Greedy Goblin

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fortnite: hoping but not expecting

Fortnite is a newly released (Early access from July 25) game with lot of potential and charming graphics.

The "revolutionary" element is that you are building a fort on the fly, in the middle of the battle from resources you gather during the battle while killing zombies with weapons you craft on the fly. This means quick thinking. Also, the maps are randomized with various enemies, so there is no "check out uber fort on youtube and build always that". Finally, it's a team game, meaning a perfect place for testing a-social ideas, working with other good players instead of "friends".

Are you excited? You shouldn't be. Because even if we assume that everything I collected from their promises is true, we don't know anything about the most important thing: is Fortnite even a game? I mean, will there be winners and losers? Will it matter if you build the best fort with the best team compared to 4 ArthasDKlols:
  • one being completely lost/stoned/drunk/AFK
  • other ignoring objectives and just "pwning 4 lulz"
  • third trying to complete some obscure achievement that has nothing to do with the task
  • fourth building a fort with one purpose: to make it look like a huge penis
Will the optimal team achieve anything that the second team doesn't? Or will the difference will be only in some meaningless achievements and maybe 20% more rewards? Will there be exclusive content available only to the best players (like platinum league in LoL)? Or everyone will get everything assuming playing enough?

Another question: how bad the monetization will be? Will playing matter at all or results will only depend on paying, like in the mobile crap?

Finally, assuming that the formal rules are fine, there will be winners and losers, monetization will cap out around $50/month, will the game be fair? I mean will it operate according to the rules or will it give piss-easy random maps to those who bought vanity? Will exploiters be banned or laugh together with devs on "Fanfest"?

The sad thing is that these questions had been crazy paranoia just 5 years ago, while now 90% of the games out there violate one or more. I'm really, really hoping that Fortnite will be good. But I'm not expecting it, and until they prove themselves, I won't give a damn dime.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"At this point is it fair to say that the GMs only reversed this guy's ban because he was a streamer"

I've left Black Desert Online due to lack of interest, not because of rigging. My how to get rich page is still up. But it seems I have to reconsider, due to a recent scandal.

To fully understand what happened, you should be aware of the worker system that I described in detail. Now I just give a short version: you have a limited resource called contribution points that you can use to connect nodes, connect subnodes and rent lodging for workers. Some nodes are better than others and you can send only one worker per node. Now, exploiting players figured out how to send more workers per node. Not only it allows them to have multiples of the most lucrative nodes, but it greatly increased their contribution point effectiveness, as the extra worker needed just extra logding, while properly utilizing another node would also need node and subnode activation.

OK, exploiting happens, cheaters are banned in every game, what's the rigging? On May 25, a "famous" twitch streamer was banned for this exploit and later found innocent and unbanned. Except, he was so guilty that he kept exploiting! Too bad for him that he unwittingly streamed evidence against himself, making Reddit explode (as far as r/blackdesertonline can explode):

He of course since claims innocent mistake, but I can expert witness that he is guilty as hell. All the other workers are orange on his screenshot as they should be. The worker quality goes up from white, green, blue, yellow and orange. I never used blue workers for more than a day or two until I had the energy (renewing limited resource) to reroll them to at least yellow. That one blue worker has 48924 cycles left from the maximum of 50000, so already completed 1076 cycles. He has 2h 15m 41s left of its current cycle while the filled bar is 45 pixels, the total is 142. From that, a cycle is 199 minutes long, so that worker wasn't touched for 149 days (actually more, as it was slower when it was low level). He didn't touch him, because he knew that if he removes the worker, he can't put it back. If he was innocent, he would have unwittingly remove it to replace it with a higher level and just notice that he can't put it back. So the dude was purposefully exploiting for about 5 months.

Yet, he was unbanned in May and now he only got 72 hours of suspension, despite serious exploiting. Repeat: he is still not removed from the game, just got a suspension. Why? The title of the post comes from a reddit comment. This is I Want ISK unban in Black Desert. It seems that the community management is corrupted here too. I considered BDO safe from corruption due to being developed and managed by different companies, so any exploiting would need collusion between corrupted employees continents apart. I forgot the option that the devs in Korea make a honest mistake allowing exploiting (happens with every game) and the community team just let the exploiting go rampart and unpunished.

Anyway, I amend my BDO page with a warning about the community team being corrupted. It's probably not a coincidence that it's always the community team that gets compromised: it's their job to engage with players, they get friendly with them and they soon learn that the cheating streamer or the RMTing botter makes 10x more with his shady business than the honest salary of the devs. From there it's only a few beers for business to be made: a little money (still more than salary) from the game-monetizer in turn of a blind eye or even in-game support from the dev.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ad hominem is not an argument. Nor it is politics.

I watched in disbelief how the lefties in the USA turned every stone to find the imaginary Russia collusion. But now the right wing started to catch up by turning stones on Seth Rich and the Haiti investigator "suicide" and several other suspicious deaths of people who were uncomfortable to Hillary Clinton. After all, if your opponent makes a complete clown of itself with nothing burger conspiracy theories, keep up!

The problem with these conspiracies isn't that they are likely not true. It's that them being true would be totally irrelevant for any argument on politics or even the elections. These are about deciding where the country should go. The politicians leading it are just working there. The president is an institution, not a guy. Trump voters didn't vote for his non existing charm or relationship ethics or whatnot. They voted against migration, international trade, globalist wars and enforcement of leftist culture, the issues Trump championed. Trump being impeached for collusion wouldn't make them go away, they'd just vote for the next guy (Coulter? Cruz?) who offer these.

Similarly, just because Hillary goes to jail for killing people or stealing charity money, lefties won't stop chanting "no nations, no borders" nor stop demanding that every company CEO must be a black transwoman. They just follow the next candidate (Warren? Harris?) who carries the same banner. Hillary "rallies" were empty, no one was interested in her charm, yet she got 65M votes because of the issues she championed. And some of those voters were alive citizens, imagine that!

Even further, the objective value of these ideologies aren't affected by the personal fate of the current flag carriers. The migrants either integrate into the society and become valuable citizens or stay aside and remain leeches, criminals and terrorist. The companies are either producing more GDP with a diverse staff or don't. Children who claim to be trans either grow it out or commit suicide if not allowed to change sex. All these debates will be closed 50 years from now and those who were on the wrong side will be remembered as idiots. Finding the correct solution needs research and debate over ideas, not ad hominem attacks, regardless of their validity. Sure, criminals should go to jail, but that belongs to the criminal justice system and not to pundits, journalists or voters.

What I want to say is that please don't participate in these retarded non-issues and focus on the real political issues if you choose to be political.

Monday, July 17, 2017

No, puzzles aren't games

According to Steam, I spent 57 hours playing Rebuild 3, single-player puzzle "game", successor of the top played web game Rebuild and 2, created from kickstarter money.

From the hours you can guess I like this "game". Technically I didn't finish it on the highest difficulty, because the map is huge, so will take some more hours to even find the other factions which I must defeat or ally with to win. But I'm doing OK:

No, this isn't my fort. It's just part of my fort. But unless the "game" will show something I haven't seen in the previous difficulty and building the current gigantic fort, it's only matter of time.

Now, why do I claim that it's not a game? Because it has no more replayability than a TV show. Sure, I can watch it again out of boredom, but I have no reason to do anything differently. Even worse, if you read the spoiler below, you can win on highest difficulty, largest map, max opponents on first try. Puzzles operate on obscurity, their fun comes from figuring it out. The optimal way of solving them is reading a spoiler, which makes the task trivial, while of course spoiling the fun. However if we play to win, we must choose the optimal path, read the guide and - then have no fun while doing a trivial task.

So with puzzles we reached a reductio ad absurdum: if someone plays them like they were games, they are unchallenging and unfun. Which shouldn't surprise anyone: it's true for any kind of entertainment outside of actual games. For example: Caesar dies, Brutus dies too. Here, I saved you a hundred bucks and a travel to the theater to watch the Julius Caesar play. But of course your point of watching a theater play isn't to get the outcome, but to enjoy the story unfolding. Good for you, but not a game. Neither Rebuild 3 or any of the puzzles out there.

Spoiler: ignore unhappiness and food at the start, you'll lose survivors, but it's easier to replace them than keep them alive. Get laboratory early and research improved scouting to see every resource on the map. Scavenge. Get a workshop fast and build bombs. Don't defend the fort, blow up the zombie hordes instead and instantly capture the rubble. Hell, if you have no bombs yet, don't defend either, easier to recapture what the zombies take from you than holding it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

"New" MMO niche (which is probably bigger than the mainstream)

While the recent blog-crawl did not provide a game to play yet (though placed a few on the radar), it provides lots of insight. One is right here:
“Just let me play with my friends” should be a mantra stuck on the monitor of every MMORPG dev’s computer as they code. Some games do this better than others but fixed group sizes and levels being out of sync shouldn’t be a thing in 2017. Put in flexible dungeon grouping, put in mentoring or similar already!

My early WoW projects were rallying against this: I urged people to abandon the "friendly social guilds" and choose progression. Blizzard noticed this (not necessarily because of me) and changed the game exactly as Telwyn said: they made sure that friends can catch up and play together laid back. WoW stopped growing right there.

Before I address this, I'd just mention it as a niche: an MMO which is designed with the idea that the player knows no other players and does not want to find new friends. He just want to find co-adventurers to battle the dragons and "win", no matter what win condition the game has (capture land in PvP, get best gear, kill final dragon). So a game where our characters are interacting and not the players. So here is a list of criteria for such MMO:
  • No catch-up: a new player must walk the path the old ones did. The only help he can get is from other players choose to boost him. This also makes lot of content. Current WoW only have current patch content, the huge old world is irrelevant to the point of practical non-existence (if a pixel tree falls and no player is there, it makes no effect).
  • Competitive: even if it's PvE, it should have people who fail to complete the tasks. Players who play without friends are players who want flow and that needs challenging content.
  • All group combat is designed without "Adam failed, is Betty punished" mechanics. In current WoW raids you can die because someone else placed a bomb on you, ran away from you with a link or didn't kill an add in another phase that you can't even see. Healers are usually stressed by idiots standing in the fire. This is acceptable if you assume that Adam and Betty are friends, not if not. If Adam is the worst possible idiot, Betty should only notice that Adam does no damage and should be able to continue the encounter without disturbance. Sure, the boss might hit enrage since Adam did zero DPS (and then everybody die), but until it happens, Betty should be fine. This also means that failing boss mechanics shouldn't cause heal-able damage because it just punishes healers. Those who stand in the bad should either be insta-killed or given damage decrease debuff or stun or slow. This needs serious rework of tanking mechanics as they usually are around not tanking (tank switching) but there are already implemented solutions like cleaves or multiple bossess needing multiple tanks.
  • Clear player evaluation: there should be a simple in-client method to evaluate the performance of a possible groupmate. For example a damage dealer can be very well judged by the average damage he done to bosses on tries and kills. If there is an interrupt job, then someone must clearly take it (by picking up an item for example) and then he is evaluated by interrupts. Sure, evaluating tanks would be harder but still could be done. With this, players would have an in-client "boss score" that allow building groups even automatically.
I am absolutely sure that this game - assuming industry standard other qualities - would be a success, at least as a niche game. However I also believe that this niche would be bigger than the mainstream. I mean that if Blizzard would release WoW servers which differ from WoW only in removal of catchup mechanisms and introducing boss-score while removing "Adam failed, Betty is punished" mechanics from both WoWs, this "WoW without friends" would be way more successful than the current friendly WoW.

What makes me sure? The simple fact that people who want to be with friends are with friends, at least on Facebook, instead of sitting alone in their room staring at a pixel elf. Sure, some of them are socially starved weirdos who pay for the illusion of having internet friends, but most of them are just normal guys who want to slay dragons instead of more dumb gossip. But there is more numerical evidence:

CCP actually measured the group-engagement of players. And after they realized that there are 4x more players playing solo than in large groups... they did exactly as the large group representatives wanted. If I was a game dev on a market full of "friendly" MMOs, I wouldn't chose this path:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The ultimate test of "is it even a game" (and possible new game)

Before everything: I strongly recommend to read this article about how RMT destroyed games and how pay-to-win damages games by the guy who worked out the monetization scheme of World of Tanks. Yes, that World of Tanks. Sure, he misses (probably because ... World of Tanks) a crucial element: corruption (RMT is not stopped because devs are on the take), but still very valuable analysis.

As more and more "games" shift to storytelling the very definition of "game" became blurred. But it's not a complicated issue. It's simply: are there winners and losers. If yes, it's a game. Maybe a silly game, even a game of chance, but still a game. A piece of entertainment without winners and losers on the other hand is not a game, but an electronic community theater. A place where participants take a pre-set role of a hero and with other performers and NPCs play through a pre-written script front of a digital stagecraft.

No one would say that a high school Romeo and Juliet or a a historic battle reenactment is a game, despite both has swordfight scenes. But the performers know beforehand who will win. Sure sometimes mistakes happen, then everyone laughs (or get annoyed) and they repeat the scene. How is that different from a WoW quest where the script is unchangeable, you have to play trough unless you want to abandon that scene completely and if you somehow manage to die to the 10 rats or raidboss, nothing else happens than everyone waits for you to run back and try again. They might call you a firedancing n00b if it happened in a raid, just like a bad Juliet would be berated if she forgets her line again. But that doesn't mean that the final outcome is in doubt, you try again and finally you get the scene right and everyone is happy.

A game, even a basketball game with pals at a hoop in the yard or a tabletop with your kids has a winner and losers. Maybe there is no prize. Maybe some players lose on purpose to let kids win. But at the end, someone wins and will be proud of his performance, while others will be defeated and can only hope that they get better.

"Everyone is winner" is actually a clue that it's not a game but a theatrical event. A game must have a loser. Of course some games aren't harsh, meaning that the rewards of the winner and the punishment of the loser are tiny, like a "you buy the beers" or even a "good job, you won this round" applause. I'm not saying that every game should be a $1M prize to the winner front of a stadium audience.

After awful lot of unsuccessful searches I fall back to this condition on finding the next game: does it have losers? League of Legends has, as some players get "Defeat" scene and decrease of MMR. Sure, it's rigged as hell, but its's still a game. EVE also has, some players have kill reports, others are on kill reports. Some has null systems, others are mining in highsec. Sure, the bar is so low now that 1 day old newbs are recruited to nullsec, but it's still a game. (and it's also rigged as hell).

I'm drooling on a pre-released game, built on an awesome idea. But I won't write it until it's released and proves that it's a game at all, and not a theater where you pay for being an actor in an awesome setting without agency.

Finally, I've just found something that is in the MMO setting and is promised to be very competitive, I mean e-sport competitive. If it turns out to be real, and long-term viable, instead of just a spark and die, I might have my next game project. You wouldn't guess the title where it's implemented.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Transgender gargoyles for real

The term came from a joke post which described how I misread "fleshrender gargoyle" for "transgender gargoyle" after reading too much Huffington Post. But it didn't go away, kept haunting me until I realized how important the non-existent transgender gargoyles are.

There are many beings in video game worlds which have no genders at all. There are no group of gargoyles that go and attack travelers while other group stays at home tending little gargoyles, based on genitalia. All gargoyles are attacking everyone on sight and they don't even have little gargoyles as they are animated from stone statues by black magic. Ogres of World of Warcraft are likely sexually reproducing as they are humanoids and there are little ogres, but there are no visual or behavioral clues which one is male and which one is female. They seem to live in a completely egalitarian societies where sex has no affect on employment or political power, only personal ability and aspirations decide if an ogre becomes brute, bruiser, hexxer or remains simple "ogre", meaning "worker".

The point is in such societies there cannot be transgenders. Which is the elephant in the hottest political debate: you can't believe in transgenders and feminist gender ideology at the same time, while liberals are doing both and conservatives neither. Let me explain: according to feminism, gender is a social construct: being with penis doesn't mean that you'll like blue, you'll wear trousers and you fit to be top manager or coal miner, only the patriarchal society says this. According to feminism, a woman has equal right to wear blue trousers while working in a mine for equal salary as a man. Conservatives usually disagree and claim that it's a natural order.

However if only the patriarchal society says that mining needs penis, then someone who wants to be a miner but has no penis doesn't need one (transgender), he just needs a job in a mine and it's possible as there is even an association for them. In other words, when someone without penis says "I want to be a man", you can always ask back "what do you want that men have and women don't" and then show her that the activity is already available for women. The bottom line is that if you claim that "real man" is an oppressive social construct that needs to be dissolved, you cannot also claim that someone is really a man. If the feminist utopia of equal job access, equal pay, equal housework would be reached, humanity would be like the gargoyles in the video game: without gender.

Of course the opposite criticism is also true. If you claim that men and women are naturally different and penis people belong to the mine while vagina people belong to the kitchen, you must accept that there will be ones who simply can't fulfill their God-destined role and need to be fixed. If they can't function in the kitchen and you don't want to keep them imprisoned, the only option left is gender surgery.

Transgenders are a product of being overtly social, wanting to belong to a group. If I can't fit "the men", let's try "the women". Too bad that they aren't real groups, it's not like "the women" have a clubhouse somewhere where they are friendly and accepting with each other.