Thursday, March 13, 2008

Too funny to pass up

Courtesy of Penny Arcade. As 'Tycho' wrote:

It's a little inside baseball I guess, but at the same time the story was so delicious that we couldn't leave it be: a District Attorney in Texas is on trial for building himself a sweet rig on the county dime. This machine in question sports "two hard drives, seven fans, high-end video and audio cards, a wireless Internet connection and cables that glow under ultraviolet light." It's a crime, yeah, but it's an awesome crime. I make an exception for awesome crimes.

"I would not configure a backup computer in that way," says Mr. Gregg, FBI senior forensic examiner and reigning Understatement King.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh yeah... this thing

Wow... colour me forgetful. I think I may have beaten Kelly in the "no posts in forever" competition.

As the media world has already blabbed on and on about... Gary Gygax died last week at the age of 69. For those of you who don't know who he is, look him up. At a glance, it may seem like his contribution was small, but he shaped the lives of millions of people, creating a life-long hobby/obsession for many and creating a foundation for multi-billion-dollar industries.

Not too much is new, I'm afraid. Work is going on strong now that the minority government has evaded all threats of a non-confidence vote (Afghanistan mission, budget, etc.). Everything is great with Angie, which isn't making Pele happy, I don't think.

Something occured to me the other day while playing World of Warcraft. I wonder why no schools have taken up the auction house function in the game to demonstrate real-time economics. I'm sure someone would love to make a bundle from an already-developed application, and I'm sure Blizzard would love the exposure and positive publicity that comes with furthering education. (see my second point below)

The other day I read an article about WoW. It spoke about the negative aspects of game immersion. It naturally got me thinking about the positive elements of it and any MMO (massively multiplayer online [game]):

Team Work: I'd say that's a fairly ubiquitous and oft-desired trait, no? Playing a game whose very existence is founded on the inclusion of thousands of people simultaneously must, at some level, incorporate team work. It's quite possible to play a game like WoW and never really interact with others. However, in so doing, one would miss out on that which makes the medium unique in the same way going to Barbados and playing card games inside an air-conditioned room the whole time would.

Many portions of MMOs are designed for group play, and often require multiple groups to coordinate. In WoW, the largest group possible is 5 people. However, many raids require 5 groups to complete. In DAoC, I once led a raid that involved 170 people, and I'd been on 200 (max battlegroup size) raids. Size wouldn't be an issue if it was a free-for-all-slaughter-everything objective, but completion requires strategy and coordination. Once X had been completed, groups Z and Y had to move to S location and do blah while two other groups went somewhere else to active blah blah. The final objective took 20 minutes just to set up.

Does it always work out well? No. It's like herding labotimized cats most of the time. Do team work projects always work out well in real life? Nope. However, when you finish up (successfully), it's a huge rush. Same thing in-game.

Free-Market Economies: This is what made me think of MMO application in schools. "Whaa...?" you may be thinking. WoW is the best example out there. There is an auction house in every major city, and they're linked together to create a single market. Using these auction houses, players can buy and sell various items. As in the real world, people not doing any research or price-comparing get screwed.

I'll give an actual example from the game: wool and silk. Just like real life, the game professions rely on resources. Tailors (and others) need wool and silk to create products for themselves and to sell on the auction houses to make money to fund more production or to invest in other areas. Wool is a "lesser" grade item than silk - you get it earlier in the game, and it's used to make simpler, lower-tier items.

However... the demand for wool is consistently higher than silk. While a 'stack' of 20 pieces of wool can go for 2 gold, a stack of silk will only go for 70 silver. (100 silver = 1 gold) However, should 20 people go out and find wool and sell it over the course of a few hours, prices will suddenly bottom-out. In putting my product up for bidding or outright buyout, I check what wool prices are (if I have any sense). If 2g 30s (2 gold and 30 silver) is the lowest price, I put my stacks up for 2g 15s. The next guy sees my price is 2g 15s, so he makes his 2g, screwing me. The next guy sets his for 95s... and so on. Suddenly, the market is flooded and prices continue to drop, a great day to be a tailor in need of materials.

Also, finished products go for more than raw materials. I can put up 20 pieces of felhide for 15g, but if I turn that felhide into 5 armor kits, I can sell each kit for 5g. Finished product nets me 25g vs raw materials at 15g.

Opportunity Cost and Niche Abilities: Simply put, doing X means that you can't do Y. Even in fantasy worlds, one can't have everything or be the best at everything. If you want this ability, you have to sacrifice that ability.

Also, the kinds of characters you can play are [usually] carefully constructed. If you're playing a healer, chances are you can't fight well. If you're playing a fighter, chances are you can't heal well. But wait... what if they work together? Well whadaya know... they can accomplish three times as much as they could individually. Obviously, this ties back in to team work.

The best hypothetical example of this is archetypes system in Warhammer Online, as yet unreleased. Each faction has four archetypes: support, tank, melee DPS and ranged DPS. (DPS = damage per second, but has come to mean someone who does a lot of damage) They aren't all the same classes for each faction's archetype, but the roles are clearly established. A ranged DPS character isn't going to run up and swing at baddies, nor is a melee DPS character going to try to heal. The roles, while being flexible, are known well in advance of character creation. Groups in that game will have 6 slots, meaning a full group could have one of each archetype class, plus two spaces for whatever customization desired. You could have a group comprised completely of one archetype, but it will not be versatile or efficient.

Consequences: I suppose an issue a lot of parents have with games is that there are no consequences or, if there are, they aren't enforced or otherwise significant. In MMOs, there can be relatively huge consequences. Want to be a jerk and bad-mouth people in a public chat? You get temporarily banned from the game or, worse, people remember you and your infamous mouth. Suddenly need to get in on a group-necessary task? Too bad the leader of the group is someone who remembers your assinine antics. Bait another player into fighting you so you can have a laugh? Too bad his friends were standing nearby and creamed you afterwards. Nemesis, consequences... both great things.

Anyway... I feel like this isn't a great "back into blogging" post, but whatevah. Since returning from China, I find I have little to talk about. I like consistency and routine. That hardly makes for entertaining blogging.