Friday, February 29, 2008

Portal wins 2008 GDCA

Gamasutra reports on Portal taking the top prize.".

"Valve's genre-blending first person shooter/puzzler, Portal, was the recipient of three honors including Game of the Year at the 8th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, presented at a ceremony this evening at CMP's 2008 Game Developers Conference (GDC)."

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17540

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More teenagers ignoring CDs, report says - Los Angeles Times

More teenagers ignoring CDs, report says - Los Angeles Times

"For the first time last year, nearly half of all teenagers bought no compact discs, a dramatic increase from 2006, when 38% of teens shunned such purchases, according to a new report released Tuesday."

***

I think we all know that digital delivery of digital media is the future for all things- movies, games, songs. This will probably be an improvement for the environment as we no longer deal with the plastics and packaging issue.

Still, there was something social about going to a record store with your friends and flipping through CD's occasionally finding an eye catching album cover that just screamed are you crazy enough to buy me?

I think we all know, "I download alone".

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Comcastic? No wonder I lag while playing BF2142

Comcast plays dirty - News - The Phoenix

Maybe EA/Dice is not entirely to blame for the problems that have been attributed to BF2142. Maybe I'm just the victim of a "reasonably managed network". There are so many people trying to ruin my simple gaming experience. Sigh....

Here's the best part of the article:

"Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas admits that "just like what happens at a lot of hearings in Washington," there were people paid to stand in line "to hold seats for a couple of the people we knew would be coming" with Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen. But "everyone knows that this was well-advertised and open to the public. . . . I don't know who might have been sleeping, but we told our employees about the hearing because obviously they have a strong interest in what was discussed there."

So did I. But I was left with little choice but to head home and — thanks to my Comcast high-speed Internet connection — listen to the hearing via streaming Webcast. I got to my apartment just in time to hear Marvin Ammori, general counsel for media reform group Free Press, charge that Comcast was "deliberately targeting and interfering with legal peer-to-peer technology" by blocking BitTorrent software on its network."

Obama, Clinton, Dems – Show Leadership

Obama, Clinton, Dems – Show Leadership, Make Change Happen, End the War Now. Next year, or more likely 2010, will be too late for the thousands more who will die or be maimed in Iraq - CommonDreams.org

Kevin Martin writes:

"I must confess a dirty little secret - I don’t care what presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say they will do to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq if they become president next year. Thousands more Iraqis and hundreds more U.S. troops will be dead by then, and for what? I want to know what Senators Clinton and Obama are willing to do to end the war this year. Surely I’m not alone in this desire, am I?"

Overview of problems confronting online MMOFPS

Gamestudies - Tragedies of the ludic commons - understanding cooperation in multiplayer games

I have added headers, but anything in quotations come from the article.

Problem #1- The even battlefield

Cheating

“It may seem weird that a significant portion of the player base is willing to do anything to win, but that’s the reality of the situation” (Mulligan and Patrovsky 2003). When such activities take place outside the original game rules or outside the generally accepted implicit rules of a game, it would fall under most dictionary definitions of cheating.”

“When a code-savvy player modifies a client application against the explicit rules of an end-user-licence-agreement or other document his behaviour is somewhat comparable to a chess player moving his pieces into a more favourable position while the opponent is distracted.”

Exploitation

“An exploit then is an activity aimed at intentionally achieving an advantage afforded but not intended by the game design. Notably, though, the player is working within the framework of the game code and arguably cannot always determine if a certain phenomenon is intended or not.”

Consequence

“Thus, the collective good in question is the even battlefield and the social dilemma builds on the temptation to cheat. We should note however, that cheating is often not a “pure” social dilemma, since the case where “everybody does it” might just lead to an alternative game (i.e. one that is still even). Often though, it will destroy much of the game’s appeal, particularly if the game relies on carefully balanced units and game terrains such as many real-time-strategy games.”

Problem #2- Deviancy

“Deviant behaviour in multi-player games is often referred to as “grief play” (Foo and Koivisto 2004; Foo 2004). Definitions vary, but usually grief play refers to behaviour which is intentionally harmful to others without resulting in direct personal gain for the “griefer” or which seriously (and with intent) violates an implicit community rule.”

Predatory behavior

“Thus, killing an armed player character in combat is not usually considered grief play (since the killer is working within the game to maximize his score) whereas the case of a high-level warrior preying on inexperienced newbies would qualify (as this usually does not increase the high-level character’s score).”

Kill Stealing

“An example of an implicit rule violation is the phenomenon known as kill-stealing. Here, a player will make others expose themselves to danger and hardship by taking on a monster (for instance) and then - just before the monster perishes - jump into the fray and “steal the kill” by dealing the final blow thus getting experience points or other rewards.”

Teamkilling

“Many shooters, for instance, have been plagued by team killers, players who do not play the “official” game but rather see it as their goal to eliminate their team mates. For players looking for a competitive game based on skill, such behaviour is clearly destructive.”

Noncooperative Play

“Grief play can be seen as non-cooperative behaviour. The collective good in question is the enjoyable game environment and the social dilemma rests on the temptation to not spend the effort needed to maintain the value of the game. Again we see that if all caved in to the temptation the collective resource would not necessarily be destroyed. There would be no kills to steal however, and if all chose to be team-killers a Counter-Strike battle might have all the attraction of a soccer match were players did their best to place the ball in their own goal and did not care for the score assigned by the official game rules (which could be entertaining but which tellingly hasn’t emerged as a popular pastime).”

Problem #3: Irresponsible Participation

Can not see the game through

“If you choose to participate knowing that in case the game drags on you will be forced to quit at a certain point you’re arguably exposing allies and opponents to an unpleasant experience. Particularly if a game is evenly matched (and thus interesting) one player quitting will tip the balance rendering the game more or less inconsequential.”

Resigning is okay, but you’re a coward

“In an important sense there is nothing immoral about resigning. It corresponds to knocking over your king in chess. The winner of the Age of Kings battle, however, is likely to consider it a cowardly move tied to your desire to control the game (if you can’t have it exactly your way, you’re not even going to play anymore).”

Summary

“In both cases you are not cooperating to make the game entertaining and pleasant for all involved. The temptation here is towards personal gratification or mere selfishness, which runs counter to the interest of the other players. The collective good is again an enjoyable gaming environment and here it is clear that if all chose to ignore the norms for responsible participation the value of the game would be greatly diminished.”

*** My comments

These were the list of problems. At first, I wonder if this is the correct framework. There has always been the counter argument that the "good" player will not be tempted by dark circumstances and does not require policing. I also disagree with the negative characterization of the "free-rider". Based on the problems I have seen in the online world, only a sucker would pay. That is to say, some people argue that protection money should be given to companies or organizations- nevertheless, I have yet to see any real protection in those environments coming from these companies and organizations.

It seems that online play has reduced our capacity to act with confidence that people can cooperate towards a long term goal. Finally, I would only note that the tragedy of the commons is a misnomer. Why isn't it the tragedy of the individual? The problem with the frame is that it assumes there is something wrong with the commons- the lake that has the fish- rather than the individuals who fish that lake.

Overview of solutions

Gamestudies - Tragedies of the ludic commons - understanding cooperation in multiplayer games

Again, I have added the headers, and put the authors texts in quotes, but added a few comments which are denoted by the *** breaks.

Possible solutions

Police State

“The state (or government) solution has been advocated by those convinced that a powerful neutral party was a requirement for constructive social relations (e.g. Hobbes 1997 org. pub. 1651). This neutral party, the state, would eliminate the temptation to exploit the contributions of others by means of surveillance and punishment.”

The Plague

“In a capitalist system, even the selfish contribute to the general wellbeing since, as the famous example goes, the baker (wanting nothing but your money) will produce bread the purchase of which will serve your own interests.”

Democracy

“Political scientist Elinor Ostrom notes how many observers describing collective action problems wish “to invoke an image of helpless individuals caught in an inexorable process of destroying their own resources” thus ignoring the possibility of “an adequately specified theory of collective action whereby a group of principals can organize themselves voluntarily to retain the residuals of their own efforts” (Ostrom 1990). In other words, under certain conditions, people are able to govern themselves.”

“Ostrom and others have identified a number of criteria that are usually fulfilled in communities able to arrive at durable solutions. Of these a certain degree of permanence, the possibilities of monitoring the actions of other community members and the prospect of future interaction stand out as essential.”

AS APPLIED TO ONLINE GAMING

“Let us begin, however, with those solutions which correspond roughly to the government approach. Here, we are looking for instances where autonomy is surrendered to a neutral, powerful third party. Most clearly this manifests itself in the phenomenon known as PunkBuster. PunkBuster is a third-party application which is installed on the client machine. It here makes a series of checks against its database which lists symptoms of cheating and “clean” players are then able to play each other.”

***My comments
The problem with this is that those of us who have been exposed to Punkbuster know that its protections can be bypassed. In this situation, the honest player will still find themselves in the worst case scenario. That is the honest player receives nothing of benefit from the Punkbuster but increases in lag as the cheater simply bypasses the protection. This is not a solution.
***

Beyond Punkbuster

“Another perspective would stress how installing the application is a way of limiting the population of potential co-players, analogous to a company limiting its customers to those who hold a special credit card which is hard to get and highly secure. The number of transactions is bound to decrease while the quality of the remaining will be high.”

***My comments
This appears to have been the “ranked server” approach. Again, experience indicates that cheating is as high, if not higher, on ranked servers where it matters. That is on ranked servers, which presumably have to adhere to a higher standard of conduct, we see little policing and only on RANKED servers do points actually count. That is why there are ranked K&P servers. An unranked K&P server is not a rules violation, but neither is it probably heavily trafficked. Thus the ranked system actually concentrated the problem, but ineffective server enforcement lead to a systems failure.
***

Better design

“Another solution, this one available to game designers, is simply to not allow whichever concrete action types are undesired.”

Limitations

“This solution type has two caveats however. Firstly, it only works against types of behaviour which can be targeted algorithmically in a meaningful way. Since physically attacking another player in a MMORPG, is typically an attack/not-attack dichotomy it is easily blocked. Offensive language, on the other hand, can only be filtered crudely since the offensiveness of any statement is largely a matter of interpretation. Secondly, the crudeness of such limitations may impact on the game’s attraction. Certain players (indeed all players) may enjoy a certain level of PvP while not enjoying an ultra-violent newbie-threatening environment. Thus, completely stripping away PvP, while clearly stopping player-killing may also decrease the potential for enjoyable drama.”

Positive incentives

“Such features are part of a larger set of solutions which take the form of game-play mechanics or features of the game which render constructive behaviour profitable. One standard approach, used almost ritually in MMORPGs, is non-zero-sum cross-character class cooperation. Whereas a single warrior can fight monsters single-handedly and while a group of warriors can fight even larger monsters together, groups consisting of a variety of character classes are usually far more efficient in battle than the mere number of players in the group would indicate (Koivisto 2003). This clearly inspires (XP-conscious) players to group and cooperate in certain ways.”

***My comments
Could be applied to Battlefield 2142 if rankings were dependant only on team score help. Currently, you are rewarded for behavior which emphasizes individual achievement over teamwork (the Engineer repair badge gold is the stand-out example). The game requires thoughtful players to balance their own advancement with achieving team objectives. As you get more unlocks, you are more powerful to your team so you should improve your own condition. The problem occurs when you focus so exclusively on obtaining the badge to advance that you are no longer engaged in teamplay.
***

The GrapeVine

“Finally, players themselves have repeatedly introduced techniques or institutions which serve to control or diminish undesired player behaviour. One such technique, facilitated by in-game communication features or sometimes by external systems, relies on gossip. Players, through whatever media available to them, will talk about each other, particularly in cases of great emotional engagement. If, for instance, one player is a true nuisance within a strategy game - or if someone cons another MMORPG player out of precious belongings - the victims may (and often do) go out of their way to take revenge by badmouthing the transgressor on public or group chat channels. Such gossip aiming at social ostracism is sometimes formalized, as individuals or groups publicise (or share) lists of evil-doers on websites, mailing lists etc.”

Clans

“Whatever the complex set of reasons for the existence of clans, they serve functions important to the solution (or at least alleviation) of social dilemmas. Firstly, they are comparable to PunkBuster in the way that they divide the population of gamers into those who a player can trust (members of the same clan) and those he or she may not want to trust (non-members). Secondly, in the case of clans that are generally well-known or clans that have frequent dealings with another group, a clan may serve the function of institutionally verifying the trustworthiness of its members. Clan-membership is both a commitment (the member, by presumably caring about his membership, is encouraged to live up to its standards) and a signal that a larger institution vouches for him or her.”

Limitations

“Of course, the effect of a player’s clan membership on others depends entirely on the how these others perceive the clan. If it is obscure, brand new or has a tarnished reputation, flagging one’s membership is not likely to have a beneficial effect.”


***My comments
Two thoughts come to mind here. One is that clans seem to come and go. That is to say all it takes is a website. The second thing is that there is no repository for understanding what is a good clan and what is a bad clan. I once played with a clan which I could not adequately research. After a few sessions, it became clear that they were not on the level and I severed ties to the clan. You must investigate clans before joining them and the tools for such investigation are not readily apparent. More to the point, personality defects will not be apparent until you actually play with them. In any event, a clan may be no more than a den of thieves or an evil conspiracy. This still does not provide a solution for “good players”. The only thing a good player requires is other good players.
***

Rating system

“Solutions of the Slashdot or eBay type described above have not been attempted on a large scale although they would be particularly effective towards some types of grief play (mostly team-killing and similar offences) and irresponsible play. If team-killing in a team-based shooter or quitting an RTS battle early meant that other players would most likely describe their experience with a player on his profile that player might think twice before upsetting the others.”

Local control

“Structural solutions generally work by changing the payoff of behaviour types, particularly by diminishing the temptation to act destructively. But this might also be handled more dynamically and on more local scales. Consider this: Different players have different preferences and playing styles and may have different levels of risk-aversion. Some might be willing to invest in broadband, disconnect the phone and cancel all appointments while others might be interested in slightly more casual gaming. The players themselves might be allowed to configure the sanctions imposed against certain behaviour types. How much, for instance, should it cost to disconnect from an RTS game? This might be determined by the players before launching the game and individuals can seek out games according to their preferences. The group would then have influence on the rules and the severity of sanctions tailored to local needs and preferences. Both features have been identified as important to well-functioning real-life communities (Ostrom 1990).

*** My Conclusion

Find a well run server with other "good" players. NSS.

***

Monday, February 25, 2008

The "Velvet-Strike" underground - Salon.com

The "Velvet-Strike" underground - Salon.com

I was reviewing an article detailing the problem of the commons over at Gamestudies.org when I came across a footnote which led to the Velvet-Strikers.

""Velvet-Strikers" rely on the game to make their point. They leverage the existing design and popularity of the game to assist them in bringing their anti-militarism agenda into the game itself."

Let me just say that I find their approach novel but their target fundamentally misguided. The "fantasy militarism" is not the problem the "real militarism" is. We are not chimpanzees. It is not "monkey-see" "monkey do". We think. People understand the difference between video games and real violence. One is worth protesting, the other is not.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oh, the fun Wii'll have! Speilberg is a Gamer too.

Making games with Steven Spielberg

"Spielberg got involved with EA because, says Castle, he is a gamer.

"He is a very big game player - not a lot of people know that. He loves playing games."

EA goes shopping

Electronic Arts Inc. offered to buy Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. for $2 billion in cash to help maintain its lead as the world's largest video-game maker and acquire the top-selling ``Grand Theft Auto'' series.

Here's the most interesting part:

"Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter in Los Angeles said Electronic Arts was ``somewhat foolish'' for offering $26 a share. He rates the company a ``strong buy.''

``The price is more than fair,'' said Pachter, who had a ``sell'' rating on Take-Two shares prior to announcement of the offer. ``EA is really stretching the limits of the value they can get out of the deal. I'm quite confused why Take-Two would reject it. I don't see anybody else stepping up.''"

Let us eat cake and have a party GLaDOS!

In Ohio, Promises Of Change Ring Hollow, Washington Post: Candidates Face A Scarred Economic Landscape In A State With Thousands Of Jobs Lost-CBS

People to candidates: talk of cake and a party is not enough. People believe politicians have opportunities to deliver more and promise less. Here's what the article says:

"They identify with the situation, but they don't do anything about it," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, (D-Ohio), whose district includes Toledo. "They are descriptive, not prescriptive. We want more detail and we want it now."

This is the dilemma facing the Democratic candidates as they campaign in Ohio's scarred economic landscape. The problems confronting places like Toledo are so deep and complex that there may not be answers that are both viable and popular."

* * *

I like the way a politician talks about the "they"...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

So how are you in bed?

Wedding Woes: The Dark Side of Warcraft - Video Game Feature - Yahoo! Video Games

According to the article:

"Even though she's never played the game, 28 year-old Jocelyn is one of the fallen. A well-spoken California resident, she divorced her husband of six years after he developed a crippling addiction to the smash online RPG."

Yeah, ummm, maybe work on the sex thing a bit.

Lohan's 'Killed Me' sets worst-film record - CNN.com

Lohan's 'Killed Me' sets worst-film record - CNN.com

"SANTA MONICA, California (CNN) -- Lindsay Lohan received an exclamation point on her terrible 2007 at the 28th annual Golden Raspberry Awards on Saturday morning, with her film "I Know Who Killed Me" earning a record eight Razzies -- including three for Lohan herself."

Gaming - News - EA: Games degrees 'failing students' - Digital Spy

Gaming - News - EA: Games degrees 'failing students' - Digital Spy

"Jeffery went on to add that EA prefers students to have traditional degrees rather than those that are games-related: "Our recommendation at EA is that we prefer people to have traditional degrees, so somebody studying computer science, maths or physics and then coming into a programming role, means that they can then go off into a number of different industries and be successful."

The Cut Scene - Video Game Blog by Variety: EA Blueprint: creating new properties in multiple media at low cost

The Cut Scene - Video Game Blog by Variety: EA Blueprint: creating new properties in multiple media at low cost

Takahashi: EA boss puts his trust in firm's employees - San Jose Mercury News

Takahashi: EA boss puts his trust in firm's employees - San Jose Mercury News

New EA guy taking huge risk, here's the story:

"That is one reason Riccitiello can predict that in three years, EA's revenue could nearly double, to $6 billion. Riccitiello's strategy even got some positive nods from Wall Street analysts.

We'll see how it pays off. But I admire the guts it takes to do something like that. Imagine, defying Wall Street. Focusing on quality. Trusting your people to make a great game. Giving them more time to work on it even though it might wreck your fiscal year. It reminds me that in moments like this, when the pressure is great, the CEO's job is to stay the course and shield his or her employees from the gathering storm."

Back to the present.

Rumor: Battlefield 3 Details Leaked- 1up.com

According to 1up.com:

“The file apparently says Battlefield 3, which will again have a near-future setting similar to Battlefield 2, is planned for release some time in late 2008.
Among the leaked features are some impressively large numbers: 56 total weapons, 48 total vehicles, and most stupefying of all, 40 vs. 40 battles. With teams that big, it's no wonder they're also reportedly adding a new tier to the squad mechanics introduced in Battlefield 2. Squads and the commander role return, but now three or four squads will form a battalion.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yes Wii Can!

GamePolitics.com is grilling Barack Obama on his stance on video games.

Anyone else wondering if a war or something important is going on? I guess we are at the tragic point in history where the issue of when to turn off the video game is now the subject of national debate - even as real blood spills.

First, why are we even asking presidential candidates what they think about video games? There are real issues in this election.

Second, right now video games are more community oriented. The new MMOs and FPS are changing the way we interact with one another. It is a new social space and like anything, it takes time to evolve. Still, there is something exciting about the new online worlds we are creating or the community we can live in.

Third, as someone who turned off the video games and worked with people to organize around important issues like the war, healthcare, CAFTA, wages, renewable energy, schools and more, I have yet to see profound changes. We keep getting promises, but at this point, we need to see some delivery. Apparently the republicans have been quite successful with 40 votes in the Senate- why weren't the Democrats ever that successful?

Perhaps the collective "log on" and "frag out" is merely a reaction to the politics of inaction, failure, division, and let down. More likely, it is an attempt to find a new way of acting in recognition that the old ways have failed. While I do enjoy a good speech, I would prefer to see results. As for the video game bashing, that's probably just a sign that the person sucks at video games.

Time to get back to the future is now- BF2142.