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Comment: Re:Boycott ASDA (Score 2) 164

by RogueyWon (#48210823) Attached to: U.K. Supermarkets Beta Test Full-Body 3D Scanners For Selfie Figurines

The two are hardly competing for the same market. Waitrose is aiming for the aspirational middle classes. Asda is... not.

If you have the kind of household budget which means you shop at Asda, then making the switch to Waitrose is probably not a realistic option.

Though on the few occasions I've eaten Asda food, their meat has had this weird texture, like it's already been digested once.

Comment: Re:Looks good (Score 2) 127

by RogueyWon (#48109747) Attached to: London Unveils New Driverless Subway Trains

That's how London Underground, as well as other highly congested services in London (Overground, DLR and, increasingly, some of the short-distance "heavy rail" commuter trains) are configured. Crowding levels during the morning peak are intense and removing seats is a way to cram more people on.

By and large, the way it works is that if you are commuting from one of the outer zones (5 or 6) into the center, your train won't be as busy when you get on it and you should be able to get one of those seats, which is lucky as with the Tube being a full-stopping service, you are in for a long journey. If you're commuting from one of the more central zones (2 or 3) you are much more likely to have to stand, but on the other hand, you do have a shorter journey.

Obviously, it works better on some parts of the network than others. And it's a fairly brutal environment to commute in, particularly if you have a particular reason (disability, pregnancy) that makes standing uncomfortable - somebody might offer you a seat, but it's the exception rather than the norm at rush hour. Personally, I think people who live in north London and commute via the Tube are mad. I'm south of the river in Zone 5 and get a seat on a nice, non-stop "heavy rail" train that gets me to the center in 20 minutes or so every morning.

Comment: Re:I've been wondering why this took so long (Score 5, Informative) 127

by RogueyWon (#48109715) Attached to: London Unveils New Driverless Subway Trains

London also has driverless trains on its (more recent) Docklands Light Railway.

The reason it's news when driverless trains head to the Tube is nothing to do with technology and everything to do with industrial relations. London's Tube Drivers are extremely militant - it's normal to have a couple of strikes per year (sometimes over "normal" industrial disputes like pay, sometimes because, I suspect, they just want to remind people they can do it).

The current Mayor, who has been in post for around 6 years now and who is, to put it mildly, no friend of the unions, has been making threats about automation on and off ever since he was first elected. It's a dangerous game to play, because even the mention of automation is sometimes enough to trigger strikes - you can get rid of the drivers eventually (though probably keeping - lower paid - train attendants), but they can cause you a hell of a lot of pain during the transition.

Comment: Re:Everyone should just say "interesting" (Score 4, Interesting) 295

by RogueyWon (#48089331) Attached to: NASA Study: Ocean Abyss Has Not Warmed

From an intellectual standpoint, I agree with you.

From a real-world standpoint, the problem of the political response in terms of adaptations and mitigations isn't going anywhere and means that almost nobody will do what you suggest. You may not care about the politics, but in practical terms, they are probably the most important thing. With a range of responses in the public debate from "do nothing" at one extreme to "throw away Western civilisation, start living in organic yurts spending our evenings knitting underwear out of hemp" at the other, there's a lot of emotion and political capital invested in this debate. It's only made worse by the number of people who have latched onto the issue as a means to push almost-entirely-unrelated political agendas, mostly far-left, but a few far-right as well.

So in practical terms, this report provides a touch of ammunition to the "do nothing" camp and has the potential to slide opinion slightly in their direction. But, as you say, this time tomorrow, the position may well be reversed and the "organic yurtists" may hold the advantage.

And the last thing either side is going to display is a touch of humility. Useful though that might be.

Comment: Professional vs User reviews (Score 4, Informative) 93

by RogueyWon (#48081103) Attached to: Fixing Steam's User Rating Charts

I've noticed one big difference between the "professional" reviews on major sites and user reviews on Steam/Amazon etc.

By and large, the professional game reviews tend to cluster their scores in the 6/10 - 8/10 range. You have to be exceptionally good to get above that level or exceptionally bad to fall below it. You also - in most cases - get relatively little variation between professional review scores. A game might be 8/10 on one site and 9/10 on another, but it is rare to see a gap larger than 2 or at most 3 points. It does happen - Alien Isolation has had professional reviews ranging from 4/10 to 10/10 - but generally only with unusual games that go outside the usual templates (like Alien Isolation).

User reviews on the other hand, tend to be much more polarised. It's by no means unusual for games to pick up 10/10s from some users and 1/10s for another. Personal biases are much more likely to feature in user reviews ("I'm giving this game a 1/10 because I don't like something the developer said on twitter" or "I'm giving this game a 10/10 because I've spent the last 2 years boring everybody rigid about how good it is going to be and don't want to backtrack"). Often, the scores tend to average out in more or less the same place as the professional reviews once you have enough of both, but with much more divergence on the user reviews.

So which is more useful?

By and large - and with some important caveats - I find the professional reviews more honest and useful. A lot of people complain about the clustering of scores in the 6/10 to 8/10 range, but the nature of the modern games industry (quite risk-averse, with a lot of project oversight) means that most commercially produced games tend to fall into that range. If you assume a 6/10 is "not great, but overall more good than bad" and an 8/10 is "high enjoyable but not ground-breaking", then you're left with a spectrum into which most major releases fit. The industry does throw out the occasional piece of brilliance - which is usually recognised. And sometimes, things go wrong and it throws out the odd turkey (Aliens: Colonial Marines being perhaps the most recent example). When those things happen, most of the big review sites do seem to reflect them.

But those caveats I mentioned before are important. The first is that at the end of the day, the people doing the professional reviews are still human and they still have their own biases, preconceptions and agendas. True, they have people watching them to make sure that they don't give free reign to those... but occasionally, those checks and balances fail. In fact, most of the big review sites have a few known quirks that you learn to watch for. Eurogamer, for instance (which despite the criticism I'm about to hand out, I do, in general, rate highly), has a real Nintendo-nostalgia fetish and a habit of over-scoring first party Nintendo games. At the same time, until fairly recently, it went through a phase of trying to shoehorn political correctness into its reviews and marking down a few games which committed real or perceived transgressions (though I've noticed less of this recently).

The next big caveat with professional reviews is around bugs. The big review sites are often given pre-release copies of games, so that the reviews can go live before release. Indeed, a lack of pre-release reviews is often an early sign that a game will be a turkey (again... Aliens: Colonial Marines had a review embargo until its release day). Thing is, sometimes those review copies are unfinished code. And sometimes they aren't. But regardless, there is a tendancy for professional reviewers to either ignore or to be instructed to ignore bugs, on the basis that "they'll be fixed for release". And, surprise surprise, they often aren't fixed for release. User reviews are often your first warning that a game is a buggy mess - though on PC you do have to try to separate out the inevitable complaints that pop up on every new release's forms to the effect that "it won't run on my 8 year old PC running a pirated and malware-infested copy of the Polish version of Windows 2000".

And the third caveat is, of course, around the risk that professional reviews might have a "bought and paid for" element to them. We all remember the Kane & Lynch scandal from a few years back and there have been other (less prominent) cases since then. Certainly, when you see a positive review for a site which is plastered with full-screen adverts for that game, it's natural to smell a rat.

But of course, in the age of astroturfing, you also have no guarantee that a user-review hasn't been posted by an employee of the developer/publisher or a marketing firm employed on their behalf.

Comment: Re:Ratings and Time Served (Score 1) 93

by RogueyWon (#48080995) Attached to: Fixing Steam's User Rating Charts

I'm not at my home PC right now, so I can't check, but I think this is one of those sim-games that gets annual-ish auto-updates for everybody who already bought it. If it's in any way related to Railworks, then it certainly is.

What occasionally happens in cases like that is that a version "upgrade" turns out to be a less than positive experience, as long-established features break or are removed. But Steam doesn't reset your "time played" count in those cases. So it's quite possible that these are people who have been playing the game for years and are complaining about the latest forced-update.

On the other hand, we're talking about rail enthusiasts here... so maybe it does just take 800 hours for them to start getting bored.

Comment: Re:Someone wanted an Xbox One at launch??? (Score 3, Informative) 67

by RogueyWon (#48046015) Attached to: How Hackers Accidentally Sold a Pre-Release XBox One To the FBI

Actually, lots of people wanted an Xbox One at launch. The XB1's sales curve has been really weird.

It had pretty great month-1 sales. It would have had the fastest month-1 sales of any console in history - if it hadn't launched alongside the PS4 (which broke the previous records by an even larger margin). But some time shortly after Christmas, the sales basically flatlined. First MS switched to talking about "units shipped" rather than "units sold" and then it stopped issuing new numbers at all.

By piecing together bits and pieces of retailer and regional sales data, it's possible to get a broad understanding of where the console stands now. Having originally been tipped to pass the Wii-U and take second-place in current gen sales somewhere around April, it appears that it probably only did so some time in September (and indeed, it certainly hasn't officially been announced yet, so there's at least an outside chance it's still in third). It's had several significant sales blips, driven first by the price cut when Kinnect was removed and then again by Destiny, but background sales outside of these blips have been generally very slow throughout 2014.

It's actually pretty similar to (though marginally better than) the sales profile for the Wii-U. That console actually sold well during its first 6 weeks or so on sale, before flatlining. Each first-party Nintendo game since then has caused a small 1-week spike in sales, but after Mario Kart, diminishing returns appear to be kicking in.

In regional terms, The Xbox One appears to be in a fairly solid second place in the US (behind the PS4), a distant second place in Europe (again behind the PS4) and third place in Japan. Indeed, the PS4 is also doing badly in Japan - home console gaming is dying in that market and even the Wii-U (which holds first place there) is doing badly compared to the last gen consoles.

The Xbox One does still have a few big irons in the fire and isn't quite in a Wii-U style Last Chance Saloon yet (if Smash Bros and Bayonetta 2 don't turn around the Wii-U's fortunes this Christmas, the console essentially can be considered dead). Forza Horizon 2 is a fairly big draw and Halo 5 will be a bigger one. But MS have certainly gone backwards since the days of the 360, when they dominated the US and managed a reasonable draw with Sony in Europe. In marketshare terms, the Xbox One looks a lot more like the original Xbox.

Though in general terms, this has been an extremely boring year for console games anyway. People get excited about new console releases, forgetting that they tend to be followed by 12 months during which there isn't much worth playing for them. It's always the later years of the cycle that are more fun in terms of game releases.

Comment: Re:Just Kill Microsoft Already (Score 1) 365

by RogueyWon (#47997787) Attached to: Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

By any measurable metric, the US economy has rebounded from recession far better than the Eurozone. GDP growth, unemployment... take your pick.

And the comparable growth rates you cite since 1989 are based, in Argentina's case on a "percentage of fuck all".

Military coups are the kind of thing that happen in a society that does not abide by the rule of law and respect property rights - which is exactly the kind of society you have been advocating. The moment the US embarked upon a programme of nationalisation of industries like Microsoft would be the moment that the US economy crashed with a speed (and irreversibility) that would take the world by shock. You think you have new solutions? They're the same failed "solutions" that have been tried for a hundred years or so around the world, leaving nothing but disaster in their wake.

Comment: Re:Just Kill Microsoft Already (Score 1) 365

by RogueyWon (#47995633) Attached to: Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

Yes! Why not kill off all of the major companies in one of the shrinking number of industries in which the US remains a world leader?

That will help massively.

And 20 years later, the Indians will be complaining about cheap illegal immigrants from the US taking all of the menial jobs in their country.

Comment: Re:Just Kill Microsoft Already (Score 1) 365

by RogueyWon (#47995557) Attached to: Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

Currency has nothing to do with it.

Or rather, a Government which showed it was happy to nationalise a private company's assets on such flimsy pretences as you put forward would forfeit its nation's ability to do any kind of business on the world stage. Nobody would care about doing business in the US when it became clear that the moment the US Government didn't like them, it would nationalise their assets.

So the US dollar would quickly reach (and then fall below) parity with the Mexican Peso.

It will, of course, never happen. Thank god.

Comment: Re:Just Kill Microsoft Already (Score 1) 365

by RogueyWon (#47992993) Attached to: Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

Because that wouldn't have any wider consequences at all...

Like perhaps a total flight from the US of almost every other significant business (on the grounds that "we might be next"), a total economic collapse and a catastrophic reduction in living standards.

Certain parts of South America are performing this particular experiment for our education at the moment. Watch how that pans out before wishing to see it replicated in your own country.

Comment: Re:Voliunteer workers for the IRS? (Score 2) 246

by RogueyWon (#47844667) Attached to: Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks


Legal tax-loopholes generally come into being because lawmakers decide that they want to use taxation to do something other than raise the funds they require. Countries/states with very simple tax-systems generally tend to have fewer such loopholes. But when lawmakers decide that they want to use the tax system to encourage X type of business or discourage Y behavior, they add complexity. Over time, that complexity reaches the point where companies can design themselves so as to maximize the discounts they qualify for and minimize the penalties. And once they can do so, the board of a PLC actually have a duty to their shareholders to do so.

If you lawmakers (and the voters who elect them) accept that tax is just a tool for revenue raising and not an instrument of social policy, then such situations can be avoided and overall revenues increased.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.