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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Repopulation - Screenshots and Initial Thoughts

[gallery type="rectangular" link="file" ids="3786,3789,3791,3787,3792,3788,3790"]

The Repopulation is a crowd sourced upcoming free to play (F2P) Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG.) Here is what the game is about in the developer's, Above and Beyond Technologies, own words.

The Repopulation is a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. The action takes place on the planet Rhyldan, with the only known remaining human population fighting for their very existence. The indigenous life forms did not meet their colonization efforts with open arms. Worse yet, humans have managed to splinter themselves into warring factions.

It is a sandbox oriented MMORPG with an eye on innovation. Rather than forcing players down preset paths they are instead allowed to walk the path which they enjoy the most. With a variety of combat oriented and non-combat activities to pursue, we believe we’ve created a game that can stand the test of time.

I joined the alpha testing earlier this year because the skill system intrigued me. I will be writing more about that later as it deserves a post of its own. But I will confirm that when they say it doesn't force people down preset paths, they mean it. At first it was a little too open... as in, "what the hell do I do now?" too open. But you know, you can't complain about choice. And having the ability, and opportunity, to pursue what you want and ignore the rest, and then flip-flop it all if you change your mind, is rather nice. The only thing that slows you down is money, and since time is money, you can't do everything immediately. Some planning, and patience, is still required. And because of the need for money, and a desire to get some quickly, I found myself resorting to hunting creatures and harvesting their meat, organs and DNA for cash. Oh, did I not mention this is a Sci Fi MMORPG, with advanced technologies and all that? I'm sorry. :P If you want to be a character who trains and genetically modifies native animals to serve humanity go for it. Or you can become a weapons manufacturer. Or specialize even more and produce fittings that make devices more effective in specific ways. More on that later as well.

Overall the combat system in The Repopulation is intuitive, but it does take some getting used to. In The Repopulation, you can play it in standard MMORPG third person view, or you can change it to first person shooter or even third person shooter mode - what the developer calls Action Mode. Action Mode is not processed the way a first person shooter would be. It's all done client side so as to not give anyone an unfair advantage. That doesn't seem to be all that big a deal, and it isn't. That is until you get into combat and find one mode suits you more than the others. I find I prefer third person action mode. It's easier for me to aim and click than to select abilities and click. In Action Mode, you click on the creature you want to shoot. But there is also a target reticle. You can place it anywhere on the creature you think it'll do the most good. If you've got the right gear, you can even zoom in for a targeting assist. And the damage is applied where the reticle lands, for the most part. But that's Action Mode. Traditional RPG mode is different, with a different sequence of events needed to make it all work. It can be a bit confusing, but there's that choice dilemma again. ;-)

As for being an MMORPG, The Repopulation seems to have what it takes from a game perspective. It has pets. It's has mounts, whether they be animal or vehicle. It has vanity items such as fancified (and unique?) suits of armor. It has titles both prefix and suffix.  It has player housing. In fact, it has provisions for allowing players to break away from the two main factions and set up their own independent nations, replete with towns and garrisons - player garrisons. Will humanity never learn? :/ This adds an interesting dimension to the game I've only seen in EVE Online. The encouragement of player politics. And as in all such things, war is the final negotiating tool is it not? I may not participate in this as it's not my cup of tea, and the game does not force PvP on everyone, but I am looking very forward to profiting from it. :twisted:

On the down side, the game still has a way to go before it is a final product. It can get super laggy for no apparent reason. There are still obvious graphical defects in the game as you'll see in the gallery of screenshots below. The interface seems to glitch at times switching from RPG to Active Mode, and I've got the re-clone count to prove it! I've no doubt there are balancing issues in need of addressing as well. But the games isn't even in beta testing yet, and it's nearly as far along as Landmark, the other game for which I'm a founder. I'm very pleased with the progress Above and Beyond Technologies has made over the summer, and I am confident the game will be successful with its current F2P model. I know I continue to be interested in it, and I can't say that for all the MMOs I'm currently playing. Of course, time will tell on that score. And I will keep you updated to be sure. If you are interested in the game at all, visit the web site for all the details. Free to play is a good price. Hope to see you soon in Freedomtown!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Steam Grows Up... and Up, and Up, and Up

Did you hear the news? Steam now has over 100 million subscribers. Steam's current game offering is over 3700 games; all integrated into its delivery and management service. Also, you can play music through Steam now as well, and they're giving some game soundtracks away for free. And as if that wasn't enough, Steam is also offering their 24-game Complete Pack for $25.00 at one-fourth its standard price, until October 1, 2014. Whoa, what's going on with Steam!?

Growth, that's what's going on. So far this year Steam has increased its game offering 50% and now has more subscribers than World of Warcraft - a lot more. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating you run out and invest in Valve. That 100 million subscriber number is impressive, but the fact is peak online use of Steam doesn't really exceed 6.5 million users on any given day.

[caption id="attachment_3759" align="aligncenter" width="949"]Steam Stats - Concurrent Users Steam Stats - Concurrent Users[/caption]

I am certain a lot of those Steam accounts are likely abandoned. But that doesn't mean Steam hasn't becoming a juggernaut in the gaming industry. When you look at the tops games played according to Raptr, the third, fourth, eleventh, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth game on their list are Steam games.

[caption id="attachment_3761" align="aligncenter" width="626"]Steam Stats - Top Ten Steam Stats - Top Ten[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3764" align="aligncenter" width="394"]Most Played PC Games: August 2014 Most Played PC Games: August 2014[/caption]

That's thirty-five percent of the Raptr list, a not insignificant number. Steam games account for thirty-nine percent of the games listed below power house League of Legends and long time favorite World of Warcraft. If we remove the play time for those two games from the Raptr totals, games played through Steam have an even better standing. Next month I'll see if I can do an actual time spent playing comparison between the Steam games and the non-Steam games. That might be informative as well. The way it'll work is when the Raptr list comes out, I'll capture the Steam list for that day. Then I'll go into Raptr's details like I did for my Raptr Most Played Games: August 2014 post and extract the hours played for each title. That should be informative.

So what accounts for all this success? Why does Steam now seem to be th force du jour in the gaming industry? Did you think I wouldn't resort to Google Trends to try to figure that out? 8-) The first graph I ran compared Steam (Computer software) with the Online Games League of Legends (LoL,) World of Warcraft (WoW) and Dota 2. I included LoL and WoW because you've seen those trends before. I included Dota 2 to see the correlation it has with the Steam trend.

[caption id="attachment_3766" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Compared to LoL WoW and Dota2 Steam Compared to LoL WoW and Dota2[/caption]

It does appear that there is a correlation between the success of Dota 2 and the rise of Steam. However, there is more to the Steam trend than just Dota 2. By that I mean not all the spikes in the Dota 2 line do not explain all the spikes in the Steam line.  Valve obviously hasn't hung their future success on their MOBA and that makes me smile. I'd hate to think of a world where MOBA games rule and all the other genres fade into obscurity. To me personally, that would be a very boring world. I'll admit that my LoL play has suffered greatly in the past six months because of the lather, rinse, repeat nature of the genre. I mean, how many times can you run the same lanes with the same character doing the same ganks before it gets boring? Without the hard cash promise of these games, they just aren't that engaging in the long-term are they?

But I wanted to know if that was indeed the case with Valve Corporation. What is the source of their success? That they are not putting all their eggs into one basket is fairly obvious. I mean, it makes sense, but evidence is king, and I didn't see enough correlation to explain one way or another the Steam trend. So I removed the other games, left Steam (Computer software) and added four of the most popular Valve games to see how they compared.

[caption id="attachment_3767" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Trend Compared to Top Steam Games Steam Trend Compared to Top Steam Games[/caption]

That does explain some of the other peaks, but it still left me wondering about the peaks in Steam's line that had no other peaks beneath. There is a regularity to Steam's peaks over the last three years that seems more than just coincidence... like every six months... like winter and summer... like Steam Sales.

DERP. ^^'

If you restrict the trend to the last 12 months, it becomes totally obvious what is driving the peaks, and the general upward trend. It's the twice a year Steam sales.

[caption id="attachment_3768" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Steam Trend Peaks Past 12 Months Steam Trend Peaks Past 12 Months[/caption]

And the Dota 2 peaks? They just happen to coincide with the summer sales. And this summer so did Counter Strike: Global Offensive. So that's got me wondering if their isn't an evil marketing genius working for Valve. Each peak of the Steam trend line seems to pull it higher just a little more than it was before the peak. Over time, you see this steady upward advance that hadn't been there before Steam sales started during the 2009 holiday season.

And each Steam Sale sees more and more developers jumping on the band wagon. You see, this steady upward trend serves not only Valve's interests, but the other developers too, especially independents. Back in 2012, there was an article on PC Gamer by Tom Senior titled Garry's Mod has sold 1.4 million copies, Garry releases sales history to prove it. It was a short article to highlight a simple chart provided by Garry. Here's that chart.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="1639"]Garry's Mod Sales Graph Garry's Mod Sales Graph[/caption]

By Garry's own admission, the spikes in his chart are Steam Sales. The red line represents his original sales predictions. He anticipated his game would essentially be dead by 2009. But because he joined Steam and participated in its sales system, he had to keep updating Garry's Mod. Because he updated it, people bought it. Because people bought it, Garry can continue developing it. It's a self-reinforcing trend that benefits Valve and the companies who use Steam to distribute their games. It's brilliant. And as for Garry, they say he earns a comfortable living working on his mod now. I don't doubt it.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review - The Long Dark

Yesterday began the Steam early access alpha for The Long Dark. I've been waiting for this early access since I first learned of this game months ago. This game isn't fancy. It doesn't have incredible graphics or a huge world to play in. In fact, I'm not certain I would actually call it play. It's a survival adventure with emphasis on survival. It's tough. It's unforgiving. The goal is to just survive. There are no zombies. There are no monsters. There are only wolves. They are very hungry wolves. They too are unforgiving. But other than the wolves, there are no other non-player entities. There is no player versus player. The entire game is centered around you, the player versus environment. The fact that is very hard to succeed in this simple goal is what makes this game worth playing.

Last night I got my first hour and a half exposure 1 to The Long Dark. I split the play session into six roughly equal chunks and will upload them as I get them processed (though I won't write another post about them.) Unless you are really into sandbox survival games, I'd advise you to save your money until the game is complete. But for $19.99, I just couldn't resist plunging into its life or death struggle. So, without further verbiage, here is the first installment of my first play session so you can have a look at the game. Watch all six once they're posted to see how I did. Enjoy!


  1. Pun intended ;) . 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review - The Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

May 8, 2014 saw the return of gumshoe detective Tex Murphy in an all new adventure. However, there was no break in continuity as the new adventure was directly tied into his last adventure. To those unfamiliar with Tex Murphy adventures, it's noir detective fiction with a healthy dose of cyberpunk, where you must solve the case by following clues and completing logical (and sometimes not so logical) puzzles. You must also select how you wish to interact with characters you meet along the way. These decisions affect not only the final outcome of the game, but also which clues you may receive along the way. These clues can make your job somewhat easier to complete... or not.

What sets Tex Murphy apart from other games, and accounts for some of its high price, is the use of live action cut scenes using real actors and actresses. In fact, if you of an age like me, you will assuredly recognize more than a few faces in this game. The developer used motion capture and state of the art digital insertions to create scenes that are more than realistic enough. I'd actually but the quality on par with the movie Roger Rabbit, though it is certainly no Avatar. The cut scenes are beautifully rendered in full 4k resolution, which was breath-taking on my 30 inch monitor.

One thing I've always enjoyed about games like this is how replaying the game, making different interaction choices as you go, can significantly alter the outcome and your game experience. After playing the demo, I went ahead and purchased the full game for $19.99 from Steam. It took me 16 hours to play through to the end. I was satisfied with the game, and many of the puzzles where gratifying to solve, but I was not at all pleased with where Tex ended up at the end of it all, even though I succeeded with the main mission. I plan on replaying and making some different choices to see if I can get an ending I like better. ;-)

I'll also say 16 hours is good, but I'd have prefered 40 hours on a single play through for the money I spent. And it seemed a little rushed at the end. I suspect this was done on purpose to provide a sense of climatic build up, but I would have liked an opportunity to stop the cut scenes and do a bit more exploring. Granted, that's not how these sorts of games work, but getting used to having that freedom at the beginning of the came spoiled me. No amount of beautifully done cut scenes can give that sense of being in charge of your own destiny like actually being able to make a choice - even during the climax. Still, it was loads of fun and that's what really matters.

This game was a kickstarter campaign. The creator of Tex Murphy, Chris Jones who plays Tex Murphy in the game, had no intentions of making another episode until a devoted fan base eventually talked him into the kick starter. That campaign raised $600,000 and made the reboot possible. I'm hoping the Tesla Effect earns enough money so a longer sequel may happen. I'd certainly be interested in playing more Tex Murphy, providing the price to time ratio is right.

And so you can see what the game is like yourself, here's the first part of the demo. It's got some spoilers in it, but just a couple. There are plenty of things left to figure out in just the demo, let alone the full game should you choose to acquire it.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Raptr Most Played PC Games: August 2014

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="640"]Raptr's Most Played PC Games August 2014 Raptr's Most Played PC Games August 2014[/caption]

The August list of most played games is out, and League of Legends continues to increase its lead. This was due in no small part to the North America Playoffs last month. But please click on the image to go to the Raptr blog post detailing their analysis of the results.

There are only two games left on this list that I play personally: Civilization V and Skyrim (though I've not logged into Skyrim in months.) All the MMOs I play have dropped off the list, but to be honest I haven't been playing MMOs much of late. I haven't logged into TESO since my last TESO post. It's not because the game still doesn't please me. It's that I've devoted most of my time to finishing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. To date I've devoted 138 hours to AC4, and I can finally say I've finished the main story line. WOOT! Sort of fitting for international Talk Like a Pirate Day, aye?

[caption id="attachment_3697" align="alignleft" width="650"]AC4 Finished AC4 Finished[/caption]











That doesn't mean I've completed every last thing in the game. As far as total completion goes, I'm only at 87%. I'm saving those for later. You know, for when I need a pirate fix. ;-) There are some other games I want to play between now and when Assassin's Creed: Unity arrives on November 11th. Yeah, they pushed the release date back two weeks. That's Just fine. It'll give me some alone time with Civilization: Beyond Earth. :P

Anyway, back to the Raptr Top 20. As you've seen before, I like to throw things into Google Trends just to see what they look like. I'm still operating under the assumption interest equates to popularity. However, Google Trends has a short coming. It restricts inputs to only five. That makes it somewhat difficult to see how a top twenty list looks graphically. Fortunately Google allows CSV downloads of the data, and with that I can stitch it all together in a single Excel spreadsheet.

[caption id="attachment_3701" align="aligncenter" width="1859"]Raptr's Most Played PC Games August 2014 Raptr's Most Played PC Games August 2014[/caption]

Yeah, that got a bit busy in the last few years. I can still make out most of the lines though, and it is a good confirmation of the data Raptr collects. There are, however, some interesting differences. For example, see that huge, larger than World of Warcraft ever was, navy blue line? That's Minecraft. That it is Minecraft is not surprising. What is surprising is that it doesn't place higher on the Raptr list with an interest line like that.

I believe the difference is in the missing console data on the PC chart. Minecraft supports play on practically any platform. It's probably got the broadest platform support of any game out there. You can do that when you restrict yourself to 8-bit graphics. The Raptr charts I've been showing only report the PC play of the games listed. Now I want to see all play to see if my suspicion is correct. So I started looking around the Raptr web site to see if I could find that information.

As it turns out, Raptr makes it available. You just have to know where to look and it's not intuitive (at least to me. YMMV.) If you have a Raptr account, go to your profile and then your Game Collection page. On that page, click the link for Discover Games. On that page you will see to the upper right a section titled "Top Games Being Played." That's it! If you select the Everyone tab and then click on View All at the bottom right of that section, you'll get a scrolling list of the top 100 games Raptr tracks. It only slows about 5 games at a time in a small non-scalable window, but it is quite informative to scroll through. I've taken the liberty to consolidate the list with a copy, paste and edit it all to hell. :twisted:

[gallery type="square" columns="2" ids="3708,3709,3710,3711"]

The one caveat to this extended list is that it does not take into account Playstation games. It also seems to count some games twice. That's not an error because - China. If you look at the actual list, each game is linked to its Raptr page, and the #7 League of Legends listing is to®ion=CN. At least I believe that's for China as that's the countries top-level domain.  That's really too bad about the splitting and the lack of Playstation counts as it can't completely corroborate the trend line for Minecraft and other games. Nevertheless, if we add up all the Minecraft hours spent on the various platforms Raptr tracks, you get a combined total of 2,030,037 hours which raises it one position.

There are some other interesting tidbits in this extended list as well. For example, all my EVE Online piezanos will see EVE Online at position #40 in the list. Now that's dedication! That's higher than The Elder Scrolls Online (#53) AND Wildstar (#50.) Oddly, The Elder Scrolls Online is counted separately European and North America, and shows up again at position #76. If you combine the counts of both, you get a total hours played of 345,394. That's enough hours to vault it into position #32, well above Wildstar and also above EVE Online. Sorry piezanos. :( It even places higher than Starcraft II and The Sims 4. The combined hours are nearly half the hours put into Star Wars: The Old Republic last month even. I guess TESO isn't doing so badly regardless of what some pundits say. Wildstar on the other hand ranks right there with Neverwinter. Ouch.

And that's all I've steam left to post about. Please dive in and let me know what other interesting tidbits you discover in all this data. I am sure I've missed quite a bit. What's your take on it all?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="267"]Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson[/caption]

I can honestly say there were not many facts in this book that were new to me. But then again, I am deeply into science and consider myself scientifically literate. Also, much of what went into this book also went into the show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey which Doctor Tyson hosted. If you've watched that show, you know much, but not all, of what this book contains.

But this book isn't about science, at least not in the way most commonly assumed: a dissertation of facts and figures clinically delivered in monotonous bullet lists. That is not Doctor Tyson's style. Yes, he expounds on facts about the known universe, and hypothesizes on what we suspect but haven't quite proven. Still, that isn't the purpose of this book. Doctor Tyson uses these facts to illustrate for the reader the incredible benefits the human species enjoys because of science, and those who have pursued the answers to mankind's most perplexing questions. Who are we? Why do we exist? What is our place in this universe? How does it all work? He wants people to understand these are not unknowable answers. As self-aware intelligent creatures with an inborn curiosity unparalleled by any other species on this planet (that we know of ;-) ,) we have it within ourselves to answer all these questions - and do it with repeatable, verifiable experimentation that leaves no doubt what the truth is.

But knowing a fact and understanding an answer are two completely different things. I can know Doctor Albert Einstein proved the amount of energy that exists in a single atom is equivalent to its mass multiplied by 299,792,458 meters per second squared. That's the fact. But what does that fact mean to me personally? How does it affect my daily life? How have a benefited from it? To know that I must understand how Doctor Einstein's work has been put into use. Would it surprise you to know the Global Positioning System (GPS) in your smart phone relies on Doctor Einstein's equation to work? Seriously, those satellites orbit the Earth at a considerable velocity. And if you know how, you can reorganize Doctor Einstein's famous equation to describe the effect velocity has on time. Look at that equation spelled out above again. It ends in meters per second. We can mathematically isolate the time variable. When we fill in the other's, it'll give us a result in time units, and by comparing results from different initial conditions (in this case by varying velocity) we can see how velocity effects time. You'll find the faster you go, the slower time proceeds. We call this time dilation and Doctor Einstein expounded on it in his formulas of Special Relativity.

[caption id="attachment_3680" align="alignright" width="569"]GPS Relativistic Effects GPS Relativistic Effects[/caption]

Since GPS is an extremely precision oriented system, if it did not account for the tiny shifts in time the orbiting satellites experience, it could never tell you where on the face of this immense planet (relative to our terrestrial measurement systems) you are. And since Google is the great equalizer in all things knowledge, to the right is the answer of how much time dilation a GPS satellite undergoes while in orbit. Click on the picture to see the full results of the five second Google search I did to find the answer.

But here's the even more important message Doctor Tyson conveys in this book. Think about how the satellites came to be? Don't worry about the specifics, just consider the question in general. Think of all the questions we as a species had to answer to make GPS possible. It would have never happened without the entire space program. The entire space program relied on the invention of flight in its several varieties, and that in turn depended on the discovery of the mathematical principles underlying the effects of gravity which Sir Isaac Newton first described in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica published in 1687. Oh, and the science of Fluid Dynamics to which Sir Newton contributed a lot, but a whole lot of other people were involved with nailing down. Sir Newton's scientific work was  inspired by many other men and enabled by the likes of Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus. Their work in turn was inspired by others - and so on, and so forth. And that just deals with the getting into orbit sequence. There are many other sciences involved, like computers. Think of all the science necessary to invent the GPS we all take for granted today. It's awe-inspiring. And we did it. We humans. Many of us working together and over millennia. We did it with our minds, and our innate curiosity to know more.

That is one message Doctor Tyson conveys in this book. Science is the foundation of our existence. Regardless of what men like Sir Newton had to put in the titles of their books (philosophy is the word they used instead of truth, so as to not get themselves in trouble with religion, the power brokers of divine justice coming out of the Middle Ages - think inquisition,) these are truths of the universe, codified and replicable. You can take every one of Sir Newton's equations and prove them yourself. It's a bit more tricky when it comes to Doctor Einstein's equations, but ordinary people like you and I can do it. That is the nature of science, and that is what Doctor Tyson wants everyone to understand. We have all benefited from science in more ways than we are aware. Doctor Tyson makes you aware of the debt we owe to science. He would not use the word debt, but I would. Since the first man figured out how to create tools from rocks, and more importantly how to repeat the process and show others how to do it, we have owed our lives to science. Even if the debt is never collected, we do owe our continued existence to those whose curiosity lead us to better times.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="525"]The Crab Nebula The Crab Nebula[/caption]

I would be remiss if I didn't also point out there is something else Doctor Tyson wants his readers to understand. Something more sinister. He want's us to understand there are those who would hold us back. Who would see us live in an age of unenlightened ignorance rather than relinquish their unsubstantiated beliefs. Beliefs which science, on occasion, has shown to be, well... wrong. This is not the fault of scientists. Intelligent human beings should not have to deny a truth made self-evident through observation, testing and retesting. But there are those who will insist we do, and they harm us all in ways overt and subvert. As an example of this sort of harmful thinking, Doctor Tyson tells the story of Supernova 1054 (now the Crab Nebula.) Here is what he had to say about it in the book,

When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier. In A.D. 1054, a star in the constellation Taurus abruptly increased in brightness by a factor of a million. The Chinese astronomers wrote about it. Middle Eastern astronomers wrote about it. Native Americans of what is now the southwestern United States made rock engravings of it. The star became bright enough to be plainly visible in the daytime for weeks, yet we have no record of anybody in all of Europe recording the event. (The bright new star in the sky was actually a supernova explosion that occurred in space some 7,000 years earlier but its light had only just reached Earth.) True, Europe was in the Dark Ages, so we cannot expect that acute data-taking skills were common, but cosmic events that were “allowed” to happen were routinely recorded. For example, 12 years later, in 1066, what ultimately became known as Halley’s comet was seen and duly depicted—complete with agape onlookers—in a section of the famous Bayeux tapestry, circa 1100. An exception indeed. The Bible says the stars don’t change. Aristotle said the stars don’t change. The Church, with its unmatched authority, declares the stars don’t change. The population then falls victim to a collective delusion that was stronger than its members’ own powers of observation.

This is but one example of the many Doctor Tyson has researched and presents to the reader so they can understand how such behavior adversely affects us all. True, not recording Supernova 1054 because the Church forbade it did not have much of a direct impact on the lives of those living in Europe at the time. However, the mindset that allows for such suppression of information can be deadly. That mindset 400 years later directly caused millions of deaths from Bubonic plague. It was the same mindset that associated cats with witches, agents of the devil, and the spread of Bubonic plague, which was obviously the work of the devil. With no other substantiation other than that, the Church determined cats must be involved with the spread of Bubonic plague. Therefore the cats had to go. All over Europe priests encouraged their followers to eradicate the one creature that might have helped bring an end to the real plague spreaders: flees from rats. How many people died because of this unsubstantiated belief? According to medieval historian Philip Daileader up to 200 million people died in Europe. That's 50% of the population of the time. Germ theory was not formulated and tested for another 600 years, but had the cats not been slaughtered perhaps the rats would not have bred out of control spreading the Black Death throughout Europe like wildfire through a parched forest.

Doctor Tyson wants his reader to understand there is a better way to think about the universe: analytically, fact based, derived from verifiable observations. This book is a 384 page exploration of how that sort of thinking happens, and how we have all benefited from the fact it happens. But since no review would be complete without looking at the cons of a book, there is one thing that really, really annoyed me by the end of the book. Doctor Tyson seems to be in love with the word indeed. He uses it 49 times in the course of the book, including the paragraph quoted above. That's once every 7.8367346938775510204081632653061 pages. Please Doctor Tyson, broaden your adverbial horizons and mix it up a little. Indeed is a nicely succinct, if somewhat archaic, adverb. Indeed, there are no other single words in the English language that convey the same meaning. But there are alternative phrases. Here are some suggestions Google gives: "as expected," "to be sure," "in fact," "in point of fact," "as a matter of fact," "in truth," "actually," "as it happens," "if truth be told," and "admittedly". If I had to listen to that single word one more time, indeed, I think I would have gone mad! Nevertheless, I give Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson a solid B+ as a book, and a wholehearted A+ as an attempt to help us understand what he feels helps us as a species, and what holds us back. If you're a die-hard denier, skip this book. It'll just make you feel dumb. Otherwise, give it a read. What have you got to lose other than ignorance?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Arena Commander v0.9 - Yowzah!

Last Thursday night Roberts Space Industry (RSI) released Arena Commander v0.9.  Friday evening I was able to start the patch download. It was large, almost 20 GB. And to make matters take longer, the patch process seems to me far from optimized - as one would expect with a pre-beta title. It took me three hours to install the patch. Was it worth it? ZOMG! Yes! If this is what Star Citizen will be like, I am so glad I bought in now. Even if the game play is crap, the sheer beauty of it will entice me to log in. I guess my gaming demands are pretty low in that regard. However, I freely admit I'm a graphics slave. Give me beautiful pictures and I'm yours. :o

[caption id="attachment_3667" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]My MISC Lancer My MISC Lancer[/caption]

Above you see my MISC Freelancer sitting in the new Aeroview hanger. What a beauty! Too bad all I can do right now is look at it... and climb inside, and sit in the pilot's chair. I really, really want to get that baby into space, but that will have to wait into the full game releases sometime in the murky future (2016?) Until then I'll have to settle for polishing it's titanium plates, or whatever it's made of. The lovely ship view isn't the only thing in the hanger. I also have a very nice office.

[caption id="attachment_3668" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Aeroview Hanger Office Aeroview Hanger Office[/caption]

But fortunately RSI has made a ship available to me to fly in Arena Commander. It's a training Hornet, but it gets the job done. It is also a beautiful ship! (Oh, and these are actual graphics from Arena Commander, not Photoshopped PR releases.)

[caption id="attachment_3669" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Hornet on Patrol Hornet on Patrol[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3670" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]Hornet Guns Blazing Hornet Guns Blazing[/caption]

Actually I've been quite successful with it since the update.  The revamp of the flight engine has made it far "easier" for me to dog fight. I am currently mouse and keyboard only, and I found the initial release to be too responsive to MadCatz 7 mouse. Even with DPI dialed down to its lowest possible level, my ship was constantly over steering for lack of a better term. I could not stay on target bouncing my ship from left to right and top to bottom in a futile attempt to get it under control. My hand is just not that finely tuned. Now the damping is much, much better and any over steering is due to lack of pilot experience.

I played two hours Friday night and a couple more Saturday morning. Vanduul Swarm, the PvE fighter simulation in Arena Commander is quite addictive. An hour will easily go by as you engage wave after wave of the Vanduul swarm. I haven't even tried the new racing mode in Arena Commander. I've been too busy blowing up Vanduuls! :D However, there is a great video of the racing side of things done be Scott Manley over on his YouTube channel. And speaking of YouTube, you didn't think I'd not give you a dogfight video to watch did you? Haha, of course I did! But be warned, it takes over a minute for the module to load. Enjoy!


And for the record, I play all my sessions at 2560x1600 resolution. OBS kept crashing Arena Commander so I activated Fraps. For some reason Fraps was reset to 50% size on videos. Weird that, but not bothersome enough to have made another video. It does seem to lag more when video capture is running. That interferes with blowing up Vanduuls too much. ;-)


Friday, September 12, 2014

Video Killed Game-ezines; are Game Bloggers Next?

I've been mulling over something Nosey Gamer wrote in his post about gamergate being a tempest in a teapot. It's the comment that got me all fired up in the first place. The one about dismissing certain game-ezines unless they showed up on a Google search. Here's what he said,

"I think I need to say this about the games journalists in question. Not only have I never heard of these people before, but for the most part they write for gaming sites that I only visit if it comes up on a Google search. As for the quality of those sites, if I have a choice between any of those sites and PC Gamer, Eurogamer, or Massively, I don't use the sites that published the "Gamers Are Dead" articles. Sites like Gamasutra, Polygon, and Kotaku always seemed sketchy to me, so I'm glad to see my judgement vindicated"

The emphasis is mine. I highlighted that statement because it occurred to me I do the same thing, though not because I feel the game-ezines are "sketchy." I use Google Alerts and Flipboard as my main vectors for gaming news - and other blogs of course.

This realization led down one mental path and then another as these things often do. tl;dr - I know periodicals like newspapers have suffered a decline in readership because of the digital age. Why wait for a paper when you can get it now? Now it seems to me like there is a decline in game-ezines use as well. Why go look at the site when Google can feed you what you want? In fact, there are no game-ezines I regularly read now. Is this a problem?

To answer that question I went back to Google Trends. I put in the Internet domains of five game-ezines, and took a look at their trend lines since Google started collecting the data (or at least making it available.) Yes, there is a significant, and serious, decline in the trend lines.

[caption id="attachment_3649" align="aligncenter" width="815"]Game-ezine Decline Game-ezine Decline[/caption]

I tried dozens of game-ezine domains to find the best five. and were the two best curves of the lot, and they are in significant decline. had a bump about 2010, but all the others look flat line to me: an apt analogy I think.

So what caused this? It's not like the gaming industry isn't going great guns. It's growing steadily, and some might even say mightily (though not Massively ;-) .) Then it occurred to me there is something I take time to do day after day. There are some avenues of gaming related "news" I do routinely visit without prompting and of my own volition. It's called YouTube. Could YouTube be the cause of those negative trends?

It's not as easy as you might think to discover such a correlation. You can't trend YouTube. If you put in, you get everything, not just gaming related stuff. Not to mention the trend line breaks the graph. It's just not a good comparison. However, there is a gaming specific phrase used on YouTube that I thought might work. The phrase is "Let's Play." If you're a gamer, you should know precisely what sort of video that identifies. And as I was trying to figure out ways of restricting the scope to gaming videos only, I remembered something about Eurogamer I'd read some years back. It was an article discussing how they were moving away from written reviews and more into video reviews. And Eurogamer is a very unique word, unlike Massively which does not work at all because of massive overuse by everyone. XD So I took my top two game-ezine curves and added a trend for Eurogamer and "Let's Play."

[caption id="attachment_3648" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Game-vids Ascending Game-vids Ascending[/caption]

Holy trend-lines batman! I couldn't have paid for a better result. Just look at that would you. When I trended in the first graph, it was the most flat lined of the bunch. But when Eurogamer alone is used, there is a steady, sustained increase shown. Now, you could argue people in Europe who game are constantly called a Eurogamer by the press and everyone else. But I really haven't seen that as the case. And when you hover over those blue letters provided by Google Trends (they are significant results as determined by the algorithm,) they completely dismiss that red herring. On my graph, F, D, B and A are ALL Eurogamer YouTube gaming videos. In an Austin Powers international man of mystery voice, "Smoking gun baby, yeah!" And what about that "Let's Play" trend line? That is a tremendously good-looking inverse curve, and most of its letters are also YouTube videos. Here, explore it for yourself:'

But discovering all this only led to more questions, as research often does. The next question that spilled into my brain was, "What about" If video is supplanting the written review, wouldn't you expect to see a similar curve as "Let's Play" if the search term were Is that why Amazon paid nearly a billion dollars for the IP? Why yes, yes it is.

[caption id="attachment_3647" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Twitch Ascending Twitch Ascending[/caption] most certainly does seem to be a large contributing factor in the changing of the journalistic guard so to speak. YouTube is not the only video service causing those negative game-ezine trends in the first graph. From what I am seeing here, there appears to have been a paradigm shift somewhere in 2010, and gamers aren't looking back.

Then I got worried. Is this shift affecting game bloggers? Are we doomed as the preference for gaming reviews move from written to video? To answer this question I could not use Google Trends. If I try to trend individual blogs, there are not enough results for analysis. If I trend something generic like "Wordpress," there is a lot of noise in the line, and by noise I mean non-blogging things like business commentary and computer security related stuff. Oh, and the trend line totally dwarfs all the others, so no good comparison is possible. It certainly doesn't produce beautiful graphs like those above.

So I decided to take a different tack. I often go to Google Book's Ngram Viewer for other research. As Google has digitized millions upon millions of books, they can run statistical analysis on them - even the copyrighted ones. Ngram Viewer is a word frequency analysis. It tracks how often a particular word is used in literature over the course of time. It's a great way to see how significant a word is to a culture and when. Since the Internet is a recent thing, and blogging even more recent, I restricted my search dates from 2000 through 2008. My premise was this. If oral is overtaking written as the dominant form of Internet social consumption, we should see a marked difference in the usage of words related to both. More usage would indicate greater interest. A decline would indicate a drop in interest. My assumption here is usage has a direct correlation with interest and interest drives adoption. I don't think that's a bad assumption. For this purpose, is too new to use. It didn't exist prior to 2011. YouTube was the only video service of note prior to that.  It's the 500-pound gorilla after all. I added to the list other popular social media and words (mostly) associate with blogging. Here's what I discovered.

[caption id="attachment_3646" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Twitter,Facebook,YouTube,Tumbler,Wordpress,Blogger Ngram Viewer Twitter,Facebook,YouTube,Tumbler,Wordpress,Blogger Ngram Viewer[/caption]

Interest in written media is certainly not fading if word usage in literature is any indication, but it is also not growing significantly - except Twitter. That's a different case all together. The same, I think, can be said for Facebook. But YouTube is on fire so far as writers are concerned, and that seems to validate my assumption because of the known trend lines above. I find it ironic the written word frequency of the thing that's replacing the written word metaphorically sounds a sort of death knell. Don't you?

So it isn't all doom and gloom for bloggers, but it isn't good for game journalists who only write articles. Video is where it's at, and if your favorite game-ezine isn't jumping onto the YouTube wagon its days may be numbered. Keep that in mind as you ponder where your current blogging hobby may take you. Especially if you have professional aspirations. If writing is all you do, be certain to figure out what people really would rather just read about (hint, hint: controversy, research, anything unique) and what they would rather see for themselves. I'd recommend staying away from what they would rather see. It may be a dead-end thread.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


[caption id="attachment_3637" align="aligncenter" width="825"]Gamergate vs Inquisition vs Creed Gamergate vs Inquisition vs Creed[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3636" align="aligncenter" width="813"]Gamergate vs Inquisition vs Creed vs Destiny Gamergate vs Inquisition vs Creed vs Destiny[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3638" align="aligncenter" width="805"]Gamergate vs  Destiny vs MineCraft Gamergate vs Destiny vs MineCraft[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3634" align="aligncenter" width="806"]Gamergate vs PewDiePie vs SkyDoesMinecraft vs VanossGaming Gamergate vs PewDiePie vs SkyDoesMinecraft vs VanossGaming[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_3635" align="aligncenter" width="805"]Gamergate vs Ray Rice Gamergate vs Ray Rice[/caption]

Monday, September 8, 2014

In Memory of Blackbeard

[caption id="attachment_3596" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]In Memoriam In Memoriam[/caption]

Last week, I took a bit of a break from gaming. There comes a point where burnout is a real concern. I wasn't inspired to play, and so I didn't. About the only game I felt inspired to play was Plants vs. Zombies. I got six hours of that in, but nothing else. In fact, on Saturday I spent most of the day researching genealogy, rooting through old records and land plats, looking for clues as to what may have happened to one of my great-great grandmothers. She simply vanishes from the historical records around 1850 and her children scattered - but I digress. I did log into Landmark for a couple of hours in the middle afternoon, but my time was cut short when I got an overheat warning on my graphic card. That killed any nascent wanna that had begun to grow in me, so I went downstairs and made dinner (lightly pan-fried cod and saffron rice if you must know. ;) )

That all changed yesterday. There were many other things I could have done with my day yesterday, but don't wanna sums up my views on most possibilities. Ever have one of those days? So around 9 AM I sat down in front of my PC with a cup of coffee intent on testing if the latest Landmark build caused the overheat or if I had a more general cooling issue with my system. I need another graphically intense program, one not in beta, to test the system's cooling ability. So I fired up Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. If any game could cause an overheat I figured that one could.

And that was the last thing anyone saw of me for 10 hours. Okay, that's a bit of hyperbole, but other than to grab some quick leftovers and visit the head, all I did was sail the Caribbean looking for the Sage on Sunday; by way of taking some medicine at Charles' Town with Blackbeard to cure Nassau, and watching Blackbeard cut down on the deck of a Man-o-War, and discovering treachery in the pirate ranks, and escaping the trap they laid for us at Nassau, by following a fire-ship into the blockade, and exacting vengeance against the British for all of it, and taking out some fortresses, and hunting some great white sharks, and surviving a mutiny, and killing a fellow marooned pirate captain because he went crazy and tried to kill me, and sailing to Africa in to find the Sage... See, I was a little busy on Sunday. :P

So in memory of my fallen comrade Blackbeard, I present this montage in his name. It's a chronicle of Blackbeard the Devil, those who sailed with him, and those who paid for his betrayal. May he now rest in peace!

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3597,3598,3599,3600,3601,3602,3603,3604,3605,3606,3607,3608,3609,3610,3611,3612,3613,3614,3615,3616,3617,3618,3619"]

Friday, September 5, 2014

"I Don't Read 'x' Because of 'y'" Gets It Wrong

Nosy Gamer is a blogger I've followed since he began writing posts about EVE Online back when I was actively playing that game. He's had some seminal pieces, with his analysis of Real Money Trading being especially outstanding. He's rightly earned a reputation for doing his research, getting his facts straight and presenting, what we called at my alma mater, scholarly works.

So it was with a great deal of sadness I read his latest post Gamergate: Tempest in a Teapot. It's not that I disagree with everything he writes. I seldom do, and everyone is entitled their opinion. I know I spout mine around here often enough to be annoying. No, what disappoints me most in his post is the admission he ignores certain opinions because those sources don't conform to his ideal of what game journalism should be. And what's worse, he feels he is completely right to do so.

"Sites like Gamasutra, Polygon, and Kotaku always seemed sketchy to me, so I'm glad to see my judgement vindicated."

I suppose it's his right to do as he wishes. Gods know there are some political sites I will go out of my way to avoid. But that's not because I disagree with them, or even feel their research is lacking. It's because they are filled with hate and vitriol. So long as sites I disagree with avoid personalizing the debate, I read what they have to say. As a fully vested member of human society, I have an obligation to learn all sides to a story - not just the one with which I personally agree. I feel it is a civic duty to understand not only your reasoning, but also the opposition's reasoning.

That goes for any community I belong to, not just the political. There are always two sides to every story (often more,) and justice demands I understand all of them. Only from a position based on that sort of understanding, can I generate self-assurance my opinion is not off the proverbial deep end. I suppose this attitude came to me during my military service. If I was going to fight and kill another human being, I at least needed to understand why they were fighting and trying to kill me.

Some people would say to that last desire, "who cares?" The answer to that question is simple. I care. When I was a young man, I read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. There are many scenes in that book which haunt me to this day, but the one I think about most is the scene in no man's land, in the shell crater, after Paul Bäumer has stabbed the French soldier in a brief but horrific struggle. But that wasn't the most horrific thing that happened in that muddy hole. Bäumer had to watch the man die, slowly, painfully. To this day it's hard for me to remember that scene. In the end, Bäumer decides he must know who the man was, and takes out his wallet. Looking through the contents he learns that his fearsome enemy is no different from he, once full of hopes and dreams - now as dead has the man Bäumer killed. "I have killed the printer, Gérard Duval," means far more than the words "I have killed a man."

It's an object lesson in empathy. Because of it, and other more personal events, I strive not only to learn what other people think, but to also put myself in their position. I don't get Google Alerts because I only want to know what the majority have to say on a topic. I want to know what you, or her, or that guy writing the article think and feel about it. It is irrelevant to me if their opinion is the majority opinion or not. Though we are a society based on the rule of the majority, that in no way obligates us to ignore the minority, or to marginalize their struggles. When people do that, you end up with the Holocaust. Yes, that's an extreme example. Nevertheless, majority promulgated abuses are going on at this very moment in places like Ferguson, Missouri. Do you think they can't be preludes to worse?

It's so easy to perpetrate these tragedies. All we have to do is dismiss other people's "scandals" as unrepresentative and unimportant.

Now, I am not trying to put GamerGate on a pedestal beside the Holocaust, or Ferguson. Don't be absurd. There are orders of magnitude difference. What I am trying to do is draw your attention to a larger issue. It's an issue that's seeped into the fabric of our communities, real life or virtual, and most people are not even aware of the rot it causes to that fabric.

I want to share with you a non-gaming article I read this week. To me it clearly shows the issue we face, and by we I mean readers and writers alike. The article is titled Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk, by Tom A. Peter. Read the whole thing, you will not regret the five minutes it takes. But I want to highlight the conclusion (that means the emphasis is mine BTW) as evidence of what I've been trying to convey.

"Covering wars for a polarized nation has destroyed the civic mission I once found in journalism. Why risk it all to get the facts for people who increasingly seem only to seek out the information they want and brand the stories and facts that don’t conform to their opinions as biased or inaccurate?"

This question has been on my mind since I read it. It concerns me - deeply. It's a rot I've long noticed and in my own, small, personal way have resisted. But it isn't enough to keep it a personal resolution. The solution is not in keeping it to myself, though I've encountered internal resistance coming to that conclusion.

You see, I've tried to convince myself this problem is not as wide-spread as I fear; that it is only a political thing. But then I see evidence it's managed to leech down into somewhat trivial areas, like the gaming community. Your first reaction to that sentence was probably, "So what?" That seems to be a catchy phrase these days. But I'm afraid you're looking at it backwards if that's your initial reaction. You've got it wrong if you think it does not matter people now cultivate their own bias, even in areas that have no real impact on society as a whole. It does matter, because it indicates that such bias cultivation has become second nature. We allow ourselves to do it in all things, even the inconsequential, and that's unsettling.

Are we so insecure in our beliefs that we can't entertain the thought we might be wrong? Is our continued existence so precarious that we dare not stray off the knife's edge certainty we are right and they are wrong? Are we so afraid of spilled tea we won't risk a little tempest? Because I can guarantee you every journalist who wrote a "gamers are dead" article feels they have just as valid a point as you do. You owe it yourself to not dismiss it. No, strike that. You don't owe it to yourself. You owe to all those who will come after you to live in the world created by your actions. Actions promulgated by your cultivated bias.

No. "Gamers are dead" articles do not trumpet the end of human society as we know it. Please revisit the warning above against being absurd. It is however a symptom of a larger malaise. If you are unwilling to exercise due regard for the unimportant things, what makes you think you'll be able to do it for the important ones? If I learned one thing from my 13 years of military service, it's that you train exactly how you're going to fight. Why? Because when the bullets fly, you don't have time to think about it. You must have already cemented the habits that allow you to do your job and survive. And it's not just your life on the line. Every soldier with you depends on you to get it right. It's also their lives you risk, just as you depend on them getting it right too.

So in all things I strive to train as I would fight. When it comes to opinions, I read them all. I don't discriminate based on the originator's previous behavior (well, I strive not to, but I AM only human,) and I do my best to empathize with every person even though I might have strong opinions of my own. I don't want to stab a man in ignorance, literally or virtually, because he matters. I will not deny his humanity though I deny him his life (or livelihood if you disdain metaphorical hyperbole.) Understand this if nothing else: we live in a world of gray, where absolutes are the last bastions of denial, and denial is the last defense of intellectual torpidity.

Nosey, you're better than that. You may not like how some people choose to react to a particular issue, but that does not mean it isn't a serious issue. Or their concerns don't matter. Even if the issue only affects a minority of gamers. Go read This is not a GamerGate post by Jessica Cook at Herding Cats and tell me her FEAR about even mentioning an opinion does not matter. I am certain only a minority of gamers feel the way she does, and everyone last one of them is female, but gods dammit they shouldn't have to. If you're dismissing it all because you are offended by the statement "gamers are dead," then you are doing them a grave injustice. You have the rot my friend. Fight it. And that goes for the rest of you male gamers who have the audacity to turn other's fears and oppression into some conjured insult so you can sleep better at night. And here I thought this wasn't going to be a GamerGate post either. Peace out.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Twitch, Amazon, eSports and the End of a Good Thing

"But at the last, as every thing hath end," - Troilus and Criseyde, Book III, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The line above has in modern times morphed into the proverb, "All good things must come to an end." In this case, the "good thing" is the premise anyone can download Open Source Broadcast, put on a headset, and make bank live streaming themselves playing a game. We've come to the beginning of the end of that era.

It isn't the end of Twitch to be certain. I believe Twitch just might become the 20th Century Fox of the 21st century. But it is the end of independent streaming as we know it today. Gone are the laissez-faire days of everyone getting equal treatment according to how many viewers they have. With Twitch restricting the amount of time archives remain available, the systematic scanning for copyright violations, and the foray into live music, it becomes more clear what the true aspirations of the company are. And if you are an independent streamer, you are not part of the equation.

Twitch may have a marketing plan claiming it wants "to connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play," but that isn't what pays the bills. If you believe for one second Twitch is more concerned about your seldom watched stream than about Riot Games using Twitch to host their League of Legends tournaments, you have a severely disproportionate sense of self-importance. Twitch is far more concerned with meeting the needs of eSport companies than you.

This is a realization to which the eSport companies have already come. In an interview with Polygon, ESL managing director Ralf Reichert 1 said,

"As eSports continues to grow out of its niche, many of the 'underdog' advantages will begin to disappear too. Many fans recognize the archaic legal requirements which are a pain for many industries but the discussion of whether they should be changed, and whether they should be abided by are not really related. There is nothing Twitch can do about that right now, and the requirements do in fact protect users from potential legal ramifications."

If you are an independent streamer, do you feel insulted? You should. He just called you an underdog losing its advantage. And to my way of thinking, he implies it was an unfair advantage at that. "Unfair to what," you ask? That's easy. It was unfair to eSports and companies like his Turtle Entertainment that you could break laws with impunity he didn't dare flaunt. It gave you an advantage over him, whether you thought so or not. And whether you consider yourself such or not, Reichert considers you competition. He will do everything he can to balance the playing field according to his own vision of fairness. That vision involves making you comply with every law with which his company must contend. And guess what else? Once he has you towing the copyright line, he can use his deeper pockets to license material you once broadcast illegally. If you had a successful stream because of this "underdog advantage," he may even swipe your model. Then the tables are really turned. I am certain his ultimate goal is to marginalize your stream, and if possible drive you out of business. That's how capitalism works. Are you ready to play that game?

With Amazon entering the game, your chances of maintaining Twitch as a service you can count on is far less. Amazon is not an ISP. You are not their customer. In fact, no one who has ever bought anything from Amazon is Amazon's customer. Amazon's customers are all the other vendors and service providers who use Amazon's network to sell product. Amazon is an infrastructure provider. That's what Amazon really sells, and they take commission as recompense. Now that Twitch has become one with Amazon, regardless of their protestations to the contrary, that is what Twitch will become: an infrastructure provider taking commission from those with something to sell. What have you got to sell? What have you got to sell after Reichert strips you of all your "underdog advantages?" At that point, I guarantee Reichert will have something more valuable to sell than you. You're done.

Did you think it could be any other way? Did you actually believe Twitch was some sort of gamer revolution based on the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité? Don't be naive. That motto originally ended in "ou la Mort." Guess which half of the motto you're going to get.

So now that you're good and mad, go back to the first paragraph and re-read who I've address this to. The end is only coming for those who think they'll make bank on live streaming. The end is not in sight for those who are streaming just for the fun of streaming. If you have no desire other than to have a hobby, you'll be just fine. Fair use applies to you. And don't fret the changes Reichert is championing. No one considers you competition if you're just in it for fun. You're not in anyone's economic crosshairs.

But to those who think they'll be able to quit their day jobs to stream for profit, I hope you've not given notice yet. You're going to need that job. Oh sure, there will no doubt be exceptions to the rule. There always are. Just look at YouTube. There are quite a few successful independents on YouTube. But they are a very small percentage of all the people with channels. You may as well play the lottery with odds like that. And YouTube viewers are such a fickle crowd. How long do you think you'll be on top if you do succeed? Only so long as you can come up with something more entertaining than the next gamer. Even PewDiePie gets tiresome after a while.

All this said, don't give up on your dream of gaming as an income opportunity if that's what you really want to do. Just don't waste your time with streaming as a money earner. If you want to make money, practice, practice, practice that game you love so much. Make certain it's a MOBA or a game like Hearthstone. If you're good enough, you can get onto a team. Gaming skill, not gimmicks, is the key to success. You might not become the best player in the world, but you might be able to earn a living doing what you love. And if you are really good, you can hold companies like Reichert's to task. After all, it's the gamer that matters most in gaming. Without gamers, companies like Reichert's have nothing to broadcast. Think about it.


  1. I am using Ralf Reichert's comment to make a point and do not want to imply he is personally anything other than a cool dude. But he did make this statement, and I believe there is more than enough room to interpret what he said as I have done. But please don't think Ralf has it in for you personally. He doesn't. He's an entrepreneur with a dream. If you stream, I think you understand that sort of passion. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Overcoming Evolution by Being the Alpha Male

Doone Woodtac once again writes a smashing article over on XP Chronicles titled Sexism: The Male Experience. The article no doubt came about because last week was a tough week in combating sexism within the online gaming community. Even my significant other, who doesn't play online games at all, noticed it when her news feed came up with the Chris Plante opinion piece on Polygon titled An Awful Week to Care About Video Games. She found everything that happened very shocking, as she should. But it was old news to me. I play EVE Online after all. And I am fully aware of the amount of hate leveled against Anita Sarkeesian. I have an immense amount of respect for her because she continues to pursue her goal of bringing misogyny within the gaming community to light even though she receives death threats and worse.

Here struggle reminds me of another time, one I am just barely old enough to remember: the civil rights movement. Anita Sarkeesian reminds me of Fannie Lou Hamer, whose epitaph sums up Anita's drive to call out misogyny in online gaming very well I think. "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired," is what Fannie's tombstone reads. Anita works as hard to fight the misogynists within the online gaming community as Fannie fought against the bigots who controlled the U.S. south during the 1950s and 1960s - and as Ferguson reminds us continue to harass and intimidate African-Americans to hold on to the power that has slowly been slipping from their grip as the decades pass.

I see the same reactions within the ranks of the video game misogynisto, as Fannie and the her compatriots got from the bigots of the 1960s south, and the people of Ferguson have gotten today.

I have long wondered how people could harbor such vile and reprehensible attitudes about equality. It's perplexing. In an age of plenty unparalleled in human history, why do people still feel they have to keep down others, whether they are a different color or different gender? In the end, I've come to the conclusion evolution is the reason.

Now hear me out, because this is not an attempt to say bigotry and misogyny is acceptable. Bigotry and misogyny are NOT acceptable. However, I have a scientific mind, and I like to understand why a thing is even if I don't like the thing. So for years I've wondered why such vile behavior exists in our species. Why it's the males who are most likely to perpetrate it. And, what can be done about it.

I've come to the conclusion that it's all wrapped up in evolutionary mechanisms which ensure small group survival. Let's do a thought exercise. Let's imagine we live 100,000 years ago on the savannas of eastern Africa. What does our survival, both immediate and long-term, depend on most? I submit survival then depended on two competing mental qualities: intelligence and decisiveness. Intelligence is perhaps the quality easier to understand, and I'm not really going to address it here. Let's just say it helps remember where the water is, were the best food sources are and how to make tools.

Decisiveness is the attribute on which I want to concentrate. In that world 100,000 years ago, most animals possessed more raw strength than any human could ever hope to possess. Survival wasn't about raw strength. It also wasn't about having the best tools. The physically strongest male with the best spear died under the fangs of a leopard just about as fast as the frail female with no spear. Seconds don't matter. We like to think we'd have a chance of fighting off a leopard with a spear, but that's just wishful thinking. Leopards are ambush predators and the first time you know they are there is when they are on you. By then it's too late for anyone, spear or not. The only way to avoid death by leopard is to avoid the leopard all together. It's intelligence that allows you to avoid the places most likely to conceal leopards, not raw strength... and not decisiveness either.

But what if everyone was dying of thirst, and the only source of water was half a day's walk straight through leopard country? What if going around was a three-day journey, and you understood that everyone would die of thirst in the time it would take to avoid the leopards? What do you do? An intelligent but indecisive person would wail and cry and die of thirst without walking in any direction. A decisive person decides to do one thing or the other. And that's where this attribute of decisiveness meets natural selection.

If the decision is to go around, everyone dies of thirst. Perhaps there is disagreement within the group though, and some go around and others go through the leopards. Those that go around all die of thirst. Those who try to sneak through leopard country might actually make it, and if they do the genes responsible for the decision process that lead to them to making the choice to confront rather than evade gets passed on. But the chance of a partial small group making it is far less than the whole small group making it. More people mean more eyes, and a better chance of spotting a leopard before it's in position to attack. More people also mean more targets, and the concept of herd should be well understood by all.

This is where levels of decisiveness come into play. If someone can convince the entire small group to trek through the leopards, they are a born leader and everyone survives except Fred, and no one really liked him anyway. The tribe is grateful, and they shower the leader with praise, and gifts, and perhaps even their bodies, because we all know how that biology works. (If you don't, sorry, I don't have the time to go into it. So just accept my premise because there have been conclusive studies on the phenomena.) But what if some people in the group are stubborn and insist on going around. They too have a leader who has convinced them THAT is the best thing to do. What then?

Well, we already know what happens if the group breaks up. The chances of anyone surviving go down considerably. Now comes the time for uber-decisiveness. Convinced he is right, one leader attacks the other and forces him to back down. Everyone else takes that as a sign the victor is right, and they follow him. If the one who wins was the one advocating they avoid the leopards, everyone dies of thirst. There ends the genes for that small group. However, if the one who wins then takes the group through leopard country, everyone survives except Fred. We have a word for that sort of leadership. We call it bullying. And though most of society dislikes it because we have learned cooperation is a better attribute for building human societies, there is a reason bullying exists - at least there was 100,000 years ago before human society existed. Today... not so much.

The same can be said for bigots and misogynists. Yes, we can hypothesize why such behaviors exists. We can theorize how the survival of our species might have depended on such behavior tens of thousands of years ago. But today society's survival depends on cooperation, not confrontation. There are many issues threatening the future of humanity, from asteroid impacts to lack of fresh water to global warming. Our survival of these very real threats will not be assured by one individual forcing his will on the group. These aren't leopards we're dealing with, they're extinction level events. Allowing the old survival traits to dominate will lessen our chances of survival, not increase them. We have to grow beyond the primitive parts of our heritage, or they will doom us. But there is hope.

In this current misogynistic tantrum I see a twisted irony. There is a stereotype promulgated among non-gamers: men who play video games all live in their mother's basements and have no social skills. I'll posit this stereotype is not unwarranted. It is most often noticed when it spews misogynistic vitriol across the Internet. Here's the irony. It's now a negative selection factor in our evolution. In the long run, misogynists have little chance of passing on their gene lines - at least not in western society. The vast majority of women in our society won't have a damn thing to do with a misogynist after learning the truth about their character. And you can't hide something like that forever, it's buried too deeply in the genes - or is that jeans. :P

The evolutionary tide has turned against such behavior IMO, but it won't go down without a fight. Never forget that the first thing a new alpha male lion does is kill all the cubs sired by the old alpha male. Among predators especially, there is a strong drive to destroy the competition, present and future, to increase the chances of outright dominance. This does not mean murder. That would be over reacting. But the misogynists, that special brand of bigot who hates strong women, will attempt to drive off the majority of males who defend women's rights. Just look at the Twitter threads from Chris Plante's Polygon article for the proof. DO NOT LET THEM DRIVE YOU OFF. Stand your ground. You are right. They are wrong. Act like it; be the alpha male. That is how you overcome tens of thousands of years of evolution. And guys, the women will love for it. ;-) But seriously, it's the right thing to do. So do it.