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MS To Pair With Cable Companies: Commercials Look At You

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There's been a lot of talk about surface level policy issues with the Xbox One.  DRM, always online, Kinetic, and such have been in people's minds as we approach E3.  The more interesting aspect of MS's announcement is MS's long term goal, which includes cable subsidies, contextual advertising, and a (somewhat scary) move to dynamic content delivery.

Cable Subsidies

MS tested the waters for a subsidized console over the last year with the Xbox 360 + Live package, where upon agreeing to Live service at full price for two years cuts a major chunk off of the upfront cost of the buying the console.  In the long term, the buyer ends up paying more.  People have predicted that this scenario will be completely adopted with the Xbox One and I'm sure it will.  There will most likely be a full priced Xbox One with a Live subsidized version as well.  It will not stop there though.

MS has announced to investors that they envision selling 1 billion Xbox units during the life of Xbox One.  It is quite obvious that they can not do that with their traditional model.  Doing a Live subsidy will help, but not to the magnitude they are discussing.  Therefore, the only logical way they can get to these massive numbers is by pairing with cable companies. 

Cable companies could either offer a "Cable Company" version of the Xbox One for $10-$XX more per month to replace the traditional cable box or they could simply replace all their digital cable boxes with Xbox Ones (The cable company version would include coxial cable input.)  It makes perfect sense.  The Xbox One requires online, so they cable companies would immediately get an internet subscription out of the cable buyer. 

Global TV subscribers are 800 million, with well over 1 billion by 2018.  But where does MS make a profit?

Contextual Ads

Google logs where individuals go on the internet to better tailor ads to the user.  Amazon offers recommended products based on what users look at and what they purchase.  TV, however, has never had feedback from the viewer.  They can tailor commercials depending on what channel they appear (based on the demographics of the viewers of the channel), but they have never been able to track the user as they surf.

Until Kinetic.  Ads within MS's ecosystem that react to the user are only the beginning.  In a future where the cable company is partnered with MS, they now have a direct feed to the viewers.  Not only could they scan your room for products (such as a Pepsi sitting on your table), they will also pick up your eating habits, your state of health (larger people will get more diet commercials?), your age, your accent, your reaction to advertisements, and practically anything about your outward expressions.

Focus testing could take an all new twist.  They could show limited viewings of new products and focus test by gauging the viewer's reaction.  It gets very creepy when the ads are whittled into specifically targeting your marketing weaknesses using subtle but powerful techniques.  Have you been sad for over two weeks?  It'll play Zoloft commercials.  Do you sneeze a lot while watching?  Zyrtec commercials.  Talking about a new car to a friend?  Nissan commercials. 

Of course MS would get a kick back for its feed and users will probably be offered massive rebates to allow the data to be collected, but eventually it will be widespread.  That's where MS's money is and it will make far more than peddling games.

Will it happen?

This must be their long term plan.  If not, they have entirely missed a golden opportunity to make massive amounts of money and control one of the most lucrative markets in the world, individualized data collection.  What do we get out of it?  Well, nothing really.  We lose privacy.  We invite advertisers to sit closer to us as we enjoy our lives.  We become inundated with products that promise to "help" us based on our specific vulnerabilities.

It's quite scary, so let's hope that MS isn't this smart.

Dealing With Gaming ADHD, Damn You Gamestop

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Over the last few years I have amassed a huge library of videogames. In my childhood, getting a videogame was a huge deal. I would play the same game for many months before being given another by my parents. Back then, cartridges cost upwards of 90 dollars, so a little bit had to go a long way. My first system was a NES with two games: Mario and Final Fantasy. Those lasted me well over a year. I beat the entirety of each game and played through again, multiple times.

What happened to this? Today, I seem to have gamer ADHD. I'll play a few hours and then never touch a game again, but constantly seek a new experience. It's as if I take in what the game is all about and just don't care after the quick novelty of playing a new game wears off. I almost have to force myself to beat a game, usually out of guilt for paying out money without getting a justified value.

I'm beginning to think I enjoy the spirit and community of gaming more than the actual games. Kind of like a "car guy" that buys all the car magazines, goes to auto shows, and is a part of the local car club but he drives a Camry. I love games, I always have, but maybe I enjoy the buzz and hype that surrounds the industry more so than the actual end product it produces.

This is not to say I do not play games. I get my fair share of 10-20 hours in a week. This amount of time does not justify my huge stash of games though, some I've hardly played or, even more embarrassing, my huge list of steam games, some I've never downloaded.

Is this a sign of absent minded consumerism on my part? Like a shopaholic buying fifty purses a year even though there are one hundred with tags stacked in the closet? Perhaps I am chasing that magical moment I had when I was younger, playing Mario on the NES. I've come to realize I can never have that again. Just like drugs, the next hit is not as great as the last and never will be. Instead of chasing that high, I should be enjoying what is right in front of me.

Seeing this problem, I decided to get LA Noire and the Witcher 2. Two adult oriented games that are high quality and will give me no logical excuse to want other games. I decided to beat these before getting anymore games. Then Gamestop runs a special, buy two pre-owned games and get one free... Now, I'm back to being a raving ADHD gamer. In the end, its not the worst vice to have :D

E3 Take Away: The Good, The Bad, and The Questionable

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E3 was pretty great this year. The media attention was higher than ever with Spike TV showing most of Day 0 with Sony, MS, and EA's press conferences. Nintendo announced the system we have been hearing rumors about. Sony finally filled us in on the details of their very powerful new handheld. Of course the best part were all the great games. There were also some bad stuff, but more on that in a bit.

The Good

The good

The games were the highlight of the event this year with some games looking amazing and some new comers that I didn't expect to draw my attention at all. One that blew me away was Bioshock Infinite, which looked incredible. From the fast paced action to the wonderfully detailed world, the game seems to be an incredible feat. I'm still curious to see how they tuned the controls to make all that chaos playable, but Ken Levine said all the stage demo action was totally controlled by the player and those were not cutscenes. Definitely one to watch!

The long awaited sequel to Oblivion was shown in all its glory at E3 this year. Skyrim, despite its wierd name, looks to be an incredible success. Although the graphics are not mindblowing (like Obivion's were at the time), the gameplay, environment, the questing, and the huge 300 hours of content make this a must have for anyone that likes RPGs.

Tomb Raider was surprisingly interesting as well. I've turned my mind off to Tomb Raider since about the second game as they all seemed to be more of the same. Though we haven't seen any hard gameplay, the mood and setting look great and it seems to be a high budget title. Tomb Raider Reboot? I'm with ya.

Another game that finally removed the viel on gameplay was Dead Island. We all remember that ridiculously cool trailer they released a few months back, but finding out what the game actually entailed was not clear. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not just some hack and slash zombie massacre game like Dead Rising. It seems to combine RPG elements, technical FPS action, and a mature story into a clean package. This one is definitely on my list.

The racing game to get will be Forza 4. Although no major changes were announced, the game is getting bigger and better. More tracks, more cars, and Top Gear stuffs. I don't like the Kinect junk though...

Mentionables: BF3, Dragon's Dogma, Halo Anniversity, Arkham City, Dark Souls

The Questionable

The questionable

Let's go ahead and get it out of the way, the Wii-U. I love how Nintendo is going for a higher powered system, but I'm not so sure it is as powerful as they are claiming. I've heard rumors of the Wii-U using a cell phone CPU, but I've also seen the official "Power-based" chip statement from Nintendo. The new controller seems okay, but Nintendo didn't seem extremely confident when showing it off and the entire idea seems like it hasn't been fleshed out. The controller doesn't even have a name yet and the "games" they showed were not games at all, but teaser tech demos (they were very explicit about this.) Nintendo has also taken the stance that this will not be a media device, so they are really limiting their audience and uses of the "powerful" box. I'm excited, but apprehensive about the Wii-U right now.

I came into E3 pumped to see Mass Effect 3, but the video they showed was rail shooting (him on the turret while shooting a big alien) and a lot of kinetic stuff. I've also heard that they are giving more stat and ability options, so that's a good thing. I am a little unsure how it will turn out, but I am still excited to hear more.

Rage is the latest game from id, and they have been hyping it for years. I tend to enjoy id games because of their simplistic, no-frills-but-shooting philosophy. However, Rage hit me as somewhat soft and boring. The guns lacked impact, the colors were bland and boring, and it didn't really set a new bar graphically like Doom 3 did. I'm hoping id is not just an artifact of a by-gone era, but seeing how well Duke has aged... I wouldn't be surprised.

I've been apprehensive of Star Wars the Old Republic since the beginning, but watching the gameplay at E3 makes me even more so. The story elements look nice, but the game simply looks bland. The controls, UI, and gameplay seem to be pulled right out of the Wow, Rift, Aion, Warhammer, etc, etc workbench. It does not speak of a new generation of MMO gaming, just a highly polished evolutionary step for those that are craving more current content. It doesn't seem to be for me, but I think it will be a success.

A spoiled suprised was Halo 4. Everyone was looking for it since it was leaked a day before, but the trailer was really good at hiding the game for at least several moments. The thing that makes this game questionable is the "4" in the title but the announcement of a new trilogy. Are we going to get 4, 5, and 6 or are they going to start in a different direction? We will have to wait and see.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3's stage demo showed a game that is starting to show its age. The stunning graphics and gorgeous scripted events that blew us away in the original Modern Warfare are now common throughout all FPS games. I do not know if CoD can keep its special flare unless they do something extravagent. While EA's BF3 is doing new things with destructible environments, large scale battles, and more realistic gameplay mechanics, CoD seems to be sticking to the same-old-same-old with this iteration. Step it up CoD, or you will find yourself irrelevent.

Mentionables: LOTR: War of the North, Far Cry 3, NFS: The Run

The Bad

The bad

Let's start with this joke of the show, Fable: Journey. Not only does the name "Journey" sound more like the title of a romance novel, it also played like complete garbage. I simply couldn't believe what I was watching during his presentation. Everyone seemed to be in awe at how horrible it looked. It really goes to show how irrelevent Peter Molyneaux and the Fable series is these days. In his pursuit of "immersion" he has actually killed exploration and advancement, the very things that kindle immersion. I would not be surprised if the entire game was canned after the backlash to his stage demo.

Kinetic took up the majority of Microsoft's E3 conference. Kinetic is neat technology, but I simply do not see it catching on as a major device for the majority of 360 owners. It seems to be more of a large scale beta test and product recognition exercise for MS to pack the tech into future computer and console products (such as the next 360 and the next windows iteration.) It is too tacked on to be a major player on the 360, but so much time is devoted to pushing the name and tech on us. Show us games MS, not UFC and ESPN.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was a sad showing next to Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty. The game's bland art direction and low-rent graphics made for an uninspired showing. The game play looked to be very deliberate and without passion. The gunsmith feature begins to show how far this game has gone, and that it is unlikely to come back into the greatness it used to have.

The DS and Wii were practically thrown to the side other than a few titles during E3. Nintendo has moved on without them, even though the Wii-U is most likely over a year away. Nothing interesting is coming out for the Wii except Zelda and the DS is all but forgotten.

EA's Origin and Activision's CoD Elite are continuing to monetize the gaming world. Elite seems like a huge rip-off and only gives their competition a new bullet point for the back of their box "FREE FULL ACCESS MULTIPLAYER" will read the back of BF3 and GR. Origin is totally not needed, we already have numerous digital download options. No one wants another download manager or gaming community program running in the background. Leave it alone EA.

The End

Althogether, E3 was a great show this week and GS's coverage, although spotty at times during the live streams, was pretty great. I am still surprised at how BIG the gaming industry has gotten, and E3 always reminds me how far gaming has gone in the past 20 years. I look forward to next year!

What are your top, questionable, and bad picks this year?

The Stagnation of MMOs Part 2

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Introduction

I wrote a piece over a year ago which brought to attention the extremely slow progress MMOs have made over the past ten years. In fact, that original article is what brought my writing to the attention of Jody and, in turn, gave me the soapbox emblem. This is a subject that I am rather passionate about because the first game that really took me to another world and immersed me into a rich, carefree culture was the original Everquest. I've played countless MMOs both before and after this experience but none have captivated me in the same way (especially afterward.)

EQ

The first good 3D MMO (Guild war going on here.)

The causes of the current stagnation are numerous, but I believe I have whittled them down to a handful of main concerns which, if addressed, could begin a renaissance of sorts in the MMO world. The following are only a few of these concerns. More will be written in another part later in the year.

The Basis

Throwing loot at players has been an easy way of sustaining prolonged connection to a game. The player gets the feeling of progress while also having the desire to push on to find even more riches in the deeper sections of the dungeon. This, however, is a very artificial form of accomplishment, and the history of loot hording will not be something the player looks back on and relishes. Does the player get excited because they just defeated the greatest threat in the city by slaying the massive dragon and freeing the people from fear, or is the player mostly excited about the +3 Sword of Raging Inferno that dropped from the "mob" which the player has been salivating over for months on forums? If the later is the prime reason for slaying the dragon, then I believe the game is not a rich RPG experience but an infinitely deep database designed to slowly doll out ever more powerful items like cocaine on the streets. Just like drugs, the rewards have to be continually more colorful with more flames, more damage, and loonier designs to keep the increasingly desensitized player lulled into cutting the monthly check.

There needs to be a connection with the character and the world in which the user plays. There needs to be a purpose for killing, questing, and helping (or hurting) the other players and non-player characters (NPCs) in the game. Without a connection to the players and actors in the game, there is not purpose or emotional attachment to, say, freeing the slaves from the slaver's ship, skinning hides for the local leather shop, or bringing a message to a long lost lover.

Did William Wallace fight against the king to obtain theCrown of Beguile and Backstabbing? No, he fought passionately for his country, his land, and his people. There was emotion there, a sense of purpose that drove the conflict not a loot table.

braveheart

He did it all for the purples?

To facilitate the connection between the player and the character in which they assume, a stockpile of previous actions needs to be recorded in the character's profile to be used to shape the future interactions with NPCs and other players. Did the player kill a merchant in the next city over and then run to their current city? After a few days, word would have gotten around and merchants may not do business with the player until the debt is sufficiently paid to society (or coin pays the merchants off.)

I'm not talking about canned general responses to exact criteria. I'm talking about a behavioral simulation system which runs in the background using your past deeds as the input. The point is, you shape the world and how it interacts with you due to your past actions. This is only one step in the right direction.

Creation

I briefly touched on this at the end of my last piece. Creation as it is now is hand generated. Developers toil over creating the landscape to be "just-so", design entire cities with a blueprint in mind, and try to create a world which seems possible but new, and exciting. This is the main portion of the cost and design of a game. The bad part is, this is exactly the portion of the game which ends up making the game feel dated and boring for a veteran player. This content is static, never changing from the time the developer penned the area during the early stages of the game. Some games have addressed this by overhauling the entire game (Cataclysm.) This is only a band aid fix because one to two years from now they will be exactly in the same spot as before. Boring, static landscape.

Instead of investing heavily into hundreds of people working on every detail, have them work on an underlying physics engine which can produce varied, unique, and rich landscapes using variables which can be changed depending on the situation. This generated landscape can then be brushed up and important features added (such as starter cities, monuments, and other cultural items.)

earth

Natural beauty

The Earth we see today was created (well… hopefully I don't open a can of worms here) by physical systems. The Grand Canyon by erosion, mountain ranges by plate activity, caves through water channels, and many more weren't created by some artist sitting in a chair for hours. Using an adequately complex simulator could bring about landscape features never dreamed of.

Simply look at the most basic system which Minecraft uses. Only having a handful of blocks and a very simple algorithm, Minecraft makes completely new worlds in seconds which hide all sorts of fantastic secrets. Just think of the possibilities if a few million dollars are sunk into a natural physics simulation.

Change

The best part about having an underlying physics simulation which created some portion of the content is not only the natural feel of the land but the fact that the simulation can easily continue when the game goes live. There would be weather models which could simulate something as simple as a summer rain fall to complex blizzards, hurricanes, and tornados which do actual destruction to the land and player buildings. Earthquakes could happen, seasons change, meteors hit, and the list goes on. All this could happen and the developers may not even know it. It would be simulated with the rules set by the developers, but without their direct interaction.

IBM Blue Gene

Supercomputers model all sorts of extremely complex systems.

Perhaps the player takes a year off of the game. Instead of coming back to the exact same thing in which they left, the player is greeted by massive changes. The forest was harvested and a city built, the old capital burnt down from conflict, and the player's house long looted with homesteaders shacked up there.

Great side effect? Every server would be entirely different after some amount of time.

A dynamic world is what we live in, why not play there too?

Before This Gets Too Long

I'm going to have to cut this short, but I have a lot more to say (for another editorial.) One of the problems with MMOs is the fact they do nothing to affect me, as a person. They prey on my wish for more power and ever higher rewards, but fail to deliver real long-term accomplishment. Practically every MMO has a linear path to rewards which everyone follows, even step-by-step guides are sold. Level up to max level (usually a straight shot), get this set of gear, get these skill ups, and then wait for more gear. Strip a max character down in most MMOs to only their underwear and they are all identical.

arthas

These brave souls fighting the mighty Arthas are all the same underneath the shiny gear.

A simulated reality will help differentiate the good players from the players who purchase or view guides to progress in a game. It will give purpose and change to the world which will in turn make it seem more real and immersive. Cities can burn down, houses can be attacked, and players can lose their empire through natural events. This brings a sense of risk and a feeling of the unknown into play which is sorely lacking in today's games.

We need simulated realities based on physical laws so we can manipulate them in game for our purposes, just like in real life. We need simulated behavioral laws for the NPCs so, again, we can manipulate them for all sorts of wild purposes. This dynamic, changing world is the next frontier not only for MMOs but for videogames in general.

I'll end on what I wrote in my previous piece:

The MMO arena is stagnant. We wait for expansion packs that keep us busy for a few months or a hyped up game that might leave us 100 dollars poorer only to have wasted our time. We need a game changer. We need something so radically different that it brings us directly into the next generation of MMOs. I am waiting and see nothing on the horizon that will do that.

More to come in Part 3.

Your Turn:

What irks you about the current generation of MMOs?

What is the number one thing you believe needs to be addressed?

What is actually good that should stay with the genre as it progresses to the next generation?

DLC, Streamlining, and Price Hikes

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DLC

Downloadable content didn't make a graceful, poised entrance into the gaming world. See horse armor. I laughed pretty hard when I first read about Bethesda offering cosmetic horse armor for 200 MS points. This, of course, wasn't the first DLC to be offered, but it is one of the first that most people will remember because of how hilarious it was at the time. A time in which DLC was not integral in the story, did not contain massive amounts of content, was not used to coerce customers into preordering for full price, and major DLC additions to the game certainly didn't come out at launch. DLC was reserved for fun, but unneeded additions for the serious fans to prolong the game between releases/expansions.

horse

King of DLC

Let us step into the present time. Dragon Age II is just around the corner and there are already 19 DLC items coming out at launch. Two of those items are major pieces of add on content. One of which everyone who buys a retail copy will get for the first few months. The second is only for people who pre-ordered before an arbitrary date, all others please insert seven dollars. The rest are various items procured through a daunting process of signing up for email newsletters, playing the demo, hoping a certain number of people play the demo, purchasing items from epicweapons.com, playing a facebook game, pre-ordering at certain locations, buying Dead Space 2, and the list goes on and on. In the end, to get the "full experience" a fan of the series will have to spend hours and countless dollars chasing all the promotions before the game is even out.

I supported EA when they decided to add in content for new purchases. This way they could entice potential used game purchasers to buy a retail version, so EA sees more profit. This is totally understandable. Most fans like to buy new and support the developer anyway. Packing in a small incentive for the collector's edition is common practice as well, as is giving people who preorder a little bonus. Okay, I'm still with you EA, but this is where sanity ends. Like previously stated; facebook games, purchasing unrelated full games, buying fake weapons from a subsidiary, being a member of the EA social network, newsletters, blah blah. Combining all this together starts to turn the stomach. One begins to wish for the days of horse armor!

EA and Bioware aren't the only offenders, but DA2 makes it all too easy to use them as the prime example.

Streamlining

"Streamlining" is a relatively new term to the gaming industry. In other industries the word means: "to make more efficient" or "to build an ugly camper out of flashy materials and then overcharge for the name." (Airstream for the uninformed) The first is used on the business end to make more money (efficiency through subtraction). In reality, streamlining in videogames is more along the lines of the last meaning. They take what made the first game great and then cut features, redirect focus onto more mainstream game-play, up the Hollywood factor, shorten the game, and bank on name recognition to sell copies. These are touted as great things as they supposedly "enhance the flow" or "allow more people to experience the game." In other words, they enhance the flow of money directed into the producer's war chest by changing the game to suit these hypothetical casual players who were afraid of the rich game-play and story of the first game.

airstream

Cash plz

Streamlining in rare cases does help a game. Look at Mass Effect 2. This, however, is less of a testament to streamlining as it is to how clunky the original game was. Mass Effect 1 was never known for its deep game-play, so turning up the action was a good thing. The majority of games that are streamlined into a sequel do nothing but disenfranchise the fans who originally made the game a success. Casuals do not build new IPs. Core, dedicated players turn high quality original titles into major successes because they support games during their infancy. We see this all the time in the music industry. Core fans that supported their favorite bands while they were playing in the cellar of a bar lose interest when the corporate producers turn the band into marionettes, lines connected directly to the CEO's fingers. They call these bands sell outs, which fits here as well.

I'm not saying I do not want a sequel to be different from the first game, not at all. I want it to be innovative if they are going to change the formula. Addition by subtraction is a way to make something better, but it isn't the only technique that should be used.

Price Hikes

Price is always a delicate balance between many factors of which very educated individuals spend a life time studying. On the surface, game prices have been rather steady this generation in terms of a retail price. PC games have seen a recent jump to 59.99 which, in my opinion, is not justified in the same way that console games were. The reason is tied to the console manufacturer taking a sizeable royalty on each disk pressed for their system. PCs, on the other hand, are entirely open and there is not an entity which demands a royalty for the system's use. It seems strange that a bump in the price of PC games is needed especially when one considers most PC games are now ports or an afterthought of a mostly console game.

The less obvious price increases are concealed in the cost of DLC, collector's editions, and special versions of the games. To get the full experience from a lot of newer games the player must purchase upgraded versions of the title. Gone are the days of the collector's editions housing figurines, maps, and other fun-to-fans yet unnecessary items. Today these upgraded versions are piled high with many hours of additional content, exclusive weapons, codes for clubs, and other content which was developed at the same time as the title. It begs the question, which version is the full game the developers originally designed before it was butchered into different tiers by corporate accountants?

I thought DLC was supposed to lengthen the experience through episodic content and mini-expansions, not create a tiered monetary structure for dividing content from which producers and developers could reap more profits from fans at launch.

exiled prince

I will help you on your quest, for a modest price.

Big Deal, Right?

I know some people will think I am making a big deal out of nothing. Most of those DLC things for DA2 are only items anyway! You would be right. As of right now, it isn't game breaking. A purchase of DA2 without any of the DLC benefits will certainly give the player their money's worth with 40+ hours of game-play and such. This is not my argument though.

Simply take a look back in time. Step back to when Oblivion came out and then horse armor quickly followed. Now look at what they are doing with it. Pressuring people into preordering so they get all the content, packing major storylines in with collector's editions, begging for facebook friends to get an item, and the list goes on. It has only been 5 years since the introduction of horse armor and look at how DLC has permeated our buying experience. Oblivion DLC was created after the true game came out, now DLC is considered at the concept stage. Before the first wire frame is drawn, they are thinking of ways to break up the content to milk your wallet.

I, for one, am not going to support the model. I've decided to put off my DA2 purchase until the ultimate edition comes out at which time I will purchase the full experience for a reasonable price.

I am not against DLC adding to the game after release, but it kills me to see content created in tandem with the original game to cash in on day one.

Your turn

Do you think it will get a lot worse?

Do the DLC pack ins affect your buying decision?

Do you think DLC is worth the time and money?

Easy Writing Tips that Make You Look Half-Way Smart (or Not Like a Moron)

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The internet butchered the English language. We all know this fact. Quick abbreviations make for faster typing hence making it easier to push more content. However, if the content written is filled with grammatical errors and misspellings then the reader will either question the accuracy of the piece or simply skip it entirely. The Queen's English is not needed per se, but there are a few things to watch out for when typing which, if taken into account, will immediately give the reader confidence in the piece.

I'm not saying to use all these in every forum post. I am saying that if you want (intelligent) people to take you seriously on blogs, in essays, and in other more formal written projects then take these into consideration.

Ditch The Abbreviations and Frankenwords

Gtg, ty, idk, and imo are all common abbreviations used daily on the internet. These are great to use when sending a text to a friend or making a quick forum post. They are not good to use when trying to convey a strong opinion or when informing others on a topic which you care about. Take the time to write in such a way that does not need cliché abbreviations. It will give the point you are emphasizing more meaning and make you look like you know what you are talking about (especially if you are debating against a person which is littering their posts with lolz, tl;dr, etc.)

As for frankenwords, use the same rule; ditch them completely. Cya, dunno, and others do not belong in a piece you care about.

Run a Quick Spell Check

Most web browsers come with spell checking capabilities. Use them to your advantage. If you see an underlined word then take the time to click it to find the correct spelling. Not only does it make you look like you care about your writing, it also eases the experience of reading for your audience. Misspellings sit out like a sore thumb and cause the flow of the sentence to be interrupted so the reader's brain can analyze the word to figure out what the author meant.

If you have the time, copy and paste the article into a word processor and use the grammar tool as well. This is especially important if it is to be published to a serious blog.

Kill Run-On Sentences But Don't Make Them Too Short

Long sentences can confuse the reader and become a grammatical nightmare. Short sentences can sound juvenile and boring. Too many medium sentences can be monotonous. So, what do you do? Vary them. Longer sentences are great for packing in layers of detail or discussing deep technical issues. Short sentences can show action or state facts. Use a variety of sentence lengths to keep the reader engaged. A good indicator of sentence lengths is to find the average of your piece. Take a standard paragraph, and count the number of sentences. Then count the number of words. Divide the number of words by the number of sentences. A number under ~13 means the sentences are too short and a number over ~23 means they may be too long.

The previous paragraph is ~10 words per sentence, which is too short. However, the standard deviation was ~4.5 which means there was a lot of variation in my sentence lengths. Standard deviation is not as easy as average sentence length to calculate and is not necessary.Although, it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a normal paragraph that represents your writing style and then calculate the standard deviation to see if you need to work on varying the sentence length. A standard deviation of two or more should be sufficient.

Refresh Yourself on the Basics of Grammar

I still make mistakes all the time. English is a very hard language to fully understand, and even if you do having a grasp on every single rule then you will still be confused by the contradictions and cross-over of the rules. Here are some easy ones to remember:

  • Use a comma before a conjunction only if each sentence can stand on its own. Example: I am going to the grocery store, and I am going to pick up some milk. Do not use a comma if the one side is a fragment (dependent clause). Example: I am going to the grocery store and the gym.
  • Use a comma after a dependent clause. Example: Because I like to go skating, I went to the roller-rink after class.
  • "I" is the subject of a sentence, and "me" is the object of a sentence. Example: I went to the park. A friend went with me to the park.
  • Subject/verb agreement. Example (wrong): The groups is going to the park. Example (correct): The groups are going to the park.
  • A modifier must be clearly labeled. Example (wrong): When angry, I fight people. Example (correct): When I am angry, I fight people. (Clumsy but correct.)
  • MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Use the correct verb tense! This can single handedly make you look like a fool if not done correctly. Example (awful): I seen them walking. Example (correct): I saw them walking. Example (awful): I tooken the test today. Example (correct): I took the test today. The test has been taken.

Keep in Mind

The best thing to do is to simply read what you wrote. If the sentence sounds bad, then it most likely is.Proof reading not only gives you a chance to reevaluate the point you were making, but also allows you to get a feel of the flow of your article. Proof reading does not take long to do (unless you wrote a novel in which case this article should be trivial to you) but can give your audience a much easier and enjoyable experience.

I hope this helped a few of you guys! By the way, I'm sure I made many grammatical errors, but don't hurt me!

The State of the PS3

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ps3 cracked

It has been a relatively crime free life inside the circuits of Sony's PS3. The pipelines were clear of dubious data and the servers were protected from nefarious killjoys. Life was, however, thrown into turmoil for a brief period of time at the beginning of 2010 by a youngster from New Jersey. Sony quickly patched the leak, the hacker fled, and all was well.

Sony has done a great job keeping its system boarded from the numerous hacking groups and kid wonders. Apparently, they can't stop them when they join forces. The best of the first and the most famous of the second collaborated and their goals have been realized. The PS3 is completely and utterly defenseless. No firmware will patch this security leak. It is only a matter of time before numerous hacks become available.

What happened?

January 26, 2010: George Hotz exposes the OtherOS exploit to the public, the first PS3 hack.

March 28, 2010: Sony kills the OtherOS feature effectively disabling the hack. Hotz vows to find a work around.

July 13, 2010: Hotz decides to give up on the PS3.

~End of Dec, 2010: fail0verflow gives presentation on security exploit in PS3.

January 6, 2011: Hotz shows homebrew running on current PS3 firmware and the internet exploded.

Piracy:

Piracy is the obvious implication of this security exploit. On the first of January there were practically no pirated copies of PS3 games on the various torrent sites. Sony has been worry-free from pirates for over 3 years while MS and Nintendo have had to contend with pirated games almost since day one. If we look at it generally, we would think this isn't that big of a deal since MS and Nintendo do fine with hacked systems. However, if we take a closer look, we see a difference in this scenario which puts Sony in trouble.

The 360 and Wii have been hacked for quite awhile. The saving grace is that the hacks are not trivial to perform for a "lay person." The 360 requires either hardware modification or a tedious reflash of the hard drive that can only be done if the HDD is directly connected to a PC. The Wii requires hardware modifications as well or a software modification which requires very particular steps. The scary part for Sony and non-pirates is theoretically the PS3 needs no modification, software or hardware. They have the encryption keys and could use software on a burnt disc or USB to run the game/programs.

The Wii may be easy to mod, but the Wii made money on every console sold for Nintendo. This is not the case for the PS3. Sony took a large hit on each console sold and hopes to make up for that cost by the consumer purchasing games or movies. With this hack, Sony not only loses potential game sales they also take a massive hit on the consoles which never paid for themselves.

PSN Hacking

As early as January 13th the first developer confirmed the security exploits are causing major problems for players playing on their gaming servers. From annoying hacks such as curse words on status bars to major stat hacks, the Call of Duty franchise is being bombarded by cheaters and hacks. Activision thought the problem was exclusive to the Modern Warfare series of games because they rely on the standard PS3 encryption, but Black Opts is also having major problems. Some have even reported rumors of the servers potentially being brought down due to rampant hacking issues.

On top of poor multiplayer experiences, there are also people fudging their trophy scores. Hackers are unlocking trophies without completing them.

When the Dust Settles

A lot has happened in the last 2 weeks and more is sure to come. One thing is certain; PS3 will never be the same. I've been a supporter of Sony's PS3, MS's 360, and Nintendo's Wii since they launched. I've never pirated a game on any of those systems. It is sad to see the PS3 in its current form and, as a supporter; I feel these pirates are only raising the cost while simultaneously lowering the experience for the legal gamers. Botched multiplayer, totally compromised security and a future of free games flying off the web are all things Sony is going to have to deal with.

The worst part is Sony being punished for releasing a relatively open system from the start. The launch PS3 had the OtherOS feature which allowed users to install a linux based system on the console. They let the user connect practically any blue tooth device without proprietary hook ups. The user could also install any standard sized HDD without paying a huge Sony tax.

Hackers exploited OtherOS forcing Sony to can the feature.

I bet the next PS (if there is one) will be entirely closed. Thanks hackers…

What's your point of view?

New Games for $39.99 says THQ

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The price of games is a big issue for a lot of gamers. 59.99 for new games has been the norm for console gamers since this current generation launched. Recently, 59.99 has started to creep its way into the PC market which, to my surprise, has been awfully quiet about the price hike.

Announced yesterday, THQ says that is the wrong direction to go. They are seeing decent sales at 59.99, but the games really start to move as soon as they lower the price to around 39.99. However, by that time the game's hype has faded and the game is no longer in the minds of many gamers. To capture a larger audience THQ has decided to start pushing out games for only 39.99 a launch.

I'm really glad to see this happen. I know for myself the 59.99 dollar price is a huge barrier, mostly psychological. I feel somewhat guilty buying a game for 60 dollars that I may only play 6-10 hours. I normally buy only 2-3 games at full price in a year and those are only games I've been waiting a long time to get my hands on. 39.99 is certainly in the impulse buy range for me, especially at launch.

There is a catch though. THQ plans to push out more DLC to compensate. It is unknown whether they will cut the games into pieces or hold back content. This may sound bad on the surface, but in reality I think an ala carte type purchase would be interesting. Perhaps buy the MP or SP separately or purchase half the story and if you like it, purchase the rest. I usually only complete 50% of a game on average, so this could work out quite nicely. It could be a bad thing as well. Time will tell.

Hopefully this works for THQ, as the last thing we need in this economy are game prices going even higher. Check out the full story at: Here

Dumbed Down FPSs

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Dumbed Down FPSs

The first person shooter has long been one of the most popular and, arguably, the most controversial genre in the gaming industry. It all started from a humble beginning on the University of Illinois' computer network with the game Spasim. This was the first documented game which was played from the first person perspective. FPSs took another twenty years to really take off with the release of Wolfenstein 3D in 1992 which was followed by the c|assic, Doom. These two titles moved away from the wireframe 3D graphics of old and transformed the world into vivid color. Technically, it was hardly 3D at all as almost every object was a sprite pasted onto a specific place and scaled to create the illusion of 3D. It wasn't until the explosion of Quake in 1996 that 3D graphics began to flex its muscles. From here on we can simply name c|assicc after c|assic:

1997- Golden Eye

1998- Half-Life, Rainbow Six, Tribes, Unreal

1999- Medal of Honor, Unreal Tournament, Quake III, Counter Strike

2000- Deus Ex

Spasim

First FPS: Spasim: 32 players online and chat!

We fly through hundreds of great FPS games to come to where we are today. On the precipice of the most anticipated FPS launch of the year, Call of Duty: Black Ops. This FPS should be the culmination of all those past titles, the very best of the best with all the lessons learned from the past plus a bit of extra added to the top. It should destroy the bar set by last year and place its own ever higher.

However, I feel it won't do any of those things. I believe FPSs have become a blueprint for a cash machine which the producers churn out year after year. Let me explain my reasoning…

Start->Corridor->Credits

In the c|assic FPS games of the 1990's a player had to not only clear countless baddies, but they could also scavenge, search, and explore their world to find extra power-ups, collect story items, find secret stashes, or simply to enjoy exploration for what it is. The levels were designed over enormous areas with many secret chambers, mini-bosses, and various ways to progress the story. The fun was had through rewarding exploration and because the levels were so sprawling the player felt they truly were in a real-world location without bounds.

Modern shooter

Follow me down the tight, well defined mountain pass while we slowly fight endless enemies until we get to the waypoint. By the way, you may slip and fall in which case I will quickly grab you, expertly pose for a second as to create suspense, and then pull you back up into the action.

Today the fights are larger than ever and the battles scenes more epic than even some movies, but there is a constant feeling of disconnect. Although there is an enormous battlefield in front of me, I can only follow this trench or there just happens to be a minefield 10ft to each side of me all the time. Although the world looks large, the player's world is tiny. I constantly want to set out to explore and try to fight the battle my own way, but the game boxes me into a predefined path with fixed win conditions. The developers know players love to see new things and explore, so they try a bit of misdirection with cut-scenes or scripted events to keep the player's mind on something other than the boxed in dimensions of their corridor. Find that cheese little mousy.

Nothing sums this up better than the following image:

Map comparison

To the left we have Doom, to the right we have a modern FPS game.

Some games break away from that formula, but not usually. Some recent games that let the player explore are STALKER and Far Cry.

Puzzles are for Sissies

I remember first playing the original Half-Life. The most memorable parts of that game are not the fighting but the puzzle solving and interesting situations the developer put the player into. Having to figure out how to get the train running again or trying to get the reactor back online were some of the problems the player had to solve. It was much more than simply shooting some dudes and flipping a switch. Today, we are lucky if we get even one level where any logical thought is needed at all. The rest of the time it is simply duck, pop up and shoot, duck to reload/recover hp, pop up, repeat. I'm not saying it isn't fun, but some puzzle solving is a great way to break up the action.

Farcry

Hmmm, should I run and gun, stealth kill, or simply by-pass this base? It is up to you.

With the today's extremely powerful physics and graphics engines, one would think the developers could come up with some amazing puzzles but it seems the only developer doing that anymore is Valve and HL2 was almost 6 years ago!

Another issue is letting the player choose the path to victory. Should I shoot every bad guy or try to cleverly sneak around? Deus Ex always gave the player the choice, Far Cry as well. Not in the typical FPS though, not anymore.

The Passion

With most big budget FPS games these days it seems the single player campaign is slowly being killed off. Each year they get 30min-1hour shorter and the story is practically nonexistent. There is not a well crafted tale of the struggle to survive, no deep meaning layered between a twisting plot line, and there are certainly not any memorable characters to cherish.

What is left today is the husk of the former giant. Below the high intensity cut-scenes, the highly scripted Hollywood events, and the beautiful graphics is a 4 hour corridor shooter.

I hope CoD:BO breaks this cycle, but I highly doubt it.

This is not about MP and please note there are the few FPS games that come out that are like the ones in the past, but sadly they are mostly over looked by the general public.

Pay Money to See Adverts? Lol Blizz

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So, I went to Worldofwarcraft.com to check out new cataclysm stuff since I've been out of the loop for about 6 months and wanted to see what's in store for November. I was perusing their site and noticed a Virtual Blizz-con feature. I thought, that would be fun to see some of the stuff they are releasing without having to fly out there and personally experience it (which I never have.) So I clicked the link. I was reading through the description, HD stream-nice, live feed-nice, etc etc. Then I noticed the "order" button. I thought, "lol wut?" I clicked the link to see what this was all about and was gobsmacked by...39.99. That's right! Blizz will stream to you 50 hours worth of advertisements for upcoming features, products, and events not for free to get you to buy them and to build hype, but you must pay THEM. I got a good lul out of that.

The kicker is that you get access to special world of warcraft merchandise with your E-ticket purchase. THANKS BLIZZ!

Do they actually sell these things?

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