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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ResetEra versus NeoGAF: the pattern of future collapse

I wrote a thing, not because these forum wars are important in themselves, but because they represent our future at the broadest level. They are like crystal balls, you peer inside and can see the future.

I use here the term “truth” as a form of ontology, whatever its form. (but you don’t need to know)

GAF shits on Era, Era shits on GAF. So, in this symmetrical warfare, where’s the truth? Is it then in the middle?

Nope, it doesn’t work like that.

Truth can be on the far left, it can be on the far right, and it can be at any point across that spectrum. Truth is just where it is, for any particular issue. When you think you got it, it jumps somewhere else and proves you wrong. You cannot “box” it heuristically so that you already know where to find it every time. To find it for any particular problem requires very, very hard, meticulous work. (cue flat-earthers, another symbolic pattern)

ResetEra is “manufacturing” a very specific kind of truth, that you know you can find when you go there.

That’s how an echo-chamber works: it’s a manufactured consensus that you know is built accordingly to a canon.

And when you’ve built this consensus you’ve also built the prerequisite for war (any war), because that consensus implies the culling of every possible mediation, of all doubts. Replaced by the bright-white purity of righteousness and certainty: the strongest deep feeling you’re right, fighting the good fight. And you feel good as consequence, in a self-serving endless loop of reinforcement.

In our history, religion has served the same purpose. It was a powerful tool to orient and focus precisely the will of people, like the point of a sword or a lance. A weapon. And that’s why historically religion has been the cause of many wars. In this case Era is using politics exactly as a form of religion, and that’s why the behavior of their moderation is very similar in the patterns of the “Inquisition”, false accusations, censorship and all that.

Curiously, as with religion, the focus is never *what*, but who (“us” or “them”, friend or foe). Because religion is always epistemically wrong. It’s always subjectivity without any objectivity. Are Christians more right or “truer” than Muslims? Nope, it’s all arbitrary. Just men going against other men, and finding an arbitrary cause to do so. Today we mimic that with sport (are Lakers truer than Warriors?).

If you remove the “who” and replace it with “what” then you have at least a shot at truth. Otherwise nope, just a victim of heuristics.

Technically it is heuristics all the way down, but without going down the rabbit hole you could say heuristics are the tools we use to simplify and reduce the world to pieces that make sense, that have meaning, that we can at least manipulate and use. This is an obligation (I play with words here, what I mean is that another way doesn’t exist), because you cannot use what you cannot use. But you have to remember that this compression and reduction through tools isn’t the real thing, and quite frequently it leads us astray.

D-Day: three monster wargames

(most of the links scattered around this post are images, because I like the aesthetic of the monster wargames, many of these come from boardgamegeek, but that I’ve mirrored here because the links get constantly changed/broken)

I was reading an article about simulators and wargames on RPS and the mention of “Panzer Battles: Battles of North Africa” got my attention. I’ve looked before into John Tiller’s games, but usually on the higher scale, larger breath of the “Panzer Campaigns” series.

I’m always intrigued by impossible games whose ambition transcends common sense, those human endeavors that motivate some people to go beyond. And while I’m not really a “player” of these things, I keep being fascinated by them and spending lots of time digging information, reading rules and whatnot. In the past I’ve “compared” a game like War in the East, a computer game, and Case Blue and other OCS games, for classic tabletop experience (all rules are usually available for free officially as .pdf files, and the games themselves can be played with also free Vassal modules, if one wants to fiddle directly with them). So once in a while something catches my attention and sends me on another round. For example CMANO, the modern “Harpoon”. But this is not the time to talk about it.

Last time I looked into Panzer Campaigns I was awed by this. Even if not clearly visible, those are all hexes, and that twisty line made by darker dots shows the actual counters. Those pieces you are supposed to move individually every turn… The scale and the detail are staggering, and they dwarf monster games like War in the East.

At the time I wrote down this silly comparison (and looking into it I also found mention of another of these monster games but of a different kind, Starfleet Battles):

Some stats?

Moscow ’42:
244,620 hexes
8,000/9,000 counters total
1 turn = 2 hours
Biggest campaign is 544 turns long

versus War in the East:
26,000 hexes
4.000 counters
1 turn = 1 week
Biggest campaign is 224 turns long

The bottom line of all this is that, these days, something like Hearts of Iron IV doesn’t even get a passing glance from me, it’s like what’s Skyrim for RPGs.

But that’s just me because it looks like these mad experiments and extremely complex rules are on the way out, so we are looking at something that maybe will never be matched again. It’s like some treasure that soon might be completely forgotten…

This time the RPS article sent me looking at the Panzer Battles, instead. And in particular to Battles of Normandy. This is less of a monster game like Moscow ’42 because it doesn’t have a super huge campaign. It’s more like a collection of scenarios across smaller maps. But this didn’t stop them to outreach in a few areas…

This is the big map (source, it’s a png almost 200Mb big)

You can’t really see the hexes there, the map is 398,000 hexes, almost twice the map of Moscow ’42. Sadly I don’t think it’s playable as there’s no campaign that follows the whole thing and the two bigger scenarios seem still to use only smaller sections of that map. But if you are looking at D-Day then you want to play “the longest day”, the first day of the landings, and that’s one of the scenarios.

(open in a new window for a slightly bigger version)

If you compare this with the image above you can see it’s only like 1/7 of the whole map, yet it’s still HUGE. This is a few turns into the scenario, in the morning when a few landings are already happening on Utah and Omaha, as you can see by the vague green blobs on those two beaches. Then there are also some faint light blue dots scattered around the whole map, those represent the Nazi troops defending the territory, and if you squint some more, on the left side of the map in particular, you could also spot some yellow dots (they blend with the green map), and those are again the allied forces, but that didn’t land like the others because they were parachuted there during the night and previous turns. It was quite beautiful to set the AI controlling both sides and just watch it happen.

This huge scenario is 40 turns long, and covers just one single day. During the night you get 1 turn every hour, then in the morning it gets broken down with one turn every half an hour.

All this ended up making me check another two games, both covering the same overall scenario, but this time not as computer games but as monster tabletop wargames. Both are again available on Vassal with free .pdf rules on their sites (links below).

The first is Atlantic Wall and that I already knew as one of those impossibly huge monster games.

The info page mentions one grand campaign made of 234 turns. This is the whole thing, it covers two months and a half. So with a quick calculation it’s three turns a day, two during the day and one for the night (confirmed by the rules).

The map is freaking huge, of course (here for more). On Vassal the whole thing zoomed out looks like this, or a closer look. (and a description of a game being played)

It seems to greatly surpass in detail one of the previous games in the same breadth (but here it looks impressive too, probably because it was scanned and printed in a bigger format). In fact that one had one turn covering a whole day. It is interesting how you can “slice” these historical situations in various ways, depending on what’s the focus. Of course the more you zoom in, adding detail, the more you lose the big picture, so you have that scenario from the computer game that gives 40 turns for just one day, then Atlantic Wall that covers almost three months, but that doesn’t go deeper than three turns a day… and this leads us to the third one, that bridges the two.

I found it by looking at a forum post, written by the designer of this other game while he was still developing it:

my game and Joe’s are of different scope. You can fit all of my four maps on one of Joe’s maps in Atlantic Wall. The distance from Sword to Caen in Joe’s game is 12 hexes or so. It’s 40 hexes or so in my game.

Mine is just on the Commonwealth Beaches and covers just the first week. Joe’s covers the entire Normandy campaign. Which you prefer depends on what you like. I happen to think the first week is very mobile and tense, and the remainder of the campaign is pretty static… so it’s not for me to play or design. Joe’s offers the completeness of the entire theater – and I know that is great for many gamers.

I actually already knew this guy because he also designed The Devil’s Cauldron and Where the Eagles Dare. These also being monster wargames but of the kind still kept on a level (somewhat) manageable. The fun thing of these two is that they can be JOINED into one bigger campaign that covers the whole thing across both games.

See this. Here’s The Devil’s Cauldron. It’s pretty big, right? And here’s Where the Eagles Dare, and that’s again huge. But then we have to JOIN them. Here’s from an angle, and here’s from the opposite. Even on the Vassal module the two can be joined, but the maps are kept separate because of the odd tiling, so I cut it up and joined it all together in a picture just to show the whole thing without the perspective.

These two games, combined, simulate Operation Market Garden (this operation is also covered in one of the modules for the computer game “Command Ops 2”, but I’ll make that comparison at another time). So let’s see this other game, by the same designer, but done to reproduce D-Day. It’s titled “The Greatest Day”, and the subtitle explains it all better: “Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches, Battle for Normandy: Volume One”. This is just the eastern side of the landings, and once again it’s ultimately meant to be joined with another TWO games, all three together representing the whole front. But this one was released in 2015 and I found no mention at all the the other two games are actually being developed, so it’s possible they’ll never be made and the whole thing will remain a crazy dream.

It’s interesting to compare this one with the other two because it creates a sort of bridge between them. The computer scenario from the first game covered in detail just the first day, through 40 turns (but being a computer game it doesn’t have the intricacy and explicit complexity of the boardgames). Atlantic Wall instead is the 234 turn monster campaign, covering the whole thing from early June to 22 August. And to keep it playable they shrank the detail to 3 turns for a single day and a map that while being huge is still more zoomed out. And here we have The Greatest Day that covers the first week, with a day divided into 8 turns, two hours each, and then one single turn for the night, so 9 turns for a complete day.

(Rules for The Devil’s Cauldron, Where Eagles Dare and The Greatest Day are available here, all three part of the Grand Tactical Series. The vassal modules are here and here)
(Rules for Atlantic Wall are available here (under GOSS), and the Vassal module is here, but even if free you have to register. A current direct link is likely to stop working whenever they update it. This version also has the scenarios set up and is supposed to fix bugs, but it loads many times slower than the previous and has blurry counters for some reason…)

While it’s just 1/3 of the whole, it’s once again a monster game (complete). The full campaign goes from the night of 5 June, to 21:00 of 13 June. That should be 73 turns total. The designer says it’s not a small feat to play it all (the estimation is 20 hours for the single-day campaign, and 150 hours for the whole thing). On the surface the map of operation Market Garden looks way bigger despite the developer claiming this being twice as big, but I suppose The Greatest Day has a much higher counters density. That Market Garden campaign went from 15:00 of 17 September to the night turn of 24 September. The total is 60 turns, because this game has one less turn for each day, making the single night turn two hours longer and removing the 19:00 day turn.

A quick comparison on the surface:

Atlantic Wall
2.5 months full theater campaign, 234 turns total, 3 turns/day.

The Greatest Day
8 days campaign, only eastern landings, 73 turns total, 9 turns/day.

The Longest Day scenario in “Battles in Normandy”
1 day campaign, all the landings, 40 turns total, 40 turns/day.

Looking closer at the map representations I can deduce that, roughly, every step reduces the size of one hex by half:

(Atlantic Wall)

(The Greatest Day)

(The Longest Day)

To add some more detail and compensate the abstraction during the landings, Atlantic Wall uses some separate boards for the beaches, that are then funneled into the big map, for example (or here for the real thing):

And here a wider comparison of The Greatest Day main area and the respective section in Atlantic Wall:
Atlantic Wall
The Greatest Day

I suppose it’s possible to go deeper. I’m pretty sure Advanced Squad Leader has some scenarios covering D-Day but that, too, will have to wait for another time.

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Bethesda’s game engine is, indeed, shit

With the release of the terrible Fallout 76 come the cyclical complaints about how terrible and ancient is the game engine Bethesda uses.

Some guy who thinks he has a better insight ended up writing this:
https://kotaku.com/the-controversy-over-bethesdas-game-engine-is-misguided-1830435351

This is what I wrote on a forum:


This is funny because, very obviously, Jason Schreier doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’s way too dumb to realize it.

A “game engine”, as used in discussions in forums and articles, IS NOT A PIECE OF TECH. Nor it is a “collection”, as he says.

A game engine is a heuristic. It’s a term in language that works like an umbrella and that encompasses the overall “look and feel” of playing a game. *Playing* it, not building it.

Of course the look of Morrowind or Oblivion doesn’t PRECISELY correspond to the look of Skyrim or Fallout, but the analogies and the general feel are absolutely there. You could make an experiment and let someone play a Bethesda game without knowing it’s Bethesda and he’ll know, if he’s competent, within minutes. And certainly not because that game would be very complex.

If an engine is an engine, then it provides a structure. No matter how much you WRESTLE it, the structure is a structure and by being structure it imposes itself and will create limits.

No matter how many times Bethesda explains how they rewrote everything in their engine, PLAYING those games will always reveal the truth. And the truth is that they are too scared to abandon the pipeline they used until this point because they cannot afford to wipe everything clean and restart from zero. Because IT IS indeed an engine, and they don’t want to discard it.

For Fallout 76 we have changed a lot. The game uses a new renderer, a new lighting system and a new system for the landscape generation.

And yet it’s the same shit, as glaringly obvious to anyone who played even for 5 minutes. All Jason Schreier says falls apart right there because it is PROVEN by playing the game and realizing how the “””engine””” is still the same.

What Jason Schreier says is only vaguely correct in the sense that “engine” is not a word used precisely in this context. But it’s only a discussion on the specific use and meaning of that word, and it doesn’t even remotely touch the actual discussion that takes place when players criticize this “engine”.

Ship of Theseus. It’s basically a new engine. I hate that word.

Ship of Theseus is how to nail the philosophical problem yet without understanding it.

The Ship of Theseus means you are different, not that you can become anything. Of course Bethesda’s games have greatly changed, since Morrowind. Yet they still cannot shake from those roots.

Even when you replaced all the parts, the way you have replaced them influences the outcome. It’s not freeform.

In the same way, the moment all your hair cells get entirely replaced doesn’t correspond to the moment you get blue or purple hair. The “engine” is still the same.


EDIT: This slightly blew up on twitter. But who am I to NOT go down the rabbit hole?

– when people refer to Bethesda’s game engine in the discussions they refer to the feel that links all their games, and that has its root in the underlying tech. That’s why it’s a heuristic. I perfectly underlined it’s a semantic problem.

My car’s engine is a heuristic for the smell of petrol, the screeching of tires, the warm leather seats, the gamers in the back seat screaming ‘are we there yet’.

– more or less, yes. More accurately your words are heuristics, as is all human language and representations. Jason wanted to use technical language, I used neuroscience. It’s a semantic problem.

– in fact, your car’s engine isn’t a heuristic. But your “car’s engine” is. Metalinguistics are the sixth function of language according to Jakobson and reason why we can talk about language with language.

I appreciate this from an academic standpoint, but if you tell your mechanic that they didn’t fix your engine and you actually mean the seat warmers are still too hot, they’re going to say you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

– yes, context. That’s why all this was spawned from an article that decontextualized the way the term “game engine” was used. Players don’t see code, they see output. So they blame a “game engine” because it’s their heuristic to link experience to tech.

– when someone “feels” Fallout 76 uses the same engine of Oblivion they are observing a heuristic of a link they cannot analyze in detail. Because they lack the precision of vision and information. Hence a heuristic is used.

– so when a player speaks or writes it can only be about the experience and not about the tech. Even if the center of the message is the existence of that link between experience and tech. Because they aren’t independent.

– Funnily, it’s not “academic”. It’s a dualistic problem like mind/body separation. Here it’s tech/feel, engine and experience. We see two things where there’s only one thing. They are one and the same. The tech is what generates experience. There’s no experience without tech the same as there’s no consciousness without a brain.

– It’s as if I say “my hand hurts”, and you, doctor, tell me, “Nope, your brain hurts. Pain can only be a mental construct.” That’s obviously true, but it’s also missing the point.

– RDR2, God of War and Skyrim are all sorta open worlds. Do you think their tools and engines are generic enough that you could perfectly recreate one in the other?

– That’s why people complain. Because the “scaffolding” that on one side allows Bethesda to produce relatively fast some huge games, on the other side ultimately feels archaic and clunky. With its advantages it also inherits its disadvantages, and players are demanding a more radical detachment from those old (but well known and convenient) roots.

– Btw, many times Bethesda has declared they completely renovated their engine.

– Yet players know it “feels” the same. The heuristic proves the underlying tech hasn’t changed in meaningful ways. As someone wrote in the forum: the proof is in the pudding.

Also this: https://www.resetera.com/threads/the-controversy-over-bethesdas-game-engine-is-misguided-kotaku.80983/page-6#post-14984524

Red Dead Redemption 2

This is stuff that was popular in the 90s style game the design and that was progressively parsed out because it was just a “chore”, getting in the way, and not fun.

This is where you learn game design is not progress, but just cyclical repetition. (and trends that shift back and forth like waves)

It’s like UI design, moving from simple and minimal -> complex, elaborate, decorated -> simple and minimal and boxy -> whimsical, shiny, colorful -> minimal and smooth and rounded -> etc…

Illusion of progress like everywhere else. Like the weather. Like seasons.

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Serena Williams and the logical fallacies

I’m not going to summarize what happened.

I only want to point out a couple of specific aspects. One is the logical fallacy that lies as the basis of many discussions.

The main objective fact (including the controversy) is that the umpire gave Serena a warning for coaching, coaching that was admitted but that Serena claimed not having seen (but that is irrelevant for the rules). The problem here is that this rule is not applied consistently (or claimed not to be applied consistently), and so it depends on the sensibility of the umpire whether to enforce it or not. I do agree that the match could have been handled more gracefully, because in the end these decisions led to worse outcome for everyone involved and no one directly benefited from that choice, but the umpire still applied the rules as they are written.

Now the topic is whether or not that decision was “sexist”. The logical fallacy is to consider that topic relevant for the match. It’s relevant for a discussion, afterwards, but it’s not relevant for the match itself. I’ll explain why.

In sport there are quite often different rules for men and women. I’m not an expert but I think the height of the basket in basketball is set differently? In any case we’re quite used to having slightly different rules, we also have some slight different rules in tennis. Whether we agree or not with this practice, what’s important for sport being sport, and fair, is that once the match starts the rules are applied uniformly to everyone who participates in that match.

In tennis, for example, we have different rules if the surface is hard or clay. As long the rules of that specific match are applied to both players, the match is fair. This to say that rules change all the time, what’s important is that in a match between two players the rules are applied uniformly, and not that those rules are applied uniformly across all matches and all players. Different tournaments, different rules. Different years, different rules. Even rules against doping change over time.

In the case of the match of Serena Williams she was playing another woman POC. If anything, the only trace of possible bias is that her opponent was Asian, and that the match was taking place in New York, so Serena had the favor of the public supporting her A LOT MORE. A lot more loudly. This is a definite, objective advantage. It is NOT applied uniformly to both players, but we still also widely accept it as it is. It’s just part of the game as it is part of most sports. Yet it still is an objective bias and it’s important for an objective analysis of what happened.

The fact is: Serena was not playing against a man. Whether or not rules are applied not uniformly to men and women isn’t an issue here (regarding the match being played, not the cultural discussion, which is legitimate). It isn’t an issue because Serena plays on the women side of the tournament, exclusively against other women. So even in the case “men play by different rules” IS IRRELEVANT as long those rules are applied uniformly to the TWO players engaged in that match (and the rest of the tournament they played). At no time in the tournament Serena crosses her path with a man, so the application of the rules just can’t technically be sexist simply because the match is between two women. She’s not playing against men, so she can’t technically be subject to bias and favoritism as in the case she was playing against a man, and so treated differently compared to her opponent.

To be fair the rules of that specific match have to be applied uniformly to both players, they don’t have to be applied uniformly TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. The match is its own entity, and what matters is that the rules are applied to those players who participate in that match, not everyone else who’s not part of that match.

This before any sort of personal opinion or cultural discussion can take place. It’s just analysis.

Of course the discussion doesn’t stop there, it starts. But on the internet things completely fall apart because every opinion is then weaponized, factions are built, and then it’s just a war.

I’m not on one side, I’m not on the other, and I’m not in the middle either. I’m precisely positioned regarding the considerable number of aspects that build this overall complex issue. I won’t pick a faction. But we’ve seen the debate degenerating, to the point I’m not really sure that bringing up these themes actually leads to an improvement of our society. What I observe is a push for extremism. A will to entrench personal beliefs and identity.

You cannot just cleave these complex problems in two halves, and what I observe is that as a society we absolutely have zero defenses. We have no way to handle this, and it only leads to that extremism that makes everything worse.

Taking a step back, you can see how emotions are what build opinion. For example:

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/serena-williams-us-open-mistreatment-op-ed

As I watched Serena repeatedly ask for an apology, I sat up a little straighter, glared at my television and felt a knot slowly forming in the pit of my stomach. I tweeted the words, “Oh no,” and started to cry. In that moment, Serena voiced something that I could relate to so deeply, something that often goes unsaid: the many times in my life as a black women, I have deserved an apology and haven’t gotten it.

Can you say this sentiment is not legitimate? Of course it is (legitimate).

But just because you can recognize yourself and empathize with an aspect of a story doesn’t mean the whole story is yours and that the appropriation is itself legitimate. Serena didn’t deserve an apology. She threatened, accused and offended the umpire, reiterating this behavior over and over. It wasn’t one time. Even in the possibility the umpire enforced a too bland rule, he cannot “apologize” for applying that rule too firmly, because that’s his job.

Your mind has sliced a part of the story that moves you. That part is legitimate (I do believe you had those experiences when you deserved apologies and didn’t get any), but this one is not your story. And if you then transform Serena’s story in your story then you’re wrong. Because these stories are not the same.

This simplification, where different stories become one story, is both extremely powerful, extremely important, but also dangerous. Because that simplification compresses and cuts away aspects of the story that are not irrelevant at all.

Yet, in order to bring change to our society you cannot use differentiation. You need a story, a symbol, a flag. One movement that pushes the sentiment as one and whole. Not fragmentation, not differentiation, not complexity. You need things simple.

Beware of things being simple.

Raph Koster has a new book out you probably shouldn’t read

Following Raph on twitter means I already knew this was coming, but I had no reason to say anything about it until I saw this:

This is my corner of the internet and I can say what I want without consequences, negative or positive.

Look at that.

Science fiction adds a particular challenge to combat design. I spent quite a while reading up on military tactics

For Star Wars Galaxies? That great game with exceptional ranged combat design?

You mean the one where you deliberately didn’t model terrain collision so that you could shoot and being shot through entire hills?

Oh yes, you definitely have to be a military expert to know that ground cover and terrain in general should matter in ranged combat…

Raph continues to be one of the most brilliant minds and at the same time completely inept at “getting” game design. I’m sure this book is just a further proof of that. And one of the things he does the worst is figuring out what he did wrong, “postmortem.”

That excerpt cannot make it more obvious.

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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.