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.

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.

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.

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.

This is just in:

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


A note on MMORPGs business models

First, remember that MOST people can only see what happened after it happened. Whereas other people learn enough to have a vision of what is going to happen. In a similar way, there are games created for an existing market and audience, and games that deliberately create a market that wasn’t there before, and that suddenly becomes canon and that everything else has to conform to from that point onward. A vision can open new paths, and these new paths become the foundation on which everything else is built.

That said, there’s this widespread myth that free to play has to “replace” subscription models, that it is some unavoidable destination. This discussion is conditioned by the idea of a new model replacing an obsolete one, instead of discussing the game’s own merits. So a game can fail or succeed because of its business model.

The truth of free to play versus subscription models is fairly simple and slightly different from the debates I usually see. The point is that a subscription model is more directly competitive, and so risky. But it is not a case of “new” versus “old”, or a model that is now obsolete. The rise of free to play is motivated by the fact that the market is so competitive no one would survive in a subscription model. Free to play is a way to virtually enlarge the pie. Understood?

The reason is also simple. Players out there can and will buy different games, they can shift their focus from one to the other. Whereas a subscription model leads to a situation where a player will decide on what game to play. It’s very unlikely that a player will maintain multiple subscriptions. So the result is that subscription-based games are much more directly competitive between each other, and only the “King of the Hill” will survive and do well under these conditions. Every other title will fall short and struggle, which is the very simple reason why World of Warcraft dominated all these years. Or the reason why Elder Scrolls Online has to move to a subscription-free model not because subscriptions are a “bad business model”, but merely because the title isn’t valid enough to face the competition of a subscription model. It’s like a two-tiered market where a couple of games can compete at the top and do well with a subscription model, while lesser competitors have to find a way to co-exist with less belligerent business models.

Again, subscription model are still “ideally” the more appropriate business model for a long-term MMORPG that wants to grow as a virtual world, but for the practical needs of a market, and a market where you want to survive, the free to play model offers a way to squeeze more space out of that highly competitive, merciless market.

Don’t put stones on the rails of the Hype Train

I so hate when I see this happening. Erikson once told me that I’m disruptive of online communities, and get so much aggressive backlash, because it’s like everyone makes an effort to go with the flow, while I’m like on a bridge and dropping stones into the river.

Right now, at the E3, it’s the time of the Hype Train. You want to be part of the community and considered to be one of its members? Are you a gamer? Then let’s build ANTICIPATION. And together we’ll share excitement for all these wonderful, unimaginable great games that are coming. It means this is a POSITIVE moment, when you are asked to put down and forget your criticism and critical thinking. Just watch the advertisement and be part of it.

But nope, you want to spoil it and remind what’s at the end of this railroad. It is not the time.

It’s dumb talking about this when it’s all already done. It’s SMART talking about this when it is actually happening, instead of being surprised after the fact.

Dark Souls 2 bullshit started well before the year it was released. If all these potential players don’t learn ANYTHING from what already happened and are ready to swallow it all again, then this is exactly the problem. YOU are the problem, not the developers. The developers simply exploit what they find. They find a gullible, naive audience? They exploit it, since they will believe everything that they are being told.

When the game is one month from release all the rants and complains result to absolutely nothing. You suck it up and shut up.

But if you start to complain about this when it’s actually happening, and call developers out to STOP THIS SHIT, then maybe they’ll understand it doesn’t work, and that it actually hurts the business to promise something the final product will not match.

But nope. Keep blindly worshiping your developer gods, so they’ll keep cheating you.

The oracle says: The Elder Scrolls Online

– Yes, I’ve seen the beta.
– I will only speak generally, to respect the NDA.
– What I found was actually better than what I expected after reading leaks and other forums discussions before I got into beta. This game’s reputation is rather awful out there.

The problem isn’t that everyone is now bored of playing MMORPGs, it’s instead that in the last few years MMORPGs have been gutted of all their potential and appeal.

We’ve got more and more single-player games that are offering interesting sandboxes, instead we get MMORPGs that are more linear than single-player games. That’s what is wrong.

So what’s the reason why someone should play a MMORPG? Only one: the appeal of “lots of content”, because that’s the idea that comes with every MMORPG. You play for hundreds of hours. But these days all that translates into: “I’m going to play for 200 hours this extremely dull combat, yay?” …Why? It all really comes down to this. It sounds more like torture than something you’d want to do. We get so many good games that the idea of spending hundreds of hours into DULL linear gameplay isn’t appealing for anyone. It’s just a single-player game, but WORSE. It’s just the same awful combat of Skyrim, but WORSE, because it’s online and with the online “features”: like lag, absence of collision and so on. Skyrim combat is already awful, so now it’s much worse! Good job! Everyone will love this absolutely!

That’s ultimately ESO’s challenge: demonstrate it’s not just an Elder Scroll game, but, oh, so much worse BECAUSE it has all the INCONVENIENCES of being online.

Or: ESO is worse than Skyrim proportionally to its MMORPG features & design forced into it. You get EVERYTHING you learned to hate after years of bad MMORPGs, concentrated into an Elder Scroll game, to ruin it.

Either the developers know how to answer this, or they don’t. And they don’t have a lot of time left.

Instead, why would YOU buy another Skyrim that has become several times worse because of its port to a classic MMORPG, and that not only costs you full price, but also $15 a month?


Next-gen PC gaming is old-gen

This deserves its own thread. Basically we are back to the old times when PC specs were a mess.

The first news is that AMD is now really at war with Nvidia. Every two weeks a new videocard comes out, or prices are readjusted. If they keep up like this for 6 months we’ll have a card four times more powerful than a PS4 for half the price.

The issue here is how AMD is playing the war: whereas Nvidia cards have a stock clock and a boost clock, so that the gaming frequency goes from stock to the max of the boost clock, AMD instead now does the opposite. They have a max clock and then as temperature and noise rise they lower the frequency to the point where noise+temperature target is matched.

So basically if you set your card to sound like a JET TURBINE, then you can go to the maximum clock. Otherwise the card is chocked.

This led to a situation where AMD carefully selected cards to send to reviewers, ending up with retail cards that performed NOWHERE like the benchmarks, simply because the noise and temperature throttled the “ideal” frequencies. Basically the 290X is a card pushed to the extreme. That’s how AMD is trying to win the war, they just squeeze the maximum possible juice.

To consider, though that (1) AMD is saying these cards can run at 95° without a problem. (2) they claim the problem of the retail cards are not normal and trying to analyze & fix in upcoming drivers.

The bottom line:
the piece of hardware is the same, they are trying to juggle it through drivers and settings. The latest beta driver gives the r9 290 a BETTER performance of a GTX 780. The 780 costs something like $500. The r9 290 costs $400. It sometimes is faster than a Titan, for the price of a 770 till a week ago. But to make the card reach that performance they turned it into a really loud LAWNMOWER. They hugely increased the performance of the card by pushing UP the thermal and noise ceiling, not by making more powerful hardware.

Anandtech says:

Ultimately there will be scenarios where this is acceptable – namely, anything where you don’t have to hear the 290, such as putting it in another room or putting it under water – but on a grand scale those are few and far between. For most buyers who will simply purchase the card and drop it into their computers as-is, this represents an unreasonable level of noise.

So, despite all this, the r9 290 is a monster of a card that almost reaches the performance of a Titan. It costs $400. Right now it’s too loud, but right now AMD is forcing the default model with stock cooler. Within a month it’s possible that custom coolers will come out around the same price that would BOTH make the card silent AND reach the maximum frequency. Basically AMD is waiting Nvidia response while preparing for the final blow.

The second news is about “recommended” specs of PC games. First there was the case of Battlefield 4. It “recommends” 8Gb of memory and has a 64bit exe by default.

The problem is that accordingly to reports BF4 NEVER exceeds 2.5Gb of memory. So having 8Gb or more memory onboard is COMPLETELY USELESS as far as the game is concerned. This is valid for both single and multiplayer, with the game running at 1080p and max settings. On top of this it’s even likely that the 32bit exe would perform better without any disadvantage whatsoever.

Bottom line: “next-gen” PC gaming is only a label on the box that makes feel good those gamers who’d like to see their new hardware purchase justified. There are people out there who even buy 32Gb memory “for gaming”. The PC market is being targeted by game developers as “Premium”, where the BIGGER the specs, the happier gamers are. It’s becoming an elitist, niche market where hardware requirements on the box are being ARTIFICIALLY INFLATED to require or justify new hardware purchases.

Add to the same scenario the fact that Nvidia is pushing all sort of “exclusive” effects on new games in order to justify new hardware. Or AMD dropping barely 3/4 years old videocards into “legacy” so that new drivers won’t work with those cards, and games will not run. Leaving you with bugs and problems to force you buy new hardware.

AMD released new legacy drivers a couple of weeks ago, so you’d think it’s at least decent support? Nope. This is just a new package containing drivers released in April. Exact same version. The April drivers were also old drivers that contained one fix for one specific game, nothing else. So the most “recent” drivers were (and still are) released in December 2012. Also including problems with Firefox hardware acceleration that messes up the screen.

All this while users actually open those drivers are are manually updating them to fix bugs and enable new versions. All things that AMD is refusing to do just to make you buy new hardware.

Third news and most ridiculous: Call of Duty Ghosts.

This game, unlike Battlefield 4, doesn’t simply make the idiotic claim on the box. But if you try to launch the game with LESS THAN 6Gb RAM onboard, the game FAILS TO LAUNCH with an error.

“Your system memory (RAM) does not meet the minimum specification for running Call of Duty: Ghosts”

Not only this is a shitty-looking game compared to BF4, but it pretends to use all those 6Gb. It will fail to launch. And maybe it would be fine, just a shit of an engine and another crappy PC port to add to a long list.


People who can actually run the game are reporting that the game’s memory usage “is usually around 1.1 – 1.8 GB”.

At maximum settings, 1080p.

So not only this game completely fails to launch, but it won’t even allow one to use lower settings to meet the target. The 6Gb requirement on the box is neither recommended, nor maximum. It’s the minimum requirement. For a game that, completely maxed, can’t even use 2Gb and would probably run PERFECT on Windows XP.

It can’t use even 1/3 of the memory it pretends. Maybe soon we can expect a patch that adds a memory leak so huge to actually justify 6Gb?

This is next gen PC. All fake smoke and mirrors. Forced upgrades like cockblocked new DirectX exclusive to Win 8 to make you upgrade to a shitty new OS. 64bit exes that runs slower than 32bit ones. Inflated hardware specs and hardware makers playing all kind of tricks.

“Premium” PC.

Also, in case you were concerned:

Dog hair is coming in a patch according to Andy (Nvidia rep).

Call of Duty: Ghosts – DEFINITIVE PC VERSION

With a NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics card, PC players benefit massively from high-quality, high-precision NVIDIA HBAO+ Ambient Occlusion, NVIDIA TXAA temporal anti-aliasing, and in a forthcoming game update, NVIDIA GPU-accelerated animal fur, and NVIDIA GPU-accelerated PhysX effects.

NVIDIA GPU-accelerated animal fur will add high-quality, realistic, dynamically-reacting fur to Riley, NPC wolves, and multiplayer attack dogs.

Some reports running the game through a debugger are saying Call of Duty Ghosts does nothing with the memory, but it is pushing artificially beyond the 32bit address as a way to prevent cheating.

Basically the game starts addressing memory after 3Gb of empty block, to push it out of the 32bit range.

That’s why the Windows Task Manager reports it’s not using memory, as it’s actually truly empty.

(this because people are trying to hack the game to change the FOV, since the game has it fixed at 65, lol)

Also interesting about the sales:

Black Ops: “an estimated sell-through of approximately $360 million in North America and the United Kingdom alone in the first 24 hours of its release”

MW3: “has become the biggest entertainment launch ever with an estimated sell-through of more than $400 million in the first 24 hours of its release”

Black Ops 2: “has achieved an estimated sell-through of more than $500 million worldwide in the first 24 hours of its release”

Ghosts: “the company sold more than $1 billion of Call of Duty®: Ghosts into retail stores worldwide as of day one.” … “Although it is too early to assess sell-through for Call of Duty: Ghosts


But now they have more important metrics:

” Fans around the world shared their excitement in social media, with Call of Duty-related terms trending an astounding 20 times globally on Twitter in the last 24 hours. “

Rift, the MMORPG, is Warhammer in weaksauce

I know very well to stay away from this, but I decided to check it out, despite my vow to never again join mmorpg betas, because at the helm of this game is Scott Hartsman (former EQ2 technical guy and then producer, surely did better work as the latter) and he’s one of the VERY FEW guys I have esteem for.

So I checked this out.

In short: Trion, the studio behind this game has been shopping for Mythic’s devs for a while (Mythic’s producer is the most recent acquisition). Scott Hartsman probably brought some SOE devs with him as well. The game uses Gamebryo, the DREADFUL engine that everyone learned to hate and scorn. It’s the same engine used on Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout, DAoC and Warhammer, so you know what to expect.

The result is that Rift plays, looks and feels like an hybrid of EQ2 and Warhammer. The basic gameplay copies the first iteration of WoW (when quests had far less variety), plays the exact same way and has the exact same UI (but done in Guild Wars art).

There are two features that make Rift stand out:

– The “soul” mechanic, that makes the same class mix and cover different roles (tank, DPS, control, healer).
– The rifts.

The soul mechanic I approve (even if the specific implementation comes with some issues, like balance problems, redundant skills, and not quite streamlined skills purpose), in fact it’s quite curious how one of the two distinctive features of this game that wasn’t copied from some other MMO… is one of my own.

About five years ago (see forum date and original thread for evidence) I was proposing the exact same idea:

Here’s how I’m following HRose’s “fixed classes/flexible roles” concept …

My idea was basically letting characters and a single class cover all “roles” in a party like “healer” “tank” or “DPS” so that some players could always form a decent group at all times, without having to sit an hour because they couldn’t find an healer.

You could basically swap your party role to whatever was needed. And what is used in Rift is close to the same idea. (as long the swap is not permanent like WoW’s talents)

It can take time, but eventually even the professional designers arrive to the same conclusions I arrived a few years ago. If you sit and wait in the place where everyone is going, then it looks like everyone is coming to you ;)

The other feature is the “rifts”. This one seems an original concept, but it’s just a variation of Warhammer’s Public Quest. Quite shameless, imho. You arrive at the location of a Rift and you automatically obtain a Public Quest divided in sub-phases EXACTLY like Warhammer. First there’s a wave of minor mobs, then a “boss” of some kind. When all phases are complete you can pick up a reward depending on how much you contributed.

It’s exactly the same idea, with very minor adjustments. The only relevant one is that instead of being in a fixed location like Warhammer, these are scripted to occur at random in a number of points across the map, including quest hubs. You gain some dynamism, but you lose the handcrafted detail Warhammer’s model allowed. Imho, it’s not a step forward.

Warhammer offered four kinds of gameplay: standard PvE, Public Quests, Battlegrounds, world PvP. Of these, two were badly broken due to bad game design (Public Quests not being scalable, world PvP being just horribly done and nerfed so that everyone was playing just BGs), but AT LEAST they were there.

Rifts plays essentially the same, but PvP seems entirely tacked on (and balance problems won’t make it easier).

Warhammer was a big failure. Rifts offers even less and has far less ideas, but perhaps isn’t utterly doomed. I think it was developed in a short time span and cost less than Warhammer (all thanks to Gamebryo, whose “discounts” will be then payed every single day). Without EA expecting millions of subscribers and Scott Hartsman at the helm I think they have a realistic plan and in the end the boat could stay afloat even if this game is on paper (and in what I played) sensibly weaker than Warhammer.

And for more Gamebryo HORRORS look here.

Different projects names, same people behind them. In the end I can’t be surprised if all these games play exactly the same. From what I see, the larger the crisis in the industry and especially the mmorpg genre, the more fragmented it gets. Studios shattering in many smaller ones and developers finishing on the road and continuing to wander aimlessly like zombies between failed projects. It’s not a recipe for success, and it will take many more years to see a new mmorpg that actually deserves the attention.

I LOLed at the beta forum:

What about the Gamebryo engine? What impact does it have on performance?

The fact that Rift uses the Gamebryo engine does not have a significant impact on performance. Rift uses a heavily modified version of the engine, and only for certain game systems. As such any issues you may have experienced with other MMOs using this engine will not affect Rift.

Wishful thinking :)