XBOX One and the end of freedom!

Well today, for video gamers everywhere, was the day Microsoft showed XBOX One to the world. Usually, every time a system goes into next gen it stirs up tons of rumors, anticipation, and even fears. The Wii U has been out for awhile now to tepid sales and worries, Sony announced the PS4 and seems to be on the right track, and today was Microsoft’s big day.

Being a big fan of the XBox 360 as my platform of choice last generation, I had some optimism going into today. Though it was peppered with some worries. There have been these persistent rumors of always online connected system with a type of digital rights management scheme built in to prevent piracy. It’s all the rage these days. Ask EA all about it. But it was so over the top that it almost seemed unbelievable. Talking to friends there would be laughs at how crazy any of these big brother type schemes would be if it happened. Well… Microsoft is going in that direction.

During the unveiling today we got a glimpse of the system. It’s not awesome looking, to be sure. It’s not ugly either. Really, it looks to me like a giant PVR as when the PVR was first invented. Granted, the system might find some alterations to its look by the time it rolls out but suffice it to say many people are not thrilled. But that is cosmetics and not the heart of the issue.

It was said that if you tried to have an always online system you would be basically shooting your company in the head. The argument is that not everyone has the same type of service: there are download caps, bandwidth issues, and outages to take into consideration. Well, Microsoft says to hell with all your fears and yeah the system is always connected. There is some contention as to what consists of always online. Even Microsoft themselves seem uncertain. The general idea is that every 24 hours, your system checks if it’s online. If it isn’t then too bad, you can no longer play your games. So it’s not “always online” but you better have a connection at some point during the day.

This day and age I see less of a probability of being connected online at some point, however the implementation of a system where I cannot play a game on my $400-$500 device because I have no internet connection is mind boggling. It’s actually pretty offensive to consumers, really. It’s not the end all be all, however I see the inherent dangers of such a structure for it to fail.

Speaking of games, another point of contention has been the used game market. Companies seem to be really bothered that when you buy a game, you might want to sell it. God forbid you get some money back and get another game with it. Game Stop or EB  Games have been the hub of all used game activity and it’s really their bread and butter. Well, as a giant  middle finger to them and consumers, you can trade your games… online via a Microsoft concocted service to be announced and further detailed. Even lending a game to a friend seems to be out of the question. Well, I say out of the question but you can lend the game. However Microsoft wants your friend who borrowed your game to actually pay the MSRP to play it. So that means purchase it right.

All of this early information is quite scary and definitely not the Hello World for a new product you want. In fact, this type of marketing is probably the polar opposite to what any sane company should be doing. However, that being said, I should stress that this is very very early news that is coming out and communication on Microsoft’s side from what I have been reading is out of whack with conflicting statements. It will probably take a week to get everything somewhat clarified but if this is indeed all factual then this generation of gaming seems to be in quite some trouble.

I wrote an entry on digital rights mismanagement around the time the Sim City fiasco was going strong but I think the idea applies to this. At what point as a consumer who purchases games do we lose the right to that game. Do we even have rights when we buy the game? Technically you buy a game and it should be yours right? I should be able to give that game I spent my hard earned money on to a friend or family member, right? And what about your system? Isn’t that the same concept? Very troubling indeed if all these measures come into effect.

Kotaku article on your ability to trade your XBOX One games

Kotaku article on requiring an internet connection for XBOX One

 

 

Food for Thought: Digital Rights Mismanagement

If your a gamer you probably heard about the now famous Sim City crisis. If not then to quickly sum things up you have this game which recently released however it is an always online games. It was being billed as designed specifically to be played online so that your part of a greater community and share ressources, etc. Basically a more communal Sim City where everyone lives in harmony.

Sounds great right? Well in theory it does however a large portion of fans wanted a solitary Sim City experience. All the other Sim City games were offline. But as gamers we know something is generally amiss these days when a game is always online and that’s DRM. Yup, this is rearing it’s ugly head again.

Whenever I hear about DRM I cringe. I just cannot understand this concept. I cannot understand that a company intends to sell me a game that has either a limited use (number of activations) or needs to always have an active connection to the internet (to verify the authenticity).  Essentially these days with DRM your not really owning your games anymore. I avoid these types of games at all costs as I think it is pretty bold on the publishers part to be so insulting to it’s consumers.

So let’s take Sim City. Ok so we know in the back of our heads DRM is really what they are aiming for. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. Well so does this EA employee who had comments posted on Forbes. In his comments he bashes his employer for not following their core values and not respecting the consumers. Kudos to him! More companies should follow their core values but corporate politics tends to take precedence.

So consumers rightfully cried fowl at EA for this in which they then pointed to finger of blame to Maxis which is humorous when you think of it. It’s like seeing a shit storm coming and then going whoa, it was the other guy I swear. In the end all are to blame as this was in the planning all along. But that wasn’t the end of Sim City miserable life.

So you bought your always online game, you pop it in on release days and….servers not functioning. Not only were they not functioning but it took about a week or so to get things playable and playable is a strong word as from what everyone has been saying. The game is still not very playable.

Maxis went on the defensive claiming online was all along planned, nothing further to see here, sorry about the disturbance. They also said that Sim City is like an MMO. Yeah I face palmed on that one too. They also tried selling us on the idea that their servers behind the scenes were working wondrous magic making computations and simulating. It could not possibly be played offline and how dare we demand such nonsense.

But Maxis and EA have forgotten that gamers are geeks. Geeks are coders sometimes. Sometimes geeks can find out that your game has a line of code that forces a termination of the game after 20 minutes.Ouch!!

That was embarrassing. But then again, Maxis and EA were still saying how online was the vision and that the servers were still needed to make the magic happen. Well maybe they should find out who from Maxis basically confirmed at Rock, Paper, Shotgun that servers were not handling anything serious.

But with all these problems it’s not just a symptom of a bad game design and not listening to your customers. It’s about controlling their purchases and plain faced lying to them in any conceivable manner to hide what is really going on. What is really going on is that the consumer is getting screwed.

Since computers became so popular there has always been piracy. We don’t condone it at all but it happens and will happen. There has never been any anti piracy method that has not been cracked by someone which means every attempt at control has failed. And for what? Has the investment in these methods not outweighed the gain by now. Loss of consumer confidence, boycott’s and almost indirectly encouraging people to pirate their games out of spite.

It still doesn’t seem to resonate with companies though. They are still trying and even the new Xbox seem’s to be heading towards the always-on, always connected method. Which begs to question will we even be proper owners of the console of the future? And do we really own our games anymore? I feel like it’s the most expensive rental from Blockbuster ever.

To top it off when these servers all come down eventually we are stranded with a $60 plastic case and a disc of a game we can no longer play. At least there will be no mistaking who own’s that plastic case. We do and it is not nearly as fun as the game we thought we owned.

And that is some food for thought

 

d20 Epic Engagement Ring

This falls into a bit of random news territory but awesome nonetheless. Babelglyph proposed to her girlfriend but this was no ordinary ring. No this was a special ring made of pure awesome. Head on over to the link below to view the ring, a video of the proposal and a look at the chainmail box it came in. Oh yes, I said chainmail box.

D20 Engagement ring a critical success via IO9

Ni no Kuni is now in stores!

For those fans of animation and video games, Studio Ghibli teamed up with the developer Level 5 for this truly unique RPG called Ni no Kuni. It has been getting rave reviews from gaming sites but unfortunately I have personally not go my hands on it yet. Damn you gaming backlog!! But for those looking for an awesome RPG experience, I hear this is a great one.

A Personal Paranormal Tale

Well this is a bit personal but falls under the realm of geeky yet potentially interesting. Do you believe in spooks, spectres or ghosts? Well I do and I don’t particularly affiliate myself with a particular religious belief system. I simply believe that spirits exists and open minded about other paranormal phenomena. I was always fascinated as a child about the ramifications of the existence of such a thing. You have the geeky side of you thats like ‘COOL!!’ and then it opens the door to what else is out there that we do not understand. So follow me on my little journey.

It was about five years ago and my wife’s parents passed away in a tragic car accident a week or two after I spent christmas at their home. They left behind three children. Obviously the moment was full of raw emotions on all sides. The impact that is hard to comprehend or put into words unless you experience it yourself. However during this time the family was searching for meaning into it all. One of my wife’s brothers almost went with her parents, her parents almost took the van but it would not start that particular day for no apparent reason yet it worked when we needed to drive it. Coincidences…

However a few days after the events my wife and I were settling in for the night in bed with the cat all curled up. I am not sure if anyone has ever experienced a house where someone has passed away but there is a palpable weight. That particular night though as we settled in bed, a heavy feeling came over myself. It was a feeling that something was not right. Nerves perhaps. I was doing my best at the time to fill a certain emotional void. Maybe it was stress but I wasn’t feeling stressed. It was simply unsettling.

Suddenly the cat stared at the doorway to the room and fixated there. She was ready to run from something. My wife mentioned how odd it was and then noted the same thing that I felt. A heavy feeling to the room. It was sudden. The cat indeed bolted out of the room and you could almost feel the heavy feeling move along in the room. We were just scared because we both felt something was there.

Years pass and we move into our current home with our son who is only a few months old. We managed to settle in and life was good. Our son would play with his toys and act like any baby. However we started noticing something strange. Sometimes our son would lay on his back and start giggling or cooing as if being tickled and interacted with. We knew it from our interactions with him but it just happened. It happened only on a few occasions that he would do this. We questioned if it was just natural or maybe someone was checking in on him.

Now two years old our son is running around, speaking more and growing very fast. But we still have the same odd experiences. Since our son has a small set of vocabualrly to go with he talks and talks with what he has. When we put him to bed his gabs to himself. But sometimes he talks to ‘something’. There is his typical playful talking but again it’s like he is interacting with someone.

A week ago as we were in bed we suddenly hear a bang coming from the bathroom of the toilet seat closing. We wondered what happened. Was it a cat or our dog. The dog was in our room, the cats were downstairs. Going into the bathroom I find a candle we keep on top of the toilet as decoration turned upside down near the end of the closed seat. Looking at it I could not understand how it could happen. The candle would have rolled off the seat or if it somehow landed flush would have been more to the rear.

Today my son looks to a picture we keep of my wife’s parents. We showed it to him maybe twice before but today he looks at it and says grandma. We found it odd but pass it off as maybe he just connected it with that previous time somehow. Sometimes kids bring up the strangest things right. Then we are all sitting at the table for dinner and our son turns around and says grandpa gone while pointing.

Finally two nights ago my wife is sleeping and I have the annoying habit of waking her up as I slip into bed after watching a movie or The Daily Show. So we both curl up and try to get some sleep when my wife suddenly lets out a loud Ahhhh!! while shifting to my side. I was just about to doze off when this startled me awake. I was a tad annoyed about almost being asleep and waking up and also concerned. I asked her what was wrong and she turned to me and said something had grabed her foot.

Believe what you will of course and mind you all these things could be explained but coincidences, false perceptions and emotional distress however these are indeed odd occurences. I cannot help but simply wonder. Being a fan of gothic horror, horror, mystery, etc rpg settings I cannot help but be intrigued by it while at the same time somewhat fearful of the unknown. What lurks in the space between? Do we want to know? Will we end up there?

Do you have any experiences?

Off Topic: A Signature by Hulk Hogan

Ok this is friday and I am just shooting the shit this morning. I had the awesome luck of getting a signed copy of Hulk Hogan’s new book “My Life Outside The Ring”. Now I don’t really go in for biographies but I have been a huge fan of his since I was a kid. Well probably one of MANY children. He pretty much expanded the entertainment industry in ways probably unexpected. I figured why pass up the chance so voila. I hear he is a partner in the new TNA Wrestling organization and plans on pushing for more old school style of wrestling where they actually have to be creative on the spot rather then be handed scripts like WWE. I think that’s totally wicked as being a wrestling fan it has dumbed down too much in the WWE and lost what made it special. Anyways thats my little off topic post, now back to RPG gaming lol

Hulk Hogan Signature