Tag: vitriol

Please Step Away from the Star Wars

by on May.07, 2010, under games

So this is happening. Sigh. If you like SW:FU, you should just skip to flaming the comments.

The timing of the announcment is interesting as I only recently tried to make myself play it. Steam tarted it about on their front page for fifteen of my dollars, and my resolve lapsed.

The main problem with this game is that it isn’t Jedi Knight 3, or Jedi Academy 2, or whatever Raven’s next entry in that treasured series might have been. It’s just not fair to either of us to keep playing SW:FU like I wish it were something else.

‘FU’ is certainly an appropriate appelation for this game. Every time I load is a new way for the game to screw me. A giant stormtrooper has a tiny lightsaber and lightsaber-blocking shield on his arm, and that affront to the Star Wars fiction isn’t even the bullcrap. When he rears back his arm to swing, I figure cutting his legs off with my lightsaber should be an effective strategy. Not only do his legs not come off, his attack continues uninterrupted. Is the player granted the same courtesy? Of course not. There must have been a transitional period between episodes 3 and 4 where an uncommonly lightsaber proof grade of stormtrooper armor was being produced. Perhaps they were changing vendors or trying to get the costs under control.

And how is the force being unleashed, exactly? Can’t we agree that putting “unleashed” at the end of your title doesn’t create automatic, vague awesome? In fact, I posit that the opposite is true. Someone must have leashed the force again in the intervening time, to require a second unleashing. I wish they’d quit it.

I wonder who likes quick time events? A lazier game mechanic is hard to imagine. Rather than allowing the player to continue to interact during crucial moments, the game turns into a movie propelled by arbitrary button presses giving the illusion that the player is still involved somehow. I suppose I’m supposed to be on awe of just how much Force is being unleashed at those moments.

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Pirates defeat Ubisoft DRM. Are ninjas next?

by on Apr.26, 2010, under games

I hope you like angry verbage.

This week will see the release of Splinter Cell for the PC. On the surface, this seems like an excellent idea. A gaming machine will render Mr. Fisher and his victims beautifully. I heartily welcome rich, cooperative experiences on PC. That’s partly why WoW kept me coming back for two and a half years. And all that moody sneaking being lovingly rendered by your expensive rig will immediately halt if you lose connection to Ubisoft’s servers.

This isn’t the first volley of incendiary equine excrement Ubi has lobbed, they’ve promised it won’t be the last, and I’m certainly not the first to vent my ire in regards to it. The concept of having to ask permission to use something I purchased on a moment to moment basis is enough to incite apoplexy. It is truly horrible to know this is a real thing. And they’re not the only ones doing it.

Enough anti-DRM hate speech for now.

An obvious retort is that most PC gamers have a constant broadband connection. Certainly this is necessary to support the torrents we’re constanly downloading. Folks who live in the sticks who can’t get fancy big city internet are stuck. Even an always on connection might not be good enough: a glitch in your LAN, ISP, or Ubisoft’s servers will interupt your game with prejudice. This means Ubi can literally turn your game off at a whim.

Another rejoinder offered is to blame software pirates, not Ubisoft for this move. Ubi has every right and a fiscal responsibility to prevent the wholesale theft of their goods, and the problem wouldn’t exist if there were no software pirates. They probably know that not every instance of a pirated game represents a lost sale. Many people who torrent games simply don’t have the money to spend or wouldn’t have bothered with a game if they had to pay for it. In rare cases it can result in purchases by gamers who feel guilty or who treat it like an extended demo. Interestingly enough there isn’t a PC demo of Splinter Cell: Conviction.

My objection here isn’t that Ubi is trying to protect its intellectual property, but how they’ve gone about it. Stealing a page from government playbooks everywhere, Ubisoft has implemented an innefectual solution with a high profile for the sake of being seen to be doing something. Predictably, there are already multiple ways to circumvent the system, methods available to legitimate and illegitimate users alike.

My fervent hope from all this is that other companies see how useless this approach is and try to combat piracy by working with gamers, by treating us with respect rather than contempt.

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by on Apr.03, 2010, under tech

   Imagine if you will, the poetic tumble of a bottle of Dom Perignon 2265 as it careens in to the ships hull, and join me for one perfect moment of celebration at the launch of Now, I cast my inflammable net over the great conflagration surrounding Apple’s ill named iPad. The perfect moment is past.

   Due diligence: I’m not an Apple fan. Nor am I a Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, or Google fan. I have owned and enjoyed products made by and for all of those companies, sans Apple, but I don’t owe any of them any loyalty. Do I actively dislike Apple stuff? Somewhat, for various reasons that will be clarified. But I can see the appeal. They certainly make nice hardware.

   So why wouldn’t you want the magical iPod touch XL? Corey Doctorow makes a number of good points regarding ownership of the device. Not having access to the battery in a piece of consumer electronics is an absolute affront, albeit not a new one. What more useful (pronounced “sales attachment”) accessory to a mobile device is there than a spare battery?

   Apple is an abusive boyfriend, isolating their devices. You want to transfer some of your files to or from your property? You go through Apple. You want to install a program on your property? You go through Apple. Why is this control maintained? Because there are money bins to be made selling apps, and the only way to get those apps is through Apple’s store. That means nobody but Apple is selling you apps. Of course there are certain benefits to the stranglehold. Less malware gets through.

   And Apple is abusing developers, too. Requiring explicit approval before anything gets into the app store forces developers to gamble on their product making it to market at all, much less selling enough copies to make any money. Apple has essentially forced them to develop on spec. And even if their app is approved it might be summarily removed in the next crusade. Note that the Sports Illustrated and FHM apps get a pass in the previous link.

   Web apps give cause for hope. If you make a high level pass of the internet, you’ll see the crop circles left by web applications growing in ubiquity. Google’s Chromium OS is casting off the formal trappings of a traditional OS and depends on web applications. Google has already established a beachhead in this arena. Oddly, I can see this catching on in netbooks and tablets for the casual computing audience, like the Wii of mobile systems.

   By this point, most of us have probably decided to like the iPad or to not. And even those of us who don’t buy into Apple still have Apple to thank for all the Zune, Android, et al devices that little “i” spurred into being. And fortunately for the Apple-loving power user, various jailbreak techniques and tools abound. Communities of underground apps (some free, others less so) spring like power ups from question blocks.

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