Come to Loony Wolfie's Discount Heretics!

Let's build a spaceship!
(In EVE-Online.) ('Cause when those NASA jerks do it, they make it sound boring.) (Also, Kerbals have cooties.)

For this exercise, we'll build a pretty standard light combat ship you'd see being flown by any pack of griefers running around EVE, a destroyer. Now, while your character requires some skill training to make stuff, you'll also need a blueprint for whatever you're making, an object you have to move to the location of whatever crafting facilities you're using. Meaning you can get robbed of the means of production (which happened to me recently with a blueprint, but I don't like to talk about that.) So here are some blueprints in my hangar.

I suppose I could build a Crusader but I've always been more of a Heretic by nature so we're gonna do that one.
Uh-oh. Looks like we don't have all the materials needed. Most importantly, since this is a super-dooper starship trooper "Tech 2" vessel, it's actually an upgraded version of a basic destroyer, so first we need to build that "Tech 1" ship before we can upgrade it. Luckily, as you can see in the first image, I also happen to have a blueprint for the baseline Coercer model of destroyer.
The basic model requires a combination of six minerals like say, this "pyerite" junk. Hmmm, "mineral" means rocks and stuff right? And asteroids are just rocks floating out in space! So it's time to rev up a mining ship and leave the safe, cozy confines of the space station to venture out into the inky black. Ooooh, so daring; I'm all a-tingle.
We head out to the depths of the solar system to find:
Scordite! A wholesome, nutritious part of every complete construction. We set the might of our mining lasers upon those rocks and after a few minutes are rewarded with a handsome quantity of not very handsome ore. Some NPCs are going to take potshots at us, like that Sansha's Minion, but that's okay. They can't bring down this ship's force field. In most places in EVE, any player that happens upon you will also be able to attack you, with significantly more explodey results. Note that the little scordite we've accumulated takes up space in the ship's cargo hold, 620 cubic meters out of 7000 total capacity in this case. It must be moved (not mailed or in any other way teleported, but actively hauled by a player in a ship) to wherever it's needed.
Back at the station, we cram the raw ore into a reprocessing plant to refine it only to find that Newton was a total bastard for inventing thermodynamics. Some of our ore is lost to the inefficiency of the system and my own lack of expertise in refining ore. You may want to get a specialist to do it. Whoever owns the station (NPC or player) may also want to take a percentage of your hard work as tax for use of the facilities. Damn the man!

Before I go on: this is newbie stuff. Scordite is readily available in very safe areas of space near the starting zones. It takes the place of the copper you'd mine in a World of Warcraft copycat MMO at low levels. Of the six or seven minerals required to build a Coercer (or any other tech 1 ship) some are only obtainable from asteroids found in more dangerous solar systems with bigger NPCs and fewer protections from other players, but any starting player can grab a mining laser and effortlessly farm up some basic ore while learning the game then sell it to other players.

I want you to try a little exercise. Make a free account in WoW, LotRO, Rift, WAR or any of the other endless faux-MMOs out there, mine some copper then go to a top-level area and try to sell it. Get ready to screenshot your chat window to count all the exclamations of "OMG NOOB" - it'll start scrolling very quickly, so be quick with that Print Screen button. Hell, try crafting an iron knife or something (the equivalent of a tech 1 destroyer in EVE) and selling it. You'll likely have even worse results.

Yet in EVE, you'll notice that everything has an "estimated price" in its tooltip - around what you might expect to get by selling it to other players. Pyerite is no exception. People want it. Other players can use what you make. Your efforts as a novice can feed directly into the production line of the fattest fat-cats in the game producing entire fleets of shiny top-level gear. This is not insignificant. This is the "multi" in multiplayer - not hitting a hundred resource nodes so you can burn hundreds of ingredients by yourself which you'll throw away, all to "skill up" your crafting.

So, let's say we've sat there and mined asteroids 'til our ass gets teh 'roids, we cram them all into a factory along with our Coercer blueprint and a couple of hours later: voila! We've got a brand new, shiny destroyer to play with. We could strap some guns to that bad-boy and just go out shooting, but we've got a higher goal in mind, remember? We wanna be Heretics! What else do we need? Well, any nine-year-old will tell you that all the coolest spaceships are made out of Legos:

For those we'll have to turn to the hard-working populations of our planetary colonies.

Construction blocks require a mix of toxic and reactive metals, each of which must be extracted from a planet's crust and refined, then assembled on-planet and launched up into orbit. Maybe you can get all of them yourself, maybe it'll be more efficient to buy some reactive metals off another player. Maybe no-one else is selling... maybe you can wait. It's your call. In either case, once they're assembled it's time to head off into space again to pick up your handful of legos.

The rest of our required tech 2 components follow the same pattern of a panoply of basic goods being combined into several tiers of complexity, except in this case getting those basic goods requires controlling an entire moon. We jet off on our next adventure to a player-owned starbase, an orbiting cluster of structures whose upkeep generally requires the cooperation of a handful of players.
Though protected by a force field and other, more proactive defenses, POSes are nonetheless open to attack by other players. As one possible "home away from home" they can fill a variety of ship maintenance / support functions but their unique ability lies in extracting materials from the moon they orbit.
Each moon produces a couple of different raw resources.

Here's just a little taste of how complicated it can get.
Among the seven types of T2 construction components needed for our Heretic upgrade are nanoelectrical microprocessors.
These are made from four different complex moon materials, including nanotransistors.
Nanotransistors require three different reacted moon resources, one of which is neo mercurite.
Neo mercurite is made of two different raw resources...
And if you think that's all there is to crafting in EVE, I haven't even gotten into specialized skills, blueprint research, probing for deep-space caches, wormholes, salvaging and who the hell knows what else. At every tier of production, through all the possible combinations and permutations of resources, every step of the process is linked through EVE's market system. Deals are wheeled constantly.

Don't feel like mining? Pyerite is just eleven credits per unit at the biggest trade hub. Don't feel like playing farmville with planetary industry? Construction blocks, right here, under twelve thousand a piece, limited time offer, don't delay! Nanotransistors? Oh, you'd better buy quick, looks like their price is on the rise again, yes sir step right this way, right this way sir we have just what you need but they're going fast!

My Amarrian products require sickening quantities of tungsten carbide to make heavy-duty armor plates, so I've got a guy who can hook me up with a discount. Lets me stay competitive on the market. The price on terahertz metamaterials spiked last month; I knew that because I'd been watching the market and wisely waited for prices to drop before buying up all I needed. I also told my moon material supplier he might make a killing on that particular type if he has some on hand. Sometime you get ripped off; sometimes you rip others off. So it goes. Not only that but no goods can be teleported. Everything I've been talking about must be loaded into a ship and transported, often through dangerous space, to where it's needed. You can lose a billion credits' worth of legos if you don't watch your step or don't have people watching your back.

EVE does a lot of things wrong. Some like the warping / jumping mechanics and its semi-real-time combat are unfortunate sequelae reminding us that it's based on fifteen-year-old technology. Others are simply bad decisions, cynical concessions to the public mindless or legitimized cheating schemes. I've also been glossing over some of the ways in which this crafting system doesn't work quite as it ideally should, again involving concessions to player stupidity. EVE undermines itself in both major and minor ways. Credit where it's due, though. For thirteen years it's dared to give players something the entire rest of the industry denies is possible: a fully interconnected player-driven crafting economy tying into both PvE and PvP. It nails points 2 and 5 of the eight crucial demands in my MMManifesto and makes a decent stab for points 3 and 4. It's a bad MMO... yet still objectively a solid contender for the best one I see on the market.

And hey, if you've read all this and I still don't have you convinced, if juggling supply lines, production efficiency and shifting prices isn't for you, if a logistics nightmare isn't your idea of a dream game then worry not, fair hack'n'slasher! You can simply buy a shiny new Heretic at your local trade hub. In fact, I would encourage you to do so.
Why yes, sir, step right this way, right this way, no-trouble-at-all, we have just what you need here at Crazy Werwolfe's Fine Amarrian Merchandise!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Duluth-Modelled Taxonomy

Evolutionary psychologists routinely complain about the resistance with which their studies have met over the decades not only in the public mindless but within self-described academia. Few listeners complain any more about applying evolutionary principles to the ontogenesis of, say the liver or rib cage, but as far as anyone's concerned evolution stops at the neck. No-one wants to hear why we're addicted to sugar, much less why we like a particular set type of movie star. More frequently, we slip into a reflexive shadow of creationism: we're fine applying evolutionary principles to the behavior of Pavlov's dog but seem to think our own salivary reflex was handed down to us by dog in heaven, inscrutable and never open to criticism. Only inferior species carry evolutionary baggage.

On a completely unrelated note, word around town is that feminists are social constructionists and that one, ummm, doesn't quite fit with observable feminist propaganda. You don't come up with "kill all hu-mens!" or "testosterone poisons babies in the womb" or "men are inferior because they're missing half a chromosome" or "men have to be conditioned not to rape because they're instinctively programmed to do so" or any of the rest of feminists' endless tirade of abuse if you're not ready to accept a pretty hefty biological factor in behavior. Yeah, they cling to Margaret Mead's fable of the noble savage and adopt behaviorist / constructionist principles where it suits them to convince governments to give them money to re-educate men; yet even the basic principle of feminism, the conspiratorial, all-pervasive, all-controlling Patriarchy, the fundamentalist dogma of male original sin which must be expiated by toeing the ever-shifting feminist line, reveals an assumption of inborn behavior.

Now, yes of course I was being facetious when I said "unrelated" - that's called showmanship, look it up. The two observations mesh quite readily. Feminists are in favor of the harshest possible interpretation of evolutionarily-derived behavior, so long as it's not directed at women. Only that inferior subspecies, those disgusting primitive men, are subject to base instinct. Women, in feminist attitudes, are pristine angelic figures descended from on high. Women did not evolve from apes.

Reminds me of that anecdote of the Chinese official who, when asked how the state leadership plans to reconcile its increasingly self-serving capitalist schemes with its communist ideals, replied something to the tune of "we'll do whatever we like and call it communism." Feminism has been, for several decades, a top-down enterprise. It doesn't build on verifiable theoretical frameworks and empirical observations. It begins with an absolutist declaration of the moral inferiority of men and adopts whatever half-truth aids for the moment in selling this view to the ethically impaired who pay for feminist lecture tours.

You can ride that train all the way to the United Nations.