Sunday, October 30, 2011

World of Tanks balance

Above is my current overall result from the statistics screen of World of Tanks. Of 3,596 battles fought, I have won 1,748 and I have lost 1,748. For the math wizs among you who notice that there are 100 battles and 2% missing, those are the draws. My win loss ratio is perfectly balanced, and that after thousands of battles.

Recently a reader wrote me a mail complaining that he didn't see it like that. While his victories to defeat ratio was 50:50 like everybody else's (you can only derive in a major fashion from that by doing tank companies and clan battles), he was looking at the last line on that screen. He only counted battles as victories when he was still alive at the end of the battle. Dying early felt like a loss to him, even if his team won. He didn't care much for his team, they were random strangers to him anyway.

As you can see on my screen, my battle survival ratio is extremely low. That is because how likely you are to survive a battle depends strongly on the kind of tank you are driving. Artillery has a high survival rate, if your side wins. But personally I play mostly light tanks, nearly exclusively these days, and those tend to die in the first minutes of the battle. A scout simply isn't worth anything when staying behind and hiding. At most you might want to wait a minute or two before going scouting. If I manage a good scout run I might light up a tank or two for our artillery, or even kill an enemy artillery, before dying. But I next to never survive the battle. Of the 620 battles survived shown above only 4 were with scouts.

And I don't mind dying early with my scout in World of Tanks. I still believe that if I scouted well, I contributed to the eventual victory. Even if the people in my team are random strangers, many of which don't even share a common language with me (European servers), I still consider World of Tanks as a team sport. And I don't need to be always the hero, the most valuable player of my team for that to be fun. The obvious advantage of that is that I consider any win a win. And even if I played well but my team lost, I'm not unhappy with the result. I can only advise anybody who gets extremely unhappy when he loses or when he isn't an outstanding player in a win to stay away from balanced PvP games like World of Tanks. Losing gracefully is a lost art.

Might & Magic Heroes VI Dynasty

I passed on the beta, and only recently started playing Might & Magic Heroes VI. In many respects this is very much a classic Heroes of Might & Magic games. Gameplay, strategy, and tactics work pretty much like always. And if it would just be prettier graphics and the new talent tree, I probably wouldn't even write about the game. But there is one other "modern" addition to the venerable HOMM series, and I think it is worth discussing: The Dynasty.

Normally in HOMM you start a map at level 1 and level up while you beat the map. If the map is part of a campaign, you might be able to keep your hero's level from one map to the other. Heroes VI goes one step further: You are playing the members of the Griffin dynasty, and with every map and campaign you do, you level up the dynasty as well. You gain xp, levels, and ranks for your dynasty, resulting in points which can be used to buy dynasty traits on other extras. You also find dynasty weapons, which level up too when carried by a hero and then give various bonuses.

Heroes VI has 7 campaign: A tutorial "prologue" campaign, an "epilogue" campaign at the end, and 5 parallel campaigns in the middle. At least these are supposed to be parallel. Only that by having the dynasty traits and weapons it suddenly matters very much in which order you play them. Some traits are extremely powerful, like getting 3 more creatures every week from every building. Playing a campaign late in the game with 5 traits and a fully leveled dynasty weapon will make it much easier than your first campaign where you only got 1 trait. You can even have dynasty bonuses turned on in multiplayer games.

I'm not really sure I like the idea. How do the developers balance difficulty of campaigns when they don't know what kind of dynasty bonuses players will have when they play them? And the dynasty stuff turns Heroes VI into yet another game where the more you play, the more advantages you get. That is part of the business model for online games, where in both subscription games and Free2Play games the developers want to make people play for a long time to get a maximum of money out of them. But do we really want those features in single-player games as well?

Friday, October 28, 2011

World of Warcraft classic servers

It is very hard to be not aware that some people are very angry at Blizzard over the "panda expansion". Personally I don't mind playing more humorous characters. And while I agree that Mists of Pandaria is making the world of Warcraft less serious, I don't see it as a huge step. WoW goes from being 58% silly to being 63% silly to use some fictional numbers for something that is impossible to measure scientifically. Thus it appears that it just happens that for some people 60% silliness happened to be threshold at which they couldn't stand it any more.

Or we come back to my theory of burnout: The older a game gets, the more awesome stuff the game company needs to add, only to just keep the interest level constant. Mists of Pandaria is maybe not so remarkable for what it does, but for promising already a lot and it still not being sufficient to keep the interest up.

To test that theory I thought of a thought-experiment, which for once isn't completely unthinkable: What if Blizzard introduced "classic servers" to World of Warcraft, which would work exactly like WoW did in 2004/2005, maybe minus some bugs and plus some UI improvements? Would that bring the lost millions of subscribers back?

Personally I don't think so. I, for one, wouldn't be terribly interested in playing on a classic server. Been there, done that. While I do consider that classic servers would be a good idea, I don't think that there are millions of players out there who would prefer classic over the current version. Maybe the WoW expansions were too slow, and maybe they never brought us everything we would have wished for, but I don't think World of Warcraft would have survived if it was still on vanilla with no expansions at all. So it is hard to argue that the expansions made the game worse, they only maybe failed to keep up with our growing demands and expectations.

In another, more fictional thought experiment, I was considering a World of Warcraft which got the Burning Crusade expansion in 2005, Wrath of the Lich King in 2006, Cataclysm in 2007, and Mists of Pandaria in 2008. I am pretty certain that in that case Mists of Pandaria would have received a warmer welcome. Four years later it appears more like being too little, too late. Everquest is about to launch its 18th expansion in 12 years, which is probably closer to what players demand. And that still didn't prevent people from burning out.

The alternative might be a MMORPG which resets regularly. Which might be the appropriate point to tell you that A Tale in the Desert is currently in the final events of the fifth telling, and will start over from scratch (with improvements) on December 3rd.

I wish my enemies would know me better

Running a blog entails a lot of difficulties with people who are very opposed to your opinions. Particularly the issue of comment moderation is an extremely tricky one. People who followed this blog for some time should know that A) I do have problems handling this issue, and B) one flaw I have is talking excessively about the issues I have. So over the time I received tons of comments and mails asking me to shut up already about comment moderation. As you can see here, it didn't work.

I have run many experiments on comment moderation, with and without anonymous posting, with and without pre-approval necessary, and everything from letting all comments through to turning all comments off. And in all these years I have been extremely open about what I was doing. I wrote terms of service. I always explained which comments I let through and which I moderate. I've had long e-mail discussions with people who felt their comments were unjustly moderated.

So given my flaws of talking too much about comment moderation, I am somewhat insulted by Syncaine's accusation that somewhere over the last weeks in some thread he made ONE comment that would have completely destroyed my argument, and I deleted that comment secretly without telling anybody and am now denying it. The most generous interpretation I can find is that he is simply mistaken, and his comment was victim to some technical glitch. I didn't even find it in my spam filter. But right now I'm not feeling very generous, and I find it more likely that Syncaine just made that story up.

It is so damn easy to point a finger at me and say "Evil Tobold deleted my brilliant arguments refuting his point!", without even mentioning what that argument was. It is a classic "I said, he said" situation, where the existence of said comment can neither be proven nor dis-proven. Thus it makes for a brilliant accusation, as I can't defend myself against it. Even me pointing out all the comments of Syncaine I didn't moderate (in spite of some being borderline trollish, and nearly all of the disagreeing with me) cannot prove I didn't sneakily censor that one comment nobody ever saw.

I do not need to lie about censoring Syncaine. As I said yesterday, I had enough of the guy, his insults, his trolling, and his accusations, and I am quite openly blocking him from now on. Or to be more technically correct, I will block all comments in the future signed "syncaine", which means I would block comments from other people pretending to be Syncaine, while I wouldn't block comments from Syncaine if he posted them under a different name I wasn't aware about. My blog doesn't have Real ID. :) I can live with the guy telling me I don't understand hardcore EVE players, which isn't much of an insult, and at least partially true, although I doubt the hardcore players understand their motivations much better than somebody looking at them from the outside. But when he makes up accusations that would be so completely out of character from me, I don't see the point in engaging with his opinions any further.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nearly right

In January I wrote a prediction: "The next World of Warcraft expansion will come out in the second half of 2012, and include some sort "public quest" system, that is multi-player quests you participate in by just walking into the area where they are happening, without having to click on a quest giver." I didn't get it completely right. But I'd still call it close enough. If I read the description of how PvE scenarios are going to work, I'd say that these PvE scenarios bear a lot of resemblance to WAR public quests.

What I got wrong was that the PvE scenarios aren't "walk in". What I got right was that they aren't started by a quest NPC. Instead you queue up for them with the dungeon finder, apparently. And just like the WAR public quests, the PvE scenarios will have multiple stages, with a boss at the end. I'd call that close enough to my prediction.

What I didn't foresee was that these public quests announcement would be completely overshadowed by people discussing pandas, up to the point of bloggers rage-quitting publicly on YouTube. I am indifferent to pandas, my only argument about them is that if you don't like them, then maybe they weren't meant for you. Whether the new race in WoW is pandaren, murloc, or lizardmen has very little effect on my enjoyment of the game. The introduction of public quests do, and might make me resubscribe. One day. Because I'm still sticking to the part of my prediction saying "second half of 2012".

Giving gaming a bad name

Newsweek has an article with the usual examples of online gaming addiction killing people. That sort of article with always the same examples must have gone through every newspaper and magazine over the last years. For most rational people it should be clear that the chance to die from online gaming addiction is about the same as dying from TV addiction, and several orders of magnitude below the chance of dying from alcohol or drug addiction. But "addiction" makes such a nice word for headlines.

Unfortunately this sort of sensationalist journalism finds easy targets in the so-called "hardcore" players. MMO Melting Pot reported this week that the first Ragnaros HC kill came after 500 wipes, and that even after knowing how it is done most guilds need about 400 pulls before they down Ragnaros. But while MMO Melting Pot asks whether that is good game design (easy question: no, it certainly isn't), I'm wondering about the much more difficult question whether that sort of "hardcore" playing still is sane, or whether such behavior can rightfully be called "addicted".

There is certainly a problem that hardcore gamers are causing to the perception of people playing games in general. Every documentary about gaming (not to mention South Park) shows the unwashed guy living in his mother's basement playing WoW raids excessively while swearing profanities in his headset. We gamers know that this is a caricature, but in the end the perception hurts us all. We get to hear: "Oh, you play video games as a hobby? I've seen a film about that, isn't that rather unhealthy?"

What do you respond to that? That watching TV for 3 days probably isn't healthy either, even if it gets you a world record? Or do you launch the long-winded defence that the overwhelming majority of people playing video games plays them for less hours a day than the average American watches TV, and that a few crazies playing much more aren't representative for the rest of us? Sometimes I wonder if the Chinese aren't wiser than we are, when they impose limits on online gaming. Until then the hardcore gamers are going to be an easy mark for journalists writing about gaming addiction, and will continue to give gaming a bad name.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quoted for truth

It is great if I don't need to reply to Syncaine's nonsensical rants because somebody else already did it for me. Thank you, Anjin from Bullet Points, I completely agree. When I say that pandaren monks are silly and somewhat childish, I am talking about the World of Warcraft. Which has been somewhat silly, overly colorful, and accessible to children since a long time.

But there is nothing (except for maybe common sense) that prevents anybody from taking any silly game and playing it in a very serious way. Monopoly has a World Championship. James May built a full-scale house on TV in Lego. And some people take playing World of Warcraft extremely seriously, and get all upset when they find out that the large majority of players doesn't consider WoW to be all that serious at all.

There is nothing wrong with taking your hobby extremely seriously, whether it is Lego, toy trains, Candyland, or World of Warcraft, as long as you get your priorities straight and don't neglect your real life for it. What you can't do is forcing the rest of the world to take your hobby as seriously as you do. For the regular guy these are all just toys and games, with no real significance whatsoever. I'm sure there will be long discussions about the role of pandaren monks in hardcore raid guilds, but for normal people the pandaren monk remains a rather silly looking character resembling the Kung Fu Panda in a video game. And while a lot of adults play video games, we are not yet past the point where people generally think that video games are for children. Using characters from movies for children obviously isn't helping.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Are hardware requirements back?

Heartlessgamer posted the recommended PC specs for Battlefield 3, and I couldn't help but notice that the relatively expensive computer I bought a few months ago is just barely above those specs. This arms race between hardware availability and PC game specs is something that went on for many years, but was very much subdued in the last couple of years. But it appears that games have caught up again with the hardware. That isn't necessarily a good thing, because I don't think everybody has a Windows 7 64-computer with a quad core, 4 GB of RAM, and a Geforce GTX 560 / ATI Radeon 6950 or better yet. Of course that is the recommended specs, the minimum requirements are lower. But having to tone down the graphics settings for a game to run smoothly is not something that makes you feel good about your PC.

Sometimes I wonder whether companies like NVidia subsidize game companies to make them produce games which don't run well on an average computer. Or is there really a demand for much more photo-realistic games out there? I often like cell-shade or comic-style graphics more than I like photo-realistic ones. And I'd rather have my weapons cause some sparkly special effect than realistic-looking blood and gore. But that might just be me.

Are games with high-end hardware requirements attractive to you? Do they make you want to upgrade or replace your computer? Or are you happily playing games with much lower requirements?

Making money from free Diablo 3

I was wondering whether Blizzard giving away Diablo 3 has other reasons besides propping up the subscription numbers of World of Warcraft. Diablo 3 is not exactly a MMORPG, but it isn't exactly a single-player RPG either. And that applies both for gameplay, and for the business model. It is possible for Blizzard to make money from a copy of Diablo 3 they gave away for free: If the player uses the real money auction house, Blizzards takes a cut of each transaction.

Whether that is a good deal for Blizzard depends on how much the real money auction house ends up being used. I experimented with the gold-only version in the Diablo 3 beta, and personally I am not a big fan. Not that it isn't working, but just the opposite: The auction house works far too well for equipping your character. Far better than the random loot drop system. Thus if you use the auction house, the chance of finding a random drop which is useful for you diminishes dramatically. And that makes the game considerably less fun. I even stopped crafting and sending items between characters through the common bank for that reason. At the heart of it, Diablo has always been a game about collecting loot. Replace that by something more efficient, and you get a less fun game.

So what do you think? Will you be buying items for real money on the Diablo 3 auction house?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Most played computer game of all times

A reader asked me what in my opinion was the most played computer game of all times, measured in man-hours. He suggested that unless you treat the expansions as different games, World of Warcraft would hold that title. But I'm not so sure that this is true, because there is a strong contender: Solitaire. Due to having been included with many versions of Windows, even on office computers, countless people wasted their office time playing Solitaire. Problem is that this game doesn't show up on sites like Xfire for measurement.

Which game do you think is the most played computer game of all time?

Pirating eBooks

A reader kindly directed me towards the Mobile Read Forums, a great source for free eBooks without copyright. That and Project Gutenberg would be enough to keep somebody reading until the end of days. But while searching for free eBooks, I inevitably also stumbled upon the other kind of "free", that is free but illegal. And I noticed something which is slightly different in eBook piracy compared to the piracy of films or music: eBook files are generally small, often under 1 MB when without pictures; and in consequence people pirate complete libraries. Finding a torrent with hundreds or even thousands of pirated books is not unusual.

Jeff Bezos presented numbers during his Kindle Fire presentation showing that Amazon is now selling more eBooks than physical books. Their profit margin is only dented by the fact that they sell the Kindle devices at a loss. They obviously wouldn't do that if they thought that people would then stuff their Kindles with pirated eBooks. While all we hear from the music and film industry is wailing about piracy, the eBook industry appears not be very concerned, in spite of the fact that pirating eBooks is easier than pirating films or music.

Thus I wonder whether people reading eBooks are inherently more honest than people consuming other forms of electronic content. Maybe it is only people of a certain age and social class that are interested in books at all. This summer, during the London riots, the only shops that weren't looted were book stores. The underprivileged young people who thought that society owed them something and took everything they wanted by looting obviously weren't even interested in books when they came for free. It stands to reason that in calmer times, when looting is limited to electronic piracy, these priorities don't change.

Personally I generally don't pirate. I spend a lot of money on DVDs, mostly of TV series, instead of downloading them illegally. Music is less of an item, but what songs I own either came on legally bought CDs or from iTunes. But then I am middle class (in the UK definition of the term, not the US one which includes the working class) and middle aged. Thus presumably I will be a good customer for Amazon for eBooks too, only downloading for free the books that have no more copyright (and even Amazon has lots of those for free). The only problem with that is that there are books I already paid for in the physical form, and if I want those on my Kindle, I will have to pay for them again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kung Fu Panda

I don't want to write this post again, so here is the short version: There are millions and millions of people who would love to play a panda performing martial arts in a MMORPG. That you aren't one of them, and you consider that these millions and millions of people playing Kung Fu Pandas are probably much younger than you only proves that you aren't the target audience.

Friday, October 21, 2011

WoW at $8 a month

How much does a MMORPG cost? If you think about it, this is obviously a trick question, because the price of any given MMORPG can change with time. For example Rift did cost $50 when it came out, but now costs $20. EVE Online has a promotion ongoing where you can play it for $4.95 per month. Many games give out free months if you refer a friend. It is in this context that I see the new World of Warcraft annual pass: Assuming that you would have bought Diablo 3 for $60 otherwise, the annual pass offers you a $5 per month price reduction on a World of Warcraft subscription for one year.

Obviously the annual pass is designed to keep up flagging subscriptions to World of Warcraft. And it might even increase the sales of Diablo 3, so it is win-win for Blizzard marketing. Promotions increase sales, and that is as true for a can of beans in your local supermarket as for World of Warcraft. But if we would interpret any promotion as a desperate sign of a failing company, we would need to conclude that all companies are soon to go bankrupt. Hey look, even Apple has promotions, they must be about to go under!

My wife has an active World of Warcraft subscription she wasn't about to cancel any time soon. And she wants to play Diablo 3 when it comes out. So signing up for the annual pass was an obvious decision. Me, I'm not currently subscribed to World of Warcraft, and I wasn't planning to play WoW before the next expansion comes out. So I gave the annual pass a pass, as to me that would just have increased the price of Diablo 3 from $59.99 to $155.88. I suggest you do a similar calculation of whether you are interested to effectively play WoW at $8 a month.

The financial realities of decline

As Wilhelm decided to front-page my comment on the financial future of CCP on his blog, I would like to elaborate on that comment: As documented in my previous post, I do believe that the MMORPG market *in general* is in decline. I also believe, and that is well documented for many other industries, that a general decline of any industry means that some companies which are not on solid financial footing end up bankrupt. And I do believe that CCP right now is financially feeble. Thus I am willing to bet even odds that CCP isn't going to survive 2012.

The data I have supporting this belief are from earlier this year, and have been well documented by the Nosy Gamer. CCP made a profit in 2010 of $5.4 million, but that is after receiving a government subsidy in form of a $3 million tax credit. Them remaining profitable in 2011 was depending on them continuing to grow. Quote the Nosy Gamer: "Looking a few pages farther into the document (p. 34) shows that while CCP's total liabilities due for the year was $22.2 million, it was expecting to receive $18.4 million in loans and receivables throughout 2011 (p. 37). Still, that gap of $3.7 million was greater than CCP's non-tax profits in 2010. If CCP could maintain its growth of 2010 (where gross profit rose by 11%) then CCP will have no problems."

The obvious problem is that EVE's subscriber numbers did not grow in 2011. Instead they fell by 20%. Thus presumably the liabilities of CCP for 2011 are greater than their revenue, they went from being profitable to losing money this year. Of course we don't have profit numbers for CCP for 2011 yet. But if a company fires 20% of their staff, I would consider that as a sure sign of financial difficulties.

This is where the data ends, and the speculation about the future begins. While I am well aware that Star Wars: The Old Republic resembles World of Warcraft a lot more than it resembles EVE, I do believe that SWTOR will hurt EVE. It isn't as if SciFi fans have had all that many games to choose from. And even post-apology, it isn't evident that EVE is steering in the right direction now, with lots of criticism of their new planetary interaction game mechanics. Add all this to a general decline of the MMORPG market and take the age of EVE into account, and to me right now CCP looks very much like a risky bet on Dust 514. And I don't believe that Dust 514 will actually be a big hit, because the market of console shooters is highly contested, and I find no evidence suggesting that CCP is actually good at designing that sort of game. Not in a market in which even id Software with their latest game Rage finds it hard to succeed.

Note that my prediction is not limited to CCP. I do believe that the decline of the MMORPG market will kill other companies as well. And I do believe that Blizzard's profits from World of Warcraft will shrink significantly. Only that they have been making half a billion dollars of profits for several years, and they will make another ton of money on Diablo 3, so the decline of the MMORPG market isn't an existential threat to Activision Blizzard. But for smaller companies in the MMORPG market, 2012 is going to be brutal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The decline of interest in MMORPGs

Spinks ponders the long dark winter of the MMO, the idea that the MMORPG genre is past its prime and entered a phase of decline. The idea is interesting, but a discussion of the subject risks to be highly subjective. It is extremely difficult to determine whether somebody thinks that MMORPGs are in decline based on an observation of facts, or whether that person simply burned out himself and mistakes his declining interest with a general decline. What we would need is something more than subjective impressions and anecdotal evidence. We need data. Fortunately in this case this isn't all that hard, because Google Insights provides data on the decline of interest in MMORPGs.

Basically Google offers a service which gives you the history of how often a given keyword has been searched for. The interest in MMORPGs went up from 2004 to 2009, and declined since then by 45%. The peak of the hype for World of Warcraft was in 2005, but it still has more searches than Star Wars: The Old Republic. I am aware of these numbers because the reader numbers of my blog also declined. I'm still not doing badly compared with other MMORPG bloggers (and I'm still the top search result for "MMORPG blog" on both Google and Bling (US)), but the trend is definitively downwards since the peak in 2008. Measured in daily blog visitors instead of search engine searches, I went from 3,000 visitors a day down to 2,000. Even the interest in blood elf porn is down by half. :)

So, yes, I do think we have sufficient data to suggest that the general interest in the MMORPG genre is declining, in spite of the games still to come. While the reasons for that are open to discussion, I do believe that a certain stagnation is most probably to blame. I once discussed the "possibility space", that is how wide a range of different features and game mechanics a game could have while still being considered a MMORPG. And compared to that possibility space, the majority of existing MMORPGs of the last decade are all huddled together in one tiny corner. Whether you label that corner "EQ clones", "WoW clones", or "themepark MMORPGs" isn't important. But it is obvious that at the end of the decade the interest in minor variations of the same theme is in decline. And I don't think that adding light sabers to the same old formula will change that. I have no idea what game it would take (Guild Wars 2? Titan?) to revive that interest again. It is possible that MMORPGs are taking the same path into decline as let's say trading card games. People seem to be more interested in Facebook games these days, even if the interest in any particular game dies quickly.

Game Black Cheats

Game Black  
Black  Cheats. BFG for First Weapon
Entry Location:
  • Enter code profile name as 5SQQ-STHA-ZFFV-7XEV. Will not work without the dashes. Gets you an MSAW at the side of your arm for the first level. Afterwards it will ask you for a real profile name.
Submitted By: Jonsta

Chain Gun
Entry Location:
Profile name input
  • If you pre-purchased this game you should have recieved a BLACK OPERATORS card with a code on the back. Enter this code as a profile name to unlock tho most powerful machine gun in the game.
Submitted By: elcaminoguy_17

Faster M16A2 Reload
Entry Location:

  • Immediately after shooting a round with the M16A2, switch weapons then quickly switch back and the grenade launcher will be reloaded.
Submitted By: EFerg88

*Black Unlockables
Unlimited Ammo
Entry Location:
  • After you complete the last level of Black you will receive unlimited ammo the next time you play a level using the same profile you beat the game with.
Submitted By: Brooks

Infinite Ammo (Silver Weapons)
Entry Location:
  • Beat the game on Normal or Hard difficulty to unlock infinite ammo for all weapons.
Submitted By: Sheldon Foster

Black Ops Difficulty
Entry Location:
Beat the game on Hard difficulty to unlock Black Ops difficulty.

M16A2 for All Levels
Entry Location:
  • Beat the game on Black Ops difficulty to unlock the ability to use the M16A2 on any level or difficulty setting. 
*Black Hints
Entry Location:
  • Check the bodies of the dead guards w/ shields
  • The magnum is the strongest weapon in the game. Though, it is slow to reload and does not have a large magazine capacity. And it is hard to find the ammo. It is also extremely acurate.
Submitted By: ryan

No Blur on Reload
Entry Location:
  • To get rid of the blur when you reload, press A to reload then immediately hold X. To get rid of blur with automatic reload, tap R and everything will become clear. Also when reloading the M16 MP5, etc. with A, some have longer reloads. You can stop a A reload and fire whatever is remaining in the magazine by pressing R. You can also speed up reload by tapping R.
Submitted By: EFerg88

Defeating Enemies with Shields and Armor
Entry Location:
  • Head shots do not work on enemies with full body armor; just shoot. For enemies with shields, use grenades or RPGs. Or, get behind them and kill them by shooting them in the back.
Submitted By: EFerg88

Hidden UZI in First Level
Entry Location:
  • In a blown up house
  • Go to where you have to go in the first level. Then, when you stand next to your team, walk backwards and search every building on the right.
Submitted By: Jimmy Q

Completing the Final Battle
Entry Location:
The M249 SAW, RPG (with at least four rounds), and at least two grenades (not those at the room entrance) are required for this trick. Do not enter the room because the door closes and it becomes difficult. Do not use any RPG rounds as you will need them later. Crouch at the door entrance and shoot the man with the flak armor in the back of the head. Then, shoot the others on the ground. To kill the men on the walkways, shoot the red object on the right side (on the walkway), then shoot the objects around the bottom of the left walkway; these will cause big explosions. When those men are dead, kill the next few in any order and do not forget the ones on the walkways. This will repeat until two appear on the walkway which is nearest to you. Kill them, then throw a grenade at each doorway at either end of the walkway. This should kill a few people (you will hear screams). If successful, more enemies will appear on the walkways and on the ground level. Enemies will keep appearing until the two bunkers open at the far end and RPG troopers. Do not worry, as only one RPG trooper appears at a time; there are three or four of them. Move back and wait for any last enemies or RPGs fired. Get out the way (or kill the enemies), then slowly go to the doorway until you can see a bunker. Take out your RPG and shoot it until the whole back wall explodes. Use this time to take out the last of the enemies. Watch out, as the RPG troopers will probably still be around, along with flak armored shotgun wielding men. This depends on how close they were to the back wall when it went up. Once everyone is dead and you have destroyed the safe on the walkway, go through one of the destroyed bunkers and complete the game. Sometimes this will not work out correctly and you will have to hide on the walkway (for example, if the door closes) and shoot them as they come.
The magnum with as many shots as possible, M249, and multiple grenades are required for this trick. Before you enter the room, crouch down in the archway and use the magnum to try to get as many head shots as possible and blow up explosives. After you are out of ammunition or when there are no any enemies remaining, take out the M249. Reload if needed, then run forward. When the shotgun and shielded enemies come out, keep moving and drop grenades at their feet. When they are cleared, shoot when possible and go up the stairs. Once up there, go into each room. Collect the armor and go into the other room. Once there, crouch down and take out the magnum (if you have ammunition), or use the M249 and wait for the enemies to come after you. After the enemies stop to appear for about two minutes, use the M249 and go down the stairs. There is a machine gun nest at the wall; subdue him and destroy the nest with grenades preferably, and enter it. When you do so, move around the corridor to complete the mission.
Submitted By: EFerg88
Referensi :

Cheats SmackDown vs Raw 2011

SmackDown vs Raw 2011
Nirwana : Cheats Game SmackDown vs Raw 2011 ( PS2)
Cheat code for Jake The Snake
Entry Location:
Cheat Menu

Unlock Jake The Snake: "The Snake" (case sensitive)

Submitted By: tommy dreamer the ecw original

Unlock Costumes and Arena
Entry Location:

SLURPEE: John Cena Street Fight gear and Avatar T-Shirt

8thannualtribute: Tribute To the Troops Arena

apexpredator: Randy Orton alternate attire

Submitted By: John Cena Fans

Tribute to the Troops Arena
Entry Location:
Cheat Code Menu in Options

The code if you wish to unlock WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2011's hidden arena without beating one of the ROTW's, type "8thannualtribute" in the options menu.

WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011 Unlockables
How to Unlock Every Character
Entry Location:
  • Brie Bella: Win one Women's Championshipwith any Diva on PPV (WWE Universe)
  • ECW Championship Belt: Win WWE Championship in Main Event at Extreme Rules
  • Edge/Christian Custom Entrance (As seen in his RTWM): In Christian’s RTWM, between Weeks 10 and 12, cash in the Money in the Bank against Edge and win.
  • Ezekiel Jackson: Win 5 matches on "WWE Superstars" with any superstar (1-on-1 Match only) (WWE Universe)
  • Finlay: Win 1 "SmackDown" match with any Superstar (1-on-1 Match only) (WWE Universe)
  • Gail Kim: Win 1 Divas-only match with any Diva (WWE Universe)
  • Goldust: Win 10 "Raw" matches with any Superstar (1-on-1 Match only) (WWE Universe)
  • Jake "The Snake" Roberts: Deafeat him on Week 9 in Taker's RTWM without taking substantial damage
  • Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka: Beat Superfly on Week 10 in Taker's RTWM in under 3 minutes.
  • Masked Kane: Collect all the souls in Taker's RTWM and beat him on Week 11.
  • Mickie James: Win 5 Divas-only matches with any Diva (WWE Universe, 1-on-1 matches only)
  • Mike Knox: Win 5 "SmackDown" matches with any superstar (1-on-1 matches only) (WWE Universe)
  • Mr. Mcmahon: During John Cena's Road To Wrestlemania Do All The Challange Matches And Face Vince Mcmahon In A 3 on 1 handicap Match At Wrestlemania
  • Nikki Bella: Win one Women's Championshipwith any Diva on PPV (WWE Universe, 1-on-1 match)
  • Paul Bearer: Defeat Paul Bearer in under 90 seconds
  • Rob Van Dam: Beat Rey Mysterio's RTWM
  • Shelton Benjamin: Win 10 "SmackDown" matches with any superstar (1-on-1 matches only) (WWE Universe)
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin: In Christian's RTWM at WrestleMania go to the green room and talk to Austin and defeat him in a No-DQ Match
  • Terry Funk: In Rey Mysterio's RTWM go to green room and Talk to Terry Funk and defeat him in an Extreme Rules Match
  • The Rock: Defeat the Rock in a Last Man Standing Match in Vs Undertaker RTWM
  • William Regal: Win 10 “WWE Superstars” match with any Superstar (WWE Universe, 1-on-1 match only)
  • Yoshi Tatsu: Win 5 “Raw” matches with any Superstar (WWE Universe, 1-on-1 match only)
  • Zack Ryder: Win 1 “WWE Superstars” match with any Superstar (WWE Universe, 1-on-1 match only)
Submitted By: CheatPlanet
Unlock Gail Kim
Entry Location:
cheat codes Type in Gail123
Submitted By: nolg99 
Referensi :
Rating: 4.5

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kindle first impression

Amazon was fast, and I already got my Kindle. Well, after having paid $32.96 for shipping that was kind of to be expected. As the Kindle uses "eInk", a passive display, it came with instructions on what to do already shown on the screen: Plug the charger in, and start. That was extremely easy, and worked right away. Everything you need is pre-installed, that is if you buy your own Kindle from your own Amazon account, the account is already set up correctly for you on the device. Thus within minutes you can buy your first book from the Kindle store, and start reading. The controls on the Kindle are also very user-friendly and intuitive. No complaints here.

I bought the Kindle Keyboard 3G, with free 3G connectivity. For browsing the Amazon store, buying and downloading books that works like a charm. Thus not only is it possible to read on the Kindle on the beach (the eInk works even under sunlight), you can even buy a book while on the beach if you run out of reading material. Unfortunately the web browser of the international version of the Kindle is extremely limited: The only web sites you can reach in 3G mode are Amazon and Wikipedia. The rest is blocked with a message saying "Due to local restrictions web browsing is not available for all countries". So the 3G internet works, but is artificially hobbled to prevent you from using the free 3G for actual internet surfing. Too bad! The Kindle web browser *does* work over WiFi. For example my blog is perfectly readable on the Kindle.

After the Kindle was completely charged, I put it back into its box, and gave the box to my wife for safe-keeping until Christmas. At Christmas I will receive the Kindle as a gift from her. I just had to see if it works first. If you think it is weird that I buy my own Christmas presents, you probably haven't been married for long. Most of my presents for her are also things we bought together with her choosing exactly what she wanted. As I doubt that I will have the time for reading books before the Christmas holidays anyway, the Kindle makes for a nice Christmas present for me.

Jasa Pembuatan Bak Dump Truck

CV.Bersama Jaya Utama Menerima pesanan berbagai ukuran bak dump truck dari jenis truck sedang sampai truck besar harga kami bersaing, kualitas terjamin dengan didukungnya alat las Co2 dan hydroulic bergaransi

Bak Dump Truck Bak Dump Truck Bak Dump Truck
 Pembuatan Bak Dump Truck
Isi form komentar di bawah jika ada pertanya'an terhadap produk kami

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finished Mafia 2

Given that few people these days finish games, I thought it was worth mentioning that I finished Mafia 2. "Finished" as in played through until the end credits, not 100% of all achievements and collectibles done. I then uninstalled the game and deleted it and the save games from my hard drive, as I am not planning to play it again. As I said before, Mafia 2 for me is an interactive movie, and while I had fun playing it, it wasn't enough to make me play the game again. Personally I found there was too much driving in the game; fortunately I had an XBox 360 controller for my PC, which made driving smoother, but still I preferred the shooting part.

Although I am certainly one of those "aging gamers" CNN talks about in the article I linked to, I also have 10,000+ hours of MMORPG done. So 20 hours isn't too long for me. But I wasn't exactly wishing that Mafia 2 was much longer either. At some point you feel like you've seen all of the city, played around with all of the weapons, and the rest of the game is just repeating what you learned earlier.

I certainly do have left many, many games unfinished. I think I am more motivated to finish an "interactive movie" kind of game than one with a weaker story which goes on and on. For example I never finished Borderlands. I do agree with the observation that one reason for not finishing games is that there are so many of them now. Between free games and Steam sales one doesn't have to be a millionaire to accumulate a huge collection of games. And with a job and family one then easily ends up with too little time for too many games. Finishing a game ends up not being a priority, unless there is a gripping story of which you really want to know the end. Too many games have rather boring stories, and repetitive gameplay, so once you got the impression that you've seen everything interesting, you're more willing to stop playing without having reached the end.

Karoseri Dump Truck

CV.Bersama Jaya Utama ( Karoseri ) menyediakan jasa pembuatan Karoseri Dump Truck untuk tipe dan merek mobil Truck apa saja yang sesuai dengan kebutuhan bisnis perusahaan anda.Dengan pengalaman bertahun-tahun dalam bidang Karoseri Dump Truck  CV.Bersama Jaya Utama (CV.BJU) mampu menyuguhkan hasil yang berkualitas, kuat dengan design yang elegan
Karoseri Dump Truck
Karoseri Dump Truck

Karoseri Dump Truck
Karoseri Dump Truck

Karoseri Dump Truck

Karoseri Dump Truck
Isi form komentar di bawah jika ada pertanya'an terhadap produk kami
Description: Karoseri Dump Truck

Truck Arm roll

 Jasa pembuatan Truk Arm roll

Arm roll
Arm roll
Truk Arm roll 2
Arm roll

Truk Arm roll 3
Truck Arm roll
Isi form komentar di bawah jika ada pertanya'an terhadap produk kami
Description: Truck Arm roll

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ordered a Kindle

Most people on the internet are mainly consumers of content. They contribute very little beyond the occasional link or comment, but they read and listen and watch a lot. I attribute it to the genius of the late Steve Jobs that he realized that existing personal computer were built by content creators for content creators, enabling him to start a revolution of devices built for content consumption instead, which was closer to what the public wanted. This included the iPad, which instead of earlier, failed, attempts at making tablet computers did away with content creation features like handwriting recognition, concentrated on features to consume content.

Unfortunately I am more of a content creator than a content consumer. I don't listen to music much, nor do I spend a lot of time watching videos on the internet. Instead I spend a lot of time writing, mostly in the form of this blog. As a result I don't own a tablet computer (nor a smart phone), as these devices simply aren't all that suitable for content creation. You *can* send an e-mail from an iPhone, or write a blog entry on an iPad, but given the choice you'd rather do it on a regular PC.

But before I started writing, I did a lot of reading. And I still do. Thus a tablet computer mostly suitable for reading wouldn't be all that useless to me. Especially if it didn't cost quite as much as an iPad, and wouldn't demand a monthly fee for 3G mobile connectivity. Thus this weekend I ordered a Kindle from Amazon, the version with keyboard and free 3G (although I'm aware that it only has limited internet capabilities). Even with accessories and shipping that cost me only half of what an iPad would have cost me. And instead of having a monthly cost for 3G, I expect the Kindle to save me money, because in many European countries English language books are quite expensive, and a Kindle E-book version will be almost always much cheaper.

Nevertheless it is far too early to declare myself a Kindle fan, I'll have to receive it and test is thoroughly first (probably during my Christmas holidays). One weird first experience with the Kindle results from the fact that I live in a country without its own Amazon store. In case you aren't good at European geography, Belgium is a little country between Germany and France, across the Channel from England. All three of these neighbours have Amazon shops. But as I found out, I am not allowed to buy a Kindle in either of these countries. Oh no, I am an "international" customer and have to buy the Kindle directly at in the USA. After exchange rate, value added tax, and shipping, that cost me about 10% more than if I had been allowed to buy the thing in Europe.

I have already been looking into what books I would like to buy for the Kindle. 870,000 of the 1 million Kindle E-books appear to be available for "international" customers (Europe), not bad. And there are a lot of "classics" available for free, as well as books for prices like 99 cents. But in other respects the Kindle store is still very old-fashioned, and does not use all the possibilities of digital distribution: For example I would like to buy all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels; Amazon sells them as E-books, but doesn't offer them as a bundle. They aren't even much help in determining which books I would need to buy to have a complete collection, as a search for "pratchett discworld" gives 83 results for the 39 Discworld novels. I'll have to get a list somewhere else and buy the books one by one. And then I'll probably have to fiddle with the settings to get the books to show up in the right order on the Kindle. It appears that only for authors that have a "complete works" print edition, you can buy the books together. And I've already noticed that while the Jane Austen books are free individually, the complete works of Jane Austen costs money. I'd say Steam does digital distribution better than Amazon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Social cost

Friday I mentioned that while I didn't think Facebook games per se were bad, I wasn't willing to pay the social cost of spamming my real life friends or getting my real name associated with my gamer identity. Over the weekend I realized that social cost might not just be an issue with Facebook, but could have an impact on every multiplayer game. Basically in any social structure, including guilds, the benefits are balanced with some form of social cost. For example loyalty is a social cost to the loyal person, and a benefit to the other members of the organization he is loyal to. And just like I am unwilling to pay the social cost of Facebook games, there are certainly people out there unwilling to pay the social cost of let's say a raiding guild.

It is social cost that makes people in a MMORPG play alone together, or as that source says: "joint activities are not very prevalent, especially in the early stages of the game. WoW’s subscribers, instead of playing with other people, rely on them as an audience for their in-game performances, as an entertaining spectacle, and as a diffuse and easily accessible source of information and chitchat. For most, playing the game is therefore like being “alone together” – surrounded by others, but not necessarily actively interacting with them". By limiting yourself to social interactions which are indirect, you minimize your social cost: You don't owe anybody anything, you have no obligations, no need for loyalty. And as long as you consider the MMORPG to be "just a game", that is actually a very rational thing to do. The so-called "virtual worlds" are massively inferior to the real world in most aspects, and reserving your social capital for the real world makes total sense for most people.

But for the game this has negative consequences, both for the game company and the players. The less players are socially integrated in a game community, the easier they stop playing. And for the player who refuses to pay the social cost of belonging to a guild, large parts of the game remain out of reach, further reducing his desire to keep playing (and paying). Blizzard appears to be very much aware of this, which is why we will get the looking for raid functionality in patch 4.3. This basically lowers the social cost of raiding, and thus opens up raiding to those who were unwilling to pay that social cost before. The change of difficulty is more or less a secondary effect of trying to implement pickup raids: The current raid system simply requires a degree of organization a pickup group can't hope to achieve. If LFR succeeds it isn't because pickup raiding is "easy" (because for the individual player that isn't necessarily the case), but because the barrier to entry, the social cost is now low enough for people to be willing to try to participate in this form of end game.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The value of Facebook games

Stabs asked an interesting question yesterday: "Do you think Facebook has any value to gamers now? Would you get another account if privacy were not an issue?" The short answers are yes, and yes. But as that makes a boring blog post, let me give you the long answer too:

First of all you need to get the idea out of your head that there is only one sort of "Facebook Game", and that it is somewhat similar to Farmville. Judging all games on Facebook based on Farmville makes about as much sense as judging all PC games based on the most-played PC game of all times, which is probably Solitaire. There are good and bad Facebook games out there. And then this is "good" and "bad" when viewed with the eyes of a "gamer". A lot of Facebook games which are "bad" to me and you, aren't necessarily "bad" to everybody. I know a woman who is playing a bit of World of Warcraft, but finds WoW very hard. But she rules in Cityville, a game I found far too boring.

Because the target audience for Facebook games is often people who do not otherwise play games, finding a game on Facebook which is "good" for veteran gamers means sorting through a lot of dross. Maybe there is a guide somewhere out there, but I haven't stumbled upon one yet. Most sites discussing Facebook games just list popularity by millions of players. And that strongly favors the least complicated games, which are played by non-gamers in their lunch break. That doesn't necessarily make the "bad" games, but it makes them unsuitable for the likes of you and me. It also creates a vicious cycle for game companies: Zynga recently published a game which was more complicated and more interesting to gamers than their usual fare, and the game promptly tanked.

The second major caveat is Stabs' limitation of "if privacy were not an issue". Privacy *is* an issue on Facebook. Playing most games on Facebook under your real name with your real friends has serious drawbacks, unless your real friends are *all* Facebook games fans. Facebook games produce a lot of spam, clearly "outing" you as a gamer on Facebook. And many Facebook games are "social" in that you need your friends to cooperate to advance. Or pay crazy amounts of money to replace the "free gifts" your friends could send you.

Now for many people this "social" feature of many Facebook games makes Facebook games not worth playing. That is a totally understandable and valid point of view. But as a game analyst, I tend to separate game play and business model. That is basically the same thing as whether a hypothetical PC game costing 1 million dollars to buy a copy of is any good: The game might well be very good, but the cost is unacceptable to most of us. If you have a real name Facebook account on which the friends are your real friends and relatives, you might very well decide to skip a good game because the social cost of having to spam your real friends to advance is unacceptable to you. It sure is unacceptable to me, which is why I got banned for having a false name account and lots of fake friends with which I had a kind of mutual spamming acceptance deal. I basically refused to pay the social cost of Facebook games, and Facebook banned me for it. It might even have been my blog posts about this possibility to avoid the social cost that led Facebook to ban me.

Now Facebook does have some games which aren't using a "spam friends or pay big bucks" business model. And if you have only friends who already know that you are an avid gamer, and your profile has all the privacy settings correctly set to protect you from people you don't want to know about your gaming habit, then you could play Facebook games. Different games have different amounts of social cost, and if you are willing to pay that social cost, there are some good games to be found. Just don't dive in without thinking and end up sending your boss a request to help you click on a cow during work hours.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Facebook customer support

If you have hundreds of millions of customers, any small percentage of them requiring customer support is immediately a huge and costly problem. Thus Facebook decided some time ago to not do any customer support by e-mail any more. If you send a mail to some old support e-mail address from Facebook, you'll get an automated reply telling you to use the Facebook Help Center. Unfortunately the Help Center only helps with problems that occur frequently enough to justify their own web form. If you have a problem that isn't common, like wanting your Facebook Connect app deleted on a disabled Facebook account, you're out of luck. I found a blog with info on how to contact Facebook, but that only gives you a list of the various web forms available on the Help Center.

Fortunately Ubisoft / Blue Byte has better customer support and is working on a solution to recover my Die Siedler Online account that had been locked down through Facebook Connect. Otherwise I would have been totally stuck, because Facebook simply refuses to talk to me, whatever web form I use to get this resolved.

In the end I think the most useful Facebook web form on their Help Center is the one that enables you to delete your account completely (and even that takes two weeks). In case you are interested, here is the link:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

May you win every game you play!

There are sayings, often referred to as Chinese curses, which appear to be blessings on first sight, but on closer inspection are in fact a curse on the recipient. I believe that for games such a Chinese curse would be "may you win every game you play!". Because, with the obvious exception of gambling where there is a financial gain to be had from winning, the interest in playing games is the excitement to find out whether you can win. If the win is assured, the interest in playing disappears.

Unfortunately video games evolved in part from arcade games, which had a "win to progress, lose and you need to put in another quarter" business model. Our PC and console games don't need quarters any more, but the "win to progress" design stayed with us. Games still frequently use a design in which you *need* to win to get to the next part of the content. If you lose, you are punished by having to play the same content again, over and over, until you beat it.

It appears that this instilled into gamers an absolute horror of losing. They believe that if they play and lose, they can't have fun. Warsyde, The Babbling Gamer, tells the story of a friend who doesn't want to play World of Tank any more, because he can't win all the time in that game. But if you want to always win, you can only play PvE games, and then you still have to either use god mode cheats, or play games with a difficulty level so low that it is practically impossible to lose.

The sad thing is that this is purely psychological. In World of Tanks you do not need to win to progress. The developers realized, rightly, that while it is impossible for everybody to win in a PvP game, it is perfectly possible for everybody to progress. You just need to remove the arcade game artefacts from game design, and have people progress even if they lose. Less fast, with less titles, medals, and achievements, but letting them progress anyway.

I do think that there is a lesson to be learned here for good game design, which is not only applicable to PvP games. Instead of tuning a MMORPG like World of Warcraft or a single-player game to such a low difficulty that there is simply no challenge any more, just to avoid anybody getting stuck, you can simply make sure that progress is always possible. For example L.A. Noire allows players to skip sequences they get stuck on. I'd rather have such legalized cheating in games than game companies realizing that very few players ever finish single-player games any more and deciding that games are too big and too hard.

MMORPGs are even further away from what players actually want than most single-player games. They developed a "single difficulty fits all" game design philosophy, in which even the exceptions to that rule, like "normal" and "heroic" dungeons, end up not being alternative choices. Some content exists only at extremely easy difficulty, other content only exists only in one or two flavours of "very hard". Thus players find themselves in situations where they either always win or always lose. A curse indeed, because neither is much fun. It would be much better to encourage players all the time to tackle the hardest possible content they can handle, while always giving them the option to tone things down a notch or two if they are in danger of getting stuck.

World of Warcraft introduces real money auction house

As Gazimoff so correctly remarks, the introduction of the Guardian Cub pet, which costs $10 in the Blizzard store and can be sold for gold in the World of Warcraft auction house, effectively turns the auction house into a real money affair. You can always buy kittens, sell them for gold, and use that gold to buy BoE epics or whatever else you want. The pet puts an "official" dollar to gold exchange rate into World of Warcraft. Except for the fact that you can't exchange the pet back for anything useful, that is very much like the PLEX economy of EVE. One difference is that WoW, unlike EVE, has a lot of items that can't be traded for gold, and are thus not touched by this.

What does this change? Not much, surprisingly. Because gold has been available for dollars since World of Warcraft was released. Only you had to get it on the black market. And that market was huge. Blizzard repeatedly banned hundreds of thousands of gold SELLERS. Now obviously a gold seller needs several customers to survive, so millions of people have bought WoW gold over the years. It is just that nobody ever wanted to admit it.

So the major effect of this "kitten economy" might be something that Blizzard has been unable to achieve for 7 years: Killing the third-party gold trade. Why would you want to buy gold from some website where you risk getting scammed and have no means to get your money back if the gold isn't delivered, if you can buy the gold via completely legit and official channels?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Desperate Housewives of the future?

I've been reading too many technology articles lately. The death of Steve Jobs has "inspired" a lot of people to write about the bright future of personalized computing, of smart phones, tablet computers, and dreams about what we'll get when we combine mobile computing with GPS localization and social networks. We can even throw in some medical devices, like a heart rate monitor.

Recently I was in a meeting in Paris with a gentleman from India. We chatted politely, he told me he had brought his wife and daughter with him on his trip. I asked what they were doing while he was stuck in that meeting, and he pulled out his iPhone. He had an app that showed his wife and daughter as colored dots on a map of Paris, located by their own iPhones. I didn't say anything, but I couldn't help but thinking how much I would have hated if my parents had had me on electronic surveillance like that.

Add in those heart rate monitors and social networks with "timelines", and I smell trouble. How long until a housewife happens to check her social network and find that both her husband and her best friend have been in the same location, a motel, at the same time, and both had strongly accelerated heart rates?

Come to think of it, many people's lives have two distinctive parts: One large and extremely boring one nobody wants to know about, and sometimes a more interesting part which they desperately want to keep secret. Neither of which makes good social media material. Just imagine an episode of Desperate Housewives where all the actions of all the characters are logged onto a social network: All what makes the series interesting is the secrets the characters keep from each other, and the layers of deception. While that TV series certainly isn't an accurate description of real people, it might well be an accurate description of the small, interesting bits in real people's lives.

So after reading all those articles about the ubiquitous computing and social networking of the future, I'm not convinced. Basically my observation is that mobile computing still has extreme problems at the moment: I can't even get a 3G connection everywhere in Belgium, and am often stuck at a data transfer rate of the EDGE protocol of 236.8 kbit/s. That's not quite as fast as an old 256 k modem. And in Europe you can be hit with data roaming charges up to $3.22 per megabyte. And due to frequent business travel I know all about the frequently horrible internet connections in hotels.

But once all these technical problems are overcome, we'll just run into the far more serious problems of privacy and who controls what rights over data on the internet. Today the story might be how Twitter helped the Arab spring, but tomorrow the story might well be how some revolution failed and the regime struck back at the would-be revolutionaries by tracking them down via their social networks. It already happened after the London riots. Sooner or later people will realize that it is not a good idea to put anything REAL on the social networks, and will limit themselves to exchange photos of cute kittens and similar fluff.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Playing on rails

Psychochild is pondering the question whether games have to be a series of interesting choices, as Sid Meier says. I think he has a point when he quotes Chris Bateman saying that this requirement only is true for a sub-set of games. Other games are all about execution. And increasingly games come to resemble TV shows or movies in that they are about passive enjoyment of a story.

For example I have been playing Mafia 2 lately, and am currently about half way through the game. Now technically Mafia 2 has sandbox elements. If I choose to do so, I can drive through Empire Bay for hours, steal cars, rob shops, escape from the police, buy clothes and guns, or look for hidden collectibles. The problem is that none of these actions have consequences. If I succeed in my criminal activities and get away clean, I get money, but I’ll quickly run out of stuff to buy with that money. If I don’t succeed and get arrested, the game ends, or rather restarts at the last save point of the story. Furthermore my interaction with the city is extremely limited. 99% of the buildings I can’t enter. The shops I can are all the same, that is every clothing shop looks exactly the same, has the same clothes on offer, and even the saleswoman is always the same. The streets are populated with people and cars, but the interaction I can have with them are extremely limited. In short, all the interesting stuff that happens in Mafia 2 happens as part of the story, and that story is completely on rails. While I can resist arrest or escape a hundred times in the sandbox mode, when I get arrested in the story mode, I can’t do anything about it (and lose all money and items I gathered in sandbox play). My “interesting choices” are limited to what type of gun I want to use to blow my target’s head off or what car I want to drive around in.

The obvious problem of that sort of design is replayability. Somebody might want to replay the game at a higher difficulty setting, or to collect the collectibles he missed. But then he’d just skip all the cut-scenes and story the second time around. And on replaying it would probably grate that you can’t save the game where you want, but there are only a limited number of fixed save points. Dying at the wrong moment means having to replay parts of the chapter you already mastered. One specific problem I had with the PC version of Mafia 2 was that the game is obviously designed for consoles. With a gamepad it is easier to drive a car (because you have analog controls), and harder to aim and shoot. I think Mafia 2 was balanced with those console controls in mind, because on the PC I found the driving relatively difficult and the shooting a bit too easy.

But overall I did enjoy Mafia 2. And I plan to play more of these “interactive movie” games in the future, like L.A. Noire or Deus Ex (which has more choices in each situation, but still has a story on rails). I’ll have to buy Red Dead Redemption for the PS3, as there is no PC version. I’m not so much into modern serial murder thrillers; otherwise I’d try Heavy Rain. But in any case these interactive movie games with little in the way of interesting choices are not games I buy on release. I picked up Mafia 2 at some Steam sale for half-price, and that is about what I’m willing to pay for that sort of game.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vector logo atau lambang Koperasi

logo atau lambang Koperasi 
Arti logo atau lambang Koperasi
  1. Perisai
    Upaya keras yang ditempuh secara terus menerus. Hanya orang yang pekerja keras yang bisa menjadi calon Anggota dengan memenuhi beberapa persyaratannya.
  2. Rantai (di sebelah kiri)
    Ikatan kekeluargaan, persatuan dan persahabatan yang kokoh. Bahwa anggota sebuah Koperasi adalah Pemilik Koperasi tersebut, maka semua Anggota menjadi bersahabat, bersatu dalam kekeluargaan, dan yang mengikat sesama anggota adalah hukum yang dirancang sebagai Anggaran Dasar (AD) / Anggaran Rumah Tangga (ART) Koperasi. Dengan bersama-sama bersepakat mentaati AD/ART, maka Padi dan Kapas akan mudah diperoleh.
  3. Kapas dan Padi (di sebelah kanan)
    Kemakmuran anggota koperasi secara khusus dan rakyat secara umum yang diusahakan oleh koperasi. Kapas sebagai bahan dasar sandang (pakaian), dan Padi sebagai bahan dasar pangan (makanan). Mayoritas sudah disebut makmur-sejahtera jika cukup sandang dan pangan.
  4. Timbangan
    Keadilan sosial sebagai salah satu dasar koperasi. Biasanya menjadi simbol hukum. Semua Anggota koperasi harus adil dan seimbang antara "Rantai" dan "Padi-Kapas", antara "Kewajiban" dan "Hak". Dan yang menyeimbangkan itu adalah Bintang dalam Perisai.
  5. Bintang
    Dalam perisai yang dimaksud adalah Pancasila, merupakan landasan ideal koperasi. Bahwa Anggota Koperasi yang baik adalah yang mengindahkan nilai-nilai keyakinan dan kepercayaan, yang mendengarkan suara hatinya. Perisai bisa berarti "tubuh", dan Bintang bisa diartikan "Hati".
  6. Pohon Beringin
    Simbol kehidupan, sebagaimana pohon dalam Gunungan wayang yang dirancang oleh Sunan Kalijaga. Dahan pohon disebut kayu (dari bahasa Arab "Hayyu"/kehidupan). Timbangan dan Bintang dalam Perisai menjadi nilai hidup yang harus dijunjung tinggi.
  7. Koperasi Indonesia
    Koperasi yang dimaksud adalah koperasi rakyat Indonesia, bukan Koperasi negara lain. Tata-kelola dan tata-kuasa perkoperasian di luar negeri juga baik, namun sebagai Bangsa Indonesia harus punya tata-nilai sendiri.
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    Warna merah dan putih yang menjadi background logo menggambarkan sifat nasional Indonesia.
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Stay away from Facebook Connect!

Facebook is offering a functionality called Facebook Connect, which allows third party websites to use Facebook as authentication. I was playing a game called "Die Siedler Online" (The Settlers Online aka Castle Empires Online) from Blue Byte / Ubisoft which used this Facebook Connect functionality as option. Sounded good, one click to login via Facebook, instead of having to type in a username and password every time. Only of course now that Facebook disabled my account, I can't login to Die Siedler Online any more either.

I wrote to the Blue Byte / Ubisoft customer support to get access back to my Die Siedler Online account, but got a reply that they were unable to help me. Basically access is blocked by the application on my Facebook account, and unless I delete that application on Facebook, I can't play Die Siedler Online any more. But of course I *can't* delete the Facebook application, because Facebook blocks me from accessing my account. So in spite of not having violated any of the Terms of Service of Blue Byte / Ubisoft, I've been effectively banned from their game as well.

Moral of the story: Do not use the Facebook Connect option on other websites. If ever you get into trouble with Facebook (and they can ban you for playing games with strangers), you also lose access to all other sites you connect to via Facebook Connect. Big Brother is not only watching you, he is actually controlling what you can do on the internet.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I don't think we matter for long-term success

Ravious from Kill Ten Rats is worried about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Quote: "One half of me thinks it’s going to sell like freakin’ hot cakes, possibly make back it’s money, and then fall flat. BioWare won’t be able to sustain a fraction of the same support after 3-6 months." The reason he worries is all those reports that describe SWTOR in beta as some sort of World of Warcraft with light sabers. Some nice features, like the story-telling and voice acting, but nothing that feels as if SWTOR was pushing the envelope of the MMORPG genre.

Now if the target audience of SWTOR consisted of Ravious, me, and the people reading our blogs, I would think he is right. There is a rather large probability that I will be bored of SWTOR after 3 months, because it feels too much like games that I have already played for thousands of hours. Fortunately for EA Bioware, and unfortunately for me and you, I don't think we actually are the target audience. There is nothing in the design and marketing of Star Wars: The Old Republic which makes me think that this is a game which is targeted at veteran MMORPG players. I am pretty certain that EA Bioware rather targets both people who played other MMORPGs just a little and casually, and people who didn't play MMORPGs before because they weren't into elves, orcs, and wizards. There are simply far more Star Wars fans out there than there are World of Warcraft players.

Now if you manage the difficult feat to put yourself into the shoes of somebody who has never played a MMORPG before, you realize that the prospects of SWTOR are rather good, as long as EA Bioware delivers a polished product in December. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the themepark MMORPG formula, except that it gets boring after several thousands of hours. As long as EA Bioware can capture a significant number of people who haven't already done those thousands of hours in a different game, they are golden.

But of course this target audience isn't the people currently reading or writing MMORPG blogs. Thus while you certainly will read in the MMO blogosphere in early 2012 how quickly SWTOR becomes boring, that opinion might be one which is limited to a group of people who don't really matter all that much for the long-term success of the game. The people who *do* matter might instead be saying how much better SWTOR is than Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, or how it compares to KOTOR or Lego Star Wars. This will be the first MMORPG for many people, and if history tells us anything about the success of MMORPGs, it is that everybody loves their first MMORPG. But unless you can get hold of a Men in Black Neuralizer, you and me are going to miss out on that first love experience. We already had ours with previous games.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apologies don't improve games

After losing 20% of their players this year CCP apologized for having developed EVE in the wrong direction and promised to do better. So what? Does anybody believe they will actually remove the monocles from the game? They won't, and all the other damage to the game is done as well. Future development concentrating on what players have asked for is okay, but even there I'd be careful that this doesn't end up developing the game specifically towards the needs of the Goons or any other vocal minority.

Syncaine is hoping for an apology from Blizzard for Cataclysm, but frankly I couldn't care less whether they do that. First of all, Syncaine never played Cataclysm (nor Wrath. Syncaine is the Ed Zitron of the MMORPG blogosphere, he judges all games without playing them.), and wouldn't play World of Warcraft regardless to what Blizzard changed to the game, or said, or promised to do. Secondly even to players who did play Cataclysm, like me, an apology isn't of any use. We basically already got one, distributed over various Ghostcrawler posts. But just like for EVE, all the promises we ever get for improvements are whatever the loudest vocal minority is shouting for, and then that gets badly implemented and doesn't fix anything.

World of Warcraft at this point is not one game, but two. There is a game where people start at level 1 and level up through doing quests. You can play that part of the game for free up to level 20. Other Free2Play MMORPGs retain only single-digit percentages of the players that try the game. World of Warcraft retains 30% of players trying the game. But somebody at Blizzard decided that this still was too low, and somehow came to the absurd conclusion that the retention rate was linked to the leveling game being too hard. The second game of World of Warcraft starts at the level cap, and is, and always was, much, much harder than the leveling game. But Blizzard listened to the vocal minority of veterans having spent thousands of hours in the game, who wanted the leveling game to be faster (because they basically didn't want to play it at all), and the end game to be harder (because they had become so good at it through thousands of hours of training). Then of course it turned out that besides a handful of hardcore players, the WoW end game wasn't of much use to anybody, and Blizzard nerfed it, managing to please no-one in the process.

I do not think that World of Warcraft at this point can be fixed with an apology or giving in to any player demands. The game simply has broken apart. The majority of players, even the very casual, find the leveling game too easy now. And the gap between leveling to the cap and being prepared for what is coming after has grown to a chasm that can't be bridged any more.

Nerfing the end game is a crutch, and not a very good one at that. An overwhelming majority of players of World of Warcraft does not raid, and never will. Raiding is just a completely different game, and what links still exist between raiding and the rest of World of Warcraft only serve to make both games less good. Nobody ever listened to the needs of the silent majority, who actually liked leveling, and would have liked the expansions to lengthen their leveling fun, and make it more challenging. Instead World of Warcraft managed the unlikely feat to get shorter with every expansion. These days you enter a new zone, you cough once, and that causes enough mobs to drop dead that you already outleveled that zone. Where is the fun in that? The casual players never asked for the leveling game to be nerfed, and the end game players would have been better served with a "create level-capped character" functionality.

Vanilla World of Warcraft was justly hailed as a great game, because it was ONE game, with some sort of cohesion from start to finish. By concentrating on "player demands" and constantly fiddling with the end game, that cohesion has been lost. Cataclysm was a chance to fix the gaps and get the game together into a seamless whole again, but that chance has been squandered. And no apology is going to help that. I don't want Blizzard to apologize or promise yet another fix. Apologies don't improve games. I want them to learn from the experience and make Titan a cohesive game with no gap between leveling game and end game.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Getting rid of Alienware

4 years ago I bought a computer from Alienware. Not a bad machine, but it was the last "pre-made" computer I ever bought because I realized something: Companies like Dell / Alienware turn PCs from an open architecture into a closed proprietary one. You can't just do anything you like with such a system, just like you can't do anything you like with an Apple computer.

Well, I'm buying a new computer every 2 years, give the 2-year old computer to the wife, and kick out the 4-year old one. So, just having bought a new PC, it was time for the Alienware PC to be given away. Obviously I didn't want my programs and data to remain on it. After some attempts to "clean" the hard drive from all information relating to me, I quickly realized that this wouldn't work without a clean format and re-install. Which I then proceeded to do.

At that point the Alienware PC decided to give me one last smack on the head for having bought a closed system. I had formatted the hard drive and re-installed Windows XP. But Windows XP refused to run without activation, and the Alienware PC refused to let itself be activated. Via internet he refused to communicate with Microsoft activation service. And when choosing the activate via telephone option he refused to give me the identification number required for that phone activation. Searching for the problem on Google turned up the information that this was actually not uncommon for pre-made PCs.

In the end I had to use the re-install disc that had come with the Alienware PC, even if that was Windows Vista. 4 years ago I had installed Windows XP over the pre-installed Vista (the first version of Vista was rather horrible, although it improved slightly with the service packs). That somehow overcame that Windows XP activation problem. But a clean install of Windows XP wasn't possible on this machine. Well, the nephew of my wife who is going to inherit the computer is going to have to live with Vista. I already spent all evening getting the machine up and running again, and I wasn't in a mood to retry my feat from 4 years ago to install XP over Vista. And now the only desktop computers left in the house have been assembled by the local computer shop from separate components. No more being locked into a Dell / Alienware system. Good riddance!

No Facebook refund?

I've been playing a lot of Facebook games this year before my account got banned. Facebook games are "Free2Play", as in "free to start playing, but we'll happily take your money for this or that comfort / fluff / other virtual item". And as I don't mind spending some money on games I like, I did in fact buy some virtual stuff for various games via Facebook credits. The payments went from my Paypal account to "Facebook Ireland". Now I'm not talking big money here, but nevertheless I feel as if I have been expropriated. Apparently I was real enough for Facebook to accept my money, until they decided I was not real enough to keep my account.

So the interesting question is whether there is any way to get my money back. Paypal, unfortunately, is not help. Their "buyer protection" guarantee only covers tangible items, virtual items are explicitly excluded. Which is probably a wise choice on their part, because virtual property rights are a legal mess.

Just last week I spent $11 on Dungeon Overlord. I obviously wouldn't have done that if I had known that I would be banned from Facebook this week. It is not as if I had bought something which I have already "consumed", rather I bought some long-term advantages for my dungeon (more tiles, more goblins). And by banning me, Facebook prevents me from taking advantage of my purchases.

Imagine you go to your bank and they tell you that they closed your account because they found that something in your original application for that account wasn't conform with their terms of service which you didn't read closely enough. And oh, by the way, as your account is now closed, the bank keeps all the money that was on that account. Obviously you would have legal recourse, and could send them a lawyer to get your money back. The same thing would apply if you pre-paid for a service, let's say a holiday, and then the travel company finds some reason to not give you that service. You would have the right to a refund.

So how exactly would that work with virtual purchases? Is there any way I could get my money back from Facebook? If not, what is the legal argument permitting them to keep my money without giving me access to the virtual stuff I bought? What if you give money to Blizzard, let's say for a 6-month subscription and a sparkle pony, and Blizzard bans your WoW account the next day, can you get your money back? What exactly would permit a company selling virtual goods to deny you use of your virtual purchases, without giving you a refund? Apart from the obvious problem that the legal cost would be far higher than the possible refund, what are my legal options against Facebook?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Banned from Facebook

Well, this was bound to happen one day: I got banned from Facebook for not being real. Quote: "People on Facebook want to interact with their real friends and the people they know in the real world. Since fake accounts can damage the integrity of this environment, they are not allowed to remain on the site." I do not think that this statement is even remotely true. If I want to interact with my real friends and the people I know in the real world, I go out and meet them. The big advantage of a social network is that it enables you to make new friends which you don't know in the real world. The internet allows me to interact with people living far away from me, but sharing common interests.

Now I could make a new Facebook account using my real name, and populate it with my real world friends. But my real world friends aren't all that interested in Facebook games. And I would have to start my Facebook games over from zero, having lost for example my empire in Empires & Allies. Frankly, I would be ashamed bothering my real world friends with constant demands for virtual trinkets in this or that Facebook game. It is only by having people who are NOT your real world friends, but who agree on a simple deal of "I send you the virtual trinkets you need if you send me the virtual trinkets I need" that most Facebook games become playable.

And I suspect that this is exactly the reason why I got banned. Facebook games work by either requiring you to pay money, or bother your real world friends in the hope that they start playing and pay money. It is that, and not the "integrity of the environment" that I endangered. I was playing the system to get around the odious requirements of Facebook games, and Facebook banned me for it. I wasn't the customer, I was the product. And by not playing by their rules, I was a defective product, and got sorted out by Facebook's quality control.

With the current trend towards demand real IDs everywhere online, I wonder what will happen first: I lose all interest in online games, or all online games and platforms kick me out for not being willing to use my real name?

[EDIT: I found the following interesting rule on the page explaining why my account was disabled: "Do not contact strangers for the purpose of gaining an advantage in a game or application." Thus it is actually forbidden to actively find other people that aren't your real world friends but only play the same games as you are. You must pester your real world friends for virtual gifts if you don't want to get banned.]