Lost is overrated

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I’ve never been a huge fan of Lost, but it still intrigues me enough to make me follow it. I think the first season was a grandiose exercise of futility. They used an excuse of a plot to pack together a bunch of TV-writing conventions used exclusively for the “Cool Factor”. It packed horror, thriller, mystery. It was a patchwork of copied ideas from all kinds of sources. After all they were enabled to do everything that looked cool without needing any excuse for consistence. Everything could happen since people were having visions, so they just showed up on screen what looked viscerally cool without ANY pretense of motivation. It was a WFT?! from beginning to end, and people loved it because the screenplay was good (disaster! people die! survival! monsters! ghosts! super human beings! blood! drama! things hidden in the forest!). All artificial trickery, but done well enough that it worked as long you weren’t asking too many questions.

This joke of a show then morphed into something much better with the second series. They went in a direction I didn’t expect. They started to hint at a much bigger picture, showing that all that preceded wasn’t simply casual and unmotivated like a trainwreck of genres. The mythology of Lost started for real and not just as a clump of Cool Ideas artificially stuck together. It started to make sense, it started to hint that there was something consistent that linked all the parts. It showed that everything to that point was just a veil, and that there was so much more behind. For the public the show became also harder to follow because the number of questions rose exponentially to an unmanageable level. Too many questions, not enough answers, and a show increasingly hard to follow due to the many elements and recursive intricacies.

I don’t remember exactly where season 3 ends and season 4 starts, but lately the show became a sci-fi hack with some absurd notion of time-travel that allowed them to mess again with a bunch of things that didn’t make sense. It also completely shifted the focus to new elements (Ben vs Widmore) while dropping most of the mysteries (mythology) that built the first two series.

Season 5 works. It is relatively likable, but dreadful if you consider what it actually IS. We are at episode 7, the next 3 will be mostly retrospectives, yet we don’t know the MOTIVATIONS behind anything. If there’s one thing that annoys me it’s when a bunch of characters do things WITHOUT KNOWING WHY. For seven episodes we’re being said that they “have to go back to the island”, that Locke needs to die. Yet we have no idea of the actual reasons. On Q23 they call this “mystical flim-flam”, or another way to show symbolic stuff (sacrifice! betrayal!) without any connection or consistence. Hey, you have to go back to the island. Why?

– We’re supposed to go back–
– …because it’s our destiny.

You have to help me!
You’re supposed to help me!

your path leads back to the island.

And deep down in your heart, you know
we never should’ve left the island.

This just form the very last episode. Another show wouldn’t get any free passes with these ludicrous dialogues. Remember the first time they made a flash-forward where Jack meets Kate and tells her “we have to go back”? Why? Because they “feel they should”. We are still at that point. People doing things because they “feel” they should, or because they are “supposed” to. Or because they saw ghosts who told them so.

Now I know that one theme of the show is about “faith”, and faith is, well, about acting stupidly (read as: without motivations), but this has been dragged for seven episodes that are completely centered and moved by that idea: they had to go back, for whatever unexplained reason or mystical flim-flam.

I’m pretty sure we’ll get an answer to this, how convincing we’ll see, but even considering that this is still a season built around a trick. It works because they reset the whole thing. Instead of resuming all the threads they left behind, they started brand-new ideas and mysteries (like the letter from Locke to Jack, Aaron, Ben getting beat , the time jumps on the island…), all self-contained and relatively easy to manage. Easier to follow for spectators who haven’t memorized the whole lostpedia. But at the end it is an excuse to pad the plot while they set-up the dominoes for the last season. All build-up and no substance. It works like the first series: only acceptable if you don’t ask questions. If you don’t pretend that it’s all built to obtain an effect, and not to be consistent and logic.

One mention about Legend of the Seeker, since I’ve watched the first four episodes and read the whole book it’s taken from: it’s quite awful. It betrays the book in every way possible down to the basic concepts. The acting is pretty awful and the dialogues worse. The plot is childish, predictable and yet filled with holes. Exemplary is the scene with Richard and Kalan hiding behind a rock. An army passes behind. “Look, the army just went offscreen. We can stand up.” The only good aspects are the beautiful scenery, the good photography and Khalan and Zedd characters that feel close to the book. The rest is an awful adaptation and terrible TV writing.

Piracy, a different perspective

In December “DCS: Black Shark” simulator was released in English. I planned to buy it, then realized it had Starforce.

The reason why I won’t buy ANYTHING with Starforce is not because I’m worried it will give problems with my system. The reason is that I won’t fund in any way those who work at Starforce. I don’t want that my money is WASTED on retarded and counterproductive copy protection. I don’t want to give even one penny to Starforce. I won’t give money to companies whose whole purpose is to fight customers and deliver a worse product.

My opinion is that the way lobbies decided to fight piracy was (and still is) more damaging for the industry than piracy itself.

Money wasted. Tons of money wasted that could be invested to deliver better products and embrace innovation, instead of defending obsolete privileges while suing customers all over the planet.

The very least I can do is STOP supporting this industry and this way of suicidal thinking. Stop them using my money to pay incompetent lawyers and armies of programmers who invent new ways to cripple products.

In the last year my own purchase of games, music, DVDs etc… decreased 90%. In the meantime I bought a lot of BOOKS. I buy more games through Steam, I bought Sins of the Solar Empire even if I haven’t played it more than two hours just because I wanted to support a so good game. I’ll buy the expansion for it that is out these days. I pay for those online games that deserve my money. I’ve donated money to the Dwarf Fortress guy. The rest can go to hell.

Better you start to think how to deliver better SERVICES, than fight this useless fight against piracy and all customers.

He was also asked how much of this $18bn turnover is used to fight piracy, Kennedy said there are three main areas of expenditure. Funding the RIAA in US, IFPI globally and more local groups such as IFPI (Sweden). They all have budgets and a large proportion of this is used to fight piracy.

The global amount used by IFPI on lobbying and fighting piracy is £75 million.

It’s increasingly obvious that this is becoming a matter of politics. Those at the top are now completely disconnected from those at the bottom (the customers).

There’s only one way to answer all this. STOP buying. Stop giving them money and see it wasted to pay lawyers and copy protection methods and other restrictions. Stop funding people who make profit for going against you.

Stop feeding the dinosaurs.

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Let’s hope till June

At the moment the only MMO I’m playing and willingly to play is Football Manager (that is mostly awesome).

On the horizon there is absolutely NOTHING that interests me. I could go back to WoW for a while once they decide that dual speccing is a good thing, but that’s it. The rest is crap and in the future there’s nothing that looks promising.

But then there’s “Jumpgate Evolution”. Jumpgate was one of the first MMO I played. Really. At the time I only played Ultima and I think only a few months later after Jumpgate I started DAoC.

The first Jumpgate was a promising game with lot of potential. The problem is that once released in beta form (it worked, but extremely barebone) Netdevil simply STOPPED to develop it. There were no patches to the game with the exclusion of very minor fixes. No devs presence. They just released the thing and forgot it existed. A behavior that became typical of Netdevil. They don’t care about what they do, and it shows.

At the end I mostly ran fed-ex missions and got bored really fast. Combat was a mess and this isn’t a game like Eve-Online where you concentrate on the tactical aspects. Here flying was extremely hard due to the flight model used (the one where the heading of your ship doesn’t affect its direction).

Jumpgate Evolution LOOKS like the perfect game I ever wanted (and with me a whole lot of players). They changed the flight model with one closer to other sims. It’s a dogfighting game, so with gameplay supposed to be where the fun is. The features list is everything I wanted (minus the randomly generated missions).

“Fight against thousands of players online in epic large-scale player vs. player real-time battles.”
“Protect a merchant vessel on its trade route by intercepting enemy players or answer a battle station’s call for help by delivering them much needed supplies.”

An exhilarating PvP open world, fighting for territories, conquest, huge battles, dogfights! Or at least I hoped. Then you read on forums that the game is built like WoW. It has levels segregating players, world divided into zones and instances, the twitch combat is severely limited and PvP happens on battlegrounds. Oh well.

This is the press release today:

From an immense racing world to an entire universe, Codemasters Online and developer NetDevil announced that Jumpgate Evolution®, the action-based PC Massively Multiplayer Online game that promises exhilarating space combat on a vast scale, is scheduled for take-off this June.

I can continue to hope till June. From experience I know I can’t expect anything good from Netdevil. They never understand what makes a game good and fuck all kinds of awesome concepts only to imitate others and do worse than what was intended. Auto Assault was the perfect example of how you can wreck the few things that made its concept vaguely appealing. (btw, Jumpgate Evolution forums already have *zero* devs presence)

The graphic looks extremely good for this type of game. But here it’s all about gameplay. The world is still waiting for a massive X-Wing/Wing Commander type of game. We don’t need anything new. We don’t need to even RESEMBLE to WoW. It’s already all done, only needs to be made.

Hopes up till June. Then the usual huge disappointment. This is going to be another “Earth and Beyond”.

P.S.
But then you can invite me to beta and spare me the later disappointment.

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Game designer visionaries, or hallucinated leeches

Dave Perry on Gamasutra:

Showing names like Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima on the screen, Perry said Japan has produced some of the best video game designers of all time — “but would you be willing to bet China will never produce one of those names?” he asked.

Yes, I’m willing. They won’t.

If that level of talent emerges in China or Korea, and decides to make games using the free-play-model, traditional game developers with traditional business models may be unable to compete for an audience, Perry warned,

China and Korea are known to prefer quantity over quality. If that level of talent was supposed to surface, then it would have already. It’s not like China and Korea aren’t making games. In fact they are producing A HUGE PILE OF SHIT.

If China and Korea haven’t produced anything worthwhile it’s because that business model promotes disposable games that have the lifespan of one week. Only shit comes out of that kind of fragmentation and lack of focus. Games with no depth.

“Our” industry is done and buried the day they betray our traditions and talents to mass produce the same shit and chase mediocrity. The path to failure is about forgetting who you are and what you do best in the name of “market innovation”.

And become just a pale imitator of mediocrity.

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Casual players are slackers

A comment on Tobold’s blog about the higher and higher requirements to be able to join a group:

It really is about the risk on the time invested. In the second week of January, or so, it seems the majority caught up with the achievers, and all of a sudden there was a severe drop in the competency and preparedness of the average PuG’er. I started leaving a lot of heroic groups five minutes in when I’d end up doing over 40% of the damage or our “tank” had 18k health. The situation has degraded with PuG raids. I’ve seen a Naxx10 fail because six of the DPS were doing less than 1500dps.

To me, it’s an issue of respect. I invested time and effort into ensuring that I am competent and well-equipped enough not to hinder the success of the run. I expect the same in return from other players. DPS should significantly outperform tanks in their role. Tanks should have at least 5k more health than I do and be able to hold AoE threat. Healers in heroics should have enough spellpower to spare a heal on someone other than the tank, and enough awareness to see when they’re needed.

Slackers who seem to think attendance qualifies entitlement show disrespect, and are undeserving of my time and effort.

I am disgusted.

Not at the reaction of this player (sample of a general trend) but of the fact that a massive game encourages and promotes this type of interaction.

It’s also counterproductive, as the more requirements rise higher, the harder for new people to reach that level. A social fracture.

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Dollhouse (TV) impressions

This Friday debuted on FOX the new TV series created by Joss Whedon, Dollhouse, and I watched it.

The episode was good and entertaining, good screenplay. I think the concept is a little weak and there’s only so much you can do with it. With the elements they have I think they have done a good job.

In general I don’t like much this kind of series that are based around one “cool idea” and then examine it from different perspective and in various contexts. I like a lot more series that have a point. An overall plot, continuity, growth, development. Something that moves as it goes and links all the threads together. Dollhouse is instead a concept that works well with standalone episodes. I think that with every episode they’ll tell a different story with a different lead. For a TV series this is risky because usually the good authors only write directly a few key episodes and then let other writers fill the rest. If the personality and flow of a series is strong, then the quality is smooth across all episodes, but if the quality is more dependent on the whims of the single episode and its plot, then the outcome is more uneven and risky. Today all TV series have to juggle with these two aspects: from one side the cool idea that the defines the single episode, and from the other the continuity that builds the characters and overall plot. You need the perfect balance because if you rely too much on the continuity you risk that spectators forget details and the show is hard to follow, from the other if the episodes are too standalone they finish to “carry over” less audience, have more high and lows, lose fidelity and end being all the same.

Dollhouse falls in this second category, with execution being superior to its premise. Its ongoing quality is going to depend more on the quality of the writing of the single episode and less on the overall work with production, cast and so on. As I said I thought the first episode was good, but the idea at the base isn’t new nor interpreted in an original way. Mostly used as an escamotage so that they can explore completely different “flavors” with every episode. So it can be thriller one time, love story another, action, spy games etc… Mixing different themes as they like and see fit. So while getting freedom, this also keeps things a bit “loose” and not too compelling on their own. It risks to run dry and without inspiration.

For now it works. Fairly well done series but that lacks something that “grips” or makes it unmissable. A good execution that could have been used for something more poignant.

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Minor quibble on Mythic 55 pages of patch notes

Beside the fact they really tried hard to lengthen the patch notes at the expense of readability, this following passage goes beyond what is reasonable:

* To earn a Domination Point from a Keep, it must be claimed by a Guild and then held for 2 hours. If you lose control of a Battlefield Objective or Keep at any time, you lose the Domination Point.

* Multiple Domination Points cannot be gained from a single source (for example, it isn’t possible to get 6 Domination Points by capturing Martyr’s Square 6 times).

Why that second point? Why to clarify what was already implicit and so making it more confused?

If to gain control on a zone you need to hold all six contested points, and if you lose one you lose the point associated to it, then it is obvious that you won’t get anything by capturing one more than once.

1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1 = 1

Not 6.

You simply need to conquer and hold all the contested objectives, and hold each for a set amount of time before it counts. That’s all. There was no need to use “points” in this system and apply specific rules. Overcomplicated design and contrived explanation.

EDIT: Another less minor quibble I saw pointed out on the forums:

* Playing with Fire: This ability will now hit for the correct amount of damage.

Well, since you were at writing 55 pages of notes at least you could have made them informative.

I’m glad the ability now hits for what you think is “correct” damage, but maybe knowing how much would be too useful? Or know if the damage was lowered or increased?

They were too worried to make these patch notes look positive, more than make them look informative. Less complaints if the notes don’t explain the merit of balance changes. Things were “fixed”! Now it is all “correct”! 55 pages! Don’t worry anymore.

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SOE buys Zonk

No polemics, really.

i just think it’s silly that you write a whole post saying nothing and make me read the comments (Grimwell) to have a good guess at what happened.

Anyhow, good luck. I’m always glad when someone makes it. I almost never agree with Zonk, but… HOORAY. Passion is always worth a try (o two, or three).

P.S.
Totally unasked opinion: on the matter of DC Universe Online I expect the market situation to be not exactly favorable. Right now there’s already a fairly successful MMO about super heroes and two more big titles in production. Is there really a need for more?

Between the two I hope SOE is more successful. With Champions Online Cryptic declared they don’t believe in virtual worlds and ongoing development, and that they aren’t committed to keep their games up to date and competitive. Champions Online is made to replace City of Heroes and it will be in turn be abandoned and replaced as soon something new and shiny catches the eye of those developers (Bill Roper first, one who thinks his public persona is more important than any game).

On the matter of DC Universe Online I know very little, but, it has bad art (personal opinion) and the animations from videos released are terrible, terrible, terrible (fact). SOE games having bad animations is becoming an overall rule, what’s up with the animators over there? How it is possible that across all games you can’t even make one that matches a standard of quality?

Freespace 2 complete install guide

Freespace 2 is one of the legendary space-sim dogfighting games, along with X-Wing, the earlier Wing Commander and Freespace (the newer X games instead are crappy dogfighting games but they offer more for space exploration, trading and so on). While on a emulator the three Colony Wars for PSX are still a lot of fun.

Freespace 2 is still a valid game to play today. The genre is dead commercially, but this is one of the games (along with Falcon 4 or Jagged Alliance) that got a huge following of modders along the years. The source code was given to the community and work on the game never stopped since. Today you can play it relatively bug free with a very good engine and all the graphic redone for a much better quality overall. Definitely worth checking out since now it’s both pretty and fun as it always was (if you never played it then you should).

I spent a day figuring out the best install possible and it wasn’t an easy task at all.

So, in the case I need to go through this again and for you, here are all the steps to follow.

Freespace 2 perfect install – Freespace 1 + 2 with all campaigns, missions, audio files, movies and updated graphic

Updated: 21 August 2010

1- Obtain in some way the three original CDs of Freespace 2. Freespace 1 is not needed.
2- Install the game normally (full install).
3- Get this file and move it to FreeSpace2\Installer\ (create this folder if it doesn’t exist)
4- Get the very latest .exe. (or, if you want something less cutting edge and more tested: use this instead) (a “d” in the file name means “debug”, so use the “r” one)
5- Get the latest launcher (at this time Launcher55f.zip).
6- Get the compressed FS2 cutscenes. All the files of 4,5 and 6 go in FreeSpace2\ directory (root, no subdirs).
7- Check the latest Media VPs release (at this time 3.6.12). This is all the updated graphics and effects.
8- Get the Total 3.6.12 package.
9- Get the New radar icons.
10- Unpack the whole content of these two files into the main folder, this should create a new directory “mediavps_3612” with all the files going into it.

Now to get FS1 files:

1- Check latest release (at this time 3.2).
2- Get the complete package
3- Unpack the archive in the main folder, two subfolders should be created “fsport” and “fsport_mediavps”.
4- (optional) Get FS1 mission expansion + other campaigns.

Now to configure:

– Run Launcher.exe from root directory.
– Press “browse” and select the .exe to use (at this time: fs2_open_3_6_13r_INF_SSE2-20100817_r6377).
– Go to “video” tab and set everything as you want. (the “use large textures” option does nothing)
– Go to “feature” tab, list type “graphics” and check the following: enable specular, enable glowmaps, enable environment maps, apply lighting to missiles, enable normal maps, enable 3D shockwaves.
– list type “gameplay” and check the following: enable 3D warp, enable flash upon warp.
– list type “audio” check “preload mission game sounds”
– Add the following to “custom flags” field: -ambient_factor 125 -ogl_spec 40 -spec_exp 10 -spec_point 1.2 -spec_static 1.5 -spec_tube 1.5 (for a specific guide on how to fine tune these look here)
– (optional) Frespace runs by default on a FPS cap of 120. That’s way more than needed. If you want to keep CPU & GPU cooler and have smoother framerates you can set a manual cap in the registry. Search in “regedit” either Volition or FreeSpace2 and to the variables already there add a DWORD called MaxFPS with the new valuer for the cap. (I set it to 50 decimal)
– Go to “MOD” tab, press “select MOD” and pick the right directory. It’s “mediavps_3612” for Freespace 2 and “fsport” for Freespace 1. You need to swap these if you want to change between the two games (create two different pilots for each to avoid conflicts).

That’s it. My complete install takes about 5.61Gb of hd space. The rest is about configuring the options in the game, controls and all the typical stuff. If the two games and all their missions aren’t enough you can still find a number of brand new campaigns and total conversions on the forums. There’s as much content as you want.

Have fun with one the best game in its genre, it’s rare nowadays to find one worthy. Maybe Jumpgate Evolution won’t suck, but then Netdevil has taught me to keep hopes low.

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