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Comment Single-player example (Score 2, Interesting) 226

The Witcher (original, not the Enhanced Edition) shipped with a CD-Key that most people thought was useless. It allowed you to register your game with publisher Atari and get... not much.

However, the studio later released an Enhanced Edition, which added more cutscenes, more dialogue, more quests, two side-missions that stand alone from the main game, the official soundtrack, a CD of music inspired by the game and a "making-of" DVD. All this stuff was available for purchase; but the best part is the studio and Atari made all the new content available FOR FREE DOWNLOAD to all the owners of the original game who had registered their games using those previously mostly-useless CD keys.

The content could not be installed without keys. Of course pirates could just download cracked versions of the enhanced editions, but that's a humongous download, six gigs-plus and I doubt casual copiers would bother. Offering all that content free to confirmed, legitimate owners of the original edition wasn't just a nice thing to do, it was also a good incentive to have a legitimate copy of the game.

There were some problems in Canada - the bilingual manual was printed without keys. Oops. I'm one of the people who bought the original game and was stoked when I learned about the new content - only to flip through every page in the manual and find there was no fucking key. Good one, hope the proof-reader got fired for that. However, Atari support was pretty good, I filed a key request and two weeks later was happily slaying drowners with my silver sword - enhanced edition style.

Anyway, this might be a copy-protection scheme worth considering - downloadable content available only for legitimate, registered owners. I don't know how this would work with your game, but for me in my example, I thought it worked great (except for that shitty Polish download server they decided to use to release the enhanced edition content. Good idea, bad execution - make it EASY for customers to get the good stuff and they'll be less likely to visit TPB.)

Comment Too cynical (Score 1) 426

The beauty of donations is that they are open for all to see depending on the financial reporting laws of your state/province. Plus, a donor-supported news source can choose to reject a donation from any source it wants. So even if there are biases towards donors, it's a hell of a lot easier to look through the financial reporting all non-profits must do and find that information than to look through a newspaper/magazine/TV program and try and guess which advertiser is driving the agenda.

Plus, from the documentaries and non-profit news programs I have seen, donors are a lot more forgiving if they are criticized than advertisers in the traditional business model. I could tell you horror stories... advertisers getting people fired for writing fair and balanced stories that dared to suggest people take their business elsewhere, stories spiked for fear of losing advertising, that sort of thing. It could happen with a donor-supported model, but I don't think there would be the same kind of pressure.

Comment Re:What a good idea (Score 1) 426

Today, we can read the federal register, congressional web sites, get blogs from people in the middle of a war zone, and so on.

I wonder how many people would bother to do so.

A newspaper's appeal is that it is a digest of a lot of different information, all in one place. Sure, people can now go searching all over the Internet for the sources a reporter would use, but how many would?

And now my very own Senator Ben Cardin wants to prop them up with my tax dollars. I have a better idea: let them die a normal, free-market death.

Just curious - do you share the same opinions about bailouts for insurance firms? Car manufacturers? Other businesses that contribute nothing to promoting an open discourse of opinions and ideas - the hallmark of a free society? Kind of a loaded, rhetorical and biased question, I know, sorry about that.

Comment Bias (Score 2, Insightful) 426

That's why the more diverse sources of reporting there are, the better. Readers can read different reports which focus on different details and make up their own minds based on the whole. Unless of course they want to be spoon-fed a headline and two-sentence summary and sound bite of outrage, then they can watch Fox News.

Incidentally I work as a newspaper reporter, and I think this senator's idea is great. So I am clearly declaring my bias.

If diverse sources of reporting are conglomerated into fewer and fewer media sources (look at Canada as a micro-example, there are two companies controlling most of the daily newspapers across the country) then variety suffers. If this continues, as it will if corporatism dominates media through buyouts, bankruptcies, etc. then there will be very little diversity. You will have, essentially, what existed before the advent of the printing press - only the wealthy could afford to have anything recorded, so the they got to write history.

The wealthy have often controlled the press (e.g. Hearst) but in the 20th century there were a wide variety of "slants" in print because it wasn't too hard for someone to round up investors, or start a non-profit and create their own publication. Today ownership of or access to a colour press capable of doing magazines or newspapers is prohibitively expensive and the biggest problem is the business model is broken. Few people want to pay for what they read, so subscription revenue is down, and advertising revenue is drying up.

Yes, the Internet will change everything but no big media companies have found a way to make money off Internet-based publications on the same scale as their print products. And no one is going to pay to subscribe to a news website, that's been tried several times and in my opinion it will never work on a large scale.

To bring my ramblings to a close, I think this senator's idea is great because it could pave the way for independent, Internet-based publications to thrive, providing news to niche markets, and as non-profits, they could solicit donations from loyal readers. That could be enough to allow investigative journalism to thrive again, and to allow small, independent publications to grow and thrive by the quality of their work, instead of by virtue of being the biggest game in town.

Comment Interlocutors (Score 1) 288

Oddly enough your use of the word "interlocutor" reminded me of the Star Trek rerun I saw last night, "Best of Both Worlds Part 2" where Picard is "Locutus of Borg." It seems kind of comparable too, Locutus just kept burping out "Resistance is Futile" and "You will be assimilated" like those Free iPod adbots.

On a tangential note the interlocutors I hate the most are the pre-programmed phone systems the telco sets up to "help" you. You know, the ones that say "I'm sorry, I didn't understand the question" when you tell them for the hundredth time "my DSL keeps randomly disconnecting."

Comment Re:Believable AI (Score 2, Interesting) 378

I'll try to keep this on topic.

That would be great if the folks from Looking Glass Studios could get back together for another Thief game. The team was great at creating an atmosphere and NPCs and enemies that responded in believable ways, I'm sure if you looked closely at the programming and responses in Thief 1 they would be more primitive than, say, Far Cry, but they hold up even now because their responses were consistent and believable. Shoot out a candle you'd get "hmm, that's odd" but start doing too much at once and they would start getting suspicious. At least, that's the way it appeared while I was playing it, so they succeeded in making a believable "stupid" AI. The enemies in System Shock 2 (another Looking Glass game) were just as good, it freaked me out listening to the service droid blabbing away while it stalked me in the storage room, looking for an opening to run at me and explode. And who can forget the ninjabots. Scary, sneaky dudes.

I admit I liked Thief 3 (come on, shooting guys in the face with moss arrows was cool), it was great as long as you played it on the hardest setting (so the missions and sub-missions and crap you would find and NPC comments would actually make sense) and as long as you didn't start fights in the street. That's when the AI would break down.

Comment Re:Believable AI (Score 2, Interesting) 378

I totally agree with you, for the time the first Thief was great. I think the AI was actually better than the one I was referring to, Thief Deadly Shadows, third in the series (which used some form of the Unreal engine, probably a reason for some of its AI issues).

In fact, the first game is still good, even if the graphics are on the ugly side, the play quality makes up for it. It consistently follows its own rules, and like you say, it is possible to elude guards chasing you without killing them. In Thief 3 this is also possible, but there was far more glitchy behaviour than in the first two games.

Comment the schizophrenic nature of faith (Score 1) 921

I'm inclined to agree with you but there are a few things that puzzle me. The study's abstract points out all patients were terminal cancer patients. I am assuming they all knew their cancers were terminal. It's interesting that the study even factored in patients' "preference for heroics" and still found people who rely on "positive religious coping" are more likely to want life support.

As well, I am assuming the patients were predominantly Christian. Death is nothing to fear for a Christian ("O Death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory") But if that's the case, why endure life support, even though the study also said it decreased their quality of life?

Maybe it's got something to do with "fighting the good fight" or some kind of subconscious view that life is a gift from God; therefore it should not be given up easily. Or, as you suggest (and like I said I'm inclined to agree with you) they are both effects of fear. But it puzzles me, and I think there must be some other factor, or maybe it reveals the schizophrenic nature of faith.

Comment Re:Believable AI (Score 2, Interesting) 378

it's like once your cover is broken it's broken

I hate that. Some are better than others - the original Far Cry wasn't too bad, you could hide out for a while and watch the soldiers beat the bushes fruitlessly, but they were always jumpy after that, especially the sniper in a guard tower two miles away who could see you no matter where you were in the bushes.

I have also found STALKER: Shadows of Chernobyl with the Oblivion Lost mod running has pretty believable AI patterns, the enemies usually can't see you if you can't see them and you can evade them, sneak around them and set traps for them. Enemy factions fight each other, mutants fight soldiers and you can sit back and watch and loot corpses afterwards. But once again, every once in a while you get a supernatural sharpshooter who can hit you with that pistol from two blocks away. The mod also introduces some really strange spawning issues - getting killed by a horde of mutants the second you load a new area really sucks.

On the flip side, games programmed for stealth can result in a hilarious breakdown in NPC programming patterns when you don't sneak. I really enjoyed Thief: Deadly Shadows but the game is just awful if you're not playing as a hardcore thief. Once your cover is blown, it's blown. And if you defend yourself, God help you. They can see you in the dark, people freak out in the streets when they see any dead bodies and sometimes they start fighting each other or humping the wall. And sometimes the enemies had Daredevil hearing, other times you could jump on their heads and they wouldn't even notice you.

Comment Art imitates art (Score 1) 523

I thought the movie was good enough to stand alone, and really shines as a companion to the novel. Art imitates art, so to speak.

I also liked both endings but liked the movie ending better (having read the novel before the movie came out).


I thought the movie ending made a poignant comment about man's view of God -- man only pays attention when there's something to fear, and it doesn't really matter if God (or Dr. Manhattan) is there or not. It's the fear of the smiting diety that matters. This point is in the novel, but not so obviously connected to God and religion.

Comment It's cool, but... (Score 3, Insightful) 120

It's cool, but I highly doubt it will convince many people to really learn the guitar. Guitar Hero is a game. You can pretend to be Slash or Jimmy Page with minimal effort. That's why people play it.

I smell Christmas cash-in on parents who worry little Johnny and Susie are wasting too much time on a video game. "Now they can REALLY learn music... the FUN® way!"

People would be better off putting that money into a month's worth of guitar lessons at the music shop down the street. That's about the amount of time it would take for someone to decide they're serious about learning to play, and also about the amount of time it would take to get sick of playing this "Headliner."

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