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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.

Comment: Didn't get caught... (Score 2) 231

by RogueyWon (#47833565) Attached to: Did you use technology to get into mischief as a child?

My school, back in the early/mid 90s was a really good one, save in one respect; IT. They didn't have any proper IT teachers on the staff (in fairness, most schools didn't back then) and the subject was "taught" by an extremely elderly priest, based on course-notes he'd bought from somewhere. Being a private school, however, money was not in short supply and the actual hardware was really good by the standards of the time.

Now... myself and a few of my friends were significantly more IT literate than the old priest they've got running the subject. Not hard - the guy doesn't know how to do anything other than read out pages from his folder of course-notes on how to use basic DOS/Windows 3.1 applications (which was the full extent of our IT lessons). Given that we had an hour per fortnight of this crap for five years and that we basically already knew the entire contents of the course from before the day we started, we very quickly get bored.

Bored children get up to no good. There were quite a few pranks over the years, some of which, looking back, were more mean than funny. But there was one particularly good one that we pulled during the latter days of DOS.

With a bit of file/folder renaming, we got a number of the PCs in the lab to load Doom instead of Word Perfect when following his "load up Word Perfect" DOS instructions. These were full retail copies of Doom (ooops piracy), so we flip the game on the PCs we can reach into Episode 3, with all of its satanic imagery, while he was otherwise occupied. This was pretty easy, as none of the PCs had speakers and our priest's eyesight wasn't the best (he had to lean a few inches from a screen to make out text).

We then get people to complain that their PCs are possessed.

Now, large chunks of the Catholic Church don't really "do" the whole possession thing any more... but our chap here is of the old fire-and-brimstone persuasion. He looks at the pentagrams, the goat-heads, the piles of skulls.

He says, loudly and clearly, that everybody is to pick up their bags and leave the room. Under no circumstances should they touch their computers. They need to get out. Now.

The IT lab spends the next 2 days locked. Eventually, they decide to call IT support rather than an exorcist and it all gets fixed. We never get found out, but the entire school basically gets a term full of fire-and-brimstone sermons on the dangers of exposure to Satanic imagery.

Comment: Re:Don't see the logic of this... (Score 2) 170

In technical terms, Quake multiplayer was groundbreaking. But in gameplay terms, even by the standards of its time, it was extremely conservative. It was straightforward "shoot the other player in the face with a basic selection of weapons" deathmatch that hadn't really evolved since Doom. In contrast to the almost Spy-vs-Spy-like multiplayer in DN3D, it was extremely barebones stuff.

Plenty of people did more interesting things in mods, of course.

Comment: Don't see the logic of this... (Score 1) 170

I've never liked Quake 3. To be honest, aside from the singleplayer modes of Quakes 2 and 4, I've never much enjoyed the Quake series. Admired them as technological accomplishments? Sure. Enjoyed other games built on the engines? Absolutely. But liked the games? No. Compared with their contemporary competitors such as Duke Nukem 3d, Unreal, Half-Life and so on, they've always felt very shallow and conservative.

But hey, I am not the final arbiter of gaming taste. A lot of people do like the series. But by and large, they like it because it is so conservative. Quake 3/Quake Live's players are basically the people who have looked at everything in modern gaming and said "no thanks". To an extent, I sympathise. There are aspects of some modern shooters, such as 2-weapon limits, modern military settings, regenerating health systems and corridor-levels that I'm also bored to death of (though not everything is like that). But this is an audience that defines itself pretty much by its resistance to change.

So why bother pushing changes like this? Your existing players are not only going to hate it, but they are going to compete with each other to see who can shout that they hate it the loudest (proving yourself more "hardcore" and "oldschool" than anybody else is a big part of how you navigate the social pecking order around niche games like this). And new players? It's still, under those minor changes, the same old game it always once and still both feels and looks like a legacy from another era. Counter-Strike edged out Quake 3 as the main competitive fps for good reasons. Plus it's a legacy from another era with a really, really hostile-to-beginners culture to go with it.

If all of the above sounds hostile... it's not really meant to be. It's absolutely a good thing that there are niche games like this out there. But by and large, the absolute worst thing the developers of those long-standing niche games can do is to try to take them "mainstream". It usually just alienates the old audience without attracting a new one.

Comment: What was and wasn't working... (Score 2) 97

by RogueyWon (#47745827) Attached to: Hackers Claim PlayStation Network Take-Down

As somebody who spent most of the day yesterday on the sofa with his PS3 and PS4...

- First of all, this wasn't just the US. Europe was affected as well.

- Disc-based games were working fine all day on both consoles. I've seen FUD above suggesting that always-online connections may be required for these. They aren't. Certainly, MS wanted to do that until the 2013 E3 (and I'll bet Sony gave it a lot of thought as well), but it never actually happened. Single-player modes of disc-based games were fine all day.

- Providing the console you were using was set as one of your primary consoles, then downloaded games (including PS+ games) were also fine all day.

- Basic login was down at first but came back after a couple of hours. Barring a couple of glitchy periods, it was mostly up through the rest of the day. Cloud save functions were working whenever basic login was up.

- Online matchmaking also came online a few times during the afternoon, though never really for long enough for a proper multiplayer session.

- The PS Store and Account Management features were off until quite late last night, When basic login was up, trying to access these gave a "this service is currently undergoing maintenance" error message, implying Sony had taken them down deliberately as part of the effort to keep basic login and matchmaking working. With Account Management offline, the option to re-download content you'd already purchased was also offline.

As of this morning, everything seems to be fine again. What was interesting was how the timing (on a Sunday, and a Sunday followed by a public holiday in several parts of the world) affected both the Sony response (which in communications terms was extremely slow) and the media-coverage (which was virtually non-existent for most of yesterday).

Comment: A few other observations (Score 5, Interesting) 276

by RogueyWon (#47741157) Attached to: Among Gamers, Adult Women Vastly Outnumber Teenage Boys

TFA has some interesting stats, but not much narrative to go with them. I would say that there are two big over-arching themes that are driving changes behind "who plays games".

1) The first generation to grow up playing games is now moving into its 30s and even early 40s. Moreover, while this reflects my personal prejudices only (hey, at least I'm upfront about it), I suspect that with many of the first generation of gamers being academic and nerdy types, they are disproportionately well-paid now compared to their wider generation. So the people who grew up with games in the 1980s and early 1990s now have a lot of spending power. For some years now, the 30-40 year old age group has been the most lucrative in gaming.

This is partly why Japan's importance as a market for (as opposed to a producer of) games has plummeted. Aside from "quick blast on the train" mobile games, gaming in Japan is in a very unhealthy state. Domestic production in Japan, when it targets domestic audiences, increasingly plays for children (eg. Nintendo), teenagers (Capcom) or the unemployed/under-employed "otaku" demographic living off its parents' income (Gust, Nippon Ichi, Cave etc).

This is largely because Japan doesn't have the market of relatively well-paid adult gamers that the West has. Some of that is down to social stigma (games being a "kids' thing"), but much more of it is down to working cultures. Maintaining a middle-class lifestyle in Japan requires the kind of office-hours that would make even a Western games-development house in crunch-time blush.

So yeah... in the Western gaming market, oldies increasingly hold the purse-strings, while Japan is increasingly falling out of the mainstream.

2) There is no longer one single "games industry" any more. If... indeed... there ever was. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the games industry split neatly into two halves marked "console" and "computer", with very little cross-over. These days, that distinction has almost vanished (most console games bar first-party exclusives come to PC, Valve increasingly act as the platform-curator for the PC). But at the same time, there is a growing divide between "core" and "casual" gaming, with the latter not looking much like traditional gaming at all.

Facebook games and mobile titles like Candy Crush Saga draw nothing but contempt from "core" gamers (including many of those affluent 30-40 year-olds mentioned above). But they have drawn in a vast market which would never touch a "core" game - and that market is heavily female. So the demographic of the gaming population in general is skewing to reflect that.

There's also what almost constitutes a third tier somewhere in the middle - the "dudebro" gamer (which is overwhelmingly, though not entirely, male). These are the guys who spend a lot of time gaming, but almost all of it goes into Madden/FIFA (delete as appropriate depending on whether in the US or not) and Call of Duty/Battlefield (delete as appropriate depending on favoured brand of spunkgargleweewee). This is a big demographic, but as MS learned when it pitched the Xbox One at them heavily, it isn't a big-spending demographic or one that's particularly sensitive to technological advances.

Comment: Re:Reasons not to switch? One word: (Score 3, Interesting) 127

by RogueyWon (#47683687) Attached to: Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

Prey and Duke Nukem Forever fall into the exact same category. Games which were pitched as "we will make the content on somebody else's engine", but which felt they had to play catch-up on engine tech.

When id released Quake 2, they caused an absolute cataclysm for many developers. In terms of looks, it was way ahead of the Quake 1 engine, particularly for people with new-fangled 3d video cards. Lots of people were out there making games on the Quake 1 engine, with contracts that gave them cheap access to the Quake 2 engine once available. The assumption had always been that porting from one to the other would be easy.

It wasn't.

So several studios, including those making Daikatana, Prey, Half-Life and Duke Nukem Forever had a choice between putting out a game on the old engine or restarting a lot of their work from scratch on the new one.

The ones who went for the latter option ended up in engine hell. Only Valve came through it reasonably well. They took a hit on Half-Life's release date, but basically hacked around the Quake 1 engine to replicate some Q2 features and to make the (highly successful) bastardisation that became known as the Half-Life engine.

Comment: Re:That reminds me... (Score 1) 146

by RogueyWon (#47678103) Attached to: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Launches Nov. 13th

As others have said; Final Fantasy XIV. Candidate for the "most improved game in history", following a disaster of a launch a few years ago.

The current incarnation is possibly the only MMO around to be able to go toe-to-toe with WoW in terms of features, content and polish. The update cycle which adds new content is at least on a par with WoW's (if not slightly better) and, unlike games such as Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: Old Republic, it isn't afraid to do things differently to WoW in some respects.

In particular, the class/job system is much more flexible than WoW's. The crafting system is infinitely more sophisticated, particularly at the higher levels (I know people in-game who only rarely play combat classes). The PvP modes are hived off entirely from PvE, with their own stats and abilities, meaning that PvE players don't get messed around by constant PvP balance changes. The game is also much more accommodating for casual players than Pandaria-era WoW, avoiding WoW's obsession with locking casuals into an endless, tedious grind of daily quests as an alternative to raid content. But it does this without compromising the experience for the hardcore; the Coil raid and the extreme-mode Primals are on a par with top-end WoW content.

With player numbers reputed to be closing in on 2 million and still rising, it feels like the first MMO since WoW to have a chance of equalling WoW's success - despite much less mainstream media hype.

Comment: Re:Huh? (Score 5, Informative) 406

by RogueyWon (#47620557) Attached to: Idiot Leaves Driver's Seat In Self-Driving Infiniti, On the Highway

Actually, there are plenty of other reasons why we remove trees from the sides of roads. Dropped leaves (which can increase braking distances significantly), dropped branches, the chance of the tree falling onto the road during a storm, the risk of obscuring signage and, if the road is below the level of the terrain to either side of it, the chance of roots undermining the banks and causing a landslip.

By and large, while it's never going to be economical or appropriate everywhere, you don't want trees close to major roads.

I've worked in transportation for a good number of years and have been involved in this issue. I don't think "because drivers keep hitting them" ever came up as a reason.

Oh, and it's even more important on the railway. People laugh at the thought on "leaves on the line" causing delays and assume it's just a bullshit excuse. It isn't. What leaves do to trains' ability to accelerate and brake is much, much worse than ice.

Comment: Re:Awkward (Score 5, Informative) 121

by RogueyWon (#47573833) Attached to: Crytek USA Collapses, Sells Game IP To Other Developers

The first Homefront game was nothing to do with Crytek. It was developed by Kaos and published by THQ. Crytek merely bought up the rights to do the sequel. For the record, I bought and played through Homefront on PC. It was basically a mediocre and generic shooter based on top of some really interesting fiction. In the right hands, it could have been a much better game.

And there are lots of people - self included - who will sing the praises of the original Crysis as a game rather than a tech demo. It's much smarter than the average shooter, with plenty of room for exploration and taking different approaches. There are few other shooters that permit the sheer on-the-fly tactical flexibility that came from Crysis's nanosuit.

The game did make a few mis-steps - the quality notably dives in the final 25% or so of the campaign, once the aliens show up (the floaty section in the alien mothership in particular goes on for far too long). But overall, it is an excellent shooter which has stood the test of time far better than most others in its genre.

Crysis 2, on the other hand, was crap. And Crysis 3 had a few moments where it was pretty good (mostly in the more open sections near the end of the game) but ultimately disappoints.

Comment: Re:Anybody know? (Score 5, Interesting) 234

by RogueyWon (#47555867) Attached to: Free Copy of the Sims 2 Contains SecuROM

So... genuine question...

What does SecuROM actually do to your system and what are the implications?

The wikipedia article, beyond a floating comment that SecuROM isn't uninstalled when the game is uninstalled, is basically silent on this. In fact, let's break it down into a series of further questions?

- Does SecuROM cause security vulnerabilities on PCs on which it is installed?

- Does SecuROM prevent applications - other than pirated copies of the game it is supposed to "protect" - from functioning on PCs on which it is installed?

- Does SecuROM create any kind of "always on" background process that consumes resources and potentially reduces performance on PCs on which it is installed?

If the answer to any of the above is "yes" then obviously there is a fairly major problem here. If the answer to all of the above is "no", then I'm not quite sure what people are getting upset about given that we are talking about a free game (SecuROM being bundled with paid-for games is another issue entirely).

And to emphasise, I genuinely don't know the answers to the above and can't work them out from the links in TFA.

Comment: Re:"Compatible" (Score 1) 94

by RogueyWon (#47513879) Attached to: Open-Source Blu-Ray Library Now Supports BD-J Java

The Playstation 3 likely remains the most common blu-ray player around - and it does the job very well (though it helps to pick up the optional remote control, as managing playback via a game controller can be a touch irritating). It also, coupled with the PS3 Media Server software on a PC, makes a pretty damned good "just works" solution for playing media files off your hard drive onto the TV and - crucially - one which is easy enough for a total computing ignoramus to get up and running with little or no guidance.

It's a pity that the PS4 (and Xbox One) are missing most of this functionality. As media players, the "new" consoles are a significant step back from the last generation.

Comment: Re:Maybe Ubisoft made this press release (Score 1) 154

The same way PC ports sometimes go horribly wrong - terrible mouse and keyboard support and a lack of technical optimisation that is causing framerate issues on $6,000 test-PCs. Plus uPlay.

Ports like this are less common than they used to be, but the odd one still sneaks through. Especially from Ubisoft.

I am a computer. I am dumber than any human and smarter than any administrator.