Random Stuff + Conflicts of Interest

It’s going to be a weird week. Today is a bit of a short day, with most of the processes I normally deal with not even running. There’s always a chance that I won’t be here at all tomorrow, depending on how things go today. Tomorrow will actually be a normal day if things go as they would like, and then it’s back on overtime after that. It’s been an almost constant companion for several months.

At the same time, I’m using the Chrome Grammarly plug-in to write as well. Near as I can tell the number one thing it doesn’t like is my comma usage, always wanting to add and remove them. I know it’s not their only purpose, but I generally use them anywhere I would have a verbal pause in my normal speech pattern. I suppose this indicates that my verbal commas are also used incorrectly.

I already know there’s an earnings report from Sony this Friday for their Q4? I think? Maybe that’ll turn up something interesting, we’ll see. In the meantime, it seems like GameStop’s stock is continuing to trend slightly downward.

This brings up an interesting point I’ve been thinking about. I have deliberately avoided writing posts about any company that I actually own shares of, which is easy because there are only two at the moment an energy company and one share of a specific gaming company that Robinhood gave to me for free. Fortunately, it’s not one I find myself likely to talk about.

If I did, say, buy shares of GameStop though, that would put my writing in a strange position. An argument could be made that I’m talking about it in order to further my own ends. That said, one could make that case already. Reporting that the company isn’t doing well could be viewed as trying to manipulate the price down so I can buy it for less. Of course, that assumes I have way more influence than I actually possess.

It still bothers me though. It seems to be a conflict of interest and I’m not really sure how to resolve that. Of course, it’s really no different than monetizing the blog, which I also don’t do. Just because a blog is theoretically connected to profit doesn’t mean it’s a conflict of interest.

Either way, I’m gonna quit talking and wander off. Y’all take care, and as Sir Pratchett once wrote in a book I’ve never read: “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

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Something New – Transistor

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This is, of course, the latest free game from the Epic Games Store. The next one is World of Goo, which will be posted on 5/10/19.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect this week, as it’s a deviation from their run of puzzle and adventure games. I saw positively glowing reviews online referring to it as an Action RPG, which is an acceptable tag, I suppose. It is still very narrative driven, with both major and minor lore bits slowly revealed through gameplay or implied through dialogue.

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At first, the narration had an old black and white gumshoe movie kind of quality to it, but I eventually realized the game was made by Supergiant Games, who also made Bastion, which I’ve also played and indeed bears some resemblance. That said, Bastion is much less serious. Nevertheless, the entire game is narrated by the… person… inside your sword, as the protagonist can no longer talk or sing. She can hum though.

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The game has a seemingly simple ability system with only four ability slots. You also start with an upgrade slot, which is right below the hotbar and kinda hard to see, and you eventually unlock additional upgrade and/or passive ability slots. Everything operates a little differently depending on where you have it slotted and what it’s slotted with. You also have a limited amount of memory, visible on the left side of the screen. Each ability uses an amount of memory equal to the pips next to it regardless of what slot it’s in.

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It was also not really explained how death works, but I did rather abruptly find out. When you die, there seems to be one of two things that happen. Either an “emergency turn()” occurs, or you lose an ability to overload. This overload heals naturally over time and is measured in new save points found. In the meantime, you have to rearrange your remaining abilities into something you feel is functional.

One of the things that makes this game unique is that it has a system similar to VATS from Fallout, where you can queue up several actions that will then be executed in rapid succession. What makes this version different is that you have to recharge between uses and no abilities can be used during this time. This is the “turn()” feature I mentioned before. Each ability uses a different amount of turn capacity.

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Something else is that each ability is acquired from and associated with a particular individual. As you use the ability in different ways, shown in the bottom right corner, it will reveal bits of information about that particular person. It encourages experimentation in order to reveal more lore.

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Likewise, there’s a “backdoor” beach area with a bunch of doors where you can perform various tests like a timed speed test, a survival test, or a one-turn win test where your abilities are typically pre-determined, requiring to learn how to use some you may not even possess yet.

It’s a really good game, I had really hoped to at least finish the main story before posting but I didn’t quite get all the way there. If you haven’t tried it and can stomach the Epic Games Store, give it a try.

Y’all take care, don’t be evil.

I Don’t Think I Like the Actual Epic Games Store Itself

I was reading some comments lately regarding Epic Games and their Store. Of course, I was reading these on Reddit, and as a whole they’re pretty mixed. Acknowledging that something was needed to provide competition to Steam, but generally upset about exclusivity.

It was particularly interest to watch people argue about their free games. Y’know, the ones I’ve been covering in my Something New posts. The next one is Transistor which is, in fact, one of these free games. Now, there are several reasons why a business might give something away, or running a sale for that matter. One of the biggest benefit is obviously getting people to visit the store, be it physical or otherwise. I realized a don’t visit the store section of EGS very often so figured I would take a look.

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It took all of three seconds to remind me why. They have this awful “tile” setup where the games are presented in groups of three, one large image on one side and two smaller images next to it, and it just switches sides for each group. I was curious how many actual games they were selling so I started by counting these groups of three, of which there are currently 16. 48 “titles.” There are no list views, categories, or tags so narrow things down. You either scroll through it or do a text search.

Now, three of these are free, Fortnite BR, Unreal Tournament, and Transistor. It also includes a couple of “groups” which include more than one item, like Overkill TWD’s various pieces and a different Jackbox Games packs, but they only show up on the main store page as a single image, so that’s nice. Another 8 of those titles are currently in “pre-purchase.” So they have roughly 35 actual items for sale.

They have an additional 18 titles in the “coming soon” section, but at least one of those is their next free game. There is no indication on the store page when these “coming soon” titles are actually expected, either. There’s absolutely no review system, and most of the game pages don’t really provide much information to make a decision with, usually just a short bit of text, a trailer, and maybe a dozen screenshots tops. It’s just not a very user-friendly store, at least in my opinion. It really needs some work.

On the bright side, their free games so far have been absolutely superb titles with a strong preference towards puzzle-solving and narrative-driven experiences. Which is good, because I just don’t see this as being overly competitive with Steam in its current state. It is, at best, funneling money away from Valve using exclusives, but it’s by no means cheap. I just got a notice of a reddit post alleging that EGS paid 3.3M for the Phoenix Point exclusive. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to pick one game from their library to buy, this would probably be it, but they need to sell some 118,000 copies just to cover the exclusivity, not including the cost of bandwidth and hosting. That might be pushing it for the crowdfunded first title by a new studio in a niche genre. Not saying it’s impossible, just seems that many things are stacked against it.

I guess we’ll see. I’ll continue covering their free games, but so rarely venture any further than I need to that most of it will go by without my even noticing.

Y’all take care, and please remain behind the yellow line while the hype trains pass through the station.

Albion Online – The Slowdown

So, it comes as no surprise that after the fairly quick start in Albion to get off the ground and running at the T4 level, I stopped to see what it takes to get up to T5 gathering, refining, and crafting. It’s, well, a lot. As such, I don’t expect there will be another post about Albion in the near future. I just don’t think there’s going to be much else to talk about past this point. Certainly not in the next week or so.

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The logical first step would be to go ahead and begin upgrading our facilities to handle the T5 resources. This is technically possible now, but gathering T5 materials with T4 gear will be… slow. It can also only be done in PvP enabled zones, so the risk is beginning to go up.

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Even if I upgraded the facilities, I wouldn’t be able to craft any of the gear yet because I haven’t unlocked the T5 recipes.

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On top of that, even if I could make it, I wouldn’t be able to use it. I’m technically at the learning point for this skill, so I could dump the points and pick it up if I wanted to, but,well, that’s a lot of points.

The reality of the situation is that we’re going to have to hang tight at T4, makes things, tear it down for research and/or sell it on the market board. Do this repeatedly, even if the profitability is a little low, just to get those skill ranks and slow push our way there.

It’s, uh, gonna take some time. I spent most of my day yesterday gathering iron, and I’ll spend most of tonight doing Chestnut and Pine, then I’ll do some crafting and pretty much repeat.

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On the bright side, with the ox and a full set of adept gathering gear, including a backpack that reduces resource weight, gathering goes a lot faster and smoother. You can stay out in the field for significantly longer, at least three or four times than you can with a donkey. This means more time gathering and less time running back and forth to town.

In other news, I gotta go get dinner. Y’all take care, and don’t afk in PvP zones.

Gamestop’s Guaranteed to Love It Trial

Y’know, it’s funny sometimes how often we have to be reminded that we shouldn’t believe everything we see on the internet. See, I saw a couple of days ago that someone tweeted a picture of a document stating that you could return a copy of Days Gone within a couple of days for full retail value, issued as in-store credit. I thought it was really odd that this had no real impact on their stock price so I started investigating. When I went to Gamestop’s own twitter account, investor relations page, and even the web page for Days Gone, I couldn’t find any reference to it at all. Naturally I begin to suspect something fishy was going on.

Just for the sake of being thorough, I also googled it, which turned up several articles referencing this tweet, but notably also saying that they had verified this information to be accurate. Those were from Polygon and The Verge, so I’m willing to believe it’s accurate.

Honestly I think it’s a great consumer-oriented policy that isn’t exactly going to cost them a ton of money. After all, they get to keep their $60 and re-sell the game for another $45-50. I’m curious if that $60 will show up as multiple sales on the books too. Not really sure how they figure in sales using in-store credit vs “new money.”

Still, I hope it works out properly and they continue this practice. It would be a good way to help turn public opinion around, albeit very slowly, especially given the way game launches seem to be going these days.

I’m also curious why they haven’t really publicized it themselves. Seems a bit strange to come up with a cool new consumer practice in hopes people will be more willing to buy a new game then not bother to tell anyone about it.

Meanwhile, as I’m writing this, I’m getting pinged repeatedly that Nintendo stock is up some 10% today, presumably due to the news that they are going to try to market the Switch in China through Tencent. I don’t know how well it’s going to go, as they don’t even have approval yet, but new customers are new customers and that means more sales coming in.

Trademark and Free Speech – The Curious Case of FUCT

There was an interesting headline yesterday, in this case from the Washington Post, “The f-word case: Supreme Court weighs whether ‘scandalous’ trademarks violate free speech.

In this case, someone has filed a trademark for a clothing line called FUCT. This is allegedly an acronym for “Friends U Can’t Trust,” which honestly sounds like horrible branding, though maybe it works for the target market.

His initial trademark application was denied and he apparently felt rather motivated to fight it. There are other cases regarding disparaging remarks where the trademark as granted. Examples given in the article are an asian american band called the Slants, and standbys such as the Washington Redskins. It actually looks like those two are connected and were the same court case.

“Giving offense is a viewpoint,” wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “We have said time and again that ‘the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.’ ” – Washington Post – FUCT clothing line owner to have case heard by Supreme Court in First Amendment case

This is in fact a quote from the Slants/Redskins case. A founder of the band even wrote a brief supporting the artists case.

Now, I admittedly can’t really argue the merits of this case, as I’m not a lawyer. I am, however, allowed to have an opinion. First and foremost there’s the inconsistency with which the rules are applied, allowing a trademark for “F U 2” but not “F.U.” Allowing “$#!+” but not “NO $#!+” or “APE $#!+.” Of course, there’s something to be said for being similar to already issued trademarks in these specific examples, as well as the fact that you’re typically trademarking an image, a particular way of rendering these things, and not the literal text itself.

Second to this is the fact that I really don’t care. I do not believe it is the government’s job to nitpick the content of a trademark above and beyond being a unique identifier. If someone wants to shoot themselves in the foot with a controversial trademark that’s their problem. Having said that, some forms of the logo in question here bear a strong resemblance to the Ford logo. All other issues aside, that alone could be considered infringement if used as a logo.

Still, you’re always free to make up your own mind. My point of view obviously falls close the to “small government” side of things and completely glosses over ways this could be used to interfere with peoples’ right to live in relative peace. As always, law is hard and complicated and there aren’t any good answers. It all boils down to which individual rights, and which individual’s rights, are more important.

It is, however, amusing, to read some of the comments where the attorneys are trying really hard to present their case without actually using the word. They certainly deserve credit for trying harder than I ever would have. There’s only so much decorum I can force before I start chuckling.

Y’all take care, and maybe don’t try to trademark anything vaguely resembling an obscenity. It appears to be like a box of chocolates.

Pokemon GO, FAQs, and the Ghost of Blogs Past

Playing Pokemon Go feels really weird now. Of course, I played back at release when it was absolutely huge, and burned out a month or so before Gen 2 was released. The burn-out was, of course, my fault, not the game’s. At the time I was a member of the Silph Road research group, having spent a great deal of time on their subreddit before and after launch. They were doing a study on if egg pokemon was a result of egg origin or hatch location. I don’t remember the details, but it was so, much, walking.

It wasn’t just a game during that time, it became a lifestyle out of necessity. I walked as much as possible at work, including a walking track during lunch. I went to a park after work during conducive weather, and walked up and down the street outside the house in the evening until I had reached my hatching goal for the day. It began to feel like that’s all I did. This is around the time they added the driving lockout. In its initial implementation this made it impossible for me to spin most of my go-to pokestops. I had a route set up where I would pull up, park, spin the stop, then go. That initial update included a lock-out timer that would flag me as driving, which I had been before I parked, and wouldn’t let me do anything. That shut down my entire route because I wasn’t adding an extra 10 minutes per stop to my morning commute just to play.

I’m off topic though. A friend recently said he needed more in-game friends, and I’ve been actively trying to modify my diet and overall routine. Not much, just a little at a time. This seemed like a good enough time to get back into it, as a lot has changed since then, mostly for the better, I think. At the least, if it motivates me to move around a little bit more it will have been useful.

In no way related to that, I’m thinking about writing a bit of an FAQ and link list for the Blaugust discord channel. While I consider myself one of the least qualified people in the “core” Blaugust group, I have mobile notifications turned on for that channel so sometimes find myself being the first one to respond. With Blaugust itself only a few months away, if indeed we’re doing it again, I expect we’ll find the frequency ramp up again and having some basic answers on-hand will be helpful.

To that end I’ve been collecting some links, some as far back as the Newbie Blogger Initiative which far pre-dates my presence, and validating, reading, and hopefully distilling some of that information. I was as new as they were, and not that long ago either. I understand the questions and why they’re being asked, most of them are just beyond the scope of my personal experience.

If nothing else, I will have at least benefited from the research myself.

Speaking of other bloggers, I’ve been watching this sort of ebb and flow of names that are mostly lost on me. Blogging is in many ways like a dense forest. Many people have strung a hammock among the different community and subject trees making up that forest, and when an important enough person decides to leave their place it creates a sort of ripple. A vacuum that will slowly fade with time as everyone fondly remembers the person who lived in a particular hammock. Abandoned blogs are some of the eeriest places I’ve been on the internet. It almost feels like I’m breaking and entering then looting the place. Doesn’t help that in many cases I’m viewing and archived version of an article because the live version no longer exists.

It’s time to go move around though, so I’ll cut it here and use my legs instead of my fingers. This post is getting weird.

Y’all take care, and be wary of the burnout and tread carefully upon the shoulders of those who came before.