Saturday, May 28, 2011

Password Apocolypse



So one of email accounts was hacked by someone in Croatia. It was not malware or a virus. I am concerned it may be a consequence of one of the other major breaches that have become rather routine stories these days.

I scanned my computer and it was clean.

I have no idea what they do or do not have in terms of my information. I have had to send clarifying emails to people and organizations. I am in the process of changing my passwords at many sites which may have been compromised.

Since every site, no matter how trivial, seems to require a registration, many of my passwords were compromised. The good news is, most sites are totally ineffective as social networking agents and I have few contacts. My most important registrations appear to be unaffected or exposed. I have no active credit cards on any of these sites.

Nevertheless, it quickly became clear to me how a single security breach could create a massive disruption to me as well as other sites. It is very unfortunate that passwords are required for everything as it definitely makes us less secure in our interactions.

Even if I had used a different password for every site, it would merely slow the rate of progression, but not stop the intruders.

I can only hope that the intruder left in disgust after seeing a few registrations like Elftown, G4TV, and Knights and Knaves Alehouse. In the meantime, I am slowly going through the process of changing passwords in the hopes nothing worse will come of this than a major inconvenience.

I have read in other accounts that the term "hacker" is out of fashion owing to the ethical lapses of those now engaged in cracking accounts. Some people feel the term hacker no longer applies and in this case, I would concur.

Update: I have contacted the offending host ISP as well as Yahoo. Yahoo does not provide very much information. I am not sure why as an end user, I do not have the tools to get the information I need myself. It would seem that having a readily identifiable IP address as well as statistical data on the files transferred would be very useful. My blogs provide this information to me as an end user. I can track links clicked as well as the IP of comment posters. Yahoo apparently wants me to use snail mail to request this. Note, the unusually high amount of activity statement, indicating the problem is perhaps widespread. I suggested creating a feature which allowed the user an option to set logins to a "domestic" IP address. No response on that either. Here is the Yahoo email:




I am still changing passwords. As for the Croatian ISP, no follow up yet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Battlefield Play 4 Free; Open Beta Impressions.



It's time to gather some early thoughts on Battlefield Play 4 Free. I have been playing for a while now and it is in open beta.

The graphics are pretty good in medium settings. I find that the graphics are fairly polished and more importantly run well on lower end systems (like mine). My current system does not struggle at all with my 8400GS card. It takes less modern hardware than Battlefield Bad Company 2 to play. Overall, the graphics are pretty nice.

The sound is also pretty good. Easy took the time to record some interesting background noises which add nice effects. Even climbing ladders is kind of loud and you can't help but wishing you were not so noisy. These are nice touches.

The game mechanics are pretty good. I find that the hit detection system seems very well done. Reloading takes a bit of time.

The player base seems pretty decent. The crowd is less serious than your typical DICE crowd, but more serious than Battlefield Heroes, owing to the environment. This is not to suggest Battlefield Heroes does not have serious players, but the overall Heroes environment lends itself to much more levity in general.

The game is not simply a Battlefield 2 remake. Easy added the tracer gun as well as the innovative deadman's trigger. It is a fusion of Battlefield 2 elements and Bad Company 2 elements with the simplicity of Battlefield Heroes style organization. People who want dedicated squad play and advanced team play elements will not find them in Play 4 Free. Like Battlefield Heroes, the lack of structure requires enormous player initiative when trying to balance your play style with the needs of your team. At times, this makes things difficult. For example, if you are a support class you can call for reinforcements and become a mobile spawn point. In theory, this would make you very useful in turning flags. In practice, I often find my reinforcements expiring prior to anyone spawning.

Game play is also hindered by the pay for advantage weapons sales. Battlefield Play 4 Free sells a wide variety of weapons. Some include advanced scopes as well as helpful modifiers. Play between pay to play players and free players will probably become more unbalanced over time. Owing to a recent promotional code, I was able to use some of these elite Weapons and I feel they may offer far more advantages than the statistics suggest. Earning points to rent weapons is easier-in Battlefield Play 4 Free, but some weapons appear to be unavailable. You can comfortably rent 500 credit weapons every day and probably still bank points. It is a bit of a pain to re-up on a daily basis and you don't want your gun to expire during a match.

I found some of the default weapons too nerfed to be useful (support class basically needs M16A2 and Engineer can benefit from MP7). It's unfortunate that game play is up for grabs in this way and it undermines the environment. There does not seem to be as much idling as there was in BF:H owing to the increased rate of credits earnings, but it is still a problem.

The classes are nothing extraordinary. The classes are medic, engineer, support, and recon. Battlefield Play 4 Free only provides each account with 2 character slots by default. As a result, I cannot properly evaluate the recon class. I have only 3 character slots- medic, engineer, and assault. Some people may be put off by the limited two slots offering.

Game play is basically capture the flag based conquest maps. The team with the most flags gain points towards winning. Games are played with the winning team the first to 1000 points.

Unlike Heroes, the lack of dedicated factions means that you will not encounter the balance problems that plagued Heroes when there could be too few nationals or too few royals. In Battlefield Play 4 Free, players will be automatically team switched. This is great for balance, but can be frustrating when a team that is losing suddenly rage quits and you are switched. I wonder why they don't prohibit team switching at 80% of the game, or perhaps provide some additional credit/point compensation to players that are auto-switched.

Another oddity is the lack of any attempt to regulate bunny hopping at all. You can jump and fire your weapon if you choose.

The leveling process is slow but doable. The current open beta cap is level 20. You should be able to reach level 20 without too much work. This gives you 19 skill points to upgrade your character. The skill trees are somewhat clumsily organized and seem to require some very questionable skills selections with the current level caps. I appreciate the attempt to make players make choices about their skills, but sometimes, you feel like they are really drawing out any attempt to get a useful skill by adding marginal skills as pre-requisites to good ones. This will be less of an issue if they raise the level cap. In my experience, hard choices mean that skills which are necessary for flying and advanced vehicles skills are low priorities for me. This means I cannot, with most of my characters fly or utilize secondary vehicle weapons or defenses. This seems a little odd given the fact that vehicles normally play a fairly large role in Battlefield games.

A lot of players will be happy that they can get a Battlefield experience for free with relatively low hardware requirements. Easy does have a strong history of not requiring the latest hardware when creating its games. However, as more players adopt elite weapons, parity issues will emerge that make the game less enjoyable. Currently, the game only has 3 maps, although a fourth map will be released imminently.

Anyone who has the hardware for Bad Company 2, will not likely find much reason to play Battlefield Play 4 Free as it offers fewer maps, less structure, and may, in light of sales, cost more if you invest in elite weapons.

As the game is still in open beta, many flaws still exist, but it is certainly worth a look if you don't have the latest hardware.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dead Man's Trigger

I am becoming a big fan of Dead Man's Trigger. It's not often that game designers find a way to solve a gaming "problem" in a way that fits naturally with the gaming environment.

For those of you who are not familiar, Dead Man's Trigger, is a skill in Battlefield Play For Free that allows the player to trigger a delayed explosion upon death in a grenade like radius. This causes damage to enemy players.

What it really does: it makes it very hard for people to teabag you. If someone is reckless enough to try to teabag you they get blown to bits. This makes it much less likely that someone will be willing to try to teabag you.

Unlike solutions which sometimes require the removal of features, this one does not.

With all the criticism of games these days, its important to take time out to recognize constructive innovations.

But what if you're a fan of teabagging? Well, you can still teabag- but you do so at your own risk. Besides, there are still plenty of titles for you.

18 Weeks of Wii Active 2



I completed my second Wii Active 2 nine week program today. After 18 weeks, I am fairly happy to say the program has performed very well overall. As I've noted before, there are minor bugs. Just yesterday, the runners during a long run disappeared after the first runner.

Nevertheless, despite very minor flaws, the program has worked very well. I am in better shape after 18 weeks of using it. Given its extremely low cost it seems like a great way increase your physical activity especially during the winter months.

My biggest disappointment remained with the broken exercise band. However, it was replaced for only a few dollars and the cost per calorie ratio seems very good!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Games Library

I went down to the local library. I heard about an event for video gaming being held there. I thought I might meet some gamers. It was apparently the first event of its kind at the Elko library. The event was centered towards families, but they are hoping to involve teens and seniors as well. I did not meet any gamers, but did at least get to see the new library program in action.

The library had procured some funding through a federal funding (LTSA) and obtained donations for games. Overall, there were some very young children at the event who very much seemed to be enjoying themselves. Parents also seemed to enjoy having an opportunity to see whether their kids enjoyed a game prior to having to commit to purchasing it.

Here is a photo of the Elko library setup:



I was very happy to see the library beginning to recognize the importance of adding games to their services in order to create modern social space. It also gives consumers a nice way to try titles before they buy them. I could easily see game stores sponsoring these events as a way of introducing people to titles.

One other thing worth mentioning. It appears the local library is currently running a bit short of books. They have recently culled the library of titles but have not yet replaced them.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Relaxing

After releasing my video game, I have been trying to relax.

I am currently finishing up week 17 of my Wi Active 2 (I restarted a nine week program). The program provides a good amount of exercise for me as Spring ends and summer is about to begin. I really consider Wii Active 2 to be a good investment, even though it has minor bugs.

I have also been diving back into Battlefield Play 4 Free. BFP4F is now in open beta so the non-disclosure agreements no longer apply. They have added a new map called Sharqi. At the start of the open beta, Ben Cousins left Easy.

BFP4F continues on the path of selling many weapons. Owing to the horrible nature of the default support gun, I am renting a standard M16A2 with credits. The in game credits can be earned much more easily. I am not thrilled with renting a weapon for the support character, but it just goes to show, that they can make it impossible not to jump on the treadmill if they nerf the default weapons enough. The other kits I have, medic and engineer, do fine with the default weapons. Strangely, they only give you two character slots to begin with. Overall, the game is still being refined. I had some left over credits, so I unlocked a third slot.

Finally, I took a look at Brink. Unfortunately, my video card is not capable of supporting the game at a playable framerate. It looks interesting, but I will have to wait for an upgrade to actually play it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Archon Pillow Cases.



So I spent a day making pillow cases. I can now rest comfortably!