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Timeaisis Blog

The Real Truth from a Color-blind Gamer

I've recently been enjoying Bioshock 2 on my new ever-so-amazing Velocity Micro Z90. I beat it yesterday, and I must say, it was pretty good. A lot better than I expected. This lead me to, as I always do after beating a game, browse some gaming-related forums to see people's opinions on the title. As usual, there were lovers and haters and everyone in between. Anywho, to my dismay, I stumbled across an article on Negative Gamer that was *****ing about how Bioshock 2 wasn't "colorblind accessible". Now, I've been color blind all my life (obviously, that's how it works), but only found out a couple years back. I'm red-green color blind, I believe somewhat of a minor case, but I still can't see any of the damn numbers in those damn tests (alright, I can see the 25, but that's seriously it).

But about the "article" on Negative Gamer. Now, I know they're trying to inform the general population here, but it really doesn't work like that. If you looked over the article (or at least the pictures), you'll notice that a color-blind person sees completely different things when playing the hacking mini-game in Bioshock 2. Well, theoretically, then, you would assume that Color Blind people would not be able to differentiate between the first picture and the one below it. As in, the picture for "red-green" people should look identical to the original, unaltered picture, right? Wrong. I can plainly say that there is a difference. A big one. And, oh yeah, I can play the hacking mini-game just fine. And I can see the colors, too! *gasp*

Apparently, color-blind gamers see the world in 'poop brown'

Apparently, color-blind gamers see the world in 'poop brown'

Looks like whoever wrote this used some **** Photoshop filter to alter the picture for "non-color vision". Well, sorry, but it didn't work. Its not like I'm mad, I'm just kind of bothered by the fact that people assume color blind people cannot plainly distinguish between two colors. The simple fact is: we can. Just not colors that are similar shades. The colors on the Bioshock hacking mini-game are vibrant and very distinct, they are easily distinguishable to my eyes. I'm sure some color blind gamers out there have trouble, but its just rude and ignorant to assume all people with color blindness see the world in black and white (which I've been asked on numerous occasions, by the way).

Well, that was somewhat of a rant, wasn't it? Well, yes it was, but there is a point in all of this. One being that people shouldn't listen to everything they hear on the internet, especially from people who make up reasons to complain about a great game like Bioshock 2 by citing lack of "color-blind accessibility". That's complete bull**** And most color-blind gamers can probably tell the difference, anyway.

What's the other, you ask? It's that developers have they're own goddamn rights and if they want to release a game that color-blind people have no **** chance of playing, then far be it from me (or random people who write articles on the internet) to say no. If they want to give color-blind gamers some nice accessibility options, that's great. If they don't, that's fine too. But I (and most color blind gamers) won't be buying it. That's 6% of their market right there. If they want to take that chance, it's up to them. But the main idea here is: it is up to them. We don't have a say. We can whine and complain all we want, but at the end of the day, if the publisher/developer thinks that adding a color-blind mode is best for business, then they'll do it, otherwise, they won't. Pure and simple.

I hope that was (somewhat) informative and educational. I am color-blind, and I haven't had that much problem with video games in general. I'm also very glad that developers don't feel pressured to make game's especially for us, because that's just silly. If they they want to add some extra options when people plead nicely (without complaining) then they will, because that's how they make money, by listening to their fans. If not, it's their prerogative. It bothers me that some people dumb-down the explanation of color-blindness to either "the world's in black-and-white" or "red and green appear as an ugly shade of brown" (look here for an amusing article with pictures). Oh well, such is life. Lack of understanding and such. Hope you learned something about people with color deficiency today, or at least, aren't so quick to judge us. Oh, and whenever someone brings up some stupid sissy-ass excuse to bash a game like "its not colorblind accessible" you should call them a whiny **** and leave.

That's all for today. Until next time…

The Truth About Piracy

DRM and Anti-piracy law is a hot issue right now. Software vendors are freaking out left and right about how they can't sell they're products anymore. PC games are getting over-the-top DRM restrictions that customers are yelling about. Blockbuster movies are being seen on the internet weeks before they are even released to theatres. We're in a piracy crisis now, and the main perpetrators are the very people that will be affected most: us.

I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you I've never downloaded pirated software or even "trialed" a pirated game before buying it. I'm not going to lie and tell you I'm a good citizen and I never steal things from the internet. Truth is, I've done this before, but I do have a good and healthy habbit of paying for things I like. I'm not going to preach to you about pirating in the broad sense: I'll pay no heed to anything outside the world of the gamer. I just want to let everyone out there know that pirating will affect quality sometime sooner or later.

First question I'd like to ask is whether or not you've downloaded an illegal copy of a game. If its a no, then congratulations, I'm proud of you. If its a yes, then I'm not surprised. I'm not here to berate you. You probably think that this was some innocent endeavor, and on the surface it surely looks like it. The rationale goes like this: EA is a huge company, they make plenty of money, me downloading one copy of Spore doesn't affect them. No, one person downloading it really doesn't. Several million do. But I'm not even here to tell you how companies lose money by pirates. Because frankly, I'm just appealing to your sense of pity. We, as gamers, don't care if companies lose money, we just care about playing good games. Am I right? But I'm here to tell you that pirating affects the quality of your games, and in a hard and fast way.

If companies like EA cannot turn profit from the games they created because of such rampant piracy, they'll resort to not making less budget-heavy games. This means that their games will either get alot simpler or alot worse. Now I'm not saying simple games are bad, I'm just saying that those huge summer/winter blockbusters you've come to expect aren't gonna appear much more because they'll be spending more money making them than they make from them. They'll turn to making simpler, less complicated games that, while will probably be pirated just as much, will turn profit because they didn't spend millions of dollars creating it.

The second scenario is that they're games will just get alot worse. They'll make the same kinds of games on such a complex scale but spend less time testing, tweaking, and developing and just release any old piece of shiny garbage they can produce. And this shiny piece of garbage will have loads of DRM. Bear in mind I don't know if this is the exact course a big game company will take if piracy continues, but I really don't see many other options.

Wheres the proof, you ask? Look at Battlefield Heroes, EAs first "free-to-play" game. Its totally free! Its immune to piracy. This is cool, right? Yes! Of course its cool. But do you want every game ever made to be free-to-play massively multiplayer? Hell, no!

If they can't make money on blockbuster single player games, then they're going to stop making them, and instead opt for free-to-play MMOs or WoW inspired online monthly-free games. Think about it: online games generate revenue regardless of whether someone bought them or not: either in a monthly free or the old pay-for-special-items mechanic. Game companies see this as the future of turning profit if they can't get any of their blockbuster single player games to sell enough copies. If enough piracy is oharut there, companies are going to stop caring about making games that are pirated, and instead go were the cash is. And frankly, the cash is in MMOs. Since there the only thing that can make money in a rapant piracy world (we're not there quite yet), then its the obvious solution. But, do you want every game to be an MMO? I sure don't. I want well-designed single player games still. I want blockbuster standout titles. We all know that EA's newest IPs didn't do as well as they hoped: Dead Space and Mirror's Edge didn't gain as much sales as they wanted, so they're looking for something new. Now this may or may not have anything to do with piracy, but if single player games sales fall more due to piracy, then the industry may forget them entirely.

I don't know about you, but I'd hate single player games to go away. They're my lifeblood. Yeah, I like a good MMO here and there, but in reality, single player games have been the mainstay of the industry. And when I say MMO I'm not talking about online games, I'm talking about games with persistent worlds were you have to pay for access. Games like Halo, Gears of War and Killzone are all games that you buy and then you play online. They all have single player elements as well. If piracy was large enough a problem, game developers might take out the single player aspect entirely, and rely on online multiplayer thats pay-as-you-play.

The main issue here, is games are taking a critical hit from piracy. Studios that would be making good money on great games are making so-so money on great games. As we all know, those making oodles of money are doing to the online thing (WoW), and are not worrying at all about piracy. All I'm saying is we're all doing this to ourselves. By not buying the games we are playing, were not supporting the company who makes them. When we don't support the company that makes them, no matter how good the game is, future games similar to that will no longer be considered because of the terrible sales of that game we all pirated. If studios go to leaps and bounds to really break-through with a genre-busting title and make a negligible amount of money from it due to piracy, all the acclaim in the world couldn't convince the publisher to put out titles like that again, nor the developer to spend so much time and effort on games that actually sell very little copies.

Like it or not, DRM is their only option at this point. Game companies need a way to make money, and DRM is what they have chose. We may not like it (I sure as hell don't), but they need to make money somehow. The only way we'll keep getting high quality games is if they keep making money. And if the only way to keep making money is using DRM, then so be it. I'd rather live in a world with annoying DRM than a world of sub-par nickel-and-dime games that come out every other week. The only other option I can see is game publishers migrating to massive online games where they can charge for access. By doing this, however, most game genres we know and love will die immediately, because making money on single-player games is virtually impossible anymore. I know consoles don't experience this problem yet, but it still exists. PC games are deteriorating, and they may very well bring down games as we know it.

In closing, I'd just like to reiterate that gamers fall into the group of those outspoken against anti-piracy measures. I'd also like to point out that by **** about how game developers shouldn't put all that fancy DRM on their games and then go and download a copy of Spore are shooting themselves in the foot. You have no right to complain that a game is crappy if you haven't even paid for it. And eventually, if piracy keeps up, thats what everyone who pirates will be doing: because every game will be crappy.

The truth about piracy is that every gamer that is a pirate is hurting himself in the long run by cheating himself out of better games in the future.

Big Screen CG Colossi does not a movie make.

It pains me, and I'm sure all of you, to hear today's horrible, horrible news. That they're making a Shadow of the Colossus movie.

Let me let that sink in for a minute...

Ohk? Are we good now? Alright, then you should be about as angry as me. Even if you haven't played the game you should be angry. Why? Because another brilliant game is being shat on by Hollywood for the sake of a quick buck. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-capitialism or anything. I'm anti-crap. The only possible way to stop this stort of thing is to either protest (which we already know doesn't work very effectively) or convince everyone not to see movies based on video games.

Now, if, say some interested competent director came up to Team Ico and gracefully asked them for rights to the film, I wouldn't have a problem with it. If its in control of the studio who made the thing to grant movie privelages, then they'd pick the right person for the job. But, and I'm going to say this more than once I'm sure, if Sony just randomly decides that they want to make a SotC movie and pick some writer/director out of the blue with no input whatsoever from Team Ico, I have a problem.

The reason most video game movies are bad is simple. Hollywood wants to cash in on video-games. Hollywood decides that it'll be a good idea to make a movie out of popular game X, so they contact its publisher. Publisher Y wants money too, so they let it go. In this case, the companies are the same. Sony Pictures and Sony Computer Entertainment. They called eachother on the phone and decided it would be a good idea. Anyhow, all this means is that Sony wants to make some money on SotC. Now, the problem I have with this is it was Sony's idea. Or someone else in Hollywood. It wasn't the option of Team Ico or anyone remotely involved in the game.

Good video game movies are made a different way (this hasn't been done yet, but it will): An interested director/writer/studio approaches the team responsible for the game they are interested in. They disucss a movie project. The studio that made the game listens to what they have to say, and agrees. Now, this way the movie is in control of people who have either a) obviously played the game and appreciate it (the director/writer) or b) people that actually made the game in the first place. With this, you're sure to have the film at least try to live up to the movie. With the former approach, however, its the opposite. The studio that made the game has no say. Some movie company goes up to the game's publisher, asks for rights, then dumps the project on anyone they can, regardless of whether or not they have played or ever heard of the game their translating to screen. This is why most movies based on video games suck: the people who make them don't care about the game.

I care about Shadow of the Colossus. Its one of my favorite games of all time. It would make a horrible Hollywood movie. It wouldn't make any sense and just show some kid killing giant CG monsters. There would be no plot, little dialogue, and it would get really boring after the first 10 minutes. Now, the only way to make something like that interesting, is, of course, add extra stuff that has nothing to do with the game. This, of course, makes the movie even worse, because the elements they added make absolutely no sense in the context of the game's storyline.

Here are my top ten reasons why a Shadow of the Colossus movie will suck:

1) The game has little dialogue. The story played out through the player-character and the player's thoughts/emotions towards the player-character.

2) The game is composed of all boss fights, and travelling. A movie would consist of a kid killing a Colossus, getting on a horse, finding another one, and doing it again. This would be boring.

3) There are two main characters (three if you count the sleeping princess.) One of them is a horse.

4) The main character never speaks.

5) If you kept the ending of the game, the movie would make absolutely no sense. You'd see someone fight giant creatures, then turn into one himself, then die, then turn into a baby. Hollywood would change it so that the princess is rescued and they live happily ever after. This makes no sense.

6) They would have to add ALOT of stuff to make the audience understand what was going on. The brilliance of the game lied in the fact that the player had to put together the motives and desires of the main character, and fill in the gaps of the experience himself/herself. The game made the player be integral to the story it conveyed. Film doesn't have this opportunity, there is no experience of being the main character, so everything would have to be set out for the viewer. This would make no sense, either.

7) There would be alot of action sequences that ultimately mean nothing. Yo would see Wander kill alot of Colossi by doing some cool stuff. The act of killing a Colossus is no longer a player journey/experience but something that you can watch. You don't have to figure it out anymore, you just can watch the coolness of it.

8 ) The screenwriter of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li is the script. ...wait...What script? You mean the thirty minutes at the end of people talking? How can you write that? Its already written. I guess he's gonna spend time writing out every action of Wander against the Collosi. I hope he doesn't do any flyinig bird kicks in this film.

9) The game was an experience. The whole definition collapses in movie-form. Although film's can be "experiences", they have to be written that way. I doubt Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li was an experience. Even so, SotC was made to be a video game that was to be experienced. That was integral to the plot, themes, and emotions drawn out of it. Without spending time with Wander and his horse struggling taking down Colossi on your own, how can you possibly appreciate them as much in the film as you did in the final moments of the game. You can't feel for that Aggro when he falls of the ridge in the movie (if that even happens) if you don't spend hours searching for the next giant on the trusty steed.

10) It'll never recreate the moments in the game the same. When you take out the player, everything changes. You don't feel for Wander anymore, you don't care about him as much. You don't care about his horse, or his princess, or ever at one point feel bad for killing those big hulking giants. You just watch him kill them. And you root for him because you want to see them die. Ok, now where in a movie like that can you remotely see anything at all related to the experience that is SotC. I'm sorry, I didn't enjoy SotC because I got to watch giants die. I enjoyed it because it was one of the most amazing gameplay experiences of my life. Its unexplainable. The way it worked as a medium made it seem like you were part of the struggle. This is one of the few games that used the medium to craft something that could never be done in any other form. The whole way the story plays out is entirely through the fact that it is a video game. When you take out the player, you remove from Shadow of the Colossus EVERYTHING THAT MAKES IT AMAZING.

I think someone should start a website devoted to trying to kill this project or something. I don't so much as care about how **** this movie is. The game will still be great. What I care about is how this will ruin the game's credibility, and video game's credibility as a medium in the first place. If people see this garbage and then wonder why the hell anyone liked SotC the game, then one of our most-oft used example of video games as a brilliant, independent medium dies there, that day. The day when people see a movie based on a game and write both the game and the movie of as crap. Thats the day we as gamer's will cry because no one will ever take us seriously again.

Curse you, Hollywood! Stay away from my games!

OnLive: Technical Problems Explained

The annoucement of the new and exciting new OnLive service at the GDC garnered much coverage. Message boards aflame all across every inch of the internet. People clamoring in excitement and riled in cynicism. There were people that exploded with loving adoration, and those that treated it with abysmal dismay. There were those that were excited with the "new age" of gaming promised by this new technology, and those that clung to the past presenting criticisms about things like "ownership" this and "hardcopy" that.

These are all fine and dandy, my friends. Argue as you may about the evolution of the gaming industry in terms of how we play. I am not here to argue this, I am already encamped with those who like to actually own their own games. But I digress, my opinions on whether or not this newfangled service is good or not for the future of gamers everywhere is not the concern of this entry. The concern is entirely technological. And I hope to ask some good questions and gain some good feedback at the same time.

Now, many of you have wondered, rightly so, if this service will work to all its specifications. But the extent of your curiosity has fallen upon a single, simple question: "Will there be any lag?" The answer of this, of course, is the most important factor in whether or not one chooses to use the service. Its unfortunate, then, that no users I have seen have desired to expound on the technolgoical ramifications of such as service. It seems as though we are all concerned with the issue of whether or not, given this new, exciting service, will any current-gen game run smoothly without a hinch on one's computer. No one has discussed, however, whether or not lag-free streaming gaming is an actual possibility.

I say, as per the current technological restrictions, it is not.

Now, you must understand something about OnLive. OnLive, as you may or may not have read, is completely streaming, meaning that everything you see on your computer is not actually coming from your computer. It is being sent by wires or waves via the internet and displayed on your screen. All you will actually be seeing is a video of a game that is being "played" on a machine elsewhere. This isn't to say that your not "playing" the game. It is just to say that your native machine has absolutely no involvement in the game albeit the input commands of your controller and the reception of video data from the OnLive servers. Now people may say "this is not a problem". They may claim that their connection is fast enough. They may claim that they can stream HD movies from netflix without any problems, barely any loading, and unnoticable hiccups. That is all well and fine, my friends. But unfortunately, people are not understanding the technical aspects of streaming video games.

The capability of playing games via the OnLive service, as you know, is completely reliant on how strong or weak one's internet connection is. A good connection, they say, and virtually lag free gaming. Sounds good? Not to me.

Streaming games is much different than streaming video. But I just said all its sending you is video data, right? I did, true. But I forgot to mention one little factor that is heavily important in this little video game experiment. And that "little thing" is user input.

I'll try to say this the best I can without insulting your intelligence. Everyone already knows this, I'm just trying to prove a point. You see, when you play a game, you hit buttons. Button input is read by your controller, and sent to your console (or PC). The button input is processed in light of the current "state" of the game (that is, what is going on in the game world at that time) and your user input along with all the game world situations combine to process a certain set of events. These events are processed and finally displayed on your monitor. Its a two-step process. Firstly, though, the game is on, running. Its sitting there doing its own thing waiting for you to hit a button. One you do, that two-step process occurs. It sends the button input to the console. The console figures out what you are trying to do. It processes that action in light of the current in-game circumstances, then generates the results. Then, the second step is, of course, sending data back at the monitor and you seeing it and reacting (hitting buttons) to that new set of data (i.e. whats going on in your TV screen). So there, its input and output. You input what you want to do, the console processes those actions, and then sends you the result via your monitor. When your doing this at home its fine and dandy. There is virtually no delay as the information isn't travelling from one place to another.

Now, what if we applied this simple input-output loop to a game that is "played" at home but "processed" elsewhere. What would occur? Firstly, the servers x number of miles away would send you the video data of the game, and you'd see it on your screen all pretty. Then, you'd hit some button, telling the game what you want to do next. After this happens, your input via the lovely little OnLive box would send your button commands to the server x miles away, process all that data in light of the current conditions, and send the video data back to you.

You're computer is only handling the input and the video data. No game processes are running on your computer. You have absolutely no files related to the game anywhere on your hard disk. The process used to creat the video isn't even saved on your computer. Absolutely nothing involving the game you are playing in any way shape or form is physically on your hard drive. Now, I ask simply, how can one guarentee no lag when you have to send input data x number of miles away twice and also process this data in-between.

People, you must realize this is not like streaming movies on the internet. Nor is it like any combitation of streaming movies and playing games at home. Just because at home it has no lag, and on the internet there is no video lag from streaming with a high enough connection, does not mean if you combined the two it will be lag free.

In your home, you send the data and then receive the data, but your console retrieves it instantaneously, as it is right next to your controller, and your TV receieves it instantaneously, as its right n ext to your console. There are two operations involving sending data. One from your controller to your console. The other, from your console to your monitor.

When you watch a movie online, there is one sending operation. This sends video data from wherever the video is held to your computer. Your computer does not "respond" to the video data nor does it input any commands that alter the video in any way. This means there is one input operation here. This is relatively fast because there is only one source sending another data, and there is not processing involved on the server-end.

When you play streamed games, however, this is most definately not the case. Your computer sends data to the server, which processes the data, then sends it back to your computer. I cannot make it more clear than that. It is streaming the video, but only after you have sent data x number of miles away and the server processes your data into video and send it back x miles to you. Do you really believe there will be no lag?

The best example I can come up with is playing Street Fighter on OnLive, or any game requiring a quick sucession of button presses. Say, you want to pull of your Hadoken with Ryu. You hit down, then down-right, then right and punch. You hit four buttons there, two of which you did simultaneously. OnLive (presumably) takes every button input, sends it over to its server, processes the information, and sends the updated video data back to you. [Technical note: Note that it can't just choose whether or not the video data is "significantly" different from what you already had. This varies game to game, and pressing down on your control pad may have a very different effect on different games, so it must send every button input a response back lest it has to reprogram itself for every game it offers.] Then, of course, you hit down-right. Now, you ask, shouldn't they all go together as a group of inputs so I get my Hadoken off correctly? Should they? How could they? How could OnLive know that they are supposed to group that set of inputs as a "batch" to be sent and processed together? The only way I could think of is seperated input into a "batch" every couple milliseconds, but that would lead to button-error problems. The game would register some sets of input as together and some not, it would be terrible. So then, if they must process every input seperately, then they'll have to send it to the server, process it, and send it back. Also, they'll need to grab that next button press (down-right) immediately after coming back, send it, process it, and send it back. Then the last one, and finally the punch. Now, how does it know if these commands were inputted in the correct timeframe. Street Fighter requires its combos to be inputted within a half-a-second or something like that. I'm sure they'll keep track of which one comes in first and when, and make sure that they have them in the right order.

In order to implement a system that avoids button input mix-ups, they'll need to do some pretty heavy bookkeeping over there on server-end, making sure the right commands are processed first, which are processed in what order, and which are disregarded after some button input meant to cancel it. This on top of the fact they have to process the core gameplay still. Theoretically, if this is all possible, which I'm sure it is because they are trying to sell it now, then we can examine whether or not you'll get lag or input errors from the system.

If that combo needed to happen in half a second, say, do you truly believe that, with all the requirements I just listed this server would need to do to process those inputs, the combo input (now I'm assuming its somehow treating all of the combo input as one set of input out of good faith, it could be worse) would be sent x miles a way, lets say 300, examined at their server to make sure it is all in the proper order, processes, converted to audio and visual, then sent back to you all in half a second? Lets say that you're not worrying about whether it is sent back to you in that half a second. Lets say that you just care if it makes it there and is processes in that time. Well then, my friend, you have just mentioned what us gamers like to call "lag". Any way you slice it, there is no possible way that this system is lag free. Now, some of you may say it will be virtually lag free, as in it will be unnoticable with a great connection. Really, now?

If everything you input do takes place somewhere else how can you not have lag. Even the smallest, most indescernable amount of lag present between your monitor and whats going on over there at those servers, SEVERS any chance of you ever playing any reaction-heavy game on OnLive with sucess, ever.

There, I've said my peace, and I hope you will too. Please comment below with your thoughts. Feel free to discuss, argue, and disagree. I am open-minded and care about the future of the gaming community. I am simply looking out for those people who might be turned into suckers by a fancy new company who thinks they're the next best thing since sliced bread.