Sunday, December 02, 2012

Farewell, City of Heroes


It was a rough weekend for many. Friday, November 30 of 2012, City of Heroes was finally shut down by NCSoft. Here, I’ll just leave a set of links to the news generated and some of the videos involved.

No doubt, I’ll be writing some formal articles on this matter for various outfits; but right now, the death of one of my favorite MMOs is just too close.

End of a Gaming Era – spyral of wrote a solemn blog post about the end of City of Heroes and her experience watching the servers shut down for the last time.

City of Heroes: The Final Hour on MMO Anthropology YouTube -Released the raw footage from the live stream of the end of the event. All footage takes place during the final 5 hours of City of Heroes on the Champion server.

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Remembering my time in City of Heroes on Massively – “Even now, after having played the game consistently for several years, I'm still amazed at the number of different things players can do at any given juncture. There's just so much stuff, things to explore and stories to experience, something that comes only from years of development devoted to player choice and ease of play.”

Other videos have been made about the end of the era, and how it will affect so many in its wake: Sundown for City of Heroes and a Fan Petition to Keep it from Setting.


For the final time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Like the Desert Misses the Rain

I miss the rain.

That misting sluice of sudden downpour that thunders down mountainsides, rattles against windows, and shakes the bridle of leaves wreathing the tree outside.

Lots of work to do today. See you in the virtual world people.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Silent CSI: NY Episode Filled With Annoying Tropes, Poor Direction

Warning: contains spoilers, criticism

When I think of a groundbreaking episode of a popular show that used silence as a means to convey meaning I think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the episode entitled Hush. The silent episode of CSI: NY aired Monday, October 22 2012 entitled Unspoken is trivial and obnoxious by comparison—although the music contained in the episode, played by Green Day, is quite good, the episode itself is contrived and terrible.

First, the inexplicable silence of the characters is barely explained as they go throughout their daily lives and jobs not conversing with one another, especially in situations where they would speak. There’s a certain amount of background vocalizations, but nothing from any of the main actors in any given scene. As a result, the scenes are punctuated by Green Day music and sometimes odd sounds that instead convey meaning.

The lack of communication lacks context, as a result it feels senseless and without a frame of reference. This fact makes the episode feel gimmicky and soulless—as a result, in order to heighten the emotional reaction to these wordless exchanges, the writers introduced gut-wrenching situations that tug at the heartstrings instead of telling a story.

In other episodes, the procedural aspect of the narrative led the day and that required a lot of communication between actors in order to build the mystery and boil the onion’s layers.

The most galling trope used in this episode in order to heighten emotional impact while giving up substance happened to be the shooting of a little girl near the beginning by her playmate. A totally unnecessary addition to the story that distracted from the main story instead of building on it—in fact, it felt so tacked on that it bent credibility and beggared disbelief that the writers felt like this was a good time to use this particular plot device.

The music did feel somewhat poignant to the conversationless scenes that it was inserted into; but instead of making the show feel like it was a silent story, it began to feel like a succession of montages. In a normal show, music would get played when evidence was being processed. The beginning has both the crime, the events thereof, and some of the procedure.

Then there’s the voiced second half as the story begins to wrap up. Instead of stitching the story together, it feels out of place—a strange juxtaposition built out of an island of words amidst an ocean of silence. It demonstrates the previously mentioned need for conversation in order to play out the procedural portion of the show and makes the quiet parts all the more aberrant.

The existence of the voiced section made the beginning forgettable—it gets referenced through the voiced section but it just makes the silence segment feel altogether less relevant. Almost like a dream before waking and the rest of the story, told with sound and voices, dominates.

The “hurt child” trope becomes even more obnoxious at the end when the shooter, who dropped the gun that was picked up, is confronted with the death of the child in the accidental shooting. Not only did it feel like cheap emotional manipulation initially, the full-circle back to the beginning made the entire episode feel like it had failed to use the silence to do anything other than highlight the vacancy of the investigative and procedural aspects.

Try again CSI: NY we’ve seen this done better both by Buffy and by you.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Playing World of Warcraft May Be Good for Your Resume

Link, via MMO Anthropology and YouTube.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Painkiller Already #110 Ended After WoodysGamertag was Banned by Google

The now-weekly broadcast of Painkiller Already, shortened to PKA, was ended prematurely when WoodysGamertag was blocked from Google Hangouts. It is through their interface that this livestreamed broadcast is brought to YouTube viewers.

The PKA broadcast is a well known gathering of YouTube Call of Duty commentators and friends who gather to speak their minds on Thursday evenings and has become a central nexus of thought for that corner of the YouTube community.

Host WingsOfRedemption from YouTube was quick to put up a video explaining why the video was suddenly cut off, including a comment that Woody had received a message noting that it had been done due to “Reason Code 39.”

To this moment, the actual meaning of “Reason Code 39” is unknown.

Speculation mounts that it is potentially Code 3.9 which means that it’s a subsection of the Google Policies & Principles document outlining no use of hate speech:

3. Hate Speech

Do not distribute content that promotes hatred or violence towards groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.

Although it does seem somewhat premature or strange that this has happened to PKA. The speech and conversation ran into places considered offensive to some; but none of it crossed into hate speech territory. The discussion certainly angled through racism as well as transgender topics (and not artfully handled)—but not in any sense not previously covered on previous PKA broadcasts. The PKA hosts are well known for a vulgar attitude; but nothing that has ever exceeded even the feverish expectation of “hate speech.”


Google themselves do not speak to how they determine when a Hangout has infracted their policies & principles guidelines document.

Someone could have flagged the Hangout or a bot “listening” to the broadcast could have procedurally decided to terminate the broadcast and throw the error.

The strike occurred during a story told by another host retelling a story involving a transgender prostitute in Japan that included “colorful” terms (read: actually offensive epithets related to transgendered individuals) and a trigger-worthy narrative that included violence against a transgendered individual. The violence itself was not the point of the story nor was it central to the post discussion.

We may never know as YouTube and Google are not known for good customer service in this department.

There is already a question up for Google (potentially staff) asking what “Reason Code 39” is and ideas are being posted tonight. Although we may not know until WoodysGamertag posts on his YouTube channel to explain.

UPDATE: From WoodysGamertag,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

EVE Online’s “Vile Rat” aka Sean Smith Killed in Libya; Memorialized in Game

It’s been a rough few weeks with Muslims rioting in fury and anger over the release of the “Innocence of Muslims” video trailer from a would-be-unknown dumbass—of course, the protest in Libya was hijacked by violent militants who used it as an excuse to assault the embassy. Four US citizens were killed; amid them Sean Smith, aka Vile Rat.

In the coming weeks, he has been memorialized in text and video.

The death of this amazing individual was unnecessary, and even the Libyan people have shown an understanding of that with the production of “The Sorry Project.” As they’ve stood up against the villains who caused the death of these people. That’s how the culture of the country where this happened have reacted to the event.

Gamers have seen a different way to mourn the passing of their favorite in game diplomat.

They have done tributes in videos, even CCP Games and Something Awful have posted articles remembering Vile Rat’s contribution to their community.

Link, via MMO Anthropology and YouTube.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interview with William McCormick from Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has come a long way from when it became free-to-play all the way to Season 6. There have been people with the game since it came into being as a pay-to-play game.

Here, MMO Anthropology interviews William McCormick who is with a reasonably sized fleet in the game who has been doing a video series about fleets and the new content. Fleets are the essential part of Star Trek Online social structure, they are essentially guilds, and recently STO added “fleet starbases” which act as a sort of player housing applied to the in game guilds.

Link, via YouTube and MMO Anthropology.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

RaiderZ is actually a fairly good game

It’ll be my review this week, the closed beta test has been ongoing and I got in as soon as it splashed down.

Needless to say, it’s pretty well built, and fun; although I can see the enchantment wearing thin very soon.

That is all.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Around Rage: The Bigger They Are…

rage 2012-08-01 17-49-09-77

At least at near the beginning of the game they were kind enough to give me a ride… I must admit, though, I do not like driving games and I dislike racing. Fortunately, Rage allowed me to escape most of the racing and driving for greener pastures (such as blowing people’s heads off.)

Still, the segment there was felt a little too frustrating for me. The controls are awkward and racing itself is annoying.

rage 2012-08-02 18-14-08-64

The good doctor is nicer than he looks.


rage 2012-08-02 18-25-15-83

At first, I thought this guy was huge—he seems to be wearing a refrigerator on his back. It took me quite a few sniper rife rounds to eventually take him out…

But then… Well--


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I met this notable fellow.

He was kind enough to telegraph where the bits of that parking garage would land when he threw them; but it didn’t mean he was a pushover. I wasted lots and lots of missile launcher ammo on him, his shiny chest, and his shiny head.

Monday, July 30, 2012

MMO Anthropology Interviews Magicman Editor-in-Chief of

Magicman (Michael Byrne) editor-in-chief of came onto MMO Anthropology to speak about his experience with MMO gaming. The meeting took place in Aion Online and brought up topics such as having friends in game, the free-to-play model, and how people interact through MMO game worlds.

Link, via YouTube via MMO Anthroplogy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Critical Path Project and the importance of games

As an anthropologist—and in particular one who studies cyborg culture through video games—the fact that games change the world is something never lost on me. We’re in an advantageous period of development for human communication and culture, that splendid moment when spark meets fuel in the luminiferous aether of social gaming.

We have entire communities that evoke themselves from simple MMO games, where Minecraft can become a cult phenomenon just because of its simplistic form and infinite creativity, and where Call of Duty and other similar online games have minor Internet-celebrities on YouTube pulling in millions of viewers a month.
Gaming is the next-bright horizon that culture will-yet-consume and we’re watching it happen.

Visit the page, click on a few of the links and, if you’re at all culture minded like I am, perhaps you’ll enjoy some.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Visiting Minecraft: Little House on the Quarry (Part 2/2)

A castle and a beach home—in Minecraft

Let’s see where this takes us, shall we?

via MMO Anthropology.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

MMO Anthropology Interviews Nelson Williams Editor-in-Chief of Vox Ex Machina

Friend-of-the-blog MMO Anthropology interviewed Nelson Williams, editor-in-chief of Vox Ex Machina recently and here's the resulting footage. I hope that you forgive the fact that apparently the normal transition zoom is missing from the beginning--but otherwise it seemed to come out rather well.

Link, via YouTube via MMO Anthropology.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Visiting Minecraft: Little House on the Quarry (Part 1/2)

Minecraft, a place to make homes…

Not a bad examination of how Minecraft can be used to build and create – a sort of organic approach to constructing a world.

via MMO Anthropology.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Around The Secret World: A Problem with Zombies


Funcom’s The Secret World is a wonderful MMORPG with powerful, deeply atavistic Lovecraftian stories – this screenshot it from the first town that is being besieged by zombies.


Many of the quests have cinematic and even fully-voiced animations that have your character mostly standing dumbly and listening to a story about the reason for the quest and why. This is the hallmark of plot quests and it’s good to watch them at least once.

This has been put to good use by Star Wars: The Old Republic but it takes on a different quality in horror-themed The Secret World.


Kingsmouth has a zombie problem – I have a solution.

Fire. Kill it with fire.




So zombies aren’t the only problem Kingsmouth has. RUN! RUN!

At least, that’s what I thought to myself until I recollected that I have an AK-47 that shoots lightning and that particular problem ended up deep-fried very quickly.

The other player helping out didn’t hurt either.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Star Trek Online Developers Gozer and Heretic Signal Resignation

Star Trek Online has seen two developers mark their calendars with a figure resignation, both Geoff "Heretic" Tuffli and Dan "Gozer" Griffis have signaled their departure from Cryptic Studio's MMORPG game with future resignations and left behind their notes on the forums.

"Star Trek Online content designer Dan Griffis to depart Cryptic in 'a few weeks'"

Looks like Gozer is departing and above is the link to the .VG247 on the subject.

Also, "jumping ship," is Geoff "Heretic" Tuffli who left his mark on the STO Perfect World forums with an apology and a sad farewell to the players.

Developers have a lot of social context and currency with the virtual worlds that they develop for. They're, in a way, the architects of the aesthetic and the code that governs how the community interacts with that virtuosity and within themselves; as a result, they're often the target of adulation and scorn in turn depending on the cycle of development. Not often do they work directly with the community--but sometimes they do become part of the very worlds that they develop and design.

As a result, the departure of developers from an MMO game brings with it a different and distinct sensation than the sense of developers who worked on a static, published single box game. Certainly now we're seeing more episodic content; but MMO developers personally affect and cast great shadows over the online communities that their games support.

So when they leave, it's a bit of a big deal.

Link, via MMO Anthropology.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blizzard Doubles-Down on Cheaters With Permaban Threats

Cheating is a big deal in the MMO industry, and as everyone knows, Blizzard recently flipped the switch when it comes to their real-money transfer auction house so they’re on the wire when it comes to protecting the value of virtual items. Diablo II is an excellent example of what happens when hackers and cheaters can duplicate items and produce a great deal of virtual items into a market that considers them valuable.

In an article on SiliconANGLE, I went into a discussion of Blizzard’s newest approach which is to strike down anyone caught cheating in any manner. This comes on after Blizzard has banned over a thousand people in almost 24 hours after the launch of the AH; and further there are rumors right now of several duplication hacks persistent in the game (note: I haven’t had a chance to substantiate any of these.)

However, it seems likely there will appear a duplication bug. With the presence of the RMT AH this sort of thing will inflate the in-game economy and devalue virtual items so Blizzard will probably be quick to come down on perpetrators as well as the code itself to stop this.

In fact, right now Blizzard requires people who use the RMT to use Authenticators; however, this will not stop duplicate hackers from producing, and then laundering their items through numerous toons to finally get to the one that produces the money via the RMT if we expect to see a money-mob arise from the money making aspect of Diablo III.

Link, via SiliconANGLE

Friday, June 08, 2012

Star Trek Online Lock Boxes and Lobi Crystals

Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment just cannot help themselves when it comes to the grab-bag items called “lock boxes.” The Ferengi lock boxes, distant cousins of the Cardassian lock boxes, have been around the servers for more than a month now, dispensing randomly starships and terrible loot for microtransaction currency bought master keys.

How have these affected the in-game economy?

Link, via MMO Anthropology.

Friday, June 01, 2012

PlanetSide 2: Female Not-Bikini Armor


Oh, wait, this is a science fiction MMORPG; that’s a problem with fantasy MMORPGs.

Spotted this one in a recent article on SOE’s PlanetSide 2.

The much-anticipated, upcoming sci-fi MMORPG PlanetSide 2 is showing off that they’re offering trooper armor for both boys and girls. In a sort of way seeing this brought up the old controversy about fantasy-settings where for some reason boys get gauntlets of iron-palisades across their entire bodies, and girls barely have their torsos protected while showing off cleavage and belly.

Who says PlanetSide 2 is going to be a dude fest? OK, it might be, but at least it'll have some nifty female avatar options. Sony Online Entertainment is also thumbing its nose at game industry tradition when it comes to clothing women in skimpy combat attire.

The company's latest press release features renders and screenshots of fem-troopers in full battle gear. There's not a bare belly nor a shapely thigh in sight, just functional equipment designed to keep avatars alive rather than stimulate opponents.

Science fiction armoring, however, rarely suffers this strange gender dimorphic double-standard; often the girls get just as much protection as the boys. Which would make more sense no matter the setting.

There may yet be hope.

Of course, I should point out that SWTOR is kind enough to give equal protection cross genders as well to Republic troopers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fiction Spotlight: “Something Funny Happened At Matsuri”

I remember Matsuri festival back in Phoenix, it's a fun and interesting time of cultural discovery and development. For a portion of desert in southern Arizona, the city does have a notable contingent of Nipponese citizens. As a result, the festival can be quite an experience -- also there's more than enough animé fans in the city willing to participate in the live-action version of their favorite pastime.

Of course, this means something altogether different for Vex Harrow.

As a result, this week’s spotlight Something Funny Happened at Matsuri features the festival and a lot of Nipponense-related elements.

The shining example of this particular booklet is that it includes four pages of manga drawn by one of the Vexations artists and a beautiful cover.

I’ve decided to make this one the spotlight for this month because Matsuri will be upon us soon this year, and it’s about time to pay some homage not just to the Nipponese heritage and culture, but also the way that Americans see them through the lens of literature, animé, and manga.

I am also reminded of the World War II Japanese Internment camps, one of which was situated near Phoenix, Arizona. A terrible and stupid act by the United States that Star Trek celebrity George Takei is working on bringing more attention to so that hopefully it will never happen again.

Link: Something Funny Happened At Matsuri by Kyt Dotson

[Reposted from: Mill Avenue Vexations Blog]

Monday, May 21, 2012

Around Tristram: Diablo 3 or Bust

First, let’s start with the bust.


Upon the launch of the game, Blizzard’s servers buckled under the popularity and many people saw these sorts of errors crop up. I was one of them – although that’s not my screenshot – there was a plethora of errors that got displayed.

Fortunately, Blizzard managed to get things under better control this week and we’re seeing more stable servers.

They also apologized for their issues.

Diablo III 2012-05-15 17-14-03-93

I’ve been setting myself up with a very nice Witch Doctor. It’s a fun class that in the beginning feels like she plays as a sort of pets + crowd control class. However, as with everything that Diablo 3 does, there’s a lot of different mechanisms that come into play with each of the different skills.

Role can change literally at a level.

I’m not even level 20 yet and I’ve seen: CC, pet-powers, ranged-slow, poisons, melee-drain-tank, …

Diablo III 2012-05-15 17-14-42-90

The in-game graphics are very nice looking.

Diablo III 2012-05-15 18-01-31-86

Alright. That’s a minor spoiler (anyone who got through the beta missed this because it’s the part immediately after the Skeleton King.) Most of the game involved seeking the origin of the fallen star and the blue glow in the cathedral.

Here it is. It’s Tyrael. Anyone who has played Diablo 2 knows who this is and what he represents.

So far, it’s been an excellent experience.

Although truthfully a little bit of the lag can be really frustrating and a bit confusing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Laptop Issues: Raid Array

Well, it looks like I might need to call DELL about repairs again. One of the drives in the raid array on my computer appears to be failing.

I hate to be without it again for another two weeks, but this could become very bad if it continues to persist; especially because it ruins my gaming sessions.

The symptoms are that sometimes it just freezes up—upon rebooting the raid initializer tells me that there was an error with the first disk (Disk 0) and once I get the machine launched, I have to open up the Intel Rapid Storage manager, re-initialize that disk, and viola it works again.

This only happened once last week; now it happened again this morning.

Not a good sign.

Monday, April 16, 2012

“I Am Forsaken” Looking Back at World of Warcraft

It’s been almost a year since I thought about an old fanfiction story that I wrote about Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. In the game, there’s a faction called the “Forsaken,” they’re a race of zombies who belong to the Horde.

Long considered the “evil” races, the Horde has a long tradition of races who have suffered some sort of hardship (often of no fault of their own) and overcome it.

In the case of the Forsaken, they’re a race of enslaved undead who have recently gained freedom and sentience.

As a result, I thought about how they handle an alien philosophy and a totally alien morality from living species. In fact, one of the quest chains of the Forsaken in the development of a plague that would give them the ability to kill other races and turn them into more undead.

Not exactly the nicest thing.

Why my fanction today?

This comes to mind today because I’ve received yet another favorite on my story on I Am Forsaken. The reason it’s important to me is that it takes a human perspective of death, returning as undead, and how some might feel about the alien morality of spreading plague and death.

After all, all the undead were alive once.

Link, via

Monday, April 09, 2012

Patent Trolls Sting World of Warcraft Over Virtual Worlds

Worlds Inc. has filed suit against Activision-Blizzard over the use of technology that fits with patents the received last decade entitled "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space." This is one of six patents the company owns involving the interaction of players in highly immersive 3D spaces.

Worlds Inc. has alleged that multiple titles from the game publisher violates their patents such as World of Warcraft and Call of Duty.

"Technologies created by Worlds have helped the businesses of virtual worlds gaming and the sale of virtual goods to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry," said Worlds Inc. CEO Thom Kidrin. "While we are pleased to see that the gaming industry and its rapidly growing customer base have enthusiastically embraced our patented technologies, we deserve fair compensation for their use."

Worlds Inc. previously sued and NCSoft over their MMO title City of Heroes—the suit was dismissed in 2010 after the MMO publisher settled for an undisclosed amount.

Since 2001, Worlds Inc. has been amassing patents that relate to virtual worlds and promote themselves in press releases not as a technology company, but as an intellectual property holding company. In this fashion they have all the hallmarks of a patent troll—a company who exists only to make money off predatory lawsuits against companies who brush up against the patents that they hold.

The company talks big, promoting only the patents as affirming its hold over virtual worlds. A software developer who innovates, designs, and creates should be able to point to published works that have expanded human technology and enhanced the MMO world. Instead, in their press releases Worlds Inc. harps about the USPTO recognition of patents and none of their own architecture or innovation.

During the lawsuit against City of Heroes in 2008, Worlds Inc. claimed assets in patents from the 1990s; but looking at the patent being used against World of Warcraft the initial had been declared in only 2001—the same year that Warcraft launched.

This may be a “waking the sleeping dragon” event for Worlds Inc. as Activision-Blizzard is not a company to be trifled with. World of Warcraft is still the best populated MMO in the world and while competition has been chipping away at its player base amassed $503 million in profits (a record amount) in 2011. As a result, the patent holding company might be picking a fight with an opponent who finds them crunchy and good with tartar sauce.

Link via GamesIndustry International.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Exploring the DrunkenCraft Server in Minecraft

As you know by now, I am loving Minecraft; so I was overjoyed that there’s now an MMO Anthropology video looking over a server where users can get together and create interesting things—like trees within trees.

Link, via MMO Anthropology and YouTube.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Milestone Three: Laptop Repaired

It is now safely (or unsafely) back in the place it was when it got nearly destroyed.

DELL replaced the mainboard, the keyboard casing, and the keyboard itself (so no more unexplained scratch on the “D” key.) It’s not acted up at all since it’s return and I am quite pleased.

Kudos to DELL.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Milestone Two: Laptop Arrives at Repair Facility

According to the FedEx tracking, the laptop is safely ensconced (and signed for) at the repair facility.

Now I just have to wait for them to repair it.

As I understand, it can take up to 5 business days for that to happen.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Lamentable Shame of no Valentine’s Day in DCUO

Sony Online Entertainment discovered that players hated the previous Valentine’s Day event so much that they decided they needed to entirely remake it. And, because they couldn’t do that in time for this year, they decided it was necessary to ditch it entirely for the days surrounding February 14th in DC Universe Online.

Come along with MMO Anthropology as we talk about how it was celebrated last year – since there’s no way to get footage of the event from this year.

Link, via YouTube and MMO Anthropology

Milestone One (Supplemental): FedEx Tracking

The package has arrived in a city near the repair facility as of today—Leap Day—and since it’s due to be delivered tomorrow, 2012 March 1, I think that means that it’s on schedule.

In other news, I’m actually watching this FedEx tracker like a hawk.

Already one thing went wrong with this process and I don’t want to see it happen a second time.

Although, I feel that the worst possible moment will be upon its return.

First, I’ll let it get there.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Milestone One: Laptop and Box Dropped Off for Shipment

The out-ship box arrived today, furtively, as if sneaking up on my doorstep and laid in wait there for me to check for it. (Or perhaps the delivery happened whist I was in the shower, which is quite possible.)

The moment I discovered it on the stoop, I tore into it ravenously, devoured the instructions, followed them as best I could, and packed up the damaged laptop. I included an unnecessarily long-winded description of the problem on the shipping notes and taped it up.

The trek to the shipping center was arduous and I storm brewed a mighty cauldron of dark clouds overhead with mumbling about rain and thunder. (I drove a car anyway, a rare thing for me by myself but not altogether that epic.)

I prevailed.

I dropped it off at a FedEx drop-ship center and discovered I couldn’t get a receipt for dropping it off… Although I did copy down the number and I know the place I left it. I hope that this doesn’t become the next SNAFU in the repair process.

Meanwhile, I look forward to believing that it’s in DELL’s hands now and that repairs may get underway.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Four Days In and I Haven’t Been Able to Ship My Laptop Out

Surely, the stars have aligned against me. DELL did ship out the box for my laptop to be shipped back on time and according to FedEx it was delivered yesterday at 11am.

However, it never appeared on my doorstep. I even went out to the front office to see if they’d received it there and left my phone number in case the out-ship box appears. I guessed that if anywhere had received the delivery it might be them.

I have triple-checked the address with DELL (possibly quintuple-checked by the number of phone calls I’ve made.)

Today I contacted DELL again to ask them to send the box again. It looks like it’s expected arrival is sometime next week either Monday or Tuesday. Putting me in the dismal position of being without my work system for yet an extra week.

I hope this was a fluke with FedEx. After all it’s just an empty box and wouldn’t require an signature on receipt—if it’s not a fluke, this could be a problem for when my system is returned to me via the same route it went out on.

Just to be clear: I have contacted DELL to re-send the box; I have not contacted FedEx to attempt to locate it (because at this point why?)

I’ll keep everyone updated.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sending my Laptop to Hell in a Handbasket

I just accidentally spilled Mountain Dew all over my expensive Alienware laptop. It’s been a wonderful, amazing laptop, and I’ve owned it less than a year now – fortunately, DELL is going to fix it.

I am sorely tempted to do a better job of wiping it down before sending it to them; but I might as well leave it alone for the moment.

I actually managed to spill the soda on it from the other side of the table because I was trying to keep the open container away from my computers. Of course, there’s a universal law of attraction between expensive equipment and destructive fluids.

Irresistible force no doubt.

As a result: No fun video games for me.

I’m stuck in boring nothing land for a while and I may not even be able to access my most recent work. Fortunately, everything from last week is already backed up and is forwarded through the cloud so I can access it.

I’ll keep this blog updated.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Around Minecraft: A Reckoning

Earlier this week, I had a bout of illness and some severe headaches. With this, usually means that I have to take painkillers and that means opiates. It also means I get a bit loopy. However, I also bought Minecraft, and that meant I had something to distract me.

Needless to say, I spent a while leveling the land.

It’s difficult to give Minecraft justice with screenshots; but here’s some to give you a hint as to the tip of the iceberg of my adventure so far in just three days.

javaw 2012-02-17 21-08-37-21

This is a visitor center.

Every time I move into a new area, find a mine shaft, or crevice to explore, I build one of these atop it. Most of them just contain a crafting table and an oven—some have a bed—but almost all of them have lower basement exits that go into the mine (with doors of course.)

They’re frugal, but cozy, and I expect them to tell the story of the mine shaft below after I’m done with them.

javaw 2012-02-17 21-09-07-21

This is the Undermountain Pass. I dug it in a straight line through a mountainside in order to see where it would go. Worked out pretty well, actually. It even peeked out on one edge into a vast mountain valley lake.

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There’s the lake—those are some odd floating island formations with hovertrees on them out there.

I haven’t explored those yet.

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My newest addition: the swamp visitor’s center.

It’s even got double-tall windows for taking in the view. And, if you look just to the side, you might even see one of my giant mushrooms. I am thinking of building one of my next structures on top of one just because…

Maybe some other time.

And to say adieu, here’s the room with a view.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Rockets and Hallmark in World of Warcraft for Valentine’s Day

The “Love is in the Air Festival” in World of Warcraft has been going on for a few years now. Blizzard has seen fit not to tweak it every much except to allow people to revisit the favorite dungeon instance of Shadowfang Keep for the showdown with the Crown Chemical Co. apothecaries (the villains of this Valentine’s Day festival.) I love Shadowfang as much as the next gamer, but it’s about time they updated the content a little.

Yes, yes, the Valentine’s Day festivities bring us the “Love Rocket” and other odd items, but it’s just not cutting it anymore.

Link, via MMO Anthropology and YouTube.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Darkness II: Screenshots from the Demo

Since I’ve started this mini-trend of posting screenshots from the games that I’ve played, I figured that I’d bring some of the more interesting scenes from a new demo I found on Valve’s Steam service: The Darkness II.

Published by 2K Games and developed by Digital Extremes, the game does a fair job of forming a shooter/horror atmosphere. The voice acting is alright, although sometimes the skulls of the characters feel a bit…off. Although, I was shooting at their skulls more often than admiring them.

I didn’t have the joy of playing the first The Darkness, but from what I understand various critics didn’t like the game very much. So here’s hoping this next incarnation (read: sequel) will do better than the first.

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This unfortunate fellow is the first thing I saw in the demo. He’s apparently an occultist who wants to take the Darkness from from Jackie—the MC of the game (whom I’m playing as.) Missing teeth, wrecked face, this fellow has suffered horribly and this may fuel his desire to take this magic power from me.

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The Darkness manifests as a pair of very angry snake-headed tentacles that seem to hang out around my shoulders. They’re actually quite helpful—as you see above—and can grab guns from the ground, doors from cars to act as body shields, and even fling things (like doors and rebar) to ruin the day of whomever I threw them at.

Not to mention, I can also dual wield weapons (mostly handguns and Uzi’s in the demo with the odd shotgun.)

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If I get too close to a light source the Darkness freaks out and recedes (and it reasonably stuns me and makes it difficult to fight back.)

As a result, when entering an area, I try to sight any lamps or pools of light and put them out. Fortunately, guns manage to be an excellent candle-quitter for stopping these problems (just target and fire.) It’s my understanding that in the previous The Darkness the tentacles themselves could kill lights and in this one they will not—must use ammo.

And then… Then there’s this little guy:

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Okay, so the first screenshot it the imp getting his butt-electrocuted. I thought that was funny.

I believe this is called a darkling and he enters the battlefield time to time as a guide. He also leaps onto enemies and subdues them so that I can eat them.

And I do mean eat them.

Whilst it’s true that I can shoot them down with the guns—but it’s much more fun to whack them with the tentacles and then grab them. Once grabbed, I can execute them gruesomely with the tentacles to some effect. Often with some benefit such as health regen or additional ammo.

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Gruesome indeed.

Finally, when a person is downed (without a special execute) it leaves their “heart” intact and I can “devour their hearts,” which gains skill points that can be spent on a variety of upgrades to the character.

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Yeah, not happening.

In conclusion. The art style is a little bit cel-shaded making it feel just a wee bit comic-bookish; but it’s more photorealistic than it is cel-shading (a good comparison might be the game XIII). There’s the mobster with evil magic powers motif going on.

Intermittently I got an emotional introduction to his dead girlfrield (who sometimes appears in pools of light—symbolism here?) and that’s it for the demo.

Will it be a good game?


The demo comes across okay, although a little bit crass. This is a gruesome horror/action shooter after all so I guess we should cut it some slack there.

Meanwhile, that’s it for today. Adieu.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Star Trek Online and the Social Implications of Becoming Free-to-Play

It’s time for a new MMO Anthropology about Star Trek Online, developed by Cryptic Studios and now published by Perfect World Entertainment—it is a game in transition from pay-to-play to free-to-play.

As an originally pay-to-play MMO, Star Trek Online contains a great deal of content and an amazing eye to detail. Although, it is still buggy as all hell and sometimes those bugs really interfere with gameplay.

In this article, a discussion is brought forward about how going free-to-play will effect change to the communities present especially as players who used to pay a subscription find themselves amid players who do not. With pay-to-play communities there is a sense of risk and sunk cost to playing whereas with free-to-play it’s all about who buys what.

Star Trek Online is trying to alleviate this by making it about level-of-service as well as having cash-only ships (although they can also be had by free-to-play players by using an exchange system that allows trading reward-currency for pay-currency.)

Just see the essay for more, or watch the video for the summary.

Link, via MMO Anthropology and YouTube.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Around Brawl Busters? The Last Day for Bubble Yum

Well, I’ve been going through my work for GameOgre and I’ve had the joy of engaging in Rock Hippo Production’s Brawl Busters game. The review won’t go up for another week or so--but I do have screen shots to share with everyone!

In the game, most of the classes are melee and run around in a third-person shooter.

Of course, then there’s this:

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I don’t even know what happened there.

My favorite class so far is still the Firefighter (above is the Slugger and her bat—striking out.) She’s got some of the most amusing attacks and projects a barrier to stop incoming enemies.

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See the “Beat the Bubble” thing? Well, it ends today—but it’s still a rolicking good time beating up on this guy and his giant bubblegum-covered rolling pin.

Of course, watch out because he’s actually quite vicious.

I’ll leave these final two screenshots to tell the story of our last encounter.

Adieu, have a great night everyone!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Star Wars Online: The Anthropological Effect of Bugs in Virtual Worlds

Recently, Star Wars Online had an experience where a bug arose that caused people to become invincible when they used the /getdown bug. The revelation of this created some discussion in the forums (and the removal of said topics) because BioWare wants to control information about the game and especially exploits.

I’ve seen others discuss how exploits are spread and why developers might want to suppress information about them, especially in what they consider to be the primary information source for their game. Although the blogs out there certainly represent a better news source than the forums, more people who play the game probably use the forums as their information and social source.

The use of exploits and bugs can be seen by the community in a game as a sort of cheat. Also, in the past entire games have failed due to the fears and expectations of incoming players who saw that they would not receive a fair shake. Although many were happy to entertain themselves with the tools and services provided by these MMO publishers they felt that their experience had been crimped by the presence of individuals who gained advantage using bugs in the game.

As a result, bugs like /getdown are seen as a blight on the game and developers like BioWare seek to suppress the knowledge of their existence as they fix them.

The supporting essay that outlines much of this information is currently published on MMO Anthropology and it explores the way BioWare acted and some of the community reaction. It’s still early in the life of Star Wars: The Old Republic but we might be starting to see the relationship they want to establish with their players already.

Link, via MMO Anthropology

Monday, January 23, 2012

Around the Alpha Quadrant: Attaining Captain

So I’m guilty. Star Trek Online just went free to play January 17th and I’ve been flying around the quadrant with friends picking up ships, blowing Klingons out airlocks, and forcing Romulans to such down warp plasma—by way of quantum torpedoes.

Things have been pretty good for the galaxy under my kind leadership.

I’d like to introduce everyone to my crew:

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Captain Cassandra--and look, there’s Hadaly!

This shot was taken not very far away from some very unhappy gorn and klingons who really wanted to my rampage through their secret base looking for augment technology.

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Either that or they just didn’t like the weather on their terrible, lonely, cold planet.

I’ve been enjoying this game thoroughly and I have even brought several friends in. Also, because I’m affiliated, I should point out that MMO Anthropology has published an essay on what going free-to-play does to a community and what this means for the MMO ecology.

Pretty much, I haven’t spent any money; but I can see why people might want to. Perfect World Entertainment have taken Cryptic Studios’s work and bring it into the free-to-play space extremely well.

Although, of course, that means that the starships that I think look the best are also the ones that cost the most! Or cost at all…

I see what you did there, PWE.

I will leave you with beautiful pictures of my ship the Cassiopeia II and an exploding Borg cube.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Around Alderaan: Nar Shaddaa at Night

Instead of sticking to my roots and fully functioning with my Trooper I’ve gone and gotten my legacy (“The Sunspots Legacy”) at level 30 and then moved onto a bunch of alts. As a result, I’ve really retarded by progression up through the levels but I am enjoying a great deal of the storyline flow.

Right now, I’m leveling my Smuggler through her storyline and that’s lead me off of Taris and into Nar Shaddaa. I know I haven’t shown any screenshots from there, but it’s another neon-glittering city-world like Coruscant.

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To show the majesty of the artwork that Star Wars: The Old Republic puts into places like this, I figured that I’d tiptoe out on the edge of a taxi platform and get a shot of what it looks like at night with all the loglo lighting up the sky.

City-planets like Nar Shaddaa used to be a mainstay of the galaxy, but with the war against the Sith Empire looming in the recent past, planets like Taris represent the terrible destruction wrought.

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Here’s a visual of my lovely Smuggler, Kaspar riding a taxi through the glow of Nar Shaddaa.

I’ve been following a plot line where she’s seeking the treasures of a long-dead system lord/mobster fellow who went pirate and hid his junk in some unknown reach of space. It’s lead me to a multitude of familiar planets—I suspect that Tatooine and Alderaan will soon be on the list.

Finally, I’d like to leave everyone with my favorite sight in the entire game: my ship.

As a Smuggler, SWTOR gives us a shout out to the most famous Star Wars smuggler of all time: Han Solo. How do they do that? Well, apparantly the fastest ships in the galaxy have always been Corellian Freighters.

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Booyah! You can make the Kessel Run in how many parsecs?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Have a holly jolly Christmas with Dungeon Defenders

And here I thought that Christmas only affected games like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes. As the holiday season leaves us, there’s still quite a few of these gems to make appearances and look at how they soak up the cultural limelight.

Just watch out for the “Mega Snowman” who wants your tree and your Christmas presents! It’s another highlight from our friends at MMO Anthropology.

Link, via YouTube and MMO Anthropology

Thursday, January 05, 2012

US Congress Still Doesn’t Understand the Internet, Reddit Responds to Lamar Smith Over SOPA

Recently, US Representative Lamar Smith (accidentally?) issued a challenge to the social-media news aggregator site Reddit by calling them a vocal minority who didn’t understand the law as written and therefore their fears were unfounded. Smith then challenged the community to point out the areas they felt SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) threatened the integrity of the Internet.
"It’s a vocal minority,” he said. "Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded."
To put this in Internet meme terms, Reddit took this to heart: Challenge Accepted.

Anyone ready to dismiss the power behind Reddit and its role as an organ of mainstream Internet reaction might want to look at how GoDaddy did when Reddit became a leverage-point for pressure against the domain-name registrar to drop their support for SOPA.
It is broadly argued by opponents of bills such as SOPA and PROTECT-IP that while they’re philosophically designed to counteract copyright infringement and piracy but pragmatically they burn down the forest to kill the wolf. Under these bills set before Congress corporations who hold copyrights will be given unprecedented powers that would allow them to censor any target without due process (as cited my many opponents of the bills) already this is a problem for the DMCA in its “automatic takedown” provisions but will only be expanded to ridiculous extremes by SOPA and remove what works out of the DMCA (although it should be pointed out that the DMCA is still demonstrably broken in a way SOPA breaks worse.)
Needless to say, the deck has been stacked against opponents of this bill and even Google has found themselves at the table speaking out against it. While one might think it would be hard to marginalize a corporation like Google, the US Congress managed to do just that with ridicule and dismissal.
It seems unlikely the Lamar Smith will look at the artifacts of Reddit’s reaction to his challenge, but the research and replies developed from within their ranks will further fan the flames and better educate people as to what portions are in fact poorly designed.
On another note, language from corporations who do not support “the current version” of SOPA should really just drop it. The public at large understands that there’s a strong reason for copyright holders to desire powers that enable them to protect their copyrights; but when they ignore the unequal treatment of different holders and providers in these contexts (to their own obvious detriment) and are unable to explain away the philosophical bankruptcy of bills like SOPA it damages their credibility.
The politics of this bill are ever shifting, and everyone should be aware of who supports it in the gaming industry—for example here’s some MMO publishers who belong to the Entertainment Software Association (SOPA supporter) but who have been looked through recently to see who supports the party line of the association.

Way to go TRION Worlds who was recently discovered to not support SOPA (so spake they in a forum post) and said they’d take it up with the ESA. Hopefully more will follow suit.

A Winter in City of Heroes 2011

This video and article pair are starting to find some traction across various sources, including my beloved Vox Ex Machina. What we’re seeing in this episode is about the MMORPG City of Heroes published by NCSoft and how they approach the winter holidays.

The Winter Event in City of Heroes is largely a Christmas-themed holiday with elements taken from legends also about New Years and some Irish folklore (including the Tuatha, Red Caps, and the Unseelie.) There’s also abominable snowmen (made of snow.)

This event has been taking place since 2005 (with the 2004 event that actually started very early January 2005.)

Link, via MMO Anthropology.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Black Hat Magick gets better navigation via moi Photoshop skills

Behold my nascent and rusty Photoshop skills! I have added some extra navigation to the Black Hat Magick website to make it easier for people to find their way to the salient portions of the story—namely the beginning and the most recent short story.

I know that I had something better before (like a TOC) but the crash really left me in a lurch.

So we’ll all have to suffer with these lovelies on the home page.


Link, via Black Hat Magick.