Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year MMIX

There was a man,
whose name was Lang,
and he had a neon sign.

Now Mr. Lang was pretty old
so they called it,
"Old Lang's Sign."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Will We Watch the Watchmen?

I posted a in-depth write-up that linked to basically everything you wanted to know about the Watchman legal dispute between Warner Brothers and Fox back in August.

Now Variety is reporting that on Wednesday Judge Gary Allen Feese issued a ruling that says, "Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the ‘Watchmen’ motion picture." The judge said he would issue a more detailed ruling soon.

An earlier Variety report said that Fox wasn’t looking for monetary compensation either, they may seek to prevent Warner from EVER releasing Watchmen.

The quote from "a source close to the litigation" said, "When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover."

So far Warner Brothers has not backed off a release date of March 6, but Warner spokesman Scott Rowe declined to comment on the ruling.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Game Damage TV pilot

My friends Yug (aka Guy Blomberg) and Matt (aka Matt Burgess) over at Australian Gamers and their friend Yahtzee (aka Ben Croshaw) of Zero Punctuation fame have put together a video game review TV show pilot called "Game Damage."

You can view the pilot over at their site Please spread the news and link around, as the more word of mouth they get, the better the chance they have of getting it picked up.

Here is their emotional plea for your support:
It's taken us a VERY long time to get to this point, but we're proud to say we have uploaded the pilot for our potential gaming TV show 'GameDamage' onto the interwebs.

Goto to check it out!

The 23-minute show is a pilot episode to stir up interest. Game Damage represents a new face of gaming media; fronted by three proven individuals with a genuine love and enthusiasm for games, it combines light and squashy gaming humour with a delicious crunchy centre of reviews, previews and 'discussions' on the many facets of the subculture (read: shouting arguments).

But creating a series with this level of professional quality (ha ha) doesn't come cheap, and if we're to live the dream we need all the exposure we can get. Gamers, non-gamers, come one, come all to, watch the video, browse the site, join the forums and tell us what you think. We promise to at least pretend to listen.
You know I say, "My friends over at Australian Gamer" but the only time they answer my emails now is when I disguise them as porn advertisement spam. What is up with that?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How I Would Do the WoW Torture Quest

The World of Warcraft torture quest, The Art of Persuasion, keeps popping up on news sites, so I thought I would finally throw my two cents in.

Here is Richard Bartle's original post that started the debate,and his follow-up post to the responses it got.

In the quest, Librarian Normantis wants you to torture an Imprisoned Beryl Sorcerer so that he reveals the location of Lady Evanor who has been abducted. He says that he can’t do it himself because the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon it. He gives you the Neural Needler and you have to stick the guy a few times with it while he; at first taunts you, then says that he knows nothing, begs you to stop and then finally tells you where Lady Evanor is being held, though hedging that by saying that trying to save her is folly. If you are so inclined you can keep poking him while he tells you he doesn’t know anything else.

Bartle was saying that Blizzard failed with the torture quest because it was nothing, it didn’t mean anything, and it was just another couple of mouse clicks in a quest chain. It wasn’t just that you torture the Sorcerer that is the problem; it was the actual quest design that failed because it didn’t take advantage of the torture concept. A lot of people seem to miss this point. And comparing it to hundreds of non-player characters (NPCs) you actually kill isn’t valid; because it is not the same thing.

The textbook way this should be done is to offer the player a choice with a reward for torturing the NPC but also a negative consequence. Is the reward worth the negative consequence?

Let’s look at a perfect example already in WoW, raising your reputation with the Blood Sail Buccaneers by killing citizens of Booty Bay. Which you can read about here.

The reward for doing so is the Bloodsail Admiral’s Hat (item level 60, 63 honor, +25 stamina and right click summons a Bloodsail Parrot non-combat pet) and the title “Bloodsail Admiral.” It is basically just a cosmetic reward, albeit a rare one that you aren’t going to see a lot of people doing. Let’s not forget that prestige is also a big reward in these types of games.

The negative consequence is ruined faction with Booty Bay, and even damage to your reputation with other goblin factions. Basically, you can no longer get quests or buy items from NPCs in those towns. I should also note that if you are trying to cash in an in-game reward from the WoW trading card game, it’s very difficult because the NPC you use to enter the trading card code is in Booty Bay.

Is it worth it? Not for me to say, that is for each player to decide. The point is there is a choice with both a reward and consequence.

Now let’s take that basic example apply it to the torture quest. We will make it a choice.

Same setup, Lady Evanor, an important leader of the Kirin Tor, has been abducted. Librariam Normantis had captured a Beryl Sorcerer who may know where she is being held. He is unwilling to torture the captive himself and presents that option to the player.

The player has two response options with Librariam Normantis; one where you agree to torture the prisoner and one where you don’t. Both cases offer you a quest – one quest to torture the guy which has some nice item rewards to choose from and the other quest where you don’t torture him and get no reward, but go off to complete a bunch of other quests to kill the bad guys without the aid of Lady Evanor. Both quest lines can come back together in the end or not, it’s just you have to decide if you will torture the guy and get the item reward.

Problem is that is a cowardly way out. 99.9% of the players will poke the guy till he squeals and then take the reward. 0.0099% will do the same and just tell everybody they didn’t and only 0.001 will take the moral high road and say no. In the end it doesn’t mean anything because not getting the item reward isn’t enough of a choice.

We have to make the consequence something real. We also want to put the weight on the torture, making it the negative choice that the player deliberately does. So let’s say there is no torture quest offered in the chain.

Instead Librariam Normantis tells the player that Lady Evanor has been abducted and they have captured a Beryl Sorcerer who may know where she is being held, but he isn’t talking. He mentions that they found the Neural Needler on the Sorcerer when they captured him but that the Kirin Tor does not condone torture. The life of one person, even Lady Evanor, isn’t worth the loss of the moral high ground. He stressed that the Kirin Tor will not stand by anybody who performs or condones such torture. He then gives you another quest, based on some clue he has devised from the Sorcerer, a Sherlock Homes based “rare mud on his shoes” thing, and is sending you off to investigate. I would make this a Nexus dungeon quest that shows a decent reward.

However the Neural Needler is right there on the table next to the captured Beryl Sorcerer, it is even giving off a little pulsing spark. If you click on it, you get the option to use it on the prisoner to get him to talk. The text makes it clear this goes against the wishes of Librariam Normantis and the Kirin Tor and that you will not be able to deal with them afterwards. That’s it. No reward is shown for using the Needler, but still the temptation is there.

If you use the Needler you automatically fail the previously offered quest and can’t get it again. You also lose a large amount of Kirin Tor faction preventing you from getting any more quests from them. However you do get a quest to go rescue Lady Evanor based on the information you gain from the torture.

I would leverage this in several more quests later on, playing up on the “one life isn’t worth sacrificing your morals” line from Librariam Normantis. What about two lives, a dozen lives, or the lives of all the Kirin Tor?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Resume & History

Although my Internet connection appears to be working, I can't connect to WoW. I can't even get to their homepage. Well that isn't completely true, I can kinda connect but both the game and the web page take forever to load and I get disconnected soon after.

I spent the day updated my resume and history pages and getting them up on Google Sites. The Resume and History links over the right now link to the updated version. The resume is pretty much the same except I am now Creative Director at Interzone. The history page was just updated to talk about Fury's shipping and me going from Auran to Interzone.

All I have left to do now is get this blog's graphics files up onto Google Sites and I won't have to worry about Hostopia, the actually people who ruined, not NetIdentity, whose email hosting I will still try to keep.

Anyway, I'll do that later. I think I am going to play some more Left 4 Dead, because Zombies aren't going to kill themselves.

Time Travel

Ever wonder what you would do if you could travel through time. What if, here at the end of 2008, you knew things from the future? Like what if you knew that Slumdog Millionaire was going to nominated for 10 Academy Awards and win 8, including Best Picture? What could you do with that information? Is there big money to be made betting on the Academy Awards?

What about MTV's Video Music Awards? I heard some people think Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time, but I'd put my money on Taylor Swift having the Best Female Video.

Okay, forget those entertainment awards, I know you can bet on sports events. So knowing that the Steelers will defeat the Cardinals by a score of 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII would probably be worth a few pennies.

But of course the big news is the aliens that will land on the White House lawn in early October 2009, and I'm pretty sure I can make big money off all the waves that even makes in the financial markets, if I only had some seed money. How can I convince somebody to give me a large sum of money before October?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2008 Aurealis Awards Finalist

I forgot that the Finalist for the 2008 Aurealis Awards went out last week. I was the Convenor for the judging panel of the "best illustrated book / graphic novel" category this year.

Winners will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane on Saturday 24 January 2009.

Click here to book your ticket for the awards ceremony online.

I am still considering if I am going to fly back to Brisbane to attend the award ceremony this year or not.

Anyway, here is the list of finalist:

best science fiction novel
• K A Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
• Marianne de Pierres, Chaos Space, Book Two of the Sentients of Orion, Orbit
• Simon Haynes, Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch, Fremantle Press
• Kim Westwood, The Daughters of Moab, HarperVoyager
• Sean Williams, Earth Ascendant, Astropolis Book Two, Orbit

best science fiction short story
• Simon Brown, ‘The Empire’, Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager
• Nathan Burrage, ‘Black and Bitter, Thanks’, The Workers’ Paradise, Ticonderoga Publications
• Trent Jamieson, ‘Delivery’, Cosmos, #21
• Margo Lanagan, ‘The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross’, Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager
• Tansy Rayner Roberts, ‘Fleshy’, 2012, Twelfth Planet Press

best fantasy novel
• Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, HarperCollins
• Sylvia Kelso, Amberlight, Juno Books
• Margo Lanagan, Tender Morsels, Allen & Unwin
• Juliet Marillier, Heir to Sevenwaters, Macmillan Australia
• Karen Miller, The Riven Kingdom, Godspeaker Book Two, HarperVoyager

best fantasy short story
• Thoraiya Dyer, ‘Night Heron’s Curse’, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #37
• Karen Maric, ‘The Last Deflowerer’, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #32
• Angela Slatter, ‘Dresses, Three’, Shimmer, Vol 2 #4
• Cat Sparks, ‘Sammarynda Deep’, Paper Cities, Senses 5 Press
• Kim Westwood, ‘Nightship’, Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager

best horror novel
• Jack Dann, The Economy of Light, PS Publishing
• Nick Gadd, Ghostlines, Scribe Publications
• John Harwood, The SĂ©ance, Jonathan Cape

best horror short story
• Lee Battersby, ‘In From the Snow’, Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager
• Deborah Biancotti, ‘Pale Dark Soldier’, Midnight Echo, #1
• Trent Jamieson, ‘Day Boy’, Murky Depths, #4
• Kirstyn McDermott, ‘Painlessness’, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), #2
• Ian McHugh, ‘Bitter Dreams’, L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol XXIV

best anthology
• Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt (editors), The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fourth Annual Volume, MirrorDanse Books
• Jack Dann (editor), Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager
• Jonathan Strahan (editor), The Starry Rift, Viking Children’s Books

best collection
• Robert Hood, Creeping in Reptile Flesh, Altair Australia Books
• Sean Williams and Russell B. Farr (editor), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams, Ticonderoga Publications

best illustrated book / graphic novel
• Steve Hunt (illustrator/co-author) & David Richardson (co-author), The Cloudchasers, ABC Books
• Shaun Tan, Tales from Outer Suburbia, Allen & Unwin
• Colin Thompson, The Floods Family Files, Random House Australia
• Julie Watts (author) & Graeme Base (illustrator), The Art of Graeme Base, Penguin/Viking

best young adult novel
• Isobelle Carmody, The Stone Key, Obernewtyn Chronicles, Volume Five, Penguin/Viking
• David Cornish, Lamplighter, Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two, Omnibus Books
• Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, HarperCollins
• Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock, Penguin/Viking
• Sean Williams, The Changeling, The Changeling series book one, Angus & Robertson

best young adult short story
• Deborah Biancotti, ‘The Tailor of Time’, Clockwork Phoenix, Norilana Books
• Dirk Flinthart, ‘This Is Not My Story’, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, #37
• Trent Jamieson, ‘Cracks’, Shiny, #2
• Kevin MacLean, ‘Eye of the Beholder’, Misspelled, DAW Books

best children’s novel
• Simon Higgins, Moonshadow, Eye of the Beast, Random House Australia
• Sophie Masson, Thomas Trew and the Island of Ghosts, Hodder Children’s
• Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo, Omnibus Books
• Carole Wilkinson, Dragon Dawn, Black Dog Books
• Sean Williams, The Changeling and The Dust Devils, The Changeling series books one and two, Angus & Robertson

best children’s illustrated work/picture book
• Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg & Kim Gamble, Tashi and the Phoenix, Allen & Unwin
• Richard Harland & Laura Peterson (illustrator), Escape!, Under Siege, Race to the Ruins, The Heavy Crown, The Wolf Kingdom series, Omnibus Books
• Ian Irvine & David Cornish (illustrator), Thorn Castle, Giant’s Lair, Black Crypt, Wizardry Crag, The Sorcerer’s Tower series, Omnibus Books
• Sally Morgan with Ezekiel, Ambelin and Blaze Kwaymullina & Adam Hill (illustrator), Curly and the Fent, Random House Australia
• Richard Tulloch & Terry Denton (illustrator), Twisted Tales, Random House Australia

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Merry Christmas

I have another big wordy blog post that I keep starting to write, but I probably won't get to it till after next week when I'm on Christmas Vacation, even thought the inspiration for the post will be old hat. I'll actually say that its about Blizzard, World of Warcraft, and their torture quest kinda. Its not really a criticism about that quest in particular, more about how WoW has saved the MMO industry, what they have done right and what they can do better.

In the meantime, I thought I would put up my Christmas picture.Besides this picture, I haven't done anything else for Christmas. I just doesn't feel like Christmas and I've no Christmas plans. I'll dig through the Christmas boxes tonight and see if I can find my Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD's, but that is about it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Giving up on Net Identity

For those of you who haven't been following my adventures with Net Identity and whomever they sold their web hosting to let me summarize.

Net Identity was a service that allows you to sign up to use a sub-domain thereby getting a personalized email address and URL. I have (had?) with a matching email address. I generally used it as a resume site while looking for work after Westwood Studios was closed. Lately it just points to this blog and I have just been using the space to store pictures and files that I link to on this blog, but I thought it was still worth paying for in case I wanted to do something with it in the future.

Tucows bought Net Identity a few years ago. They upgraded some stuff, re-vamped their web based email program, had a few growing pains. All-in-all nothing really too bad.

Tucows decided it didn't want to be in the web hosting business anymore and sold that part of the company to somebody else. They claimed we would get an email from that company with all sorts of update news and information. No email was ever received. At one point my site and all its content vanished. I made lots of complaints and never got an answer.

Ross Radar, from Tucows must have been ego searching and stumbled across my blog. He had always been in the forefront of getting information out before and somehow got me the attention of somebody at this new company. They restored my website from a back up. Only they left what appears to be the compressed file they transfered over from the back up on my site. This caused me to go over my storage limit. They attempted to bill me for this... twice. No correspondence from me to them about this have been answered to this day.

I have attempted to remove the file myself but don't seem to have FTP access to my site. I just tried to update my resume HTML and Word Document now that I was promoted to Creative Director at Interzone, but I still can't FTP into the site to upload the new versions.

I am paid up to March of next year but I've had it. I don't care so much about the website, but at least having the email address was nice. I have updated just my account across the web to the yahoo email address.

The way the original announcement was made I was thinking maybe Tucows still has the email part and its only the web hosting that the other company now controls. I don't know, I am just tired of all the hassle. Over Christmas break I am going to reconstruct all the content that is stored there either as blog posts here or store them elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Digital Millennium Copyright Act Sucks

Here is another example of how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is failing us. YouTube user jmkaos put up a video collection of every single James Bond movie opening (as of Nov. 2006 which is when the upcoming linked article was posted). Cimematical has a little story which embeds all the videos, except that every single one of them has been taken down. I can’t really see how these videos harm the movie studios, license, or the James Bond intellectual property in anyway. I believe they actually help all the above and would make you want to see the movies again. I don’t know how long each clip was nor do I remember how long of a clip is considered fair use, but I am going to assume they fit within that margin.

The more I think about it, I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t even the movie companies that complained about them which forces YouTube to take them down. I’ll be willing to believe it was one of those people who has nothing better to do than make a fuss and probably watches TV with a pad and pencil,* ready to note any broadcast that offends them personally so they can fire off some hate mail. You know the kind of people I’m talking about. Jay Leno makes a joke about Arizona and before the laughter dies somebody out there is writing a letter, “As a resident of Arizona, I am offended by your suggestion that…”

The point being that, just like YouTube does not have the time, resources or funds to manually review each claim of breach of copyright; they probably don’t spend too much time checking to see if the complaint is actually coming from the copyright holders. Give me a relevant sounding email address to a YouTube post with some broadcast media in it, and I can get it pulled. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, YouTube is liable for violations if they have been presented with a violation notice from the copyright holder. So if somebody they think is the copyright holder tells them to take something down, they do. Better safe than looking down the barrel of lawsuits and federal copyright violations.

It was kinda funny how John McCain got bit in the ass by Digital Millennium Copyright Act during his campaign seeing as he voted for it. Not cool the way he wanted a two tier system for "Important" people like him versus the unwashed masses like us... a two tier unfunded mandate system that YouTube would foot the bill for.

*Yes, pad and pencil. These nut jobs are good and they know that hand written letters have more weight than typed letters or email. Note that if you are ever writing your congressman. If you hand write it, they take it more seriously. If you take the time to hand write out a letter, put a stamp on it, and drop it in the mailbox; you are probably the kind of person who gets up early to head to the voting booth on election. Fire off an email, worse yet an email that you copied from a website and just added your name to the bottom; you are probably a reactionary dimwit who likes to complain and feel like you are part of something, but are actually too lazy to make the effort to vote.