Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oslo and Utoya

In looking at the tragic events in Norway, we are witnessing an endgame of sorts for terrorism. I cannot help but think that Breivik will not achieve anything and this will not be lost on those who pay attention. Unfortunately, fewer people are paying attention.

Breivik would be classified as a systematic terrorist. I use this term as described by Germaine Bree as a terrorist “who feels the lives of two children should not weigh in the balance when considered in the light of the ultimate justice to be established.” It is unfortunate that we live in an era in which terrorists have classifications, but it has been this way for a while.

The assassination of the Grand Duke Alexandrovitch as written about by Albert Camus in the Just Assassins, is worth examining.

Bree summarizes it well:

“After the usual lengthy hazardous preliminaries, the organization decided that two terrorists, Yanek Kaliayev and Alexanderovitch, were to throw a bomb in the carriage of the Grand Duke as he went to the theatre on February 2nd. The carriage rolled by, but Kaliayev, the one who was supposed actually to throw the bomb, failed to do so, explaining later that he had been stopped by the sight of the Grand Duchess and two children, nephew and niece, riding in the carriage with the Grand Duke. “I think I acted as I should. Can one kill children?” he asked. After a brief discussion all agreed with him: children must be spared. Two days later Kaliayev killed the Grand Duke as planned.”

(Excerpt from Camus by Germaine Bree, 1959)

These events form the basis for Albert Camus' play the Just Assassins. After looking at the victims of the Norway bombing I decided to re-read the Just Assassins even though in the case of Breivik and the Oslo bombing we are dealing with an unjust assassin.

From the play, the following dialogue is critical:

Dora: No wait. [To Stepan] You Stepan could you Stepan fire point blank on a child with your eyes open?

Stepan: I could, if the group ordered it.

Dora: Why did you shut your eyes then?

Stepan: What? Did I shut my eyes?

Dora: Yes.

Stepan: Then it must have been because I wanted to picture... what you describe more vividly and to make sure my answer was the true one.

Dora: Open your eyes Stepan, and try to realize that the group would lose all its driving force, were it to tolerate even for a moment the idea of children being blown to bits by our bombs.

Stepan: Sorry, but I don't suffer from a tender heart; that sort of nonsense cuts no ice with me...Not until the day comes when we stop sentimentalizing about children will the revolution triumph and we will be Masters of the world.

Dora: When that day comes, the revolution will be loathed by the whole human race.”

(Excerpt from Les Juste by Albert Camus)

***

That day has indeed come.

The whole human race loathes Breivik and his actions.

Breivik rejected any pretext of justice. He rejected the mathematical justice espoused by aforementioned terrorists who were willing to give a life in order to take a life. He rejected any moral limitation on the killing and therefore placed himself outside the sphere of the “just assassin.” Breivik would be a monster even to terrorists such as Kaliayev.

There is a great deal of dissection of his reasons for killing. It is very popular these days to dress killing up in some virtue or another. Nietzche, however, would dispense with such dissection quickly and assert that the pale criminal kills to kill and that the rest is merely pretext.

Breivik still attempts to claim his actions were necessary, but his use of the word necessary is mutilated. He is actually trying to justify what he has done. As Camus reminds us, “Violence is never justified.”

In the weeks to come, there will be many changes in Norway. There have to be some changes as no one is under a duty to be a victim. However, the response Norway promises is also one of more openness and democracy. This remains to be seen.

When a crime like Breiviks is committed, it is meant to infect others with hate, and not necessarily the people who are sympathetic to Breivik's contradictory and senseless politics. That the crime is cloaked in virtue will only make it more difficult.

One thing is for sure, there will be loathing- at least by the human race or what is left of it.

My hope in moving forward is that more attention will be paid to the victims and their stories and less attention to the perpetrator. If the trial is to serve any purpose, it should be to give a voice to the victims.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Minecraft T-shirts now in Battlefield Heroes!

Update: The Minecraft free t-shirt weekend is over. What follows is the archival posting.

It's a Minecraft *FREE* t-shirt weekend in Battlefield Heroes. Under some arrangement between EAsy and Mojang, the t-shirts are available to Heroes this weekend. The shirts will last FOREVER! Just login to your Heroes account and you will be able to redeem your shirt under your rewards.

I just outfitted my Heroes with the new shirts. In fact, playing on the servers, there were many people wearing these shirts. If you look at this screenshot of the scores, you can see how many people are wearing either a blue or green minecraft shirt.



They are quite popular and they are FREE this weekend! Here I am on one wing with a hero on the other, both wearing minecraft shirts.



I outfitted my Royal gunner, ToreLovesEliza, with a minecraft shirt as well as my new commando, Futurian with one also. Futurian is the latest and likely last Hero, I will get. Futurian is the sixth Hero I have, giving me 3 royals and 3 nats for a full set of Heroes.

Now on to the pictures of the new shirts (which are blue Diamond and green Creeper).



As Futurian is a very new Hero, Futurian did not have any custom wardrobe at all. The new shirt is a great benefit. Unfortunately, being a commando, Futurian will probably be ghosted a lot.

One of the great things about the new shirts, however, is the fact that ANYONE can redeem them this weekend. Unlike Dr. Pepper codes, which are hard to get outside of North America, anyone can get a minecraft shirt.

The situation with the Dr. Pepper codes is much more complicated now anyway. The stores in my area only carry the Thor promotional bottles of Dr. Pepper. I can still send away for codes but this takes a lot longer. I am limited to one code per week. Additionally, the picture may get complicated if there is a government shutdown as that may hinder postal delivery and make getting Dr. Pepper codes impossible.

ToreLovesEliza, my royal gunner, is now level 17. Here is ToreLovesEliza in game sporting the new shirt as well as many other free items. The hat is from the 2 year Birthday party and the medal (on the shirt) is from the Play4Free beta, while the tonics are hangovers from another BF:H giveaway, and other clothing items come from the Dr. Pepper codes. The Diamonds last forever shirt is a nice addition to this hero.



I did recently purchase some battlefunds which I have spent to get the Futurian character slot as well as Emote taunts for my royals.

Finally, I should note I just bought my copy of Minecraft this weekend (Friday). I enjoyed the demo version and with some encouragement from a friend, I plunged into the world of Minecraft. I was also encouraged to purchase Minecraft (which sells in euros) owing to the economic uncertainty created by a government shutdown and the recent decline in the dollar. It may only get more expensive if the dollar continues to slide.

As I am only beginning, I have just crafted my door for my humble shelter.



My next plans are to make a bed and a chest for storage. I admit there were some long nights in my Minecraft experience so far. I feel much better knowing I at least have a door and some torches now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

17 problems with Battlefield Heroes...

1.Players cannot switch teams. The use of dedicated factions leads to imbalanced rounds. If one team rage quits, the server is useless. They should have had team switching and allowed for some autobalancing. Like most players, I hate getting autobalanced near the end of the round. It is much better when the balancing comes at the end of the round, like the scrambling in TF2.

2.Weapons imbalances created by the Pay 2 Win environment. The free to play weapons have a fairly high upkeep. It might have been possible had the problem of empty servers (exaggerated by team switching), not been present. As it stands, the VP players are at a decided disadvantage. In addition, the need for multiple weapons upgrades to remain competitive only exaggerates the problems. If trying to pay for one upped weapon is nearly impossible, paying for multiple weapons is impossible for VP players. This also causes idling which ruins rounds. EA should have stayed the course with the no weapons for advantages issue.

3.Lack of serious team play structures. No integrated VOIP, no squads, and no commander mode. I appreciate the fact that players should learn to anticipate the needs of other players and simply do what seems situationally appropriate. I also understand that BF:H was marketed to a "casual" gamer and was meant to emphasize fun. That being said, the absence of any real structures can create frustrating rounds. Along those lines is the lack of VOIP/Chat functions. The ability to selectively mute players is a great addition to TF2. Although, I use VOIP much less frequently than I used to, it is still a nice option. It is possible to use third party software, like Xfire, but this requires other players to be on the same system. Also, the text filter in BF:H is ridiculous. Innocent things get filtered and people get creative with bypasses.

4. Spawn camping issues. There are no completely safe zones, like the Titan in 2142, and therefore, one can get spawn camped in BF:H.

5.Leveling system. Way too slow. The xp requirements are absurd at the upper levels.

6.No in round class switching. I wish that Heroes had adopted a better method of allowing people more flexibility in rounds. Not all maps are suitable for all classes. In addition to that, it gets a bit boring grinding with one class map after map.

7.Lack of game modes. Almost all maps are conquest maps with the exception of Midnight Madness.

8.Lack of community maps and mods. The BF:H structure is much less open to modders.

9.Player input is often minimized. Deadlines for promotions, like the Gun Club Battlefunds, are made and missed. The phrase “soon” is a sad substitute for a real commitment to development and support of the game.

10.Incentives for idling. The high VP prices mean that some players idle. This dramatically reduces round quality.

11.No account limits exaggerates the impact of griefers in the environment.

12.The same bugs exist for years. EA/EAsy develop a new title before they fix the old problems. The new title usually has the old problems plus new ones.

13.Lack of battlerecorder. It was a feature in many games which used the same engine. Given the cartoony fun of BF:H, a battlerecorder should have been included.

14.Como rose underdeveloped. No spotting (though mando can tag). Emotes are limited unless you purchase (Vp or BF).

15.Minimap. Nothing substitutes for learning a map, but a minimap can make it easier to find other players on your team. This helps if someone needs a medic, a ride, or ammo.

16.Lack of rank restrictions in servers. Although some servers claim to be rank restricted, there appears to be no formal rank restrictions in place and the ELO system is skewed. Let's be honest, if the ELO system worked, who would pay 2 win?

17.Tonics. This reduced the need for some classes, like soldier, and created more pay 2 win problems.

Update August 3, 2011:

So a new game mode has come out. It is known as HOTH (Heroes of the Hill). It involves capturing two rockets (on the Costal Clash map) similar to Midnight Madness. The game mode tends to compress the action around the rockets and makes for very fast game play and high points opportunities. This will increase the rate of leveling for players and add some much needed variety to BF:H. I would also mention there are some servers which are level restricted for new players.

Here is a screenshot of the new game mode in action.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Deeply saddened by the violence in Norway.

Dreaming about Battlefield 3...

With all the excitement being generated about Battlefield 3, I thought I'd share some of my hopes for the game.

As Blondie reminds us, “Only dreams are free.” Fortunately, EA has money. So I'm thinking, why not take their money and put them together with my dreams?

Okay, here we go:

The most important thing in online gaming is the community that the game creates. The community establishes the common ground upon which all players come together around. Hopefully, DICE understands the importance of the community as they move forward. What does the community need from DICE to succeed?

Long term support.

Battlefield 3 needs to be a title which receives committed long term support to the community to succeed. In order for the community to develop and thrive, it is necessary to keep the game supported for years without being supplanted too quickly by a sequel. It seems like only yesterday that BFBC2 came out. It is very hard for people to get excited about owning or running servers, setting up detailed fansites, and investing in hardware and a game that will be obsolete quickly. Battlefield 3 needs to be a long-term title.

Battle-Recorders

A game is really only as good as the community it creates. Battlerecorders make it easier for players to upload their videos to share which increases the grassroots awareness of the games. As crude as it was, I used the battle-recorder in Battlefield 2142 quite effectively to make tutorial videos. I have to say that Valve's more recent integration of youtube features in TF2 is very nice. I've had some problems, but overall, the camera is a nice addition to TF2. It seems like the battle-recorder has been given the boot since Battlefield 2142. I would love to see the camera come back.

Modding tools.

Battlefield games used to have a lot of mods. The mods generated additional excitement for the game and resulted in additional sales of games. There has been a dramatic decline in the ability of modders to work with Battlefield games. There are still some companies that see the game as a marketing tool for their engine, like Unreal, and generate additional buzz through the use of their engine. Modding would be a great retro-move by DICE looking to recapture some of its old magic. Many mods will fail- but a few will surely succeed. If the mods require the underlying purchase of Battlefield 3 to operate, what is the harm? Even scaled income distributions like UDK are better than nothing. Battlefield 2142 benefited extensively from the creation of community maps to generate additional interest in the game. Isn't it time DICE gave modders some tools again? I think so.

Creative Risk Taking and Innovation

Be creative. It seems like a cliché. Nevertheless, I've seen videos that Karkand is being developed for Battlefield 3. I like Karkand. It is a great map and I am sure the Battlefield 3 version will be incredible. I look forward to playing it sometime. Nevertheless, Battlefield 3 will require most players to consider a serious upgrade in their hardware as well as a software investment. In order to justify that investment, DICE needs to be willing to innovate.

Players appreciate creativity in objectives and game modes. Okay, so sometimes players complain about everything because the technology is spoiling us and we are no longer simply amazed to be playing online. I know there are many industry executives who are encouraging you to just go with tried and true gaming. But you know what Dice? Feel free to take some chances in the development of Battlefield 3 anyway. Players often like new ideas and game play modes. Not everything will work out perfectly, but that's okay. Think about the attempt at using a jetpack in 1942 SW:WWII. It wasn't the greatest addition to 1942, but it was interesting. If you think I've forgotten about the UFO, the answer is no. I still feel that 2142 was the most creative effort you've made to date and I know as developers you enjoy being creative. So Dice- let your creativity out.

On a single level, an occasional anomoly might work (like Midnight Madness in Battlefield Heroes). Also, players blew up the safe in Eagles Nest as well as enjoying many different styles of game play throughout the Battlefield series, for example: Titan Mode in 2142, Capture the Flag in 1942, destroying M-coms BFBC2. It seems like there are a lot of options for play styles.

I also really liked the addition of the dead-man's trigger in Battlefield play for free. It does not censor or restrict any actions, but it does reduce the incentive for players to engage in tea-bagging and still fits naturally with the game. It is a great example of some recent innovation in a title.

If you do decide to tap into the nostalgia factor and go for a remake, why not remake a little bit of everything? That's right, I'm talking about Battlefield the Complete Collection with a new engine. The greatest hits in one game: Capture the Flag in Wake Island, Operation Hastings (BF:V), Karkand and Oman from BF2, (throw in a night night Mission from Special Forces), Suez Canal Titan mode and Camp Gibraltar from 2142, Victory Village from BF:H, and maybe even a BFBC2 level or two. Throw in a dozen new maps and we're set. (We're dreaming now, aren't we?)

In any case, Battlefield 3 will require many players to invest in more than the game. It will require an investment in hardware. This means that any timid decisions to provide players with the same old experience via new graphics will not be enough.

An experience you can share with your friend!

Everyone wants to play with their friend. I even play games like TF2 because my friends play it. I may prefer Battlefield, but you know what, nothing is better than playing with friends. We all know this. Why do companies make it so hard to play with friends?

Dice: Please do us all a favor and incorporate features that make it easier to play with our friends. By which, I mean on the same server in the same squad. Why not add a squad que feature? Right now, most games allow you to join a friends server (like TF2) by waiting in que, but there is no guarantee you will end up on the same team. Solution: join as a squad. It does not seem like it would be that hard to do. You could simply que squads and populate the emptier servers en mass. If I am willing to wait 10 minutes to join a server to play AGAINST my friend in TF2, I'll be more than happy to wait 10 minutes to join a server to play WITH my friend in Battlefield 3. Can I hear it for squad que? An idea that is long overdue.

(Also, as 2142 demonstrated, rather than simply switching players, it might be necessary to switch squads. In 2142, there were imbalanced rounds because squaded players could not get switched and one team could end up at a serious numerical disadvantage.)

Communications and Structure

Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142 seemed to offer players the most in terms of team structure and communications with VOIP, text chats, and a commo rose. I know the commander mode was complicated for some players to learn, but it also greatly improved teamwork elements. When properly executed, there is still no game that compares to the teamwork possible in Battlefield 2142 with a good commander and squads in titan mode. I understand the round times in 2142 were too long for many players, but that does not mean that the concept can't be worked in somewhere in Battlefield 3. In Bad Company 2, you created hardcore mode. Why not create a commander friendly hardcore mode for Battlefield 3 for players who are willing to spend extra time and energy to learn more and get a better game play experience?

As for communication, TF2 has really taken a strong lead in this area. I have long been an advocate of personalized mutes for players. They work better than any auto-filter and allow players complete control over what they are exposed to. Having those options in both text chat and VOIP features would be very nice.

Rank Restricted Servers

The ELO system of Battlefield Heroes and Play 4 Free does not seem to work very well. Time was, when a new player could join a rank restricted server while they were learning the ropes in 2142. Why not provide players with that option again?

Have Fun!

Hey developers, have some fun. My guess is if you are having fun developing the game, I'll have fun playing it.

Anyway, I'm sure Battlefield 3 will be awesome. Wake me up when it comes out.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

BFP4F; Will EA ever sue the aimbot makers?

I've been back to playing BFP4F. I took the free birthday BF from BF:H and purchased my fourth soldier slot, giving me a full array of characters. My final soldier is a recon. I would not recommend a recon class if you are only limited to 2 slots as it seems to be the most reliant on purchasing better sniper guns. The default gun is just too nerfed (4 bullet clip/16 ammo count) to be useful in many situations. I have tried many sniper rifles, including the elite series using VP and the upped weapons make a considerable difference in this class.

As a freestyle player, I would recommend medic, assault, or engineer first. Recon is the least team oriented so far, requires the most in VP weapons investment and has a really lame unlock tree. My recon is currently level 17, but feels like level 8 owing to the unlock maze.

Now, on to the topic at hand. I saw this little post in game and thought, why does EA not sue the makers of aimbots like Blizzard did versus MDY? Players themselves could always explore the possibility as intended beneficiaries under the EULA, but few have the resources EA does to systemically go after the makers of cheat programs. As the WoW glider case demonstrated, the legal system can take a long time to work through.

The aimbotters hurt us in so many ways. They slow our progression, disrupt our enjoyment of the game, and perhaps, most importantly for EA, make us less likely to invest in the game. After all, why spend real money on a game in which cheating is wholesale?

Here's a possible start EA:



Update: I think the aimbotting thing may devolve into the next "online" music sharing litigation (although probably more popular and rooted in contract law rather than copyright law). I have, so far, limited my efforts to the persuasiveness of a PSA rather than the coercive measures.

Of course, it might be just as effective to require the use of real names tied to the account. This would at least create some hesitation on the part of gaming trolls and aimbotters. After all, if your gamerid was tied to your real life information, it might make you think twice about misconduct in game. It would certainly be cheaper than litigation. Gamers have backlashed against real names in the past, but complain endlessly about the aimbotters...

I, for one, do not care who knows my real name.

Update 2: After waiting a few months, nothing appears to have happened. I guess EA does not really care if people use hacks...



Update 3: Tired of waiting for EA to do anything, I contacted Activision. The site also sells COD aimbots. No action appears to be forthcoming. Gamers sometimes see news about account closures, but these strike me as "showbusts" when no action is taken against the actual distributors of the cheat software. It may be these companies are more interested in going after the users because they think they can resell their products to banned players while doing nothing about the distributors.



I also created a new comic designed to further my persuasive approach to combating the problem.