Monday, June 27, 2011

I remember when there were no violent video games.

The Supreme Court ruled on the video game case regarding the California law signed by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. To be sure, I still paraphrase Arnold while playing FPS, with the catchy, “Don't bother hopping, you'll just die tired.” One can imagine my disappointment that Arnold would sign such a law.

Some may recall my earlier posts on this subject.

Turning now to Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, what are some of this cases highlights?

Let's begin with the rejection of the so-called scientific evidence.

According to the court, the psychologists report is basically rejected. Yup. The court did not simply say, well one person, who has a degree and is called doctor is unchallengeable. In fact, they basically had no problem in rejecting the evidence of a link between video games and violence.

“The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, “[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.” Video Software Dealers Assn. 556 F. 3d, at 964. They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children’s feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game.”

I know, more than most people, that psychological mumbo-jumbo often passes for real science when, it is nothing more than complete conjecture. Nevertheless, many gullible people accept the opinion of a “Dr.” without considering how completely baseless it can be. I was labeled crazy for nothing more than expressing my love for someone. At least Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association opinion affords bogus psychological studies the weight they deserve: none.

In summary, the court sides with Dr. Pepper- go ahead and grab yourself an EA under the cap code and frag away.

While the Supreme Court may have stricken down the law, it still does not consider video games a real intellectual contender. In a footnote, Scalia writes, “Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.”

So much for being taken as serious art by the court. It's not that surprising as most game companies now see themselves more as businesses than artists. The good news is that just because the Court does not understand the medium and what it is capable of, that does not mean that they did not at least protect it from a horrible regulation. Note to Scalia: one can enjoy playing Mortal Kombat and reading Crime and Punishment. More to the point, I played Mortal Kombat as a youngster but still managed to read Crime and Punishment during law school.

In fact, it is too bad the court spent no apparent time in trying to find a video game that would qualify as a serious artistic, cultural, and political work (maybe like mine).

Sadly, one of the reasons they don't support state censorship is because the industry is so effective at it.

That's right. There is no need for state control of video games, because the industry already does more than enough to censor. Here's what the court writes:

“The Video Software Dealers Association encourages retailers to prominently display information about the ESRB system in their stores; to refrain from renting or selling adults only games to minors; and to rent or sell “M” rated games BROWN v. ENTERTAINMENT MERCHANTS ASSN. to minors only with parental consent. Id., at 47. In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that, as a result of this system, “the video game industry outpaces the movie and music industries” in “(1) restricting target marketing of mature-rated products to children; (2) clearly and prominently disclosing rating information; and (3) restricting children’s access to mature-rated products at retail.” FTC, Report to Congress, Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children 30 (Dec. 2009), online at http://
www.ftc.gov/os/2009/12/P994511violententertainment.pdf (as visited June 24, 2011, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file) (FTC Report). This system does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home. Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest. ”

Of course, I grew up playing games before there was a rating system at all. I remember when there were no "violent" video games because there was no rating system. In my opinion, that was just fine. Mortal Kombat was in the arcade. Now, it's the industry itself which engages in the censorship. This is something players, developers, and artists need to come to grip with.

In fact, the industry cultivates a tolerance of censorship at all levels, starting with the forums.

So absurd is the basis for censorship, that simply posting about censorship and free speech can get your thread removed. Complaining about it in another forum will get the thread closed, with a dismissive comment , “Their forums, their rules.”

Oh really? My guess is that if Comcast suddenly banned all Steam traffic because they find the content of video games offensive, the reaction of Steam would hardly be “Their network, their rules.” Yet, it's the same twisted logic.

The modern culture of video games is now a full blown civilization that cultivates censorship in all its myriad forms, even if that ultimately leads to self-censorship and self-destruction.

The culture of gaming censorship occurs subtly in forums through the use of mindless internet memes and trolling which act as a form of heckler's vetoes. (Cool story bro...) It is more visible in the promulgation of vague and arbitrary forum rules designed to exercise a form of occult censorship. It is most visible when gaming forum administrators outright ban opinions that are disagreeable to the corporate enterprise.

This appears to be where we are now.

The law now recognizes video games are entitled to first amendment protections from intrusions by the government. The fact is, kids access to video games is more restricted than when I grew up and video games had no such formal first amendment protections. The government cannot tell you what you can or can not play, but the industry itself will.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cart Push You!

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that TF2 has gone free to play.

What does this mean? It means the free players will be at a slight disadvantage. In addition to fewer slots (50 versus 300), free to play players will have limited blue prints.

The upshot is you can buy an item in the Mann Co. store and your account becomes premium. Then you only have to deal with every other problem in Tf2 :)

So what's the long and the short of it?

In TF2 free to play, cart push you.

Battlefield Heroes Victim of Breach...



Battlefield Heroes is currently offline. The only available information is a sign which says affected account holders will be notified.

This is very disappointing news. I do not play Heroes much these days owing to the disparities, but I am rather sick of having security risks exposed. EA uses the same ID for all of its games. I already changed my password. I am tired, however, of changing passwords. Since I have already received notices from Sony earlier in the year, I've been through this before and it is not fun. Here's hoping I don't get a notice about my account being affected, but my luck has not been good...

Update: According to RockPaperShotgun.com, it is the beta accounts that were breached- which would most likely include my account.

Update 2: A short summary of my opinion of the handling of the breach by EAsy.

Summary: Not great. Lack of notice. Poor communication. Nothing to counteract the buzz kill of being hacked.

Why?

1.EA accounts use the same password. This is a good thing in general as I do not want to remember all my separate EA game passwords. However, EAsy did not provide significant outreach on the issue. For people who did not stop by the Battlefield Heroes web space, there was no way of knowing what might have happened. I posted about it to the Steam forums because I thought some players there might have had a Battlefield Heroes CB account and would want to know they needed to change their passwords. I have yet to receive any kind of email, in so far as I can know. I've searched my email and found nothing. On the issue of notice, Easy failed.

Let me be clear: I could just as easily have been a player who was a closed Beta player and a BFBC2 player (in fact, I do have BFBC2 account). Since the password is the same, someone might have been able to breach my BFBC2 account- which did not go offline- and I might not have heard about the BF:H breach.

2.The Welcome Back. I do not expect to be showered with rewards when EA gets hacked. Nevertheless, when EA does get hacked, I lose more than my play time. Often times, I have to go through the hassle of changing multiple passwords. I know they say you should have a different password for every website, but that is not realistic. For example, I registered with Blender and then discovered I needed to register with Blender Artists. Likewise, the Steam Account and the Steam forums have separate passwords. Too many passwords means as a practical matter, people are going to use the same passwords on different sites. The point is, I lose more than play time.

Now, it would be wrong to punish the victim, EA, by expecting oodles of stuff, but it would be right for EA to recognize it would be a great time to go ahead with promotions that were already planned. At the very least, the Gun club battlefunds offer, which was announced last December, would have been a great way to help players get past the issue. Other people suggested a free 1 day VP/XP boost- which Heroes used to semi-regularly give away anyway. Again, these small suggestions are more about doing something, even if it is fairly token, to say that EA recognizes the community has been effected and cost practically nothing. Bottom line: getting hacked is a buzz kill. If there is a promotion already in the works, it might make a great welcome back.

3.Communication in general was poor. There was very little information provided to players in general. Posts on the forum indicated there was some confusion about the issue and the ability to access accounts. While Easy restored services quickly, its failure to provide players with basic information at a regular interval left questions about the hack lingering even after services were restored. I can understand that EA would not want to highlight the issue, but I would think one email would be required. Again, I've searched my inbox and found nothing.

Update 3: Battlefield Heroes announced a birthday celebration pack. This will at least make some players feel a bit better.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Created a tutorial for using Fragmotion for texture mapping.

I created a guide. This is my first tutorial attempt so I hope I it is okay. This is meant for beginners.

I used Fragmotion 1.12, but it should work on 1.13...

Here is the tutorial guide.

Here is the accompanying zip file which includes the tutorial file as well as the tutorial example.

Twilight of the Idles...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Checking out new Linux Distros

A dispute with Asus over getting a customer service restore DVD has forced me into a Linux only situation. Initially, I was told I could contact Asus customer support to receive a recovery disk but they subsequently moved away from that offer. In general, I do not feel that Asus customer service was helpful at all. Despite the fact that my Asus netbook is excellently designed and implemented technology, my Asus investment has been marred by my experiences with customer service.

In any event, unwilling to resort to paying for a new W7 disk, I opted to clean up my hard drive and check out some Linux distributions on my 1015 netbook.

Linux Mint 11 came out without moving towards Unity. Unfortunately, I experienced a problem running browsers that cuased my system to soft-reboot to the login screen. Owing to the annoying random crashes, I am not using LM11.

I regressed to more stable Linux Mint 9. The version is much more stable, but I still have minor problems. Once in a while the boot fails and I must reboot. I just get a totally dark screen and it does not seem to load. This is infrequent but annoying. Other nuisances include marred displays of running apps in the menu bar. Finally, ImageWriter (a program made for Ubuntu) which exists in the software repository failed to run properly on my netbook. It noted a missing USB key each time I ran it.

Owing to the hype of Chromebooks, I opted to test out Hexxeh's Vanilla Chromium on USB. I like having a USB bootable distro handy. Chromium is a bit slow and limited. The slowness is owing to the reliance on USB disk access. Most people will probably prefer a more feature rich USB distro like Knoppix. The only APP which I have installed is GoogleDocs. GoogleDocs worked well enough under ChromiumOS. Neverthelss, ChromiumOS has several unique features which make it worth checking out. It is a great OS for security purposes. It would seem well suited for anyone who wants to set up a public terminal without the headache or expense of real IT.

Another distro which caught my eye was the pre-unity Ubuntu Netbook Remix 10.10. It worked with image writer. One annoyances was the bloated application toolbar that is running by default. I went to #ubuntu where I was promply informed how to modify my the app bar to a desktop edition in the login screen. I will continue testing the distro this week and update this post.

It is very easy to get frustrated with minor annoyances in Linux, but in the big picture, Linux is still extremely beneficial.

Update:

I have been spending most of my time using Linux 9. I tried to upgrade the kernel with KernCheck to the latest version, but it would not work. Linux 9 seems to be very stable on my Asus Netbook. The single menu bar is a nice feature. I could not get ImageWriter to work in LM9.

However, I have also been using UNR 10.10. A few programs work better under UNR 10.10 like ImageWriter. I also had almost no problems getting Tinychat configured in UNR 10.10 to work with my Asus Webcam. One serious drawback was UbuntuOne which continues to "flood" my router and create connection problems. I have removed UbuntuOne from UNR 10.10 completely.

Monday, June 20, 2011

G4C Gore Keynote.

Not much info on the Gore keynote. Kotaku live blogged it, but there was no livestream and I have yet to find a transcript.

According to Steven Totilo's liveblog Gore, "Just mentioned that he has wanted to find a game aspect of An Inconvenient Truth".

I don't know if such a game exists. However there are many games which touch on energy issues and conflict. 2142 comes to mind. Although it centers on a freeze (perhaps owing to a shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation), it involves broader themes of wars created by climate change. Likewise, Super-Energy Apocolypse Recycled, playable on Kongregate, also touches upon themes of war and energy- with an emphasis on utilizing renewable energy to survive.

I am sure there are other examples, probably ones that do not involve energy and war. According to Kotaku, Gore was not much of a gamer, so he probably isn't aware of those efforts. Still, I'm surprised someone on his team did not tune him into some examples.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Go back to Heroes?


So I went back to Battlefield Heroes after playing a Battlefield Play 4 Free. I still find the environment enticing, but I have to admit, it is much harder to play Heroes these days.

Parity issues continue to mar the Battlefield Heroes experience.

Weapons imbalances seem more pronounced in Heroes. It is probably because many of the remaining players have battlefund weapons. My k/d ratio is generally horrible now and it simply is not fun to play.

The other major hurdle is the longstanding lack of team switching. I'm not entirely a fan of being team switched when the opposing team rage quits, but team switching is necessary to maintain parity. It can be implemented by locking team switching near the end of rounds. Still at this time, you often get rounds in Heroes where there are not enough players on one team.

I am considering the use of improved VP weapons. I have several concerns. One is that the earnings rate for VP is fairly low. This means I will not be able to invest in taunts. Second, the player base seems lower than BFP4F, which means buying a weapon for 24 hours might not be a great value. I might find a lot of downtown waiting for a populated server.

Still the imbalances in parity in BF:H mean that the game is not much fun for me to play. I do not feel that I am a helpful addition to my team. Likewise, I am not sure how it is fun for the opposing team either. I am sure they would appreciate a more challenging experience. In light of these realities, I am going to give VP weapons a go and see if it improves the BF:H experience or if BF:H is simply no longer worth trying to play.

Although there is new leadership at EAsy promising changes for BF:H, it could be the game is simply beyond redemption.