Archive for August, 2016

Social Justice vs Games: FIFA 16

August 12, 2016

So, Anita Sarkeesian has put out her latest video, and I do intend to comment on it. But, as has happened before, I need to comment on something else first, because it needs to be addressed and if I tried to do it as part of my commentary on the video itself it would kinda overwhelm it. So, let me talk about one of Sarkeesian’s examples of a company finally adding women into the game:

The FIFA soccer game series, which had its first entry in 1993, took over 20 years before finally introducing female teams in FIFA 16.

Now, I knew that FIFA 16 had done this, because it was a key part of the advertising here in Canada, highlighting Christine Sinclair. However, I have never been a huge fan of soccer sims — particularly the more realistic ones; “Superstar Soccer” was fun, though — and don’t particularly enjoy the latest sports sims in general, so I didn’t bother to look up how they did the player ratings in a game that mixes male and female players. Are you going to give the female players ratings measured against the men, and so have even their superstars at about 50 – 60 ratings at best? Or are you going to give them high ratings but then it be the case that, say, Carli Lloyd is considered, under that ranking, to be a better player than Luis Suarez. It’s a tough issue, so what did they do?

Q: How do player ratings work for women in comparison to men?

A: The player ratings will be relative for each gender. We will be assessing female athletes against other female athletes which may mean that an 85 rated female player may not perform the same as an 85 rated male player.

They ranked them relative to other women — thus Carli Lloyd is a 91 and Suarez is a 90 — but if you actually play them Lloyd won’t play as well or pull off the same tricks as Suarez does. This could be problematic except that they also don’t let the women’s teams play against the men’s teams, so essentially the women are boxed off in their own little area, and so their rankings don’t really matter when compared to men. Thus, an 85 woman plays as well as an 85 woman would, which is not as good as an 85 man would.

And here’s where we get into the “Social Justice vs Games” part, because while EA says that this was a requested feature — and I have no doubt that it was — the push for Social Justice and inclusion is probably a major factor in why they decided to do it after 20 years, and why they decided to implement this awkward system to get around the obvious issues. But I don’t think that it will satisfy Social Justice advocates for women to simply be in the game, but that you can’t play as women players in male leagues, or run female teams against men’s teams at all. So, now, if they want to actually allow mixes, how do they get from there given this starting point?

Well, they can leave things as is and just move the women’s teams over. The problem with this is that then Lloyd would have a higher ranking than Suarez, but play a lot worse, and the Canadian national women’s team despite almost certainly having a higher ranking than the Canadian men’s team would lose to them almost every time they played, probably badly. That’s bad.

So, they could redo all of the rankings to make a mixed ranking, where you take all players into account, male and female. This means that Lloyd’s ranking would drop to somewhere in the 60s at best. That’s probably not going to satisfy the Social Justice crowd, and would also mean that female players won’t get selected for men’s teams and women’s teams won’t be put into leagues with men’s tames. So that’s bad, too.

Okay, well then they could leave the rankings alone and just make the rankings “objective”, so that an 85 woman plays the same as an 85 man. This creates the inverse problems of the existing method, as Suarez is now a worse player than Lloyd is in the game despite actually being better in real-life, and the Canadian men’s team would always lose badly to the women’s team despite the fact that they’d almost certainly beat them handily in real-life. As these games at least bill themselves as serious simulations, that’s bad, too.

Or they could just give up and insist that women can’t play against men, which is bad because, well, people will probably want to do that.

If I had been designing it, the first focus would have been on allowing female players to be created in the “Create-A-Player” modes, and then assigned to any team that that mode can assign players to. Then the rating would depend on the person playing the game. If people wanted to create them accurately, they’d do that. If they wanted to create them as being equal or better than men … well, that’s no worse than my putting myself and my co-workers, friends and acquaintances into the game with really high scores when none of us are going anywhere near a playing field. If the player wants some fantasy in their sports sim, who am I to complain?

If they had to put the women’s national teams in, then I’d rank them objectively in relation to the men’s teams … but add an option to allow the player of the game to “convert” them to a men’s team, which would be done by adding whatever rough score you’d need to treat, say, the best women’s player as if she was a man, and the best women’s team as if it was a women’s team. So, when adding a female player to a men’s team or a women’s team to a men’s league, you have an option to say “add 30 to the score to make it competitive”. Again, as this is an explicit option if the player of the game wants to fake it that way, what does it matter?

As it is now, though, it’ll be a rough road to get women players into the men’s teams and leagues.

DRM and Personal Preference

August 10, 2016

So, I was re-reading some of the posts at Shamus Young’s site, and re-reading some of the discussions on DRM, and what interested me the most was whenever better or ideal or even worse DRM systems were discussed there was a lot of disagreement over which systems were worse, better or even good. And it struck me that game companies, with respect to DRM, really do want their DRM to work in this way: they want to maximize the amount of piracy it stops while minimizing the inconvenience of their actual paying customers. Different companies will prioritize one part or the other, but for the most part they want to inconvenience their paying customers only as much as required to stop piracy. And the problem is that while it’s relatively easy to figure out how pirates pirate copies — and, therefore, how to go about trying to block that — it’s no where near as easy to figure out what will annoy your customers, because there is a wide variety in what actually annoys customers.

Take some standard methods as examples:

1) You have to have the CD in the drive. Since I generally play on my desktop — and keep most of my CDs out — and when I play on a laptop it’s easy for me to just leave the disk in the drive itself, as I’m generally only playing one game at a time. For others, who play more games, this is more annoying, and harder for them to manage.

2) Dongles. They have the same issue: if you only play one game at a time and have a place to store and label the dongles, they’re not an issue … but if you don’t, then they’re really, really annoying.

3) Enter a CD key on installation. This is a bit more annoying for me as it’s both annoying to enter it and it’s annoying to have to make sure you have or find the packaging where the key is, but many people just want to ditch that packaging, and so don’t leave it out like I do.

4) Code books/code wheels. The nice thing about, say, reading something from a journal and entering a code word is that, well, you actually get a journal. But, again, if you don’t keep it then you can’t look it up, and if it’s not a physical copy then you potentially have issues if you go to the desktop to launch it (I’ve had issues with the GOG Gold Box games with that, as when you switch out it drops out of full screen mode, although at one point I figured out how to get back there again).

5) Online activation. Aside from the “limited number of installs” part, why am I going online to play a single player game? And the laptop that leaves the house also doesn’t have Internet access. But if you have ready Internet access, this wont bother you at all.

6) Always have to be online. See 5.

The thing is, the same thing can be done for pretty much every form of DRM you can think of. And the main issue is that if these things aren’t part of or necessitated by the game itself, you run the risk of tacking a DRM scheme onto a game that happens to annoy a significant part of your player base. For example, 5) and 6) aren’t issues for MMOs and mainly online multiplayer games, because pretty much all of those players accept that, well, if it’s primarily an online game you have to go online with it. But many of them will balk at having to keep the disk in the drive for an online game.

Ultimately, I’m still of the opinion that the best way to deter piracy is to include things in the game that is hard to copy and that people want. Soundtrack CDs. Art books. Plush toys. You know, the things people stick into Collector’s Editions to get people to buy them. Or else make registration have benefits, like FTP MMOs do. At the end of the day, the way to deter piracy while not inconveniencing your real customers is to make it so that anyone who would actually buy the game really wants to buy it. But if the free game is as good or better than the game you pay for — even if it’s just that the free game removes annoyances — then, yeah, people will definitely take the free, pirated game over the one they have to pay for.

Thoughts on “Star Wars: A New Dawn”

August 8, 2016

So, the second book in my collection that also contains “Tarkin” is “A New Dawn” by John Jackson Miller. “Tarkin” was a disappointment. “A New Dawn” is a disaster.

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The Issues Hillary Clinton Cannot Fight the U.S. Election On

August 5, 2016

I had to add a category for “Politics” for this one!

Yes, I’m getting caught up in the whole U.S. election thing, despite not really caring about it, but in general everyone always spends a lot of time talking about it and with the superstar appeal we have this time of Trump vs Clinton it seems that that just means that people are talking about it even more. So I was watching some of the coverage and thought that Clinton cannot — or, at least, really doesn’t want to — allow some issues to become the defining issues of the election.

First, she can’t push for the defining issue to be the economy. Whether Trump really is as strong a businessman as he claims, the impression of him is that he is pretty successful at making money, and thus as someone who knows how business works and how to make businesses work. Clinton doesn’t have that impression. If people think the economy is improving, they aren’t likely to think that putting Trump in office will kill that recovery, and if people are worried about the economy, then they aren’t likely to pick Clinton who a) was a big part of the last eight years of Obama where things aren’t going that well and b) isn’t seen as being as strong in business as Trump. Thus, in my opinion, Clinton wants to play up that things are going fine but not try to use this as a bludgeon against Trump, especially since it leaves him the easy rebuttal of “It could be better” … because it could always be better.

She also doesn’t want to play up the idea that she’s going to bring “real change”, as she said at one point in her nomination speech. First, that was Obama’s line, and so voters are likely to be more cynical about that this time, especially since he didn’t change all that much (well, at least the impression is that he didn’t. Second, Clinton is clearly a part of the old guard, as she was Bill’s First Lady and an important part of the Obama administration. If she really could drive and wanted real change, she had her chances already. Third, Trump is a complete outsider and so if we want a way to do different things, Trump pretty much has that wrapped up; whatever he does, it’s not likely to be politics as usual. And finally, one of her biggest weapons against Trump is that he’s too risky; he doesn’t know what he’s doing and so will screw things up. But the main reason we think that is that he is likely to push for “real change”, and we don’t know if that “real change” will work or not. Clinton positioning herself as someone predictable and reliable against the maverick Trump is probably one of her best bets, but if she starts pushing too hard for change voters might start seeing her as “risky” too … and that advantage will be lost.

Finally, unless she steps up her game she doesn’t want to election to turn on immigration and refugees. The reason is that the reason that Trump’s solutions get him attention is not because of inherent racism or xenophobia in my opinion, but is instead because he sees that as a problem and has presented a solution to the problems. Sure, the solutions are kinda dumb and probably not workable, but at least he has a solution, and one that addresses the underlying issue: letting people into the country who shouldn’t be there. All the others have offered is an admonishment against prejudicial thinking and platitudes about how good immigration has been to the country. Even if true, most of that beneficial immigration was, in fact, legal, and Trump’s not really advocating against legal immigration, where the country takes in people that it needs after giving them a thorough vetting. He wants to deport those who came here illegally, stop people from Mexico from entering illegally, and not allow people from countries that have known groups that might want to commit terrorism in America from getting in. This should be something that the liberals and the Democrats also want. So unless Clinton can provide a more reasonable solution, she ought not want to make the election be about that.

It will be interesting to see on what battleground the election is fought … and who wins in the end.

Musings on My Cable TV …

August 3, 2016

So, I recently reworked my cable package using the new Starter packages mandated by the CRTC, where I ended up actually paying more but being happier about it because I got more channels that I actually wanted to watch instead of paying slightly less for channels that I mostly didn’t watch. And so far, things have been relatively good. There are a few issues with it, however:

1) TSN has been a great disappointment to me. I went to this package — and accepted paying more — because about the only reason I even have cable is because I missed sports that time when I ditched it for a few years. Getting it back was good, but I couldn’t get TSN without paying far more, so I never did. With this, I was able to get the TSN channels plus some others that I couldn’t have gotten by going up a level — like ESPN Classic Canada — so it was a better deal. But I find that I don’t actually watch TSN that much. I’m no longer able to let the morning loop run all morning when I’m home — as I end up getting tired of it — and for the most part there aren’t many sports on it that I want to or can watch. This became apparent in the summer because Sportsnet has baseball, which is the one sport that’s generally on weekend afternoons when I can watch and is a sport that I generally follow. Sportsnet also has the general hockey, but while TSN has the local hockey that I’d want to watch, it turns out that the same reasons that Angel became a hockey fan work against me when it comes to watching it: the games are mostly in the evening/at night, and I go to sleep too early to watch full games most of the time. And unlike baseball, I’m not really willing to just watch part of it, because while I can watch even a half-inning of baseball and get a good break to leave on, in hockey I always want to at least watch an entire period, which takes an hour, and so can’t be done when I have a half-hour left. And for both of them it’s an issue that I’d still not get to see the end of the game.

The CFL, as I found out last year, also doesn’t work because they tend to run more evening games than you’d expect, and so I don’t get to watch most of them either. So if you take out the CFL and you take out hockey, what’s left for TSN that I like? Not much. I did manage to at least listen to some F1 races so far this year, which was nice, but that’s not all that much. That being said, I did like being able to watch curling, as TSN has the national and world championships. Still, I’m not as enamored with TSN as I thought I’d be.

2) There’s still not that much on at the times when I just want something on for noise, since I can’t just leave the morning sports loop on anymore. I’m tweaking things in the hopes of fixing that by adding back some news since that did work for me before. We’ll see how that works.

3) Shomi is also a bit disappointing. In general, it’s worth the money if I watch it at all, and there are a number of things that I have watched — Doctor Who, What I Like About You, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Ned’s Newt, X-Men Evolution — that I’m glad I got the chance to watch. It competes with DVDs, though, and there are a few things that make it less than ideal for me:

1) It splits between movies and TV shows, and I generally don’t watch movies. So the selection of TV shows is less than I’d like.

2) I only want to watch it through my cable box, and often when watching TV shows it will screw up and so the TV show won’t start properly — I think it has something to do with the content warnings, which are pointless for me anyway — without my starting it again and again and again a number of times. DVDs don’t usually have that problem.

3) I have a large collection of DVDs that I can and want to watch, but Shomi is a monthly subscription, so if I switch to DVDs then I’m paying for something I’m not using, which I hate.

Honestly. though, if 2) was fixed, it’d definitely be worth it. And when it’s mostly working, I’m happy with it. It’s just when I spend 5 – 10 minutes selecting “Play from start” over and over again to get it to start that I start wondering if it’s worth the hassle.

Overall, I really think that if it wasn’t for sports I’d ditch it again and go back to my rabbit ears. But to me the sports are worth the cost I’m paying to get them — except for maybe TSN right now — and once I have that adding a little more to get a supplement to DVDs and something to have on for noise is worth it, too. Essentially, I could work around everything except sports, but when I get sports the extra to get other things as well seems to work for me.

Thoughts on “Tarkin”

August 1, 2016

So, I read “Tarkin” by James Luceno, who had done a number of Star Wars books that I had enjoyed reading, and who was starting from a possibly overused but interesting concept of trying to provide some more background on Grand Moff Tarkin. The concept had potential. The execution was lacking.

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