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Does He Enjoy the Irony?

After Jeff Freeman linked to this site, I read through a bunch of it.  Most of it is bile.  The author loves stringing together insults, an equal opportunity hater, because he does, in point of fact, hate everything he writes about.

The bulk of his reviews of webcomics boil down to “that’s not funny” although most times he does make comments about the art as well.  The irony I speak of in the title comes about in this post, a mere 15 posts in to his run.  He takes a moment to explain that the people who think he isn’t funny just don’t get it because he writes the site to entertain, “Like, seven or eight people.”  The irony is that most webcomics actually start the same way.  Looking at many of them now, you might not be able to see their more humble beginnings, before they got enough traffic for ads to matter, before they put up message boards, or ran charity drives.  Everyone starts somewhere.

If the author keeps it up, he might one day sell out just like Maddox, someone who probably started his website to entertain, like, seven or eight people.

Anonymity and the Internet

My name is Jason.  No, really.  I post as Jason here on my website, and on most message boards, though there are still a few throwbacks to my EQ days where I post as Ishiro or other boards where I use other names, but even then it takes only about ten seconds to get from any of those forums to here and find out my name is Jason.  I’m not really scared of identity theft, although I don’t go posting my social security number or anything on the Internet and I use secure protocols whenever possible.  I’m protected, but I’m not hiding.  Mostly its because I really don’t have much worth stealing.  I often jest that I wish someone would steal my identity and pay off my bills.  But the point is, nearly a decade ago when I decided to start posting things to the Internet, I decided to, for the most part, be myself.

One thing that I do enjoy doing most on the Internet is engaging in discussions, and to a large degree, I find that its much harder to have serious discussions with people who are anonymous.  Mostly, I find it hard because anonymous people are more likely to say things they don’t really mean or feel because there are few, if any, repercussions for saying those things.  To put it another way: anonymous people are often dicks.

There are entire communities built around anonymous people being dicks.  Oh, some of them are not anonymous, in fact in some cases there are people who are very well known, but the majority are people who only unleash their vitriol on the Internet because its the only place they can get away with it.  The bigger problem with that attitude is that it spreads.  I generally avoid forums where being condescending is the norm, but when other people go there and get used to it, they bring it with them to other places.  Sometimes I think I’m being overly sensitive, but there really are some people who can’t seem to string three sentences together without one of them belittling someone else.  And its a shame, because anonymous people being dicks don’t stop to think “Hmm, maybe what I’m saying is driving people away.” and people like me often don’t put up with it forever.  Its not that the insults hurt.  The insults often are so childish that its impossible to be hurt, only to feel sorry for the person who feels the need to hurl them.  But after a length of time, you just get tired of reading it.  The person may make a good point, but when every good point is accompanied by a personal jab…

I’m rambling.  Anyway, this comes up because lately one of the places I’ve enjoyed hanging around has been overrun by a product of Internet anonymity.  And its just not fun anymore.  But thankfully, that’s why message boards have features to ignore people.

Reusing Assets

Over at the Nerfbat Forums, a question was (poorly) asked about instances and zones. I say poorly asked because I think what the original poster meant to be the focus of the discussion is if people preferred the use of instances over shared zones, as well as zones versus a “seamless” world. EverQuest is probably the best most popular answer for zone based design, while World of Warcraft would be one people would recognize on the seamless world based design. In the grand scheme of things, both use instances, however for a more comprehensive instance based design you’d need to look at City of Heroes or Guild Wars.

I threw in my two bits on that thread, but the crux of my post, and that which relates to the title of this post, follows:

I’d love to see games mix it up… you put in a town, and outside that town is a zone, the zone is shared by everyone, maybe its huge, but inside the town you also put in a “raid” where your raid leader talks to an NPC and flags his raid for the “Defend the town” raid, and when the raid members leave town they don’t go into the shared zone, but instead go into an instance of that zone, or if the zone was huge just a section of that zone made as an instance to support the raid. Then, three expansions later you decide to implement an “Escort the king to Other Town” raid which uses the same outdoor zone, again as an instance, but this time the raid has to escort the king and his caravan to the other town at the far end of the zone, defending the king from waves of attackers.

I think games need to get more creative with their use of “space” and game/art assets. Designing a whole chunk of land to be used once in only one way just seems like a gigantic waste of effort.

That last paragraph really is what I want to ramble about. It surprises me how often games seem willing to spend so much time and effort building a zone or area in a game, and then don’t bother to reuse it. They’ll reuse item and NPC models left and right, just throwing tints on them to modify their colors, but they’ll spend a month designing a castle only to put one objective in it and never use it again.

The example I outlined above is something I’d absolutely love to see. Take a zone that is normally a shared hunting zone with animals and monster camps, the usual treadmilling trash mobs, strip it of the animals and camps and throw in an organized raid objective utilizing the same (and to the player, familiar) landscape but in new ways, or even take the original zone file and then build a fort in the middle of the forest that the players need to burn down.

I think the roadblock to this is the misconception that the player wants new stuff to be entirely new, but the truth is that for most players is just needs to be new “enough” and familiarity in some aspects can actually be comforting. Personally, while I do enjoy going into a new zone and learning new stuff, I think I’d also like going into an old zone with a new objective just about as much. I’d know the general lay of the land, that while we are currently approaching the enemy camp from the north, there is a path through the trees that will allow us to flank their position because its the path I used to use to approach the old goblin camp that used to be there.

That kind of reuse might also impact the desire of players to seek spoiler sites, not that the content itself would be immune to spoiling, but that familiarity with aspects of “new” content would actually foster a level of knowledge and confidence in the player that might keep them from feeling they need to look up information before continuing.

Anyway, it is something to think about.

The Plague

Normally I reserve Wednesday posts for discussions of all things Zombie. This week, despite the title of this entry, I will not be speaking of zombies, unless you count the fact that I have felt like one.

One of the wicked cool things about WordPress, which is what I use to do this blog, is that you can post entries in advance. When I’m in my rhythm, I run about 3 entries ahead, so that on Monday I’m writing Thursday’s post while you are reading the post I wrote on Friday. Now, this isn’t always true, sometimes I just can’t think up or find stuff to write about, other days I’ll sit down and crank out a week’s worth of entries. The best part about this is that it allows (forces) me to think about what I’m writing. Often times I’ll write up an entry and then during the next two or three days while it waits in queue, I’ll think up new thoughts on the subject and go edit my entry. The bad part about this is that if I’m away from the PC for a few days and I’ve accidentally “published” items I wasn’t really finished with, they make it to the front page while I’m not paying attention.

So, a little over two weeks ago, I started feeling a tad under the weather. I wrote up a post for the 5th and one for the 7th, and then I vanished into a cloud of illness and phlegm.

There is nothing so oppressive as not being able to breath. There were days that I felt like someone was stepping on my chest. Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying to go see some free movie screenings. However, not being able to take a full breath and hearing a disturbing rattle in my lungs if I exhaled too deeply was just bad… when I realized that the never-ending pounding in my skull was actually from lack of caffeine, I felt like a complete idiot. Thankfully, the fine folks at Papa Johns will deliver Cokes along with pizza. Also, NyQuil works much better if you get the kind with the alcohol still in it. Its hard to feel sick when you are asleep.

However, illness does have its upsides. We did watch all of season three of 24. Now I’m only three seasons behind. I also played a lot of Dead Rising (hey, look! zombie games!) working my way toward the Zombie Genocider achievement (you have to kill 53,594 zombies, enough to equal the stated population of the town).

There comes a point, though, when you’ve missed all the work you can miss and slept all the sleep you can sleep and driven over all the zombies you can drive over… okay, driving over zombies never gets tiring, but there comes a point where you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. My point is at about 10 days.

Sometimes, a person just needs a break. I got sick, and I let myself be sick because I needed to be sick. Ten days of sick and I was ready to rejoin the world. I’m all better now, and I’m more certain than ever before that attitude and outlook affect your physical state.

What was the point of all this? Oh, likely just so that later I can justify to myself why I failed to reach 50,000 words for the NaNoWriMo by pointing and saying “I was sick!” But then again, I do still have ten days… 5,000 words a day. Maybe…

A Little House Cleaning

In preparation of using the root website for something, I’ve moved a bunch of my personal items from there to this blog. The Poetry, Parodies and Writing tabs contain the bulk of it. Feel free to check them out, or don’t.

Soon as I get myself organized, I’ll do up a post of the future of probablynot.com.

The End of the World

Tobold’s had an interesting post up last week about the concept of a game that resets everyone back to zero as part of a cycle. It really is a nifty idea that I think more games should consider in whole or in part. But the question becomes, how often do you reset?

The first comment on Tobold’s post mentions resetting EQ1 every 90 days. Three months seems a little fast to me, especially given the huge amount of content the game has (not to mention the ridiculous keying and flagging for some zones). Of course, on a reset model, perhaps they could remove some unneeded content (like Luclin), maybe revamp the entire game to focus on one huge storyline. If they’d thought of it sooner, the Planes of Power expansion would have been perfect for this, seeing as how in the Plane of Time the defeat of Quarm results in story text saying your characters are being sent back in time or their memories wiped or something and the defeat of Quarm is being undone since he can’t be allowed to be killed. Three months might be perfect for a game that was only the original world, Kunark, Velious and Plane of Power. In fact, I think that game would rock. Maybe you could still throw in some of those mini expansions like Lost Dungeons and Ykesha, and every three months when they reset the world they’d revamp some zones, maybe add new features, change up the lesser stories. It would definitely solve my “empty world” scenario that happens when everyone is level capped and no one plays the low or mid level game anymore.

But for the casual player, is 90 days too short? If I was the kind of person who only got to play less than 5 hours a week, in three months I’d get in at most 60 hours of play, then I’d lose my character and have to restart. I wouldn’t want to play that game if I were that guy. Wherever you set your reset at, you’ll always be eliminating a set of players below a threshold. Another blog on the subject suggested two months… that short a period would need a very shallow and/or fast playing game.

Perhaps you could just reset the people involved in the final event, or people above a certain level… or maybe allow people to flag themselves as part of the “reset content” which opens up new areas, new raids, but means that when someone wins the final event, all the flagged characters get reset. But most of these limitations come in with level gated content. What if your game had no levels? What if the only progression in the game was in obtaining items and moving through the story?

It is a lot to think about.

Part of the Problem

The other day I happened to notice that the main probablynot.com page had gotten a couple of new incoming links. Its odd because, honestly, no one really reads that site, they come here to the blog. But I suppose if you were Googling, since the most recent posts are RSS fed to the probablynot.com root site a person might get directed there.

As always, I like to know why people are linking to me, and what they have to say.

The first link was actually from back in July, so I’m not sure why it took so long to show itself, or perhaps I haven’t looked at my own root site since July 23rd. The site appears to be a collection of book reviews. I’ve seen these kinds of aggregation sites before, and I actually think its kind of neat to be scraped for it. Cool.

The second link looked funny. While the first site was a blog called “Crime Always Pays” and the post with my link was “The Monday Review”, the second site was called “Crime Review: The Monday Critical review”. It had nearly the same information. I say “nearly” because it was the same info, but it had been passed through two filters: the first changed some words to synonyms, and the second inserted some ad keywords. In fact, the entire site is just rife with Google Ads, and looking at the profile of the blogger, he has a bunch of similar sites all designed to draw traffic, collect clicks, and (he hopes) generate money.

Looking deeper, the second site copies nearly every post from the first site, up until August 1st at least… which lead me to examining the first site a little closer and noticing the review of mine wasn’t the only review of that same book to be tapped. In fact, page by page digging through the archives shows that it really is just repeating the same books over and over, slightly randomized. The site is chaotic enough to suggest it is hand made, but repetitious enough to belie that and show its true colors of most likely being a bot generated site.

I hate these kinds of sites. An aggregation post or site doesn’t bother me too much, but these automated Google Ad factories piss me off. And now I’m on one. Worse, in their quotes of me, they quoted my link to the book I reviewed with my Amazon Associates ID, so I may actually make money from this abomination.

The thing that irks me most however is that their link uses one quoted line of my book review and the link back to me does not go to the full review, but to the root site. Even now, that post has already scrolled off the RSS and doesn’t show there. Searching the root site you’ll never find that review, its on the weblog subdomain. My ill gotten traffic is being directed to the wrong place.

*sigh*

Oh well… its the Internet. There isn’t much I can do about it.

The Wii Parade

I finally got around to setting up our Wii. So, if you read this and you have one, here is my Wii Number:

Wii Number

If you decide to add me, please post your number here or email me (jason at this domain) with your number so I can add you back, since apparently you can’t talk to each other or anything until both sides have added each other.

Misguided vs. Wrong

Note: The following post has nothing to do with any particular issue. Its just something I thought of and wanted to put out there.

I am rarely ever wrong.

Now, before you get all upset and fire off a ten page missive about how I am wrong, read on…

If you were to want to borrow my car, and I hand you the keys and tell you “It’s the first white car on the third row.” If you now go and try use my keys to open the door of the second red car on the first row, you are wrong. I gave you the facts, you forgot them or ignored them, you are wrong, and now you are setting off the alarm on someone else’s car. If, however, I were to tell you it was the second red car on the first row when it is really the first white car on the third, when you go to the red car, you are not wrong, you are misguided.

When I get into discussions with people, when I write long blogs here, I do so from the vantage point of everything that I know, every fact that I have… if I am misguided, I expect and appreciate when people show me how I am mistaken, clarify something I don’t understand, or show me the right path. I tend to try to treat others the same way… I try not to slam people when they state things I don’t agree with, I’d much rather get into why we disagree and see if I can learn something from them or teach something to them.

So… if you read anything on this site that you feel is not correct, please, feel free to show me where I have gone awry. I may disagree at first (because obviously I am under the impression that what I know to be true is true), but I’m pretty much always amenable to changing my mind if I can be convinced.

On the other hand, if all you are going to do is say “You’re wrong!” or some other definitive yet unexplanitory statement, don’t bother. If you can’t be bothered to show me where I am misguided, I would rather not be bothered by you at all.

A Change Gonna Come

Its not often I post in the Site News section, but hey, I’ve got site news… I’ve been looking at new themes for a while now, but I’ve been holding off redoing them because I also wanted to upgrade to the latest WordPress, which required a newer version of MySQL than I had available.

Well, after much wrangling, my database was finally migrated to a new server, and as I type this the latest WordPress is uploading. So a new theme is coming…

I was born by a river in a little tent,
And just like this river,
I’ve been running ever since.
It’s been a too long, too long-time a-coming,
But I know a change gonna come,
Oh, yes, it is.

It’s been too hard living,
And I’m afraid to die.
I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky.
It’s been a long time a, long time a-coming,
But I know, Lord I know a change gonna come, Lord.
Yeah, yes.

And then I went to see my brother, oh yeah.
I said, “Brother, help me, please.”
He turned me down.
And then I went, I went to see my sweet mother.
I said, “Mama, Mama I’m down on my knees.”
It’s been a too hard living,
And I’m afraid to die.
I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky.
It’s been a long, long time a-coming,
But I know, but I know a change gonna come.
Oh, long.

-Sam Cooke