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Monday, June 30, 2014

June Debrief

It is the last day of June 2014. I know, tell you something you don't know. Well how about this. During the month of June, not counting yesterday and today, I played the following games according to Raptr.

[caption id="attachment_3131" align="aligncenter" width="1254"]Game Play June 2014 Game Play June 2014[/caption]

No shock here, the big winner was Landmark with a total of over 34 hours of game play. To some degree that's a newness rating. You can see my first two full weeks playing has lots of hours dedicated to it. It's an engaging game and nurtures the need to create a place for oneself in a virtual world. If I had to compare it to another online endeavor, I'd have to say Second Life comes to mind. However, the similarities are pretty shallow. The only thing that makes me want to compare the two is the fact they are both "island" based and there is absolutely no PvE or PvP in the game - yet. Once they add combat (coming next month!) the similarities will likely fall away. Right now it is a game of total relaxation. There is no stress involved when playing, and the is what would keep me coming back. There will be days when more stress is NOT in the cards.

A distant second for the month was Civilization V. The impromptu long weekend in the land of low-speed metered Internet service is to blame for that. Of all the games I play, Civilization V truly has withstood the test of time. It may only get replaced as my de facto no-internet-required go-to game when Civilization: Beyond Earth releases December 31, 2014. Unfortunately I won't be playing it during the release week. Me and millions of others will be on vacation. I mean, what company even thinks a New Years Eve release date is a good pick? Come on Firaxis, you can do better than that. :/

Just behind Civilization V is Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. With Assassin's Creed V: Unity coming October 28th, I find myself feeling under some pressure to complete Black Flag. I've got four months, but they are summer months and the time I'm able to commit to gaming has already taken a hit. Of course, I could just race through the missions and hit that 100% completion mark and call it good. But is that really fun? I don't think that's fun. If nothing else, I like to get my money's worth. But what's more, I like to submerge myself in the game (no pun intended.) Immersion makes me happy, and when I'm playing I really get into the scenery, the music and the entire ambiance of being a pirate assassin. That's how you get your money's worth. In that regard, I had an interesting pondering about Unity. I doubt it was very easy to make Havana look exactly how Havana looked in 1715. Therefore I doubt the representation is accurate. Perhaps I'm wrong, but that's always the way I've felt about it. It doesn't hinder my enjoyment, it's just a level of immersion I can't take. But with Unity being set in French Revolution Paris, Ubisoft has an excellent opportunity to make the Paris of that time come alive. There are many very good maps of Paris at that time, and wouldn't it be incredible to walk into Notre Dame and see it exactly as it was then? I get goosebumps just thinking about it. That would really make be feel I got my money's worth! <3

And speaking of money's worth, the next game I tried - my only weakness when it came to the Steam Summer Sale - was Endless Space. The game is okay. I'd give it three stars out of five. It is not Reach for the Stars or even Imperium Galactum. You won't miss anything if you skip it, but at a bit over $8 for the game and it's one DLC release, I don't feel like I got ripped off. Now, if I'd paid $20, I'd have a different tune to sing. But on sale it was a pleasant diversion for a few hours.

Also on getting my money's worth, should I devote more time to The Elder Scrolls Online? It's not that I don't enjoy it. I really do. But I got totally wrapped up in Landmark, and it took a big chunk out of my TESO play time. I almost feel like I'm not getting my money's worth - and it's my own damn fault. So does the fact a game is subscription base cause some folks to second guess summer involvement when there are other games to play and limited time to do it? I believe that might be the single strongest negative to the subscription model. I know players who won't touch a subscription game because they have no idea how much gaming time they'll get from week to week. They're not keen on not getting their money's worth, just as I'm wondering if I should boost my time commitment to get mine. For the more casual player, or someone who has several games she wants to play, having to dole out moula every month when one can't (for whatever reason) play is a bitter pill. You know, if they had a lifetime subscription, and it wasn't outrageously priced, that might help. I know I'd consider it. :)

That's it for the June Debrief. I spent practically 59 hours playing games. That doesn't really compare to some gamers I follow, but I'm satisfied with it. July looks like I'll have a bit more time to play. I've got more of that dental work to be done and I know there will be at least two long weekends where I won't be able to work or feel like doing much else. Playing more AC4 or TESO might be just the thing to take my mind off the pain. ;)



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Landmark: Quickly Excavating a New Room

I took off for nine days. I went someplace where the Internet connection is both comparatively slow and metered. But that's okay, because the point of this particular adventure is not virtual. It's real. And I'll probably tell you about the quests I've set from myself later on in the week, if that's okay. I've a couple and I'm excited about the opportunity to work on them!

But right now, I've another Landmark video to draw your attention too. It's a 25 minute video I made Friday night before I left. It's on how to excavate a new room on your claim very quickly. One of the cool things about Landmark is your claim can extend below ground as well as above. That makes basements and sub-basements possible. I'd already created a daylight basement in my abode, replete with stained glass windows and a reading area. But I also wanted a "secret lair" of sorts. I haven't decided precisely what I'm going to do with it, but I'm sure something will come to me.

So, without further verbiage, here's the video on how to excavate a secret lair under your bedroom.


Friday, June 27, 2014

AC4: Naval contracts, shark hunting and roaming Havana.

I was able to dedicate a couple of hours to Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (AC4) last night. I streamed the entire session on Twitch.TV. You can see the highlights on my Twitch.TV page or on the AC4 videos page of this blog. I have three new videos posted. The longest is just under seven minutes and shows my completion of the naval contract Protect the Neptuno. Then there is a three and a half-minute video on bull shark hunting and a very short one minute waltz with some manuscript guards in Havana. And guess what? I'm not going to embed them here! Hooray! Right?

How's that? If you hadn't noticed, I was able to figure out how to link my Twitch.TV stream and YouTube archives into pages that automatically update as I stream or add videos to my YouTube archive. I've also discovered you can import just the highlights from Twitch.TV into YouTube now, or maybe it was always that way - don't know. But I don't have to suck an entire two-hour session into YouTube that assuredly no one will watch because... TWO HOURS! I feel ya. Secondly, I don't need to fill a lot of space on my front page with embedded videos now. I just have to link them. I'll save the embedding for the really good stuff. But for average game play, highlights and automatically updating pages are good.

So what about last night's game play? I found the Protect the Neptuno mission to be engaging and pleasantly difficult. It took me five attempts to get it right. It was exhilarating as well as challenging and that is what makes a mission fun. In fact, I am not even going to call the video a spoiler. You may know what's coming after watching it, but you will still need to captain the Jackdaw with skill and tenacity to complete the mission. I wish all quests/missions were that way. Anyhow, after that mission, I was able to almost completely upgrade my long-boat in one pass. The only thing I couldn't afford was the last harpoon storage upgrade. I'd not made any upgrades to the long-boat previously as I was putting everything I made into the Jackdaw. :D

Of course, I had to try out the newly refit long-boat right away. I went after a couple of bull sharks. That was not as challenging as the mission had been, but it was still fun. I am certain hammerhead and whale hunting will provide more excitement. Actually, the most excitement I've had hunting recently was the session before this last. The one I didn't bother to record. I was cleaning up some unfinished business at some locations I'd raced through in the beginning, and ran into a jaguar not once but twice. Let me tell you, when a cat that large drops out of a tree on your head it gets your attention. And wow does that cat shred leather armor fast! The first attack I was dead before I could even get my swords drawn. Ouch! o_O

After the hunting, I decided I'd head to Havana and work on completing events in that town. I ended up spending well over an hour chasing sea shanties, finding chests and assassinating "bad" guys. It was too long. I was so tired during the last 30 minutes (it was late) I barely had enough coordination to climb a wall. I just got sloppier and sloppier. The last thing I attempted was a warehouse raid. I was so clumsy in trying to get the key I looked like a drunkard. It was like tripping on my own shoelace and falling into the guillotine. With my coordination shot, and my eyes blurry, the half-dozen warehouse guards took turns kicking the stuffing out of me before forcing me to run - where I misjudged a jump and fell to my death. That's embarrassing. ^^'

Yeah, not such a great end to an evening that started out so well. I think I should limit myself to an hour of AC4 at a time. The game really does require more manual dexterity and alertness than many others do. Yet it manages to not be a twitch game. It's not fast reflexes that will save you, but correct reactions done at the proper time. I suppose that's why I like it so much. I just hope I can finish it before Assassin's Creed V: Unity releases on October 28th. And back to that comment about embedding only the really good stuff, check out Unity's trailer - O... M... G.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

All Ur Stuffs Belongs to Ussssssss - The Price of "Free"

Yesterday, Doone over on XP Chronicles had another fine article on player rights. Please read it. It's important because gamers really do need to understand the world in which they game. Ignorance is the surest way to get taken to the cleaners. If you are going to use the internet to showcase your gaming, you must, must, must get a handle on how things like copyright, fair use and intellectual property work.

But I don't mention this merely to riff on a great piece by Doone. I just want to shout at everyone, "IT'S NOT CONFINED TO JUST GAMING!!!" The paragraph he states "deserves some attention" is actually pretty damn boilerplate and splashed liberally across the Internet. That paragraph, perhaps slightly reworded but nonetheless equal in stricture, is applied in the End User License Agreement (EULA) by most Internet "services." Practically anything you create (referred to as Intellectual Property, or IP for short,) that you subsequently post to a third-party service on the Internet, has this paragraph applied to it. For example, here is what Facebook's EULA says about IP,

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

And here's what the Internet darling Imgur says about it,

Intellectual Property

By uploading a file or other content or by making a comment, you represent and warrant to us that (1) doing so does not violate or infringe anyone else's rights; and (2) you created the file or other content you are uploading, or otherwise have sufficient intellectual property rights to upload the material consistent with these terms. With regard to any file or content you upload to the public portions of our site, you grant Imgur a non-exclusive, royalty- free, perpetual, irrevocable worldwide license (with sublicense and assignment rights) to use, to display online and in any present or future media, to create derivative works of, to allow downloads of, and/or distribute any such file or content. To the extent that you delete any such file or content from the public portions of our site, the license you grant to Imgur pursuant to the preceding sentence will automatically terminate, but will not be revoked with respect to any file or content Imgur has already copied and sublicensed or designated for sublicense. Also, of course, anything you post to a public portion of our site may be used by the public pursuant to the following paragraph even after you delete it.

By downloading a file or other content from the Imgur site, you agree that you will not use such file or other content except for personal, non-commercial purposes, and you may not claim any rights to such file or other content, except to the extent otherwise specifically provided in writing.

See, it's not any better. And the trickery isn't confined to just IP. A couple of years ago I read this article, Top EULA Gotchas: Website Fine Print Hall of Shame by Jared Newman for PC World, and was justly appalled by what these "service" providers are trying to get their greedy fingers on under the auspices of EULA. By accepting their terms, you pretty much agree to highway robbery. And honestly, there's not a damn thing you can do about it other than not agree. But if you want to use the service, you have to agree.

So how do we protect ourselves from this? For me it boils down to a simple rule. If I believe my IP has substantive value, I don't post it to so-called "free" services.  T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L. If you don't know what that means, click the link. It has been one of my guiding principles since I first read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as a teenager. It makes me question what I am really paying for anything. Because whether today's generation likes it or not, there is no such thing as "free" on the Internet. Having an expectation of getting something for nothing is frankly sophomoric. Just as you expect to receive compensation for your hard work, everyone else does too - and that includes Mark Zuckerberg, Alan Schaaf, and all the other founders of "free" internet services.

So pick your Internet services wisely. Read the EULA for them, and try to understand what the legalese means. Make yourself smart; protect your IP. If they use the boilerplate paragraph highlighted by Doone, think three times before giving them anything you value, or you think others might find valuable. Only submit that which you deem to have no intrinsic value to you or anyone else beyond its purely social context. You know, like family photos and the like.

And photos provide as good an example as I've got on how to protect yourself. If you want to display your work, but retain your rights, shop around for the best service with which to do that. Facebook and Imgur are NOT that service. Nor is Google Plus. I post my best photos on Flickr. Here is why I use Flickr,


Yahoo does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Yahoo Services. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo Services, you grant Yahoo the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable:

a. With respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of Yahoo Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo Services solely for the purposes of providing and promoting the specific Yahoo Group to which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo removes such Content from the Yahoo Services.

b. With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo Services other than Yahoo Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo removes such Content from the Yahoo Services.

c. With respect to Content other than photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo Services other than Yahoo Groups, the perpetual, irrevocable and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

"Publicly accessible" areas of the Yahoo Services are those areas of the Yahoo network of properties that are intended by Yahoo to be available to the general public. By way of example, publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo Services would include Yahoo Message Boards and portions of Yahoo Groups and Flickr that are open to both members and visitors. However, publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo Services would not include portions of Yahoo Groups that are limited to members, Yahoo services intended for private communication such as Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Messenger, or areas off of the Yahoo network of properties such as portions of World Wide Web sites that are accessible via hypertext or other links but are not hosted or served by Yahoo.

That's a lot of legalese to wade through, but look at the very first sentence. That sets the tone and character of everything that comes after. However, you still need to get down to the nuts and bolts of what they consider "publicly accessible areas." And Flickr does exert some rights to use your IP, though they limit themselves. That's good. This set of terms is a damn sight better than the Facebook or the Google Plus EULA. One of the reasons I stopped using Google Plus for my photography is because their EULA is the same boilerplate crapola Facebook uses. You can see it here.

The other thing that works for me with Flickr is I can actually set a license on my work to strictly specify when and where it may be used. This is done through Creative Commons. If you are not familiar with this licensing method, again, you need to learn it. ALL my stuff has a CC license on it and says outright "no commercial use" and "attribution required." By the gods, if I don' make money off my IP, no one else has the right to do it either! That said, Flickr will use my IP in some way that benefits them, and there is no way completely around that when you use someone else's service for which you pay nothing. That's the price of free.

If you are really worried about having your stuff stolen, there are ways to protect yourself. As a photographer, you can submit to Getty Images for example. They are quite aggressive in protecting their member's IP, sometimes sickeningly so. I think the music industry is the only institution more reviled for their heavy-handed attempts at protecting copyright. But if you own the IP, you will love them. You can also create your own site to showcase your work, and I don't mean use either. They have a EULA too. I mean buy your own domain and rent space on a generic web server somewhere, or set up your own server. That is the only way you can absolutely avoid the quagmire that is EULA in this age of the Internet. But going it on your own means you are completely responsible for protecting your IP. You will have to be as draconian as Getty Images if don't want to get ripped off. The same Internet culture that believes it can get something for nothing also believes it's okay to take your stuff without asking. Protect yourself, but understand it may be the hardest part of creating IP.

Here's a perfect example from just last week. There was a very recent blow up over IP on a non-gaming blog I read. Stone Kettle Station posted a really good piece about the U.S. possibly going back into Iraq, and how stupid that would be. His blog clearly states how you can, and cannot, reference his IP. That didn't stop a Progressive Radio douchebag from reading the entire article, verbatim, over the airwaves for his audience - and money - none of which he paid to the author. That is blatant theft. What was his response when the author of Stone Kettle Station objected? He was told he should be "thankful" for the publicity. That's bullshit. I could use a lot stronger words to describe it, but frankly Jim Wright, the author and owner of the IP, did a much better job than I could. If you really want to understand why it is important to protect your IP, please, for gods sake, go read his post Thieving Bastards. As a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or whatever, you owe it to yourself to read what he writes about how not everyone can do it. Every angry word he writes is true.

But he runs the blog on his own. It's up to him to pursue legal recourse for the blatant theft of his IP. That's the really hard part about it. He's retired, so perhaps he has the time to do that. I, and most of you reading this, do not. The effort it takes to stop thievery more than doubles the personal cost. Remember that if you ever think about "borrowing" another blogger's work. Just don't. You can link, you can quote snippets, and you can certainly contact the owner and negotiate for more. But it is not Fair Use to make yourself fame or money off someone else's hard work. It's a crime. T.A.N.S.T.A.A.F.L. (And wow, did this take a rantish turn at he end. Haha, let that be a lesson to you!)

All that said, let's get down to the practical part of this post. You want to protect yourself, right? Well, the first part of that is to publicly post your license so the world knows what it is. There is a very good way to do this. You can set up your license at the Creative Commons Choose website, and they will build you a badge that clearly shows your license in internationally accepted format. You can see my license here. This is a free service. As such you can read their EULA here. ;) If you've not done this yet, you really should head over to the Choose link now and do it. It literally takes 30 seconds, and that includes the cut and paste into the sidebar widget like I have. If you are hesitant, ask yourself this question. What have you got to lose?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dragon Age versus The Elder Scrolls

On October 7, 2014 another very promising fantasy game will hit the proverbial shelves. Bioware will deliver to us Dragon Age: Inquisition. If you've not watched the trailer yet, here it is.


Oh yeah, that looks really good! But will it be enough to dethrone The Elder Scrolls, and specifically Skyrim, from the hearts and minds of fantasy gamers? It's arguable The Elder Scroll franchise has better trending than the Dragon Age franchise. In fact, the Google Trend analysis shows Dragon Age has better trending.

[caption id="attachment_3080" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls[/caption]

But when you add Dragon Age II and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim specifically into the trending results, it's very clear which brand currently has dominance.

[caption id="attachment_3082" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls and Skyrim Dragon Age vs The Elder Scrolls and Skyrim[/caption]

I've played both games, and I have to say I currently fall into the Skyrim camp. The reason for this is Skyrim has a more open game play system to me. I feel I have more freedom to play the game as I wish, not as the devs wish. I am not pushed down a line of quests like I was with Dragon Age, and that has value to me. I'm not a min-maxer, and I believe enjoying the game  is not about "winning" the game. There is no win, there is only play, if I might paraphrase Yoda. I also find the skill system in The Elder Scrolls more appealing. It allows for a more unique character than Dragon Age where the more variable skills don't actually apply to combat directly. That lessens the control I actually have, and I have to be me after all! Dragon Age falls along the time-honored lines of pick a class and advance along that classes' predefined abilities. It's the AD&D method of character development, something The Elder Scrolls was able to break out of for the most part.

But that is not to say Dragon Age doesn't have some superior content to The Elder Scrolls. For all the talk of The Elder Scroll lore, I actually find quests in Dragon Age to be better. That's probably due to the fact the devs DO have direct control over the story's progression, but I have to call success where I see it. Unfortunately that makes me choose between two things I want equally. I really want solid questing AND a unique character development system. Who says you can't ask for the moon? Another big win for the Dragon Age franchise is the companion system. In Skyrim, the companions simply fill a DPS slot more or less. In Dragon Age, they take on a persona and are more real to me. When I lost my first companion in Skyrim, I was not sad. I gave her a nice burial and then went down to the bar and bested a better companion. It was like upgrading any piece of equipment. Losing a Dragon Age companion is like losing a friend, especially if you've pursued the romantic quest line. Then you're not only getting a friend killed, but a lover too. Ouch! The emotion that brings to the game is hard to quantify, and I'm not going to try. It's probably the best thing Bioware did for Dragon Age.

So which game wins? Fortunately for us fantasy gamers, both win! The only thing this competition does is bring us better games release after release. And what's totally awesome is you can play both! Their competition is your windfall. You may have to wait to get a smoking deal during the Steam Summer sale, but you really can have the best of both worlds. Now doesn't that make it fairly academic as to which franchise is better? I know when October 7th comes around, I will certainly be looking at buying a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game looks incredible. But I'll still be playing Skyrim when the mood strikes. There is no compelling reason not to.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vlogging: There Is a Balance to Copyright

Over on XP Chronicles, Doone had a rather nice article yesterday titled "Should Vloggers Pay Devs?" He expounds upon a tweet made by Phil Fish, who subsequently ran like a scalded dog from the fire storm he unleashed on Twitter. What and idiot. Fortunately this post isn't about Phil Fish, at least not directly. It's about his assertion Vloggers are stealing content and, “YouTubers should have to pay out a huge portion of their revenue to the developers from which they steal all their content.” But are YouTubers really doing that? Or are they creating substantive works of creativity with the games they play being simply the "canvas" they create upon?

The assertion is gamers only own a license to the game, and all rights are reserved by the developer of the software. That is absolutely correct, but only insomuch as the developer wrote and owns the computer code that is the game. Developers do not own the game play itself anymore than the World Soccer League owns all the bars making a boatload of money off the World Cup. By Fish's logic all those bars would have to pay Brazil most of their profits from the sale of beer, etc. That's ludicrous logic.

But let's assume for a moment there is a possible copyright issue here. Let's assume by playing through the pre-programmed outcomes in a computer game and creating a YouTube video, you may indeed be pirating said content. How's a person to know if what they are doing is legal or not? In a term, it's called Fair Use, at least in the United States. Elsewhere it's called Fair Deal and other things, but the principles are the same. I'll write specifically about the United States though, as that's where I'm from and those are the laws with which I am most familiar.

In the U.S., Fair Use is the balance to Copyright. It ensures artists and others are free to create without hindrance from those who would prevent such creativity simply because it's not their own creativity. The U.S. constitution actually recognizes that a balanced copyright law is beneficial to the economy. It uses Fair Use to ensure new and creative ideas have an opportunity to grow and benefit society as a whole, when those who do not have creative panache seek to eliminate the competition through more heavy-handed measures. It's the creativity version of the Sherman Antitrust Act if you would. And just like any anti-trust legislation, infractions are decided on a case by case basis.

There is a decent primer about Fair Use on Wikipedia, though it only applies to the U.S. really. You should head over there and familiarize yourself with it, especially if you make gaming videos or write blogs that include screenshots from the games you play. It basically outlines four questions a court must answer to determine if Fair Use applies, or if Copyright law has precedent. The four questions are:

  1. What is the purpose and the character of the use of copyrighted material?

  2. What is the nature of the copyrighted work?

  3. What is the amount and substantiality of the portion of copyrighted material used?

  4. What effect does the use of the copyrighted material have on the potential market value of the copyrighted work?

These are the four questions you should keep in mind as you blog about games and make videos of them. Here is my thinking to insure I stay on the correct side of Fair Use.

First off, I don't make a single penny, or even a fraction of a penny, off anything I do. This is my hobby. I do it for fun. Making work out of it takes away the fun. That is the purpose and character of what I do. Any court out there will see I do not make money off what I do. That's not a sure defense against being shut down, it only shows my purpose is not to harm the copyright holder. But that's not really what this first test is about. This first test is more a measure of whether I am creating something unique and valuable in and of itself, or if my work is derivative of the copyrighted work without its own merit. I'd like to think my work is unique and valuable of itself. That's one reason I don't make just videos, or just do screen shots, or just play one game. The more I show what I do has its own merit, the further away I get from copyright infringement. The bottom line here is, add value with what you do. Don't be a copycat.

The next consideration is the nature of the copyrighted work. I've already mentioned above my thoughts on that. The code which makes the game is the copyrighted material, not the game play itself. Game play is an idea, derived from the player at the time the game is played. It's like an impromptu music jam session. The music does not exist until the musician plays it, though certain chords and riffs may be similar to others already played. It is artistic expression at its finest. U.S. courts have ruled very clearly on this issue. Artistic expression and creativity cannot be copyrighted, only the concrete works that manifest themselves from such endeavors. That's a difficult concept to grasp. It is for me at least. I see it thus. How I accomplish a quest is my idea of how it should be done, made up on the spot and most certainly not reproducible by anyone else exactly as I did it. Furthermore, it is not the only solution. There are as many possible solutions as there are unique character builds and people with ideas on how to accomplish the quest. In order for a developer to claim copyright on such creativity, they would have to determine every possible way to complete a given quest. I doubt any developer out there has ever bothered. In that regard, because the copyrighted material is created with such a wide range of variability built-in, the nature of the work is to allow these variations to be played out - bragging rights included. In short, that's the purpose of games. As that is their character, vlogging is a logical extension of that purpose.

Next the courts consider how much of the copyrighted work has been used. For certain, I never use an entire sequence if I'm making a game play video out of it. For example, in my last quest video for The Elder Scrolls Online, TESO: Taking Down Reezal Jul, there are many things I did during that portion of the overall game which did not make it into the final cut of the video. I did not use ALL the video content of the game, as my intent is to give an example of one way the quest can be completed. To that end, I only covered salient moments. The rest I leave for the watcher to discover on their own. Now, if I were to stream the game from beginning to end, then perhaps I have used too much of the material and could fail this test. By limiting the amount of material used, it is no different from quoting a passage from a popular book for the purposes of critique - a protected fair use endeavor. Just make certain that you don't use too much, and you should be fine.

Lastly there is the consideration of effecting the value of the copyrighted material. You know, claiming vloggers deflate the value of a game title is like claiming makes no money off League of Legends (LoL) tournaments. LoL is all streaming all the time, and such a claim would be seen as delusional at best. Hell, vlogging is free advertising! A game developer has to do absolutely nothing to get it. Legally there is no difference between the corporation, and the vloggers using it. In fact, the vloggers may be in a better position as they are the creative talent behind the "works" being shown. But the courts aren't really concerned with whether the developer gets free advertising or not. They have to determine if the activity in question lowers the inherent value of the copyrighted property. And since the vast majority of developers actually embrace vlogging, I'd have to say it doesn't decrease a damn cent. If it did, they'd be suing every vlogger from here to Sunday. That just isn't happening. is openly embraced by most developers. YouTube has special dispensation as well. Hell, it's harder to get a music soundtrack onto your YouTube game play video than it is to get the video itself posted. When an entire industry seems to be turning a blind eye to an activity, it's hard for the courts to see it has harmful.

Vloggers like Pew Die Pie and Scott Manley, they are not copying games. They are creating artistic expressions of a new vibrant trend in society. I do not watch those two so much for the games they are playing, but to be entertained by them while they play. They are actors upon a stage creating works of expression that otherwise would not exist. That alone has enough merit in my opinion to qualify as Fair Use. But you know, these are only my opinions. I am not a Judge nor a lawyer. Still, I have a modicum of common sense, and that common sense tells me people like Phil Fish are just sour grapes. The fact the gaming industry is booming (and here, and here, and here,) vloggers and all, really puts his sour grapes into perspective. If he were half as creative as he thinks he is, he'd be making bank off the very thing he's complaining about - like every other successful video game developer. Have a look at Robert's Space Industries. They are completely crowd sourced and going strong on the very thing Fish abhors. If there is a threat to the future of the gaming industry, it isn't YouTubers. It's the people in the game industry who can't cope with the reality of the 21st century. They will fade into oblivion because Fair Use has your back (within reason.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Things You Discover by Cyber Stalking Scott Manley

One of my favorite YouTube broadcasters is Scott Manley. If you don't follow his channel, you really do need to subscribe. He is not only informative, but he is also funny - and I don't mean just funny sounding, though there may be that too. :P Sorry Scott, I just had to go there. Your brogue is, shall we say, distinct. Don't let our West Coast lack of accent ever change it! Anyway, back to topic. So one of the things I think we all do is find out "a bit more" about those we like to follow.  At least I hope we all do, or I'm a bit like a stalker. :/ And I certainly was curious, because on his YouTube banner Scott lists himself as, "Astronomer! Scottsman! Hacker! Gamer! DJ!" It was the hacker bit that got me curious. I've known a few astronomers in my day, but not one of them have ever labeled themself a hacker. So I clicked a few links on his channel header to find out where Scott does astronomy.

That led me to discovering that Scott doesn't actually work in Astronomy nor live in Scotland these days. He lives in Oakland and works for Topsy Labs, Inc. Sorry if that weirds you out man. I'm not going to, like, show up on your doorstep or anything. I love the hell out of your videos and all, but I'm no creeper or some such. Really... moving past the awkward now.

I'd never heard of Topsy. Things I don't know anything about always piqué my curiosity, so I looked the company up. It turns out T0psy is one of those really cool companies you've never heard about (at least I hadn't.) According to Wikipedia (yeah, yeah, I know,)

"Topsy (aka Topsy Labs, Inc.) is a social search and analytics company based in San Francisco, California. The company is a certified Twitter partner and maintains a comprehensive index of tweets, numbering in hundreds of billions, dating back to Twitter's inception in 2006. Topsy makes products to search, analyze and draw insights from conversations and trends on the public social websites including Twitter and Google+."

Long story short, that Wikipedia page led me to That site is a public, "real-time search engine for social posts and socially shared content, primarily on Twitter and GooglePlus." That's awesome! I always wondered who helped come up with those "trending" links you see in social media. Now I know. But what is really awesome about is it fills in a gap I have related to some information gathering posts I've done in the past. For example this post titled A New Tool for Tracking Online Popularity, etc. That post from last year was on Google Trends, a Google service that can show you how keywords are trending in the world of search.

But this only works for searches. It does not work for things like retweets on Twitter or other real-time systems. It's good to know what people are interested in, but search results only show part of that interest. Perhaps a better way to show interest is to see a real-time result from conversations people are having in nearly real-time. That is, after all, what Twitter is best at. If you want to know what's happening in the world today, Twitter is one of the go-to places to find out. I am stoked to add this new tool to my research arsenal. It's never bad to have too much data (though it can be confusing. ;-) )

So, how does fit in with the Google Trend method? Well, let's do a test. Scott and I are both interested in a few future space-based games. They are EVE Valkyrie, Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen. Let's do a Google Trend and a Topsy search on those three games and see what they say about each.

[caption id="attachment_3038" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Google Trend of 3 future Space Games Google Trend of 3 future Space Games[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3037" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games[/caption]

The first thing I noticed from these two graphs is that they are in agreement. Of the three games listed, Star Citizen by far receives the most interest. Not only does it get more interest in real-time, but it has always received more interest and for much longer than the other two games according to Google Trends. It's one thing to think a certain future game get's more interest than another, and quite a different thing to see it in easily understood graphical format. Second in interest is Elite Dangerous and a long way back in third is EVE Valkyrie. I wonder what that bodes for EVE Valkyrie, if anything?

As for Star Citizen, the question this raises in my mind is whether this interest sustains the Star Citizen funding drive or does the funding drive cause the interest? At this point I'm willing to embrace the concept of 'and' and allow they are mutually feeding, but how did it all get rolling. Was it the hype that got it all started? If so, that's a hell of an accomplishment in this day and age. It deserves some study I think. With every company out there clamoring for attention and investment in their 'great idea,'  it's a credit to Chris Roberts that he's been able to generate and sustain this level of interest. I suppose that's why he's got over $45 million in the bank.

There is one more thing these graphs can show. Google Analytics attempts to identify the one major event responsible for high points in search results. Those are the points marked with letters on the trend line. This does not always work so well. For example, the 'E' on the Google Trends' Star Citizen line is to an article published by This is not useful to me. I am certain there were other articles in languages I do speak concerning this console question, but they are lost among all the searches done at that time.

Topsy covers a smaller time span, and it has an absolute mechanic for determining what is responsible for the spike. Take the June 3rd spike in the graph above. Hovering over that point gives this result:

[caption id="attachment_3036" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games top Tweet Topsy Search of 3 future Space Games top Tweet[/caption]

We can easily see the top tweet on that day for Star Citizen. It was sent out by @pcgamer, links included. A quick copy and paste allows anyone to see what generated the 1739 tweets and retweets. Here's how the counting works according to Topsy support:

"On every search result page Topsy provides you with the count on the left which is the number of search results for that period. It is a count of tweets, uniqued by links or retweets: i.e. multiple retweets are only counted once; multiple tweets for a single url are only counted once.
As twitter is growing, and our counts are cumulative, the number of tweets for a topic can to be higher if you check it on any given day compared to the previous day, especially if you’re looking at the number over the past month."

And yes, that June 3rd tweet count keeps climbing. It's gone up almost 100 since I took that screen capture. That's way cool! That's why I find Topsy is both informative and addictive, and I happily add it to my list of tools to find out what's hot (and what's not) in the world of gaming. Using it is almost as fun as playing the games themselves. And what's more, you can search on anything. It doesn't even have to be games. :o So give it a spin and see if you can determine what's going to be the next great thing. Cheers!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Landmark: More on Being Prepared for Spelunking

If you go into a cave in Landmark, there are two pieces of equipment you must absolutely take with you. The first is a grappling hook. That will help you navigate the cave's more vertical sections. The second is an ore prospector. That'll help you locate the ore you seek. If it's gems your after, you'll need a Ground Sounder. It's the same as an Ore Prospector but finds gems instead of ore. Now at this point I could just launch into several lengthy paragraphs about how these are utilized to make your spelunking easier. But why tell you when I can show you?

So first off, here's an image gallery of the equipment in use. Click on the first image and it'll launch you into the gallery proper. I've added descriptions to each image explaining what I am doing and why I'm doing it.

[gallery columns="4" type="rectangular" ids="2985,2984,2988,2993,2992,2987,2989,2990,2986,2991,2994"]

To see this equipment in action, you can watch this video (from which these screenshots were taken) of my last foray into a tier 2 desert cave. I was looking for silver, which I needed to complete an Outfitter's Table for my home. With that I'll be able to make furniture and generally spruce the place up! There is no voice over on this video. My mouth is still pretty sore from the dental work and talking just irritates it. So you get pure unaltered game play from my Twitch stream last night. This video has been moved over to YouTube so it doesn't disappear. Enjoy!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Landmark: More Spelunking Screenshots Plus!

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2977,2973,2969,2975,2970,2971,2974,2976,2972,2978"]

I've had a lot of time to play computer games over the last two days due to some major dental work. :/ The game playing has been fun at least. :) I had planned on spending most of my available time playing Landmark. However, the server maintenance scheduled for 2 PM PDT on Wednesday really threw a crimp into that plan. So I ended up playing over three hours of Assassin's Creed IV: Blackflag while the down time dragged on. Nevertheless, I probably logged a good seven or eight hours in Landmark. I expanded my claim with one attachment. Then I built a half-basement under my initial structure. That's a good start on a home and all it lacks now is some nice furniture. :P I also had a chance to check out the resource reallocation they made because of the cave feature they put in during the last major update to the game.

I find I completely agree with their vision for resources. For those who are unfamiliar with the resource system in Landmark, and I'd wager that's most of you, there are currently four resource Tiers, divided into islands. There will eventually, or so I read, be six tiers. More will no doubt come with future game updates. Before this patch, all resources available to a specific tier were lying around on the service. This included some resources for the next tier up as they are always "rare" items one tier down. They were VERY easy to find. In fact, they were too easy to find. This may not be a shooter type game (yet, but PvE is coming in July,) but it still needs to have a challenge. So the developers moved the resources around and put the really good stuff underground - where it should be. Here's  list of what they did.

Caves, Resource Veins, and Items

  • Resource veins have been significantly redistributed, making cave exploration even more rewarding.

    • On the surface of each island, only common ore, gems, and stone can be found.

      • Tier 1: copper and agate

      • Tier 2: iron (plus small amounts of tin), aquamarine, marble, amaranthine

      • Tier 3: tungsten (plus small amounts of silver), amethyst, marble, amaranthine, obsidian, alabaster

      • Tier 4: cobalt (plus small amounts of gold), sapphire, obsidian, alabaster

    • Rare ore and gems have been moved into caves. In addition, materials of the next tier can be found in the caves.

      • Tier 1 caves: iron, tin, aquamarine, tourmaline, ancient earth

      • Tier 2 caves: tin, tungsten, silver, tourmaline, amethyst, topaz, ancient earth

      • Tier 3 caves: silver, cobalt, gold, topaz, sapphire, emerald, ancient earth

      • Tier 4 caves: gold, mithril, rubicite, emerald, ruby, diamond, ancient earth

    • Veins that combined stone/metal and stone/gem have been removed.

    • Ancient earth pockets are no longer found on the surface.

  • Etherium and moonstone can now be mined in Tier 4 caves. They’re rare, so keep your eyes (and resource detectors) peeled!

  • Made a couple of changes to treasure chest loot!

    • First, the Mechanized and Powered Pulverizers have been removed from the treasure chest loot table, and have been replaced with a unique one – the Calibrated Rockgrinder!

    • The Rockgrinder is a high-quality pulverizer that is not upgradable, but should perform well for those who do not have upgraded versions of the Powered Pulverizer.

    • Also, the chance of items such as accessories and gear dropping from chests has been tripled, so these items should be seen more frequently when opening a chest!

  • The Traveler’s Grappling Hook, a new Tier 1 Grappling Hook, can now be crafted at the Tinkerer’s Workshop. This easy to craft grappling hook is perfect for first time explorers hoping to brave the caves of Landmark.

  • Lightstones are now craftable at the Tinkerer’s Workshop, providing access to a low-cost, consumable, personal light source for Tier 1 players.

  • The Ore Prospector recipe now requires Aquamarine as its gem component.

So about Spelunking in Landmark, in my last post on the topic, I mentioned it'd be best if one went in prepared. Well, this time I did. I took an ore prospector and a grappling hook, which I made myself I might add. :D I made the best of each I could with the materials I could gather. I had to visit a second tier island for some of the stuff, but that just introduced my to the loveliness of the Old Growth Forest biome. You see, besides ore and gems, there are also plants and wood that one can harvest. Each island has a specific biome? I live in a Jungle Biome currently. Different biomes give different wood and plant resources, so a travelling you must go! Anyway, back to the Spelunking, as you can see from the screenshots, the grappling hook really helps. It's helpful in not just getting back out, but it is very helpful at reaching those veins waaaaaaaay up the cave wall. It was quite fun just hanging around and getting various views from above. There will certainly be more spelunking in my future!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Raptr Most Played Games of May 2014

Finally Raptr has posted their most played games of May 2014 summary. It was released late, at least be my calculations. I think E3 must have occupied about a week of their time this month. I wish it had occupied a week of my time. ;-) If you remember my last post on this topic, The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) debuted in fifth place even with all the "bad" publicity saying the game was "hopelessly" flawed. And to be certain there are many things in TESO that could be enhanced, and the issues with group play among characters of various ages and experience is still an issue, but did it kill the game as some had predicted? Was there a mass exodus from the game after the 35 day free play period? In two words...

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="540"]Raptr's Most Played PC Games May 2014 Raptr's Most Played PC Games May 2014[/caption]

Frack no. The game did fall from #5 last month to #8 this month, but I think that can easily be accounted for by the newness wearing off. All games see a surge in playing when they are first released. During April I put 45 hours into getting Mabrick started as an Imperial Templar. Since then I've almost doubled my time in-game, but not quite. I currently have 82 hours playing. I do not believe I am all the out of the ordinary in having more than half my time front loaded after a couple of months.

For example, I started playing Landmark in it's closed beta this month. So far I've managed to get in 19 hours of play. It's new. It's fun. It's even exciting in its own way. I am totally getting into creating my own space in that gaming world! In fact, I think tomorrow's post will show off what I've accomplished to date with those 19+ hours of play. But getting back to topic, I think we can all agree new games get more play than games that have been out a month.

But does this small slip in ratings, rather than falling off the bottom like Titanfall did, really show interest in TESO is still strong? Well, in and of itself no. It just shows that people will still play it for a while longer. They could be like me and have already bought time ahead. Many people who do such things can't stand the thought of their money going to waste. So they play the "flawed" game anyway. I hope anyone reading that last doesn't think I fall into that category. I don't.

So what could show the game is still undeniably garnering interest? Well, how about statistics on purchases of the game? My Google Alerts feeds led me to an article by Mathew Jarvis at, a UK e-zine. The article is titled, Wolfenstein retakes PC Game chart crown as Wildstar falls. It gives a list of the top-selling games in the UK as of June 14, 2014. Here's the list of full price games from that article as supplied by UKIE.


[caption id="attachment_2952" align="alignleft" width="390"]UKIE Top 20 - June 14, 2014 UKIE Top 20 - June 14, 2014[/caption]

As this list shows, TESO is still #6 in purchases AFTER the end of the free play period. One thing you must remember about this list. It is not about subscriptions. It is about those who purchased the game BEFORE they could even start the subscription. TESO is that sort of business model. And as this list is published weekly, there is no reason to believe it would include all the purchases made prior to the week before UKIE published the list. That indicates to me there were still quite a few conversions from free to subscription after the free period.

Finding corroboration for this report has proven to be a little tricky. There are lots of reports made in the media on total games sales industry wide, but not a lot breaking those sales down to specific titles. Also, many of the "old school" analytic companies are woefully behind the curve when it comes to accounting for digital game sales.

And as we know, digital sales are very popular. It's the ultimate in instant gratification. Well, after the download completes at least. But it's still faster than getting in a car and driving somewhere to buy a box which in all likelihood is going to make you download the game anyway.

Furthermore, those companies that can provide the data often charge for it. And those e-zines who could pay for the data and write about it were totally engrossed in E3 coverage. So, long story short, I couldn't find any good corroborating articles.

But I don't think that prevents me from making my final conclusion about all the doom predicted about TESO. It was all a bunch of sensationalistic claptrap. It was click bate, and isn't that how the web works. Just be carefully about jumping on future wagons if you bought into the gang mentality this time. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

TESO: Taking Down Reezal-Jul

After learning what happened to the Montclairs via a dream-walk through Count Ravenwatch's memories, he informed me he knew the whereabouts of Reezal-Jul. Reezal-Jul was preparing to attack the Camp Tamrith refugees whom I'd assisted before getting to Castle Ravenwatch. I needed to proceed with all haste to the camp and warn Captain Janeve Tamrith of the impending attack, or many refugees would die. I went to Camp Tamrith in all haste to help stop the attack, and to put an end to Reezal-Jul's campaign of death in south Rivenspire.

*** SPOILER ALERT – This video reveals major elements of a quest. Do not watch if you want to keep it a surprise! ***


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TESO: Doomcrag

Last post, we learned Baron Montclair's wife was gravely ill and the Baron wanted Count Ravenwatch to turn her into a Vampire. She did not wish this, so Count Ravenwatch did not do it. Instead he went to speak with Reezal-Jul. Reezal-Jul had the shard of a relic he thought would heal Baroness Montclair, but the Baron didn't trust Reezal-Jul enough to use it. Reezal-Jul asked Count Ravenwatch to take the shard to Baron Montclair. The Baron acquiesced to its use, and the Baroness got better - for a while. However, it was soon obvious the shard was not powerful enough to cure her. And as Count Ravenwatch had refused to turn the Baroness, Reezal-Jul recommended they ascend the Doomcrag, an ominous peak north of Ravenwatch Castle, to find the powerful relic from which the shard had come. Surely, he argued, such a powerful relic would cure her. So the Montclairs did as he bid. This is what happened.

*** SPOILER ALERT – This video reveals major elements of a quest. Do not watch if you want to keep it a surprise! ***


Monday, June 16, 2014

TESO: Dream-Walk into Darkness

Yesterday was father's day. After a very nice hour long conversation with my son, I took a three-hour block of time to continue my adventures in Tamriel. Let me bring you up to date. In my last TESO video 10 days ago, Retaking Shornhelm – Part 2, I managed, with the assistance of Count Ravenwatch, to drive Baron Montclair's forces out of Shornhelm. Unfortunately his Argonian sorcerer, Reezal-Jul escaped before I could exact justice on him. Still, the town was secured and a base of operations established from which we could turn the tide of the battle for Rivenspire.

I was a bit surprised when Count Ravenwatch confirmed High King Emeric had personally come to Shornhelm to take control of the fight. I reported to him, informed him the town was secure, and asked what I could do next to help. He bade me travel to Ravenwatch Castle and assist Count Ravenwatch in tracking down Reezal-Jul. This I gladly agreed too. I'd seen the bloodfiends Reezal-Jul had made of the townsfolk, and it revolted me. Also, the death of Heloise Menoit still weighed heavily on my heart. Reezal-Jul needed to pay for his crimes against the people of Rivenspire, and for good decent people who had to die for no other reason than he'd cursed them.

So after a good night's rest, I headed westward on the road to Ravenwatch Castle. There I found a large camp of refugees from the town of Crestshade. The town had been overrun by Reezal-Jul's forces, and those that had not been killed or escaped were now bloodfiends feeding on the corpses of the unlucky - or lucky, depending on how you looked at it. Before I could get to Ravenwatch Castle on the far side of the town, I had to assist the spirit of the slain mayor destroy a necromantic monster of flesh created by Reezal-Jul from her's and several other's body parts. The list of crimes that Argonian would pay for increased greatly as I cleansed the town of his filthy abominations. Only then could I proceed to Ravenwatch Castle. Here is what transpired in that castle.

*** SPOILER ALERT – This video reveals major elements of a quest. Do not watch if you want to keep it a surprise! ***


Friday, June 13, 2014

Landmark: Spelunking

Do you remember my post on Thursday? You know, the short one? The one where I just threw up some screenshots because I wanted to play a game rather than write a real post for my faithful readers? Well, I got in over three hours of Landmark that night - thank you. I had planned on splitting my time between Landmark and TESO, but I got in over my head in Landmark - literally. It took me quite some time to dig myself out - literally. I made a video of the adventure. It's an excellent treatise on how NOT to prepare. Care to have a look?


As I point out in the video, if you decide to go spelunking in Landmark, make sure you're prepared to get out. It's very easy to fall into a deep hole. It's a completely different matter to get out of it. Oh, and having your own light source might not hurt either. It sure is dark down there in some spots. If it weren't for the MEDs (magic emitting diodes) in my Founder's pickaxe, I wouldn't have been able to see it in from of my face in some of those tunnels!

EVE Valkyrie vs Star Citizen

At E3 this week, CCP released a new game play video for EVE Valkyrie. I'll embed the video so you can watch it.


There is nothing new in this video, at least from an overall game play perspective. There are a lot of graphical enhancements though. Overall the graphics are a lot crisper and elegantly refined. We are flying around an orbiting station now. It isn't simply two squadrons flying at each other from carriers. The cockpit is beautifully rendered and I swear I can read the flight instruments. The action of the mass drivers (that's what a machine gun in space is called BTW) is well done. Lock-on and missile flight has also gotten some love. They appear to have reduced lag across the board (thanks to Oculus VR's awesome technology) and created an experience that looks very twitch. There has been a lot of work and love put into this version and it shows. One detractor, I've never seen that many asteroids around a station. I hope they will remove those in the game. That's not what New Eden looks like. But overall,  EVE Valkyrie is shaping up nicely and I still plan on playing the game.

As I was watching the video though, I couldn't help but see the first comment on the YouTube page. It was from someone most EVE bloggers know. It was from Titus Balls and I'll quote,

"OK so in probably around 1/2 budget, 1/2 time and gone through two engines - CCP have still made a better space game than Star Citizen. I feel sorry for all the backers who threw money at it, they better make something good."

This is the part of Star Citizen Titus is talking about.


Have you had a stroke and lost the portion of your brain responsible for logical comparisons Titus? Seriously, how can you even say Star Citizen lags behind EVE Valkyrie? You seem to feel Arena Commander is what Star Citizen is all about. That is an incredible misconception. If you really want to make a valid comparison, you should imagine EVE Valkyrie integrated into EVE Online. That is a far better comparison, as such an integration is the goal of Star Citizen. What you see with EVE Valkyrie is what you get.

When I played EVE Valkyrie at EVE Vegas last year, there was a simple point system based on how much damage you did to the enemy. I am certain CCP will expand on that limited scoring, but that is about all you're going to get from EVE Valkyrie. It is a space based first person shooter (FPS,) and there is only so much you can do with an FPS. CCP will wrap some achievement oriented game play elements around it, add Katee Sackhoff's voice to it, and perhaps develop a tournament mode, but that's likely all they'll do. At best you'll get the first Wing Commander updated to the 21st century and Internet multiplayer connectivity. EVE Valkyrie will still be an awesome game, but Star Citizen will be a full-fledged MMO with a persistent universe, and Arena Commander is just one element of that future game. The only thing persistent in EVE Valkyrie is your score.

Currently, no one gets to play EVE Valkyrie except at very tightly controlled conventions like E3, where CCP has direct control over the entire game system. You get exactly what they feed you. Arena Commander is at least in alpha testing where Roberts Space Industries (RSI) can identify and iron out the bugs, of which Scott Manley comments on not a few. Check out Scott Manley playing Arena Commander in his YouTube video (starts about the 2:30 mark.) That's not even possible with EVE Valkyrie. EVE Valkyrie was assertively labeled PRE-ALPHA, and CCP is the only one play testing it. As we all know, developer only testing often results in released products full of bugs. And since EVE Valkyrie is a 3D only game, and playing it depends on the release of Oculus Rift as a consumer product, forget about any open beta testing to ensure that doesn't happen. Oh, did you miss the announcement by CCP that EVE Valkyrie will be a 3D only game; playable only through Oculus Rift? You can hear that revelation starting around the 2 minute mark in this YouTube video. So I suppose you could claim that EVE Valkyrie is a better 3D space FPS than Star Citizen, but that's as far as you can take it Titus, because EVE Valkyrie won't be playable with a standard monitor - ever.

So please Titus, try to think before you start the fan-boy wave. There are many, many things that will be great about EVE Valkyrie. It will be an exciting and highly playable computer game for those who can afford the Oculus Rift, and who don't get nauseous viewing 3D. Side note: that's a lot of people BTW. Read this PLOS One article. It's very interesting. I must quote the conclusion because it is so compelling from a 3D game development perspective.

"Viewers reporting some sickness (SSQ total score>15) were 54.8% of the total sample after the 3D movie compared to 14.1% of total sample after the 2D movie. Symptom intensity was 8.8 times higher than baseline after exposure to 3D movie (compared to the increase of 2 times the baseline after the 2D movie). Multivariate modeling of visually induced motion sickness as response variables pointed out the significant effects of exposure to 3D movie, history of car sickness and headache, after adjusting for gender, age, self reported anxiety level, attention to the movie and show time."

In the study, over half the people reported some nausea and one in ten felt so sick they wanted to puke. That's serious, and it'll limit sales of EVE Valkyrie. Whether that's substantial or not is anyone's guess, but EVE Valkyrie will certainly sell fewer copies as a 3D only game than if it supported 3D and 2D. It is still on my must play list though. I am not one of those who suffer from vertigo, motion sickness or even sea sickness. I'm lucky that way, though I'm digressing a bit now. Here's my tl;dr, people need to stop comparing EVE Valkyrie with Star Citizen. The games are in completely different genres, and I certainly do NOT regret contributing to Star Citizen - so stop feeling sorry for me.  You cannot compare oranges to tennis balls. If you try, bloggers will write about your comments and question your mental capacity. :P So let's all wait to see what these two game developers come up with, and then let's enjoy the hell out of their hard work! Kthanksbye.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Landmark: Just Some Screenshots

Due to RL craziness, I have only been able to play about one hour of anything since last weekend. And today's craziness was just as bad. So tonight, I am playing a game dammit! I just have to decide which one now. Oh, the choices we have to make, haha. But just because I'm not going to write anything long or thoughtful doesn't mean I want to leave everyone empty-handed. So here are some screen captures from Landmark last week and the play I got in this week. If nothing else, they show I have made some progress, even though I'm still sorting out how to do things. Anyway, enjoy!

[gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="2817,2815,2819,2816,2818"]

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

EVE Online: What Sort of MMO is It?

[caption id="attachment_2674" align="alignleft" width="520"]Motivations - Yee Motivations - Yee[/caption]

I think by now most of my readers understand that I am a fan of Doctor Nick Yee's Daedalus Project. I've posted his table on MMO player motivations several times on this blog. Today I'm going to outline how I think EVE Online fits into his table. Here is his table once more as a reminder.

As I've said before, it is my belief that all MMOs must have a base in the Social column of the table. Without that social element, it just would not be an MMO. It does not need to have all the elements, but it should have enough of them to glue elements of the other two columns together.

For the purposes of this post though, I am going to progress from left to right and top to bottom through the columns. I will list each element and discuss how I think EVE Online does or does not appeal to that specific motivation. This could get long. Hopefully it will be interesting.

I will be assigning a number between one and three to each element. The number is a rating: weak (1,) healthy (2,) or strong (3.) That is my judgement on how well EVE Online manifests that element. At the bottom of the post I will total up the numbers. That will tell us what sort of game EVE Online is. I'll provide more details after the analysis. So without further comment, let's dive into it!

  • Achievement - I'll just come right out and say this is what EVE Online is all about. From kill boards to forums, EVE Online is built around the achievement column.

    • Advancement - this is the personal side of EVE Online. Whether you aspire to be the best 1v1 pilot in New Eden, or the best FC, the four elements of this category are all about you as the capsuleer.

      • Progress - (3) the very heart of EVE Online personal development is the skill system. It is the measure of a capsuleer, and every capsuleer must meet certain minimum requirements to even get in on some of the game play in EVE Online. Many PvP corporations won't even consider your application unless you have 25 million skill points invested in combat skills. Don't ever bother to ask if you can fly logistics if all your logistics skills are not level IV at a minimum. If you play EVE Online, you know what I'm saying.

      • Power - (2) two words: The Mittani. Need I say more? And there are others. The attainment of power is the dream of all EVE Online players, whether they'll admit it or not. The only problem with it in the game is that so few can actually attain it. That's why I give it a rating of healthy but not strong.

      • Accumulation (3) - two more words: Gevlon Goblin. The accumulation of wealth and rare ships in EVE Online is not restricted to just Gevlon though. We all know about the Veldnaught. We all know, or at least can find out, who owns those special Paladins sprinkled into the game oh so many years ago. And look at the shit storm created when CCP gave our Scorpions to the crew of SOMER Blink. Oh, the unfairness of it all! Everyone is trying to accumulate more. The very nature of the economic model in EVE Online requires it. Total destructibility of hard-earned wealth is a strong motivator.

      • Status - (3) this is so important in EVE Online there are entire web sites devoted to it. Just checkout EVE Kill if you doubt it. How many bloggers have you read mark their status with kill stats? Go read Rixx Javix's PvP labeled posts to see how important it is too many. When I was a member of Surely You're Joking, the alliance kill board stats were a major concern of alliance leadership. If you lost an expensive ship in Jita, your corporation was in danger of getting kicked from the alliance. Even if you didn't get kicked, you were certainly ridiculed for the loss. And the insults made when people were not on comms could have resulted in defamation lawsuits. Alliance status was THAT important to alliance leadership and many of the long time alliance members.

    • Mechanics - this is the foundation of all achievement in EVE Online. It is not the "goal" so to speak, but without the mechanics there would be no method for achieving anything else listed in this column.

      • Numbers (2) - EVE Online is not known as spreadsheets in space for no reason. The only thing going against this element in EVE Online is that a player has to use 3rd party programs to do it well. If EVE Online had more of this functionality built-in, or allowed for external programs to change things in-game, it would get a higher rating from me.

      • Optimization (3) -  I know it really isn't so, but it seems like there are an infinite number of ways a player can optimize their ship to take on certain tasks. Take for example the role of fleet tackle. Will that be a long tackle or a short tackle? Those who play know what I mean. Will there be DPS with that tackle or just tank. That really depends on whether it is a fleet fit or a solo fit now doesn't it. And no doubt you'll fit the same ship differently to take it into a wormhole. Optimization is the way to win in EVE Online, and everyone has their opinion of what optimal is. The good news is, when the guns go silent we all know who was right.

      • Templating (2) - the variety of methods for fitting ships, and with those fitting constructing fleet doctrines, is one of the coolest mechanics in EVE Online. This isn't really that easy with the in-game UI, but the fantastic API built into the game allows for excellent 3rd party tool development. I've spent hours just checking out different fits in 3rd party tools. I think every player has at some point or another.

      • Analysis (2) - This is another strong point of the game because of the fantastic API. The things I've seen done with spreadsheets alone has blown me away. However, it would be better if it could all be done without needing the API, or if the API allowed for actual in-game manipulation of data.

    • Competition - the very essence of PvP, would you not agree?

      • Challenging Others (1) - There are lots of challenges issued every minute in EVE Online. Not all challenges are accepted though. The total destruction nature of the New Eden economy may motivate accumulation, but it stifles challenges. They still happen, but I've only really seen them done off high-sec stations - and that's very annoying to everyone else. EVE tournaments are a good challenge arena, but they only happen a few times a year. This element needs work.

      • Provocation (3) - from can flipping to miner bumping to "free ammo" cans, EVE Online is awash in provocation. It is a major play style. It can be done anywhere, at any time. No place is safe.

      • Domination (2) - without domination, Goonswarm would not be so reviled by no-goons. In fact, no one would give a damn. But when one group can dominate like Goonswarm has, you know it's a major feature of the game. The only negative is when one group so dominates the game it actually stifles game play. If you think this is not happening now you need to get a clue. If it weren't for that issue, I'd give this element the highest rating.

  • Social - these things are the glue that bind an MMO together.

    • Socializing - just hanging our can be its own form of game play.

      • Casual Chat (3) - regardless of what wormholers think, local is really an excellent chat client. It's easily the equal of any other game's chat system.

      • Helping Others (1) - It is true help happens in New Eden, but it only happens by dent of a person's will to make it happen. In many other MMOs, I am not penalized for throwing a heal spell onto someone engaged in a fight. In EVE Online, I can be labeled a criminal it I act this way. The game can actively punish do-gooders who don't understand the laws of the empires. This does not mean the criminal justice system in New Eden is flawed, just that it isn't conducive to randomly helping others. Hell, you even get charged a tax if you just want to private convo someone.

      • Making Friends (2) - You can make friends in EVE Online. I've made a few damn good ones! Who knew? However, there is always that question in the back of your mind about whether they're an awoxer or not. At higher levels of game play, that actually becomes a barrier to making friends. That leads to the question about which I've always wondered. Is The Mittani the loneliest capsuleer ever? He must be plagued with doubts about whether anyone he doesn't personally know is out to get him or not. The point is, the nature of the game makes people inherently suspicious of everyone else's motives. If it were otherwise, I'd never have to give out an API code before joining any corporation.

    • Relationships - it is not the friendship sort of relationship this category means. Making friends is covered under Socializing.

      • Personal (1) - I suppose if you go to Fanfest and hook-up with one of the two single women playing EVE Online you'll have a relationship moment in this game, but I rather doubt it. It's been shown in posts I'm not going to bother finding that, by far, the average EVE Online player is a thirty something year old father. They're already committed to someone else besides the game. Personal relationships really isn't what this game's about.

      • Self-Disclosure (1) - Yeah, just go ahead and disclose all you want. You too could have your special drunken abuse moment. Really, if you think that's a good idea in this testosterone controlled game

      • Find and Give Support (2) - As much as any other MMO I've played. The issue is whether the other guy thinks you're trying to scam him or not.

    • Teamwork - this is the bedrock of EVE Online's social foundation. It more than makes up for the weak performance of the Socializing and Relationships portions of the social column.

      • Collaboration (3) - it is damn near impossible to achieve one's goals in EVE Online without collaboration with other players either done formally through the corporation/alliance mechanics or informally through other channels. That is why CCP pushed new players to find corporations to play in. That is why those who don't are the 90% who quite before one year.

      • Groups (3) - There are those who will say 1v1 is king of EVE Online. They are wrong. Fleets are king in EVE Online. If you argue otherwise you're deluding yourself. I have nothing for respect for the really good 1v1 pilots out there, because even I, the great care bear, can fly in a fleet and make a difference. EVE Online would be a much smaller game if the fleet mechanics of the game were not so strong. And make no mistake, compared with other MMOs, EVE Fleet mechanics are gold. It's this focus by CCP that makes much of the Mechanics element under Achievement work so well.

      • Group Achievements (3) - This is so important in EVE Online that CCP has made it a major pillar in their marketing campaign. They have created permanent in-game monuments to group achievements.

  • Immersion - the suspension of disbelief is sometimes the hardest thing to accomplish.

    • Discovery - we all yearn to discover hidden treasure. WOOT! after all.

      • Exploration (2) - When you can discover anything and everything about any star system simply be going to DotLAN Maps, you do not have a good exploration system. Still, there are cool things to see in New Eden, and making the trek to see them can often be tremendously challenging. Still, I long for the day when I can enter a system and have no way to know anything at all about it - like it was when wormholes were first discovered.

      • Lore (2) - EVE Online a fantastic lore base. It's one of the best future histories in the gaming industry in my opinion. It's too bad it doesn't have a hell of a lot to do with the actual playing of the game.

      • Finding Hidden Things (2) - I once considered discovery to be a strong point of EVE Online. However, when they removed the need to use scanning  in order to find a gravitational anomalies it really made the whole Finding Hidden Things less appealing. And I've read other comments that some have found the new scanning mechanics to be too simple. When it's challenging to find hidden things is when they are most appreciated. I think EVE Online may recapture some of this in the future, but for now it's going to remain a very healthy element rather than a strong one.

    • Role-playing - this is not about becoming the story, but being able to act out a part in the story. To some degree EVE Online is trying to re-invent this element, but it's a doomed attempt. You can't let players make content and then call it role-play. To make content is an achievement, not something the game provides as an inherent part of its play.

      • Story Line (1) - It was really highlighted for me how weak stories lines are in EVE Online when CCP started soliciting players to provide stories. The game itself doesn't do story line well at all. Perhaps the best one it has is the Sansha Kuvakei story line that manifests itself as incursions. But it hasn't been developed since it was released. Neither has the Sleeper story line. Recently there was the story line about Mordu's Legion. But these story lines serve a master other than Role-playing. They are used to introduce new achievements and not developed as a Role-playing element in and of themselves.

      • Character History (1) - character history is defined by ones achievements. There is not one without the other in EVE Online. Some have created character histories. Roc Wieler and Mike Azariah come to mind, but they've created the history outside actual game play. History has no baring on the game itself.

      • Roles (1) - CCP would have us believe roles are a strong element in EVE Online play, but the whole "I've got an alt for that" culture of EVE Online kills this fantasy.

      • Fantasy (1) - EVE Online is real. How many times have you read that? The fact is, it is so close to real that it cannot be a fantasy.

    • Customization - when your life consists of laying in a pod surrounded by goo, character customization is not a high priority. This is perhaps EVE Online's weakest element.

      • Appearances (2) - the Carbon system is very good at giving us all a different face. That is the one strength in customization EVE Online has. Otherwise, we all look like the clones we are.

      • Accessories (1) - few, expensive and never seen. Accessories were basically non-existent for characters before Incarna, and a major failure afterwards. And unless you include drone selection, there are no visible accessories for ships. Ship accessories are consumed be the Templating element under Achievement/Mechanics.

      • Style (1) - There are some set styles. Everyone gets to pick from those. They are very limited.

      • Color Schemes (1) - Until the recently release ship skins, this was a non-thing. It is still very weak, as all ship skins are the same and color choice does not exist.

    • Escapism - all MMOs, in fact computer games in general, are played for some level of Escapism. Still, some are better at enabling this than others.

      • Relax (1) - The vast majority of people cannot relax when adrenalin is coursing through their brain. It's just not possible. But adrenalin can happen at any moment in EVE Online. It's not very conducive to this element, though some may say adrenalin is relaxing. I would say the post adrenalin reaction is relaxing perhaps, but adrenalin never is. That's why it can save your life.

      • Escape from RL (2) - This happens in all MMOs. It's actually easier to do in EVE Online because it sometimes takes hours of playing time to do anything. That allows for long escapes from reality, and it's always easy enough to extend those escapes.

      • Avoid RL Problems (1) - I've known a few who've gone this route with EVE Online and it's landed almost all of them in a scalding pot of hot water with their loved ones. But this is a true of any MMO to one extent or another. It is not something many would consider EVE Online's string point. It you are stressed in RL, most people will find EVE Online increases their stress. There are a few odd ducks though...

That, in a very long nutshell, is how I see EVE Online when evaluated according to Dr. Yee's table of MMO player motivations. To be sure this is probably not a completely objective evaluation. I too have my motivations, and what scratches my itch in an MMO might not scratch yours. But it's a good evaluation based on my observations over six years. Feel free to provide your own in the comments. ;-)

[caption id="attachment_2804" align="alignleft" width="668"]EVE Online Evaluation by Yee MMO Motives EVE Online Evaluation by Yee MMO Motives[/caption]

So what does this tell us about EVE Online. Well, that's what those numbers in parenthesis are all about. We add them up and see how the columns score. But that would not be a fair comparison between columns. Some columns have more elements than others. So once they are totaled, dividing the total by the number of elements will give a proper score for each column: achievement, social and immersion. Here's a table that does just that.

According to this decision matrix style evaluation, EVE Online would most appeal to achievement oriented MMO players who have a strong herding instinct. :D Really, they just want to belong to a group of people with similar goals and achieve greatness through measurable, discreet accomplishments. There is nothing wrong with that, but if that's not what you're looking for in an MMO you should probably look elsewhere.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Landmark: Resource Gathering and Crafting

This second post on resource gathering covers resource gathering and initial crafting. It shows the completion of a player's first goal, crafting a Claim Flag. With this flag, you can stake out a small piece of countryside to call your own. You can have as many of these claims as you like under two conditions I can currently discern.

  1. You have to craft a Claim Flag for each claim.

  2. You have to pay upkeep on each claim.

Currently upkeep is paid in copper. This is likely only for the closed beta. I'm uncertain what SOE will use for upkeep when the game launches. I am certain it won't necessarily be as easy to find as copper unless the claim is on a lower tier island. If you want the really good stuff, I'd wager you'll have to pay for it in one way or another. As Landmark is a Free-to-Play (F2P) game, they have to make money somehow.

But what do I know? I've got five hours invested in the game.  All I know is a lot of players were unhappy last month when they were told there would be a wipe before open beta. This meant the money they'd already spent to get into closed beta so they could get a leg up on everyone else was pretty much wasted money. That sat wrong with a lot of people. It's meh to me. When I spend money on entertainment, I consider the investment made. The money is gone as assuredly as if I bought beer with it. I don't buy into anything in the hopes I'll basically get a Pay-to-Win card.

Besides, there really is no "win" in Landmark. That's an achievement oriented goal as far as MMOs go. That's not what Landmark is about. Those MMO players who are achievement oriented in that way should just go play something else. Landmark isn't the game for them. For everyone else, I've made a video that shows my initial resource gathering and Claim Flag crafting. I hope it's useful to you. Enjoy!