We are made to be rich, can you please bend over?

Battlefield Bad Company 2 is one wonderful game with competent game design and a perfect pacing (online). Technically it has a bunch of issues and the PC port isn’t as well done as claimed, but when it works it’s awesome.

Yet EA, the publisher, is always a mix of great things just next to very awful things. DLCs in general have been the new strategy of publisher to “deliver less for more”. Meaning that over time we get less and less for more money and incomplete products. It means the business plan comes way ahead of the game. DLCs are also becoming a piracy boost since the player feels he cannot purchase anymore a full package buying the game, so diminishing the value of what they can get, while enhancing the value and desirability of a pirated product that can be fully updated and complete.

The latest trick is to make players pay for beta tests and then again for the full game:

the plan is to release PDLC at $15 that has 3-4 hours of gameplay, so [it has] a very high perceived value, then [EA will] take the feedback from the community (press and players) to tweak the follow-on full game that will be released at a normal packaged price point.

EA’s view is that the PDLC costs a lot less to develop (essentially, it’s the first few levels of the full-blown game), and they have the opportunity to fix whatever needs to be fixed in the packaged product that is released a few months later.

You businessmen are so smart!

the line between packaged product sales and digital revenues would soon begin to blur, as EA intends to exploit all of its packaged games with ancillary digital revenue streams.

EA is surely convinced they are going to be richer than ever, because they are so smart.

So smart that they can brag proudly about all this.

We’ve been wrong about this stock for almost five years. Either we’re stupid, stubborn, or unlucky, but we’ve been wrong. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a different result.

But this time it’s different. THIS TIME THEY ARE RIGHT!

This time, while we are again hoping for a different result, we see evidence that the company is not doing the same things over and over again: lower headcount, fewer facilities, fewer games, a greater use of outsourcing” the analyst said. “This time, we think that EA is on the right path.”

Thanks for your contribute to make this industry worse.

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Sanderson’s Way of Kings – Please say something true.

These things truly irritate me, and it irritates me even more the way people SWALLOW IT ALL without blinking. Or are ready to be paladins of lies and defend those lies with all they have. The complete lack of truthfulness or even the lack of consideration that the public may DESERVE truthfulness (and how the bullshit relies completely on the fact that they know the public has a memory span of just a few seconds).

Why the fuck in this world there’s absolutely no one left who speaks straight and devoid of hidden agendas or personal interest?

But when you fling so carelessly bullshit up in the air, sometimes it comes back down.

So let’s look back, with straight quotes, at the reasons that Sanderson, Harriet and Tor used to justify the split in three books for “A Memory of Light”:

How did the decision to divide this final book into three parts come about? Was it a publishing necessity, a story necessity, or something else?

Harriet: The material that Jim left was very capacious, and Brandon saw after working with it for a while that he could not complete it in less than a total of 750,000 words. This is probably an impossible thing to bind – unless we sold it with a magnifying glass. 250,000 words is in fact a fat, or Rubensesque, novel. You will notice that 3 x 250,000 equals 750,000. So… part of the decision was based on making a book within the scope of binding technology. The major part of the decision was to get ALL the story that Jim left out there for us all.

somehow get to 750k by the March deadline that Tom had said was about the latest he could put a book into production and still have it out for the holidays.

Tom felt that we NEEDED to provide them a book in 2009.

However, in this scenario (400k book), you end up releasing two fractured books, and the bookstores are mad at you for their size. (Which may translate to the bookstores ordering fewer copies, and fans being mad because they can’t find copies as easily as they want)

When I’d mentioned 400k to him once, he’d been wary. He explained to me that he felt 400k was unprintably large in today’s publishing market. Things have changed since the 90’s, and booksellers are increasingly frustrated with the fantasy genre, which tends to take up a lot of shelf space with very few books. There is constant pressure from the big chain bookstores to keep things smaller and thinner.

(March 2009) Last night—Monday night—I pulled an all-nighter finishing up THE GATHERING STORM and sending it off to Harriet and company. In essence, the book is now complete. I suspect there will be another hasty round of revisions this weekend, but the book really needs to be in ASAP. We’re already over-deadline in getting it in, and Tor is going to have to pay overtime at the printer in order to get it out in November. (Tom has already said he’d do this, so it’s not a big issue, but every day counts. Hence the all-night revision marathon.)

So the reasons they used exactly a year ago to explain a split in three books were:

– A 400k book is too big to publish.
– The publishing market and retailers are pushing for smaller books. Big doesn’t sell anymore.
– If the book was coming out before the end of the year, then the final draft had to be completed by end of March.

Now fast forward to March 2010. Brandon Sanderson announces he has a huge 10 book epic series lined up. Published by Tor. The first book is 425k words long. It is coming out in August, but he hasn’t even completed the final draft yet (but no delays expected).

POINT ONE: This book is the start of a longer epic.
KINGS stands at 425,000 words right now. I’ll be trimming that down to (hopefully) 380–390k when I do the next draft. (Which will be the final draft.)

In case you don’t know, THE WAY OF KINGS is my next novel, set to come out August 17th of this year.

All the difficulties and market’s demands waved a year ago are completely gone. Maybe because those difficulties never existed and were completely made up in order to justify the three book split and hide the true motivation that was obviously less palatable than portraying heroic publishers working the printers overnight in order to deliver the book as soon as possible to the worthy reader.

This is the spin I hate. How they flaunt themselves as saviors and how everything is boasted as something exceptional just to serve their public, in the public’s own interest. When it’s just the MERCHANT speaking here, not the writer. And there isn’t even one truthful word when you have a merchant speaking.

In the end this irritates me but doesn’t matter. The problem here is how these guys expect everyone to swallow their bullshit and then forget about it. Why if something is done for a legitimate business reason it can’t be told plainly for what it is? Why the need to spin and mystify?

In August I plan to buy the book and read it ASAP and enjoy it. I have good expectations about it and I hope it will be so good that I’ll look forward for all the 10 books. I’ll read the book without any prejudice and really want it to be great. But I also hope he drops all the bullshit and speaks straight when he wants to promote his books. He can do good promotion even without flinging bullshit everywhere.

Lost (TV) – What it may be

I meant to write this after the Kate’s episode, and especially after reading this long but interesting commentary. So this works like an unplanned follow-up to my previous conclusion about Lost.

It’s here, but also in other similar stories, that two parallel tracks start to get revealed. One is strictly plot. What people do, how the story develops and ends. Another is thematic and about abstraction. As to squeeze “meaning” or “purpose” out of a story. Some kind of message that is supposed to reach you. The first track, about the plot, in this show is about the medium that carries the message.

In my previous post I explained my theory about Lost: it’s empty of meaning because it may represent the triumph of form over meaning (metalinguistic study). They show you the power of storytelling but it’s nothing more than that. Power without purpose or moral. The plot is convoluted around the medium and hides a secret core that in the end will be revealed for what it is. A fraud.

I explained the reasons for this theory in that previous post. What happens here instead is that Lost writers may have a far greater ambition. One that, if revealed as true, is staggering and awesome. Maybe Lost has a point, and it’s something quite powerful and that I admire. This new perspective & interpretation is revealed in that article I linked, and the problematic part is that the idea, if proven false since at this point it is as reliable as fanfiction, risks to be way cooler than what Lost actual writers have planned for the show.

That theory was written after the second episode of this last season. Now we are at episode eight. The theory still holds, maybe also because not much is happening even if time’s running off. But it’s still a theory that is consistent and coherent with everything else, little subtle aspects that make sense.

What’s this theory about? It is about the relationship between the two timelines. We all expect that they are going to connect plot-wise soon. That one will collide with the other in some way, but the relationship, see above my reference to the two parallel tracks, may be entirely thematic. Consider this: I’ve said this show is a display of competency in the use of medium, and that the show may be a study done only to refine it. One of the most obvious methods used in the show, as a medium, is the flashback, flashforwards, flash-sideways. These are methods of screenplay. How you tell a story. Pacing and so on. If you analyze how flashbacks are used in the show, you notice that they are very carefully placed to maximize tension and curiosity. Obviously they aren’t random, but till this season they worked simply as well placed insights into some character. What if this season changed the rules and the relationship between the two timelines lies right in the way they are connected? The thematic purpose linked to their use as a medium. The two timelines are related thematically in how and when they appear.

The Sideways world story line very clearly mirrored the Island world story line. Kate chases after Sawyer; Kate chases after Claire. Is there a physical, cosmic connection between the two realities?

is Lost doing this just to be all fancy-pants literary, or could it be that Lost is trying to tell us something? Could it be that the creative design of Lost’s sixth season, embedded and suffused with past episode resonance, is a clue to resolving the mystery of its seemingly split reality?

I am wondering — and perhaps you are, too — if these corresponding events across parallel realities are meaningful synchronicities. It’s almost as if no matter the world, these people are destined to intersect and to play out variations of the same essential drama.

That’s the suspicion. Here’s the theory:

Now here’s the crazy thought I had — an alternative to past-life/reincarnation theory. I submit that when Kate saw Jack at the airport, she established a psycho-spiritual circuit with her doppelganger self on he Island, and specifically the moment between Jack and Kate in Temple. This circuit facilitated a transference of psychic energy that flowed from Island Kate to Sideways Kate — or rather, from Redeemed Kate to one of her Fallen Kate selves in another world. That energy? Strength. Selflessness. A sense of sacrifice. A sense of ”You All Everybody” idealism. All qualities that Kate embodied in her Island story — and all qualities that Kate gained during her Sideways story.

In fact actors trigger these flashes with more active acting than usual. Flashes don’t just happen between a scene and another, placed carefully, but they are “acted” as afterthoughts. As if the character is influencing or being influenced by the transition. They are fluid. What happens in a timeline kind of flows into the other, and not by mere thematic association, but concretely with meaning.

What I say (or mostly who wrote that article) is that we use to think to these flashes structured by a third party narrator. We got someone who’s putting the story down for us in a way that is compelling. So scenes are placed following a “screenplay” that was made by this hidden narrator. But the story in the flashes is, like, real world. As if you go dig in a attic, find an old toy, and start remembering some past scene that involved that toy. In the real world your past DOES influence what you do in the present. So something that you remember can influence what you decide to do. Maybe it’s not a case, to underline something special is going on, that these flashes’s influence goes backwards. The 2004 timeline seems influenced by the 2007’s one. There’s something new that goes on there. The link is made plain and can’t be ignored or considered normal as previous flashes. These characters seem to communicate to their alternate version. Arguably, we could also consider the 2004 timeline like some kind of improvement. Implying an idea of “progress”. Let’s say human betterment.

So here’s the thematic meaning:

To put it more simply: Island Kate inspired Sideways Kate. Bottom line: The Sideways-Island relationship is a metaphor for our relationship to fiction. It’s about how fantasy redeems reality.

What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? Lost answers, They teach us how to make the real world a better place.

And that’s how everything may come together. I theorize that Lost is all form and execution. A wicked study on how you can manipulate an audience. An cynical experiment not unlike Dharma’s own. But here, if this other theory is true, we get to see the other side of the moon: what is fiction ultimately about. A soul. Something that tries to reach out and actually tell us something that is TRUE. Especially in a show (see 8th episode) where everything is a trick and deceit. The possibility is that once all layers of this onion made of lies are peeled off, we get to something that is truthful.

Fiction, like every form of culture, makes us better and strive for progress. The only concrete aspects that makes us different from all other animals and living things of this world is that we have language (whose most peculiar function is, interestingly, metalinguistic, so about the medium itself), and so culture. In this war against nature, culture’s the only weapon men have. And its use, a choice (another theme of this show), is what makes the difference. It’s about us.

Let’s hope the smoke monster saves us (but this will be explained at another time).

Lost (in the middle)

There’s veeery subtle subtext here. Can you spot it? ;)

Straight from tonight’s Lost episode (also: the episode starts with a nice and well executed subversion):

Crack’d Pot Trail – Steven Erikson

In the last two years, since I first discovered his books, Erikson has quickly became not only my favorite fantasy writer, but one of my favorite writers among all genres and classifications. And I started to ask myself what is that makes me “click” perfectly with some writers and not so much with others. What have Steven Erikson, David Foster Wallace and Roberto Bolano in common (the three most disparate writers I recently read)? I also got myself an answer: truthfulness. They write on the page things that are true. And I imagine the spontaneously arising question: how can a fantasy story be “true”? It can very well, and “Crack’d Pot Trail” is a most fitting example.

Recently I read a review of the first three novellas (not including this one, that comes fourth) that considered them a bit disappointing because they lacked a “serious” depth or actually gave something more to the characters primarily involved ( the necromancer Bauchelain & Korbal Broach, plus their manservant Emancipor Reese, the real star). This reminds me that the most devious aspect of everything that comes from Erikson’s pen/quill/keyboard is about the approach. Thus my warning, right here: this story of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach takes place, in-truth (and out-spoilers, trust me, for the whole length of this commentary), at the periphery of these characters. It is a story about them, but not featuring them. On the other side you get Erikson. Erikson himself, the writer, who put himself in the story unlike, not like, but still somehow similarly, Stephen King did with The Dark Tower. He’s there in the page and sometimes even pointing his finger and laughing at you, the reader. But, again, I remind you of the devious approach: the laugh is not scorn, just affinity. Sympathy.

The novella has a plot, it has a direction and drive, it moves toward a resolution already from the start. Akin to other fantasy and non-fantasy plots, it is also a journey. But in this case the plot isn’t the idea that truly builds the novella, there’s a metaphorical one that more strongly takes the scene. So two parallel binaries of purpose and narrative intent, both requiring payoff before the end, while also getting entwined enough to not be simply juxtaposed. Succeeding in doing that is not easy task at all. The novella is written beautifully, as I already raved weeks ago, almost to the point of showing off, stylistically brilliant, but in the second half I started having some serious doubts that it could get a satisfying resolution. Doubt that increased exponentially when I had just 10 pages left to read and still unable to see things possibly coming together in a decent way (no matter my own doubts were repeatedly voiced in the story itself by both characters and narrator). Then Erikson is able to pull it, masterly, in like 3 pages. It comes all together in three pages.

While the plot moves in a direction (an hapless bunch of artists, hunters, and champions of rectitude, together in necessity, on the heels of our infamous necromancers), the real story is about the relationship between art and audience. The artist, the critics and the public, seen from all possible perspectives and often metaphorically, but in such a case that a metaphor is, right the story, always executed literally, very real and sound (which I don’t explain here to not ruin the greatest idea/association in the novella). The tortuous relationship is made focus and explored without filters. What, elsewhere, readers often mistake for boisterous arrogance (on the part of Erikson, toward readers) and are ready to jump upright and accuse, is instead a skewed perspective because Erikson never defends univocally one side, and what appears as spite and mockery (sometimes even truly, but healthy, as part of all relationships) is also always parody of all parts included. The audience as well the writer (self-parody as well self-doubt are featured, hopefully not smothered and forgotten after the ending, that does take a side but that shouldn’t be interpreted as the author’s own true belief that erases all doubts before, in a kind of very, you know, un-subtle way, on the part of the reader. But we’re spinning again here and you never know which side you end up facing).

Which falls perfectly in the trick that makes the book, as subjects and objects mingle together and you can’t discern anymore if you are reading a parody or if you are yourself the object of parody, the one who’s laughing or the one who’s being laughed at, or maybe just staring at yourself in a mirror, playing both roles, that also connects with other layers inside the novella, both as themes and plots. Which novella essentially is: a satire, a parody. Totally un-subtle, not even trying. As satires are meant to be: all-encompassing, clever, malicious, deceitful, outrageous, disrespectful, defiant, very politically un-correct. And, essentially: truly subversive at its core since it lacks even a verse. There’s no safe ground. Everything and everyone is subject of scorn as well as compassion. No filters nor prejudices, just a razor sharp sight that spares no one.

Well, no one besides Bauchelain & Korbal Broach, who, you already know, are just meant to win even when they lose.

The premise that founds the story: who’s more useless in the world than an “artist”? (especially a world where first priority is just surviving) And what if, to justify their existence, the artists were made to pay with their own life if their art was judged not entertaining enough?

And what if democracy (voting for: life or gallows) was made of stupids and illiterates who would only reward the worst of the artists?

As you can imagine I loved this novella as much I loved the previous three. It’s not a mad rush as The Lees of Laughter’s End, not as funny and as entertaining, but it has a similar drive of The Healthy Dead and quality-wise I judge it above. Sharper and more outrageous. Plot-wise it only shines toward the end and slacks a bit in the middle, but the payoff in the end redeems that aspect, as long you don’t expect the plot and just the plot to drag you along for 180 pages. As in all cases, you have to be interested in what the writer is writing about, and in THAT case there’s no slacking or word wasted even here.

“So I pose the following provision. Should she decide, at any time in your telling, that you are simply… shall we say, padding your narrative, why, one or both of the knights shall swing their swords.”

It also reminded me I love reading.

In the 181 pages there’s also space for zombies (yes zombies, not T’lan Imass) and a good amount of graphic sex that will make you chuckle a lot (in a good way). Oh, and also a god addicted to jerking off.

I prayed

So I’m attached to this website even if it isn’t used much these days, and was torn inside to see it die.

It happens early today (I was going to bed and instead six hours later I’m still up) that I check the website and it gives me a 500 internal server error. So I go to the Dreamhost page to report the problem but I soon notice that I can access the databases and FTP. So it’s not down, it’s broken. I go to the support page and I see a warning stating that they are moving the site on a different server and if I had a custom PHP (I have, because they already broke my site once and I had to resort to that) then it was going to be broken after the move.

The problem is that I don’t remember anything about how I actually made the custom PHP. Not even a vague idea. The perspective was starting to feel rather gloomy. But then looking at the root of the site I notice that I left all the stuff still there and it’s actually working, including the old script I used and modified (because it also didn’t work right away back then). Only that even my script doesn’t work now (I’ll explain the tech details later).

And there starts the odyssey, looking through all kinds of websites, copy/pasting errors and whatnot. I rarely made a so hectic journey through the internet. The old engine just didn’t seem compatible with the new server and wouldn’t compile. In six hours, without knowing any damn think about all this, I think I tried a hundred of different solutions, editing scripts and makefiles for the compiler even if I never really saw one before.

Well, I’m happy. Now it works again. Dunno if it doesn’t break suddenly at some point because there are still some tricky things, but at least I got to see my site once again. It was truly so close to being gone and I was hopeless because Dreamhost simply told to deal with it and that they would not offer any support of any kind.

Later I’ll have to go and documenting this a bit, I’ll do my part and also update the broken wiki page at Dreamhost.

I’m not really sure I want to go down in detail to explain what I did because I don’t want to make the site even less secure and broken. Here’s the essence of what happened:
The website runs on custom compiled PHP. The website gets moved to a 64bit machine and so all the old code is now broken. I need to recompile.

I still have everything from when I did compile PHP last time, so I try to rerun the same script. But it breaks:

configure: error: Cannot find OpenSSL's <evp.h>

Apparently Dreamhost doesn’t have anymore support for OpenSSL and PHP requires it. Where things really start to get gloomy is when you look for the error online and find other Dreamhost users who faced the same problem and asked in forums and blog posts… years ago and unanswered. The internet reveals the desperation of passing time and unanswered calls for help! That’s the kind of ending that I was looking at. Doomed.

So I try to look for the source code and compile it locally, which isn’t simple, because adding it to the other script didn’t work. The “configure” command didn’t work, I read that it used “config” instead, but it still wouldn’t run properly. Follow an endless number of attempt and I think I was able to finally run it through “sh”, the shell.

Then I had to make PHP know where to find OpenSSL locally, which required a lot of juggling of directories (while also many attempts to see if I could compile PHP without SSL support, maybe) which is hard because you don’t know if it doesn’t work because pointed in the wrong location or because it isn’t compatible or misses some part. At the end OpenSSL works but the script breaks again two checks after:

/usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lc-client
skipping incompatible /usr/lib/libc-client.a when searching for -lc-client

Fun! I later figure out that the lc-client is compiled in the IMAP module and copied over. I tried compiling a more recent version (but the problem was elsewhere) but that lead to a whole host of new problems since I was getting incompatibilities with IPV6 and the program attempting to overwrite (and failing) some main files on the server. Then it turned out that IMAP also required OpenSSL, but it wasn’t smart enough to look at the local copy I installed (nor had a configurable “config”), and so continued to fail. So I tried to get my hands down deep in the makefile itself, trying to link manually my OpenSSL, but I only got more and more errors and screen showing fancy characters. No good at all. I tried with different version of IMAP hoping maybe one would be compatible.

This goes on a while, with my root directory filled with sss aaa abba azazphp aaaphp and so on because every run of the script pretended I erased the directories and doing it through FTP would take an insane amount of time and I didn’t remember the Unix command that would delete a directory with everything inside (rm -r), and I was too busy with a million of other thoughts to look that up.

In the end I got through, managed to compile IMAP and have it digested by PHP. And the site ran again.

I also suspect that lots of troubles also came from the possibility of having code half compiled and uncleaned since I compiled PHP last time.

(this omitting many steps in the middle, like installing other libraries that may be connected and swapping source versions with newer ones)

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