loopingworld.com

Books/mythology/stuff discussions moved to: loopingworld.com

This means that the site here won’t (usually) be updated and I’ll eventually copy all of book-related posts over there. The rest of the stuff will stay here for as long the site stays up (not planning of pulling it down for the foreseeable future).

UPDATE: I’ll sporadically still post here, but it will be for writing about roguelike development, tracking my own (lack of) progress, or other quirky gaming things.

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Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (NextGen)

“Milkshake Duck” is a meme that everyone uses and no one understands, and that’s exactly where its power is, and why it became a meme in the first place. It’s not in its explicit meaning, but in what’s implicit.

This is a logical fallacy, a non sequitur.

There are two observations, made in two different moments in time. The second observation is meant to overwrite the first, but it’s not.

Observation 1: there’s an image of a duck that looks cute.
Observation 2: the duck is racist.

This becomes a meme because it carries an afterthought. On the superficial level it’s obvious that the second observation overshadows the first with its value, but it’s also implicit that this mechanic is supposed to induce guilt: you have to regret loving this duck in the first place.

But, hey, it’s still a lovely duck. Isn’t it?

What makes it a powerful meme is specifically this retroactive effect that makes the observer feel repulsion about the original observation. We’ve been wrong, it really wasn’t a lovely duck. It’s the feeling of having been personally sullied by going through this process. It creates a contradiction, a paradox.

It happens because there’s a logical fallacy at the origin, so let’s solve it.

The image of a cute duck drinking milkshakes remains still cute after we realize this duck has racist ideas. The repulsive ideas this duck might have don’t intersect with its physical image and the way it looks.

A Nazi isn’t a bad person because this Nazi looks physically ugly. That’s a very simple human error of simplification: wanting to reduce everything to one single dimension that is easier to parse and handle. But the world is complex and defies simplification: you can still find terrible ideas even in individuals that look very pretty.

If tomorrow we find out that John Carmack is also a molester, this cannot intersect with the fact he’s a good programmer. The “good programmer” skillset doesn’t intersect with being a molester. A disgusting molester can still be a great programmer. I can still learn important things by studying this guy’s code, even after I know he’s a molester. This has *nothing* to do with “death of the author” principle. And it also doesn’t mean that my eventual appreciation of his coder skillset might diminish my condemnation of him as a molester.

These are two observations, and they are separate.

Observe reality as it is, instead of coloring it through your own biases.

World of Warcraft fails to please (me) yet again

I was following online the last Blizzcon because there were rumors about stuff I was very interested about. It was all a flop, sadly.

I left World of Warcraft shortly after Cataclysm, and after being very excited about it, because my idea of an ideal virtual world is one that doesn’t fall into obsolescence but keeps getting updated and improved. Cataclysm was supposed to be just that: an overhaul of old content to make the whole package more seamless and up to date.

The result, though? Exactly the opposite. They made all content obsolete systemically. As I’ve written in the past, they completely broke the progression. They sped up the leveling in order to make players reach max level faster and enjoy the bleeding edge content, but in the process they utterly destroyed any sense of quest flow. You cannot even follow the shortest quest chain in a zone without outleveling it. You run a dungeon once, and you’ve already outleveled whole zones outside.

For someone who’s chasing the treadmill power creep and wants to just collect better loot, it’s all ideal. But for someone like me who’s in no rush to reach the top and just wants to enjoy and explore ALL the content at my own pace, reading all the little stories that the zones have been written around, then this new skin of the game is completely unplayable. Unless you accept to remove from the experience all loot and all challenge and doing just grey quests all the time. But I don’t. I want an experience that is well balanced, otherwise it’s simply not worth it.

The recent rumor was about a feature that I think was already implemented for the content of the latest expansion, and it’s basically the only way to salvage the experience I want without redoing the whole game: content that dynamically rescales to your level.

It’s a feature now common to most MMORPGs and even single player games use it. I’m actually contrary to it, conceptually (it’s much better to remove levels completely and design a game around a flatter skill system), but it’s the only practical way to save WoW, at least for me.

Just scale the content (quests, monsters, dungeons, possibly rewards) to a challenging default (or scale the character to the content), and I’d jump right in.

A great thing that Blizzard is doing with WoW is that you get every expansion for free by just waiting a couple of years after its release. So I could play all the content I missed in the meantime. A boatload of content. I’d love to just do that and pay Blizzard the monthly subscription. But I can’t because the progress is broken and all that content has been pushed to the side and forgotten.

And what we get? Vanilla WoW? Did players really ask for this? I really don’t understand what’s interesting about it. The content was objectively lower quality, and fond memories are probably based on a more complex overall situation that doesn’t simply depend on rolling back the game.

WoW phase one was great and praised everywhere because it removed the grind of old school shitty MMORPGs, like Everquest or Dark Age of Camelot, where you’d sit in the same spot for hours, grinding a spawn point. WoW replaced that awful boring grind with actual questing, so that you were always on the move, visiting and exploring and enjoying the game world fully. Making it an interesting place. Reading, if you wanted, the stories in there.

Then WoW phase two came and put the grind right back: just a race to level cap and farming the same dungeon or raid over and over and over and over. Waiting for the next exp pack for years only to burn right through the content in the matter of a weekend, and go back at farming dungeons yet again.

If you like doing that it’s all good. WoW is big enough to accommodate for different kinds of players. But it’s 2017, and I’m still waiting for something that most other games with far less resources have gotten right…

EDIT:
And I’ve now read they announced level scaling shortly after. But my point stands, design wise.

I also don’t think their proposed solution isn’t going to fix my problem. Instead of full level scaling they are only doing a partial zone scaling, and even modifying expansions to overlap with each other.

The core problem is still that gaining experience is way, WAY too fast compared to the quest and zone flow. And just scaling the single zone to a level range won’t fix absolutely anything about the core problem itself: you could stay in a zone a little longer, but whole zones would still fall behind and into obsolescence. You would have a choice about doing a quest chain or running a dungeon once, but properly enjoying the content at a leisure pace would still be impossible.


If it was me I’d create optionally a special custom type of character where the level curve is super slow and tuned specifically around the content, flag them in some special way so players feel somewhat rewarded to create and play these “masochistic” types, and that’s it.

It could be implemented in a day. It’s just a redesigned xp curve. Or you could just apply to every level range the original value that it had for every time a new piece of content dropped. That would be already okay.

level 1-60: apply the vanilla xp curve
level 60-70: apply The Burning Crusade xp curve
level 70-80: apply Wrath of the Lich King xp curve
level 80-85: apply Cataclysm xp curve
level 85-90: apply Pandaria xp curve
level 90-100: apply Draenor xp curve

Me happy, here’s my monthly subscription.

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Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (Part ?)

This is about NeoGAF and a political note.

Have you noticed how it’s especially this year that things are reaching a certain tipping point?

Have you noticed how it’s always the “left” that turns on itself and splinters?

If NeoGAF can be seen as largely an American forum, in Europe you can see how the political background is no different. The foundation of Europe itself is undermined (Brexit and similar), each nation pushes in a different direction, and nations are shattered from the inside (see Spain right now).

Bridges are being burned everywhere.

It does really look we’re just cultivation further division in preparation from some war looming in the near future.

And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. It just happens.

Things are accelerating.

The Failure of DirectX 12

It seems I was for the most part right. DirectX 12 has been largely a failure.

Here’s a link:
http://wccftech.com/project-cars-dev-dx12-improve-performance-3040/

Project CARS developers have been quite open about the development of the game. They have taken to the forums to solve all the issues that the players have and had to face. From bugs to future releases, they have been quite open and cooperative to the fans about their plans and have hence received appreciation as well for it as well.

When asked about the impact of DX12 on Project CARS, the Head of Studios at Slightly Mad Studios, Ian Bell revealed to the fans that the new API will increase the performance of Project CARS by 30-40% which is surprisingly quite a major performance boost. The new API will be making its way into users hands with the release of Windows 10 which is a free upgrade to any PC running a previous version of Windows.

Project Cars 2 is released today. It has no support for DX12 at all.

This Internet Shitstorm as the Prelude to the End of Times

The latest silly controversy in the gaming world is about a youtube gameplay video of an anticipated platform indie game, Cuphead. It’s maybe only chance or perverse shortsightedness that the very first gameplay video allowed to come out, and so going to magnetize attention regardless, shows an embarrassing degree of incompetence in playing this game, and even simply being able to follow on screen instruction or understanding an extremely basic HUD.

Most people would think that with so much going bad in the world, this kind of non-issue wouldn’t even deserve 10 seconds of their attention, are we REALLY talking seriously about this? Yes we do. In my case every little thing seems to be a symptom of a looming imminent collapse. And this little thing has all the basic features we can find on much more serious problems. But also because it’s a tiny issue, it’s a good sample case to easily analyze.

This is what I wrote on a forum about this:

The real issue is the overall structure of every debate and every controversy. This one is just one good example amidst too many.

You cannot have anymore any “but”. You are either black or white. Right or wrong. With us or against us. Friend or enemy. It’s a purely tribal war where identity (political or otherwise) is everything.

You cannot have a nuanced opinion. You cannot examine one problem and explain there are a number of aspects to consider about it. Because if you do this type of analysis it’s not anymore clear whose side you’re fighting for. People don’t understand anymore if they should agree or disagree with you, because people agree not on the basis of good arguments, but on the basis of group identity. When they understand who you are then they’ll automatically agree or disagree.

And because this BINARY view is applied to every single debate, then you get cases like this. Where there are some legitimate concerns whether or not a journalist should be required to have some basic competencies about the subject he’s going to cover, yet harassment shouldn’t be justified either.

And on twitter every single argument is just another type of straw man, for example misrepresenting the other group’s thesis as: “ANYONE WHO WRITES ABOUT GAMES NEEDS TO BE A MASTER”.

Yet no one said that. But if you then try to exhibit some moderation in your own argument, then this moderation is pointed at as a rhetorical trick to try to hide your true colors.

So what’s happening lately and at large is that our world grows in complexity and people’s way to deal with growing complexity is to rely on mighty simplification. Mighty simplification is to divide the world in black and white, enemy or friend. And then you FIGHT.


This is my analysis. But what would you do about it, then? The only way I know is to tear down those walls. To go against the identity of those groups. To challenge their views with the good arguments you can produce, and some patience. Yet your patience itself might be irritating, when people are frothing at the mouth and just want an occasion to unleash their certainty against you, they want you to succumb and play the enemy they want. And then kill to restore their purity: it’s a ritualistic practice. But, honestly, I have a pessimistic view about all this, and I have it about the bigger picture. These days I do believe that even “democracy” is a big lie that we tell us to believe we can lead some form of change. Instead I now believe that these big changes that are happening in society at large are completely off our hands (and climate change is a good example: we’re done. We’re way past the last chance to fix it). Things are going in a direction and there’s no way to steer or even affect this process. Whatever is happening, is happening. You can observe and maybe be conscious about it, but it’s like a big war that is about to happen and the small changes that you believe you can produce are just personal delusions.

But then one is rarely pragmatic when it comes to morals. You just fight for what you believe regardless of whether you think it’s useful or not.

Instead of rounding my corners in order to merge and blend better with a community and be well accepted, I find myself sharpening those corners. One might think that this is a result of a form of egocentricity, because you want to stand out and remark your identity. You want to feel better and different. You disrupt the homogeneity and well being. Instead of creating harmony within a group, you seem to just stir dissent and unease for the sake of it. You become abrasive and, after a very short time, extremely unwelcome. But instead in my case my reasons are different, even if I find myself falling in that situation from time to time.

I do believe that “anonymity” on the internet is a “feature”. It means it’s not anymore relevant *who* you are. It’s not important your history and background, where you live, your political ideas and sexual preferences, the color of your skin or how pretty or ugly you appear. What’s left is purely the validity and merit of your arguments. On the internet you push your ideas without a face. And that’s how it should ideally work. Your ideas aren’t valid and useful depending on *who* you are. Those ideas are only useful if someone else makes those ideas her/his own. The persona is left behind and forgotten. If my idea becomes your own, and you even forget it came from me, then communication was a success! Ideas and opinions, and so information, are an abstract type of currency we share. The value is in itself, not on the holder.

Yet we evolved through other means. We apply heuristics in order to parse a complex world and heuristics oblige us to rely on simplifications in order to quickly make judgements. We cannot properly gauge every little problem, because we’d be swamped in eternity, and an eternity of time is a kind of luxury mortal beings don’t have. Hence we are still strapped to a ‘Facebook’, as an old school style of mindset applied to the virtuality of the internet. We don’t evolve the structures of our minds, we simply re-apply to the internet the old structures we’ve always been familiar with. We build houses in virtual spaces, we build communities, and then we insulate them, we build walls around those communities and end up “hating” the foreigner. And occasionally rise the pitchforks to launch a war against the nearby village. Or, more often, simply take “potshots” from the trenches.

Recently I found myself banned from BrokenForum (being Lum’s latest personal community). I was very conscious of what I was getting into, so this outcome shouldn’t have been a “surprise”. At first I had no idea that I was going to stir some chaos. But then people started contesting that choice I made and I found myself painted in a position like: I made a bad choice on a whim and now I’m trying to rationalize a justification. It would have been easy at that point to just acknowledge the disagreement and move on. But the scenario that was being painted simply wasn’t true. I did engage in a conversation because I thought I had good reasons behind my choice. It wasn’t taken on a whim. It was well motivated, and so I thought that I could at least explain and clarify my position. I was expecting that if I calmly explained my reasons some people would at least understand (not agree) my angle. I was convinced it was possible to have a civil and meaningful discussion about it.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead I found myself facing a GIANT WALL of hostility. For a time I tried to probe that wall. People kept misrepresenting my position, thinking ‘Oh, now he shows his TRUE colors’. But nope, I was trying to have people engage directly with my reasons instead of clumping my position into a monolithic bad one that is easy to dismiss. Being long winded is a necessary feature of being precise and clear. I was listening to counter arguments, and then clarify my position to dissipate misrepresentations. I was carefully separating insults from insults that were at least grounded on some rational argument and addressed those (and some people even argued they had a right to insult). Filtering reason from outbursts of irrational dissent. But it was also becoming obvious that very few were even interested in understanding my position. I simply became automatically unwelcome.

You’d expect one would think …maybe this is not the right time and place to have this conversation. And I did switch gears even if I still naively believed that there would be at least *someone* who could maintain a rational composure. Let’s set an example by resisting the pressure to turn this into an hateful shitshow, I thought. I was trying to cut short and get to a point: I made my best to explain myself, you still disagree, fine anyway. But that’s when some people started to bring in extraneous stuff. They just wanted to smear me with shit to degrade the whole discussion. If I shut up while people fling shit to me, then I simply admit being embarrassed and guilty. So I was then baited to explain ALSO that other stuff, while thinking: please stop accusing me of extraneous shit so we can all move on? Halfway through that discussion I stopped bringing arguments. I clarified myself, and then there was a longer tail trying to bring closure to the extraneous stuff that was brought up later, but I clarified that too from those stupid misrepresentations, admitted miscommunication when it was my fault, and in the end I moved on. A couple of weeks later I check back and find out I was banned. THAT was a surprise, because I ended up being banned after the discussion was largely over.

But that’s also not why this irritated me. Forums are personal communities and they don’t need to be just and fair. Rules are arbitrary and always legitimate (but I didn’t break any formal rule, I simply stood behind an opinion that happened to go against the grain). Either you accept the standard, or move on. What annoyed me was how I was banned, and that I had a good opinion of this community, and so I thought that the discussion was indeed possible. I was banned after the argument was over and solved, and I was banned with a stupid meme, purely out of spite. I didn’t blurt out offenses despite having received many, yet no one stood to defend me from the abuse I was getting. It’s much easier and problem free to merge with the mob mentality. Most people are cowards in these situations. So in the end I was banned simply out of spite when they did realize they couldn’t provoke me enough to make a misstep or break some rule. But more importantly I was banned in this way by people I’ve known for many, many years. I do expect some respect because I do have respect for them and always treated them with respect along the years. And so I’m proven naive again, I should know better than expecting to find respect and humanity on the internet.

Again, this is just another good example hinting at what is going on. We are becoming increasingly unable to engage with a complex world. Even the most stupid controversy like a journalist who can’t play a game becomes a problem with too much complexity to it. And so we retreat inside insulated communities where no view is ever challenged or truly discussed honestly and transparently, and these communities naturally grow hostile to everything they see outside, more often than not becoming schizophrenic and eventually turning against themselves too. No one ever tries to reach out and find some common ground, or even the basis for a rational confrontation. More walls are being built because we embraced unreason.

All is fine and fair in the world. Enjoy the imminent Apocalypse.

P.S.
Since to write this I looked back at that thread, I still find loose ends that would need to be clarified, like this one.

Yes, I’m certainly against the ‘mean lady writer’ when it comes to her well documented abuse on the internet. But no, I’m definitely not against her literary work. I have no problem to say that if she eventually writes something that falls within the spectrum of my interest, I might buy the book and maybe enjoy and recommend it.

No, this is not because I separate between author and the product. The product always comes intimately from the author, those ties cannot be cut and it’s silly and superficial to look at things that way. But at the same time a human being is never defined by a single trait or a single act or a single opinion. Awful human beings are able to do good acts, the same as human beings we think are awesome are able to do awful acts. This human necessary tendency to divide people into binary states of absolutely right and absolutely wrong is what I explained above as the root of the problem: we are collapsing under the complexity of the world, and answering that complexity through mighty simplification and certainty. Religious, political and moral wars because we abandoned reason.

Reason is all about giving value and understanding those small differences. And criticize not the person, but the act. So that the person can be salvaged when that person realizes the wrong in his/her act.

But most people would rather shoot a Nazi in the face and feel good about it. Not understanding that doing so they became indistinguishable. Monsters who fight monsters. What’s important is not under what flag the monsters fight, but what is monstrosity itself. And understand that it can manifest where you less expect it. Within your own group and sometimes within yourself.

P.P.S.
This is just in:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1431191

Pewdiepie says a racial slur during a stream. This quickly becomes another case of “now he shows his true colors”. So what do you expect to happen, given all I said above? It’s automatic, people are quick to put a permanent label on the guy.

Pewdiepie = racist asshole

What would be a rational stance toward this, INSTEAD? (because putting labels on people is just another byproduct of idiotic oversimplification) The rational stance would be recognize first that he did indeed use a racial slur. In fact he quickly realized that, and it’s evident in that short clip. That simple fact is condemnable, and it should be. But does it make Pewdiepie unambiguously racist and deserving a permanent label? Of course not. He might well be, but we don’t remotely have enough information to make that judgement.

But people’s reaction is that they want to know so that they can judge (empathy, this selectively weaponized instrument). And that “slip” is enough to earn a definite label and not look back.

Rationally, again, we should condemn the act, not the person. If that person realizes the act is condemnable, maybe that person will do his best to correct his behavior. The goal isn’t to rise the pitchforks and going on this witch hunt, the goal is to point out the mistake to the guy, so that the guy can recognize the merit of the critic, and correct his behavior (or, if it was serious, his principles). Understand right from wrong. Because you can be sure that a TRUE racist doesn’t reconsider his own terrible principles. Where people would see a perfect occasion for judgement and final condemnation, I see an occasion for correction.

But in this case Pewdiepie has certain responsibilities, being on the internet and with a pretty large audience. A bunch of kids are going to watch him, so it should be expected he does at least his best to stay within certain boundaries. At the same time I also understand he’s playing a game, and focusing on the game, and being his natural himself he might not be permanently obsessed about his responsibilities. It is not a big deal because I would personally give more importance to a deliberate, intended insult, rather one that was blurted out in the same way one would usually swear: without really *meaning* it.

“The way he easily spewed it out you can tell this is a term he would normally use in most of life’s frustrating cases.” Yes, that’s true. But it also doesn’t automatically reflect or imply ideology. It’s a suspicion you can have, even legitimately, but it’s not a proven one. And it’s completely idiotic to believe these kinds of behaviors are what reveal “one’s true heart.” Even a carelessness in the use of language and a total lack of respect aren’t enough to prove an actual ideology. They only hint at a rather diffused superficiality dealing with certain stuff. It’s condemnable, but it isn’t dangerous. It’s an idiom that directly expresses racism, but here used to express frustration, not ideology. Again, it’s a condemnable carelessness, but not dangerous in itself.

Analysis: he used a racial slur against another player whose actions upset him. He fell into this common phrase, a type of swearing that is commonly used. But just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s *right*. Even if it’s just an harmless form that doesn’t match a true intention (like swearing in general in most cases). An ingrained way of speech isn’t automatically an ingrained true belief. The best you can expect is to point the guy what’s wrong, and ask him to be more conscious about that. Even if it’s a very little thing, it can still be challenged.

But not the person. And because racism is a true and giant problem, we shouldn’t be distracted by purely harmless stuff and going against imaginary threats, when there are instead serious, tangible threats everywhere and real damage being done.

What happens instead is that a giant wave of hate rises against Pewdiepie, and it will smash against another wave of those ready to defend him. Hate will mount, while true racists (and racist acts) out there are completely untouched by this virtual hateful indignation that schizophrenically paints targets on itself, instead of the real threat.

We are on a doomed path of self defeat. There are signs everywhere and at all levels. We have already lost.

P.P.P.S.
Another explanatory reaction:

You can see I asked him below: “But were you a misogynist for doing so?”

It’s a somewhat similar case, since using “bitches” in normal speech has a certain root in misogyny. That use too is a bad behavior that should be criticized, and corrected as he did. But I don’t believe this guy used that word to reflect ideology. It was a bad form of speech, one rooted in misogyny, expressing misogyny in itself, and yet still only a bad form and not revealing a true intention. It’s to be corrected, but still not harmful or dangerous.

P.P.P.P.S.
Another:

Beside the fallacy of the binary “choice”, and the fallacy of the second option, since using that word doesn’t automatically make one embrace an ideology (it’s an obvious slippery slope of convenient oversimplification).

(and unless you don’t want to normalize the concept of ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ to apply to more mundane and harmless situations, which is itself a dangerous slippery slope of more widespread identification, and so justification, of those positions)

What’s interesting is the distribution of “retweets” and “like”, and so what people decided was their priority to signal for. The two options can be read as:
– Retweet, if you don’t personally use the word.
– Like, if you think using that word makes one a ‘racist poop’.

And since it’s a binary choice where one excludes the other (it’s a binary choice, right? Now I have a doubt, but I think you cannot retweet and like at the same time?), and since retweets at this time are half the number of likes, it’s as if twice as many declared possibly being “racist poops” themselves. There’s an unintended hypocrisy in that choice that I find curious.

But more evidently people are simply signaling for their rejection of that person, this is evidently the explicit intent. Yet that ‘will’ originates from a slippery slope of simplification. People are quick to judge and suspend empathy when it’s convenient for their in-fights. Racism itself stems from that slippery slope. Racism itself is an oversimplification that confirms one own’s stupid cognitive biases. It carries the same seed of irrational hatred and unreason, and requires one to have found some good reason to cancel one’s empathy.

Biases aren’t a problem of human cognition. They are the King. Because again the world’s too complex, and to face complexity we increasingly embrace unreason. Our judgements are based on heuristics, those heuristics are a blunt, clunky tool that gets misapplied to an environment that defeats understanding and ever grows more complex. Only disaster comes out of this and, once again, it is unavoidable.

Our society is now a dysfunctional machine. The case of Pewdiepie is like a false positive in an antivirus scan. And for each false positive we lose sight of the real threat and just open the doors and welcome it to come in and feel at home.

P.P.P.P.P.S.
Exhibit C, from a forum thread:

seriously. like im sure he says it daily, especially while recording when something bad happens, but just cuts it out. its fucked really. shows what kind of a person he truly is.

No, it doesn’t. You’re following your own biases and making a suspicion you have into a proof. You cannot know what kind of person “he truly is”. But you can be persuaded you know with certainty. Belief always comes before reason. And that’s called prejudice.

Another guy replying to the one above:

Those 1000 cuts per video suddenly make sense. And we all thought it was just an annoying editing style.

So now Pewdiepie makes 1000 cuts in a video montage because he has this compulsive need to say that word. It “makes sense”, right? Literally, making sense, seeing exactly what you want to see on the basis of an ingrained prejudice. Which is different from something actually true.

I’d say that we should be supposed to condemn prejudices, in general. Of which racism is one category.

And by the way, I thought I’d address this too, I’m not playing the devil’s advocate. I face the true devil in the form of the roused mob that makes all distinctions fade and merge into binary states of tribes that fight each other to the death. On the basis of rotten principles that are a shadow of their original intention. I face that progressive erosion of reason and promotion of cognitive biases that I think are the real threat.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.
I could update this hourly.

Right now in Italy the heated, loud & public debate isn’t about Pewdiepie, but about two policemen that have been accused of rape by two American students. The issue is, though, that a week or so ago the big controversy was another case of rape but where the assailants were “immigrants”.

You can easily imagine how, at that time, a violent, widespread outrage rose against the danger posed by all those immigrants that invade our country and bring criminality and even diseases (yeah, there was that too, in the news). Just the most typical case of sweeping generalizations founded on the slippery slope of simplification rooted into prejudice.

So it might not be a surprise that, THIS TIME, since it was about cops committing crimes, so “our own”, what rose wasn’t indignation, but a WALL to DEFEND those cops from the supposedly unjust accusation of rape. And it’s not simply public opinion, but public opinion reinforced by mainstream media, journalists and politicians that love to ride the wave.

Yeah, this is fucking hateful and widespread racism happening right now, in a civilized (?) country.

And it still has ties and roots in the cases above. Here too we have public opinion that is deeply rooted into prejudice and unreason. In one case rape was enough to condemn a whole category of people who happen to be foreigners, in the other rape was justified, because those two American students might have been drunk and licentious.

In all these cases public opinion follows identity instead of reason. We’ve already lost.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S.

No Man’s Sky: when game developers are worse than politicians

I’m proud how the general public is dealing with this. It means there are still built-in defense mechanics about bullshit and that marketing won’t have such an easy job. But I’m a cynic, so I’m just happy the situation is marginally better than the disaster scenario I usually see.

Quite long but elaborate comments about No Man’s Sky “meta” are these two. Wonderfully written. Both great and complete analysis:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_HEI8ZfDbM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCG9YLeIB98

So here I talk exclusively about the “meta” and not about the game’s own merits or demerits.

There are a few explicit things NMS did very wrong:
1- No faithful information about what the game is about. They’ve been deliberately very vague and “mysterious” because they exploited deliberately the hype.
2- No review copies until launch.

This created a situation where no one really knew exactly what the core of the game was about, until launch day.

But beside the final game looking nothing like the official trailers, and features missing that they’ve boasted about at length, the real big issue is that this game is being closely observed by other game developers out there, and they are learning ALL THE WRONG LESSONS.

The first aspect is game developers are directly seeing this as: the hype sells what is being otherwise considered very poor game, see metacritic low scores. It’s hype that sells, let’s make more hype and let’s marketing handle our game presentation for maximum effect. (which is obviously false, the game sells because it has an unique aspect NO ONE else offers)

But while that’s becoming the norm and even if that’s not making it acceptable, what enrages me is a different aspect that comes up only when developers are “sincere”. Meaning almost never. Developers are only sincere when they talk to each other semi-privately, and that’s why I started to spot discussions on twitter among devs I follow and have respect for. Their reaction is LUDICROUS. Here some quotes:

“from now on when a customer complains that we won’t tell them what we’re going to ship, I’ll just link this thread”

“The list of “lies” consists almost entirely of quotes like “maybe we’ll do this,” or “in the current build…”

“the moment you mention “oh, it’d be nice if we could do X”, a flood of rabid hyenas begin preparing to eat your face off if you don’t ship X”

“they didn’t promise things. people interpreted suggestions, ideas, as promises.”

“Wonder why AAA devs have such controlled PR? Candor about anything not utterly locked down gets you these idiots”

“crux of problem being too open/communicative. Candor is a dual edged sword. Silence is safe.”

You see this?

This is being actively spun as “they’ve been TOO SINCERE”. They should have been more silent about what the game was about.

As if not releasing any review copy before the release date, and no review copy AT ALL on PC wasn’t to hide the mess, but just because they didn’t want the players get spoilers. HOW KIND OF THEM.

Now this other perspective is surfacing even more officially, see Kotaku.

Of course due to the nature of game development a lot of original plans have to change when you faceplant on reality. And of course this happens for every game, and features always get cut. THAT’S WHEN it’s most important you inform your playerbase. But nope, it’s okay to talk at length when it comes to build hype, it’s great to stay silent when it comes to inform a feature had to be cut.

How the hell is acceptable that information is shared ONLY when it’s convenient? Is that your idea for being “candid”?

Why it is that if politicians overpromise because it’s convenient for getting votes it’s seen as legitimate when we get angry and expose their lies, but if it’s about hype to sell a game then it’s all tolerated and normal? (and journalists ask questions, instead of the “prescribed way to ask questions about NMS”, as seen in that video)

You talk when it’s convenient to you, but then resent if people hold you accountable about what you said? That’s an example of selfishness, not of candidness.

On a forum someone replied to me with:

Curiously, I had always sort of dreamed of the kind of game that that post describes. But I’d also always figured that there was no way NMS would pull off that kind of game.

And would you give free passes like that even to Star Citizen? Immunity from criticism?

Go with a total scam and eventually just blame the players because they haven’t been cynical enough?

I repeat, what enrages me are not the false trailers, nor the lies in the interviews. What enrages me is that certain devs are blaming the PLAYERS, calling them “idiot, rabid hyenas” because they held developers accountable for what the developers themselves used to hype the game, especially on media that are more generalist, and so to reach out and catch the largest public possible.

It’s a dishonest, perverse twist of what actually happened.

Developers are taking NMS success as a success of the overhype model. Of showing what the game is not because the players are too stupid to be skeptical and will swallow everything you throw at them. This is setting a precedent where what they learn is that a pretty fake trailer SELLS more than an honest one.

On the other hand they use the typical straw man argument, saying: ok, lesson learned, we should never say anything. Let’s leave that stuff to the marketing guys who know how to exploit it properly.

Nope, the simplicity of the issue is that devs love to speak when it’s convenient, but will refuse to speak when it comes to announce features were cut. Because that wounds pride, it doesn’t give a flattering picture. And developers love cult of personality. It’s almost religious. You have to BELIEVE and have FAITH.

The idea I have is that Seam Murray & team aren’t as cynical about doing all this to simply exploit the hype. It’s way more subtle. We don’t have skillful liars, we have instead developers who fell in love with their algorithm and ideas. In order to make people believe that hype, they have to believe it THEMSELVES. The hype poison they fed players is hype poison they swallowed themselves.

This means Sean Murray’s brain is very skilled at painting a flattering picture of his own work. He’s the First Believer. When he “lies” he does because he believes his own bullshit. And you can see that reflected pretty much EVERYWHERE. Read again that letter in the manual, or read the kind of PR that is going on now.

Here’s two examples of how you rewrite facts to paint always a flattering picture no matter what:

1- “Even though less than one per cent of players have raised support issues, we’re going to resolve roughly 70 per cent of them this week”

2- “Thousands of lines of assembly have been rewritten overnight”

About the first, 1% of the players are having technical problems. IT’S A SMASHING SUCCESS, BEST PORT EVER. But we are so committed to deliver a flawless game that we care even about that tiny 1% and will resolve their problems too, even if they are so negligible.

About the second. I seriously doubt they have a mad math genius who can rewrite “thousands of lines of assembly overnight”. If such person exists, AMAZING. But it’s far more likely they changed a flag in the compiler (-msse2) and it is recompiling the game overnight.

Oh, of course they aren’t LYING. Thousands of lines ARE being rewritten. But automatically by a CPU and not by some guy who didn’t go to sleep and is chocking on coffee. And of course they didn’t say only 1% of players are having issues, but just that 1% bothered to report them.

But again this is how you exploit the false perception. It’s not being dishonest, it’s about denying what’s obvious at every step because you can’t deal with it. You live in a bubble of self deception and that bubble is completely impermeable to reality. Your brain will automatically create endless excuses before it will accept an unflattering picture where you are not a hero worthy of worship. True believer of an egomaniac personality.

And, notice how the hype works: the game in general didn’t quite deliver. We learned devs are not to be trusted, BUT… What happens at this point? You drop the ball? You admit defeat of the hype?

Nope! Sean Murray says they will patch this game. He says the game will evolve and content that was promised maybe will make into the game. He’s just about ready to replace that hype with more of it. Expansions, DLCs, content patches. WHATEVER IT TAKES TO KEEP THE HYPE TRAIN GOING. Don’t look at what’s in the game, look at what comes NEXT. Believe!

One Man’s Bullshit

If the previous title was to point out the hype is embedded in the procedural generation tech, as a sort of baggage it carries and continues to be pervasive along the years, this time it’s about very specific and very deliberate bullshitting.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/02/artificial-universe-no-mans-sky/463308/

That article is RIPE for misplaced hype and dishonesty, but I’ll just focus on this an an example, not even the most meaningful (the meaningful one is how most of the animal AI seems to be gone in the final game, or never coded and only appearing in a wishlist on the dev studio’s wall):

The physics of every other game—it’s faked,” the chief architect Sean Murray explained. “When you’re on a planet, you’re surrounded by a skybox—a cube that someone has painted stars or clouds onto. If there is a day to night cycle, it happens because they are slowly transitioning between a series of different boxes.” The skybox is also a barrier beyond which the player can never pass. The stars are merely points of light. In No Man’s Sky however, every star is a place that you can go. The universe is infinite. The edges extend out into a lifeless abyss that you can plunge into forever.

“With us,” Murray continued, “when you’re on a planet, you can see as far as the curvature of that planet. If you walked for years, you could walk all the way around it, arriving back exactly where you started. Our day to night cycle is happening because the planet is rotating on its axis as it spins around the sun. There is real physics to that.

Turns out the game has a skybox. The sun doesn’t actually exist, as it’s painted on that skybox.

Also, night/day cycles are disconnected from the planet rotation, they happen in a completely faked way. (it seems the day/night cycle has a fixed duration and the same on every planet or moon)

Planets and moons rotate, but do not orbit anything. (all planets sit statically at one side of the statically painted sun for “ease of travel”, and maybe of screenshotting)

EDIT: Planets do not rotate either. There’s a nice Reddit page that lists all the things announced and missing. It’s as if 75% of the game just isn’t there. I’m fairly sure Frontier, the 2nd Elite, was more advanced as a simulation. That was 23 years ago. Planets orbited and rotated. Now we can look at ugly cartoonish puppets, the myth of the space simulator has been slaughtered for THAT.

“In terms of ecology almost everything is possible.” Oh yeah, you certainty didn’t TRY to sell the game for what it is NOT. Honest.

No Man’s Scam

I’m discussing this on the forums, so I thought I would write something here too. The important thing is that what applies to this game is going to happen again and again.

Here’s a schematic approach to how to judge “No Man’s Sky” and understand the debate going on right now.

1- The “over-hype”. There’s lot of discussion about the hype of this game. Every review will mention this. People will argue endlessly about who’s responsible of this hype and whether the game is good or bad depends strictly on how close it lands to someone’s expectations. As if good or bad depends solely on expectations management.

Answer: the hype doesn’t depend on Sony, or the dev team, or the internet. The hype of this game is caused by the use of “procedural generation”. It’s this piece of tech that carries a baggage of “over-hype” and every future game that heavily relies on procedural generation to build its content will face a similar over-hype. It has embedded the myth: “with just a few rules (or a small team) I can create an almost infinite UNIVERSE that you can have fun to explore endlessly”.

The idea that you can produce a large amount of content with little effort is just plain stupid. It’s the opposite: procedural generation requires MORE work to be good or on par with handcrafted content. Dwarf Fortress is great because it’s been developed non-stop for more than 10 years. There are no shortcuts, there’s no magical formula to produce interesting content.

2- This game uses procedural generation in a very stupid way.

There’s a “good” and “bad” use of procedural generation (tech is not good or bad on its own, it’s the use that matters), and it’s also easy to analyze since it depends on a simple thing. “Good” procedural generation makes the environment dictate gameplay. If the player has a plan, or a list of activities to optimally reach a goal, then for every new game that plan might be followed closely to produce the optimal result. But if you instead “procedurally generate” the environment and make it the center of the experience then it means you force the player to observe and adapt. Not anymore you arrive with a pre-made plan, but your strategy needs to adapt and learn from what you find. Every time the context changes, so every time the experience changes too. This is also the seed for interesting “exploration”. It’s not simply about sightseeing, it’s about making gameplay be shaped by the experience. Changing radically that experience. You transform the environment because you want the environment to transform gameplay (where the best result becomes “emergent”, in those rare cases when the rules are really solid).

But instead this game uses the “bad” kind of procedural generation, which is: cosmetic variations of functionally identical elements. This game is all about stuff looking slightly different but having the exact same function. You travel to a new planet, the previous one had a bluish tinge, this one a greenish one, but what you actually do on every planet is repetitive. You shoot a different looking rock or a plant to obtain the same material. It’s as if every object in this endless world is a box containing the same content, but a different shape on the outside.

It’s the same “sin” in Oblivion: what’s the point of “exploring” and finding a dungeon hidden at the border of the map when the spawn list of what’s inside is always the same? You’re going to find in that far-away dungeon the exact same content because they share the same exact spawn list.

Since this game uses procedural generation mostly for cosmetic reasons, the result is that the gameplay feels “dull”. Not because “there’s not enough to do”, which is what has been discussed for months, but because what you do DOESN’T DEPEND ON WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO FIND. That’s the “sin” of this game, the core of its bad game design. The gameplay function is independent from the procedural generation. There’s a total disconnect between the “exploration” and function. Between what you see and what you use.

Every planet LOOKS different but PLAYS the same. This is bad game design, and a very bad use of procedural generation.

3- Deliberate scamming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE0nuW-mQ8A

It was one of the most frequent questions whether or not you could meet another player in the game. They always answered vaguely, stating it’s not what a player “should be looking for”. But the question is very precise, did you write that code or not? Can you see another player or not? Turns out you just cannot. No Man’s Sky is entirely single-player. The code is just not there. There’s some indirect information that goes back and forth, so you could see what another player named that planet he discovered, but that’s the limit. It’s not that you cannot see another player because the universe is too vast to meet, which is what they said over and over, you cannot see another player because the networking code just wasn’t written.

And that’s one sign that says that, even if the over-hype is mostly due to a misuse of tech, the devs themselves heavily exploited that over-hype to sell the idea of a game over the actual game. They chose marketing over honesty.

They have a small team, they’ll make tons of money thanks to that hype. The game is a success. But they’ll also deservedly earn a very nice amount of bad reputation because of this, and maybe in the future players will be a bit less gullible to the false magic of procedural generation sprinkled by good programmers turned into bad game designers.

“No Man’s Sky” is a cute piece of tech wrapped around very bad game design.

Disclaimer: most of this was written *before* the game’s release. The point was to determine how to judge between a good and bad use of procedural generation. My comments about the game come from what I read and saw about the game in these first few hours, so you can judge by yourself if what I wrote also holds up as a complete description of the actual game.

Why is this important, why not wait before judging? Because opinions on the internet are entirely worthless. It doesn’t matter what *I* think about the game, it doesn’t matter what *you* think either. What matters and is worth writing and reading is about motivations. It’s about the discussion on the whys and hows. So here you can see my thought process while judging the game. It doesn’t matter if I think its game design is bad, what matters is that I described what, potentially, makes its game design bad. And all that stays valid even if eventually the game turns out differently.

Disclaimer bis: The “scam” of the title refers to the fact no one is actually responsible for the “scam”, or the over-hype, or the chimera. It was all embedded in the misperception and misuse of the procedural generation tech. That the devs have very deliberately and maliciously exploited just to make more money rather than offer an honest image of the game. It’s just intellectual dishonesty, of course. It’s pretty pervasive. I remember at least one occasion commenting on building hype by exploiting false myths. It was Vanguard, or selling the vagueness of an idea so that people’s mind would fill the picture with whatever it is they love.