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January 07, 2005

The Pussification of the 5th Column

So, as you may have guessed, it's been a busy week down here at Casa Websnark. We got back from vacation and had... well, you know. Stuff. To do. Stuff to do. You know how it is. To give you some idea of just how busy... not only has my snarking been light all week, but I only got around to hooking up my Windows computer and booting up City of Heroes today.

"So what," you ask?

So... there's a new Issue of content out, Mister Man. Whole new areas! Whole new archetypes I'm never actually going to get to play! (Bastards.) Whole new sound effects and shifts of functionality!

And the 5th Column -- one of the premier bad guy teams -- has been wholly remade into "The Council."

We knew this was coming. There's been debate about it for months. You see... the 5th Column were Nazis. That's right, Nazis. Evil Germans who believed the Reich would rise again. They employed batteries of Helmeted Ninjas (because nothing says "Nazi" like the martial arts), guys with grenade launchers and Unteroffizers (I couldn't care less that I misspelled that) with names like Col. Wagner spreading their message of hate through the city, kidnapping and recruiting and blowing shit up. At higher levels, they also turned into werewolves and vampires and had Nazi Death Robots.

And it was cool as Hell... because it's seriously fun to beat up Nazis. You don't need any justification for it. You don't even have to think about it. A contact would give you a mission where the 5th Column were invading an office park to steal a valuable painting with some kind of encoded clue on it. You immediately got on your supergroup channel. "Bonedancer! Ms. Mercury! Azure Ampere! Nazi Art Thieves!" And a cheer would go up, and the Galaxy Circle would strike forth, assembling and entering and beating the living hell out of those Nazi bastards. Even just running along the streets in Steel Canyon, hearing them giving recruitment speeches, was enough reason to pause and start hammering them with electricity and radiation blasts. Because damn it, they were Nazis, and Superheroes fight Nazis! It's what they do! Nazis are evil and spread hate, and so we punch them in the head and call them "Ratzis" and make bad puns like "Don't cause a Fuhrer, Hans!" while you did it.

This is a core element of comic books. It has been since the actual Second World War. Captain America and the Invaders explicitly fought Nazis. The Justice Society spent a good amount of time fighting Nazis. The retconned "All Star Squadron" was a flying brigade of Nazi hunters. Nazis held on into the last part of the century, always ready to unleash a new steam powered Nazi robot on our heroes, who would defeat it and beat the fascists down for Justice -- and it felt good, because they were evil, rotten Nazis!

In the Issue 2 update, we also got a new low level 5th Column Base Map, which was a warehouse painted up in 5th Column Regalia, with a speaker system that intoned in German as you stormed the base. It was a wonderful piece of atmosphere as you and your low level hero chums beat the snot out of the 5th Column. Even the name was cool in an evil way. The Fifth Column. It sounded like a potboiler from the 40's, evoking thoughts of insurgents and spies and bunds going out and doing evil.

Well.

Cryptic Studios is preparing to launch City of Heroes in Europe. Including Germany. And now... the Fifth Column has been retconned. Literally retconned. There's apparently something about time travel involved or the like, so that for the most part, the 5th Column never existed (or was tiny and inconsequential), and now they've been replaced by The Council.

The Council.

First off, the name is lame as Hell. It makes it sound like you're fighting a corrupt pack of City Aldermen. And, running through a low level Council mission earlier today, that's pretty much exactly what they are, or so it seems. It's all the same missions, apparently, only now the Nazi elements have been taken out and replaced with... well... you remember all those soldiers in Cobra? The ones who didn't get action figures of their own -- they're the anonymous soldiers who sprayed energy fire at their enemies, had no personalities, and pretty much existed to eject at the last millisecond when G.I. Joe blew their planes up with missiles?

Yeah. That seems to be the entirety of the Council. Only Cobra's Generic Soldiers got to shout "COBRA," which honestly seems like more personality than these doinks have.

The reason they claimed the change happened was because of their overall plotline bible. They claimed that the bible just naturally called for this to happen, and the fact that they're launching a German version of the game had nothing to do with it.

This, of course, is transparent bullshit. They spent significant time, money and effort creating skins and textures and ambience for low level 5th Column bases in Issue 2, which then had to be largely redone for Issue 3. Plus they had to rewrite every 5th Column mission to make sure all the Nazi was pulled out of them. And when they first did this, they also changed the dedication plaques extolling the hero Atlas's fight against Nazis at the start of WWII to nonNazi stuff as well, until people freaked. They then claimed it was an error.

The real reason all this is happening is a German law that makes the display of Nazi regalia and the positive portrayal of Nazis illegal. Only... the 5th Column didn't display Nazi Regalia (their symbol was a kind of Skull done in Soviet Realism) and they weren't positively portrayed. Quite the opposite. You were supposed to beat the Hell out of them! They were evil! There was nothing good about them! They existed to have their helmeted heads crushed before being carted off to jail, sterilized by nuclear radiation.

The overall experience of City of Heroes has been cheapened by this. It feels... craven, somehow. It feels like the people at Cryptic didn't have the guts to keep the cool villains they had, and instead had to replace them with lame villains just to make sure they didn't get angry phone calls. This, I would add, despite that fact that there are tons of video games that do feature Nazis and do get sold and played in Germany. Including things like Castle Wolfenstein and Battlefield 1942. Games where you can play as the Germans if you wish.

Will this cause me to drop City of Heroes? Nah. There's not a huge amount in this latest issue for me (though I have a character in the range of the new zone, so there's that at least), but I still loves me the Superhero action. But I kind of wish they'd just cut the 5th Column out entirely, instead of forcing a lameass sea change onto them to make them as inoffensive as humanly possible. The visceral pleasure of destroying virtual fascism and racism and anti-semitism has been replaced with the dubious pleasure of beating up well armed janitors.

When Captain America fights the Red Skull, there's something epic going on. It's America and Freedom against Nazism and Tyranny on a grand scale. When Captain America fights Hydra, you hope there's a few pictures here and there of his current love interest in scanty clothing, to keep your interest. City of Heroes gave up the Red Skull to get themselves the dorks Hydra don't return phone calls to. And that's just sad.

December 10, 2004

A brief electronic discussion on City of Heroes

Chris Meadows 02:16: I'm amused that the Kheldian level bump on the City of Heroes test server has been made "permanent". Leading to a request from someone to wipe all the Kheldians after update 3 goes live, for the benefit of the people who use test as their main server.
Eric Burns 02:16: Wait. Things are unstable. Events and inventories get wiped out regularly. Powers vary from moment to moment. There are terrible crashes. Who in their right mind would *want* to use the test server as their main server?
Jesse Taylor 02:17: DC Comics fans.

November 22, 2004

That moment that all becomes worth it.

So as you know, I spent a plurality of yesterday playing City of Heroes. Call it sanity. Call it recovery. Call it giving the tendons in my arm a day to heal from frantic typing. Whatever you call it, it was pretty much a full day of fighting for justice and experience points.

And truth be told, I spent a chunk of that day feeling pretty cynical about it. Early in the day we cleared out a couple of missions for my main hero, Transit -- but at least one of them was vastly easier than we expected, and the followup mission actually requires a full team of eight heroes to even start it. (Which is a pain in the neck, to be honest. There are about seven of us in our little coalition of heroism, but the likelihood of all seven of us being available to play at any given time is negligible. So, we'll need a coterie of pick-up heroes for this adventure. And while City of Heroes's pick-up adventuring system is pretty damn sweet, when you're at the culmination mission for an entire adventure, to suddenly have to have guest stars "Spydorr Man," "IMSOSEXYHOT" and "N0tBatM0n" join the Galaxy Circle is just plain disappointing.

So that was a bit anticlimactic. I then hit the streets with my "ode-to-Silver-Age" hero Matterman until the gang was ready for something for the evening. That something was the second Task Force you can take your heroes on. Task Forces are a long series of interconnected missions assigned to you by NPC heroes. This particular Task Force is assigned by Synapse, so those of you sitting at home who play this game and know from task forces are now nodding your head thoughtfully.

As it works out, this is the first time I ever played through Synapse. I've played through higher level task forces, as well as the soul crushing, mind numbing, finger cramping marathon that is the first task force, assigned by Positron. (Positron -- the only time in City of Heroes I've ever decided point blank that the citizens of Paragon City don't deserve rescue this much.)

Well, the Synapse Task Force is essentially one of the "end plots" for the early game. You see, at different levels in City of Heroes, you find yourself facing down different groups and organizations of nefarious intent. For example, as a first level hero... well, you're generally in the tutorial facing down contaminated thugs who've been sprayed by evil pathogens and gone nuts and throw rocks at you. But second through sixth level, you're generally facing street gangs like the Skulls or the Hellions, "scientific zombies" under the command of the insane Doctor Vahzilok, the odd pack of Nazis (which you can call "Nazis," but not "Nazi dogs," because the word "Nazi" is one of those the language filter triggers to block in the game. That's right. You're fighting a foe you can't name without it being bleeped. And yes, you can turn the language filter off, but Jesus Christ, half the fun of comments are watching language turn to [$@&%^]).

And one of the groups you fight are the automatons of the Clockwork King.

These things, as annoying and deadly as they can be, are cute. They look like scrap metal art as done by Phil Foglio, generally with little windup keys in their backs. And they make the most satisfying "crunch/clank" sounds when they collapse into junk. Now, there's a lot of Clockwork missions, so you become mind-numbingly used to them as you go along. "Oh, yeah. Fetch the weird spring. Oh, right, find the odd power source. Oh -- the mind of the King. Oh boy."

Well, the Synapse Task Force is the endgame of this. And it's... well... grueling.

At first, it's fun. The XP flies fast and free (especially for me, as two of the team members were L20 and I was L17 to begin with, meaning I got a healthy bonus for being a babe in the woods). And it's all doable. There's a few million helicopter clockworks and minion clockworks and giant killer clockworks to fight... they break the missions up into "recover the part" and "save the hostage" and "break all the robots in the power substation" type things. It's a good time. Also, you get to fight Bertha and Long Tom.

I swear. Bertha and Long Tom.

Anyway, it was sometime after one in the morning. We're exhausted. And it's just work at this point. We've lost all narrative thread. Our banter -- our group gives excellent banter, balancing the concept of role playing with the reality that this "role playing game" really is just a tactical hack and slash with multiplayer. (Admittedly, I feel that way about a number of the D&D Campaigns I was in and ran alike, growing up.) We've lost Darklens to fatigue and the recognition that tomorrow is a work day. And more crucially, our scrapper -- a speedster named Ms Mercury -- lets us know that sleep is no longer optional. And finishing off the Task Force with two defenders (my own Transit -- who as a teleportation specialist isn't exactly... useful on this task force in her own right, except as a minor buffer of allies and a minor doer of damage, and the more effective Schattenelf -- which I may be misspelling because I don't know German, but to my knowledge it's not a dirty word so stop snickering), and our leader, the Controller Living Prodigy, really couldn't do it all on our own. Nor would we want to cut Darklens and Ms Mercury out of the endgame. So we exit the mission after finishing and start saying goodnight....

Now, some of my team mates have played this Task Force through before. And they expect that at the end of the next mission, there is a Big Thing. However, the designers like to mix things up a little. So, we've exited a warehouse in Skyway City, right next to one of the gigantic walls and sequences of highway overpasses that is architecture in Skyway City... we're saying our goodnights, and beginning the 30 second countdown sequence to logging out and HOLY [$@&%^] IT'S BABBAGE!

Babbage is a Clockwork Monster. Huge, and epic... like something Jack Kirby and Lea Hernandez would collaborate on. There's nothing cute about Babbage. When we ran to engage, Ms. Mercury didn't come up to Babbage's knee. This thing drops down the wall out of nowhere, ready to decimate us for ruining the Clockwork King's plans, and any thought of leaving now went away.

It was frightening in the best cooooool way. Adrenalin was flowing (not in such a way that I'd need to medicate, thankfully) and the team was back into full swing. Ice bolts and darkness blasts and radiation bursts and swift kicking combined. Our controller locked Babbage in ice -- it lasted less than a second before he burst free! Ms Mercury flurried punches and kicks but couldn't nail anything vital. The Elf tried her own hold (those were some damn big tentacles of darkness) but they didn't manage to snag it. I burned the thing with my eyes and tried not to die... it began to weaken--

And it jumped to the top of a building and started to flee. It was out of angle for our attacks! And none of us had swift versions of flight (in fact, I'm the only character with Hover) or Superleap!

Which had been bugging me, earlier. Transit can teleport and hover, but when pretty much all the other heroes on my team have Superspeed, it still means she arrives last to the party most of the time. Last and exhausted, as chain teleporting takes a lot out of you. I finally used enhancements to alleviate that somewhat, but still -- it seemed like the power I'd based my whole character concept on was a wash....

...until that moment. Babbage was getting away! But Babbage would terrorize the streets and wreak havoc on lower level heroes if we didn't stop it! And no one else could get up there quickly. I looked up, targeted my teleport (teleport isn't a very granular power -- 98 yards forward onto your target, period) to the underside of an overpass, beamed up, whirled in air, targeted the rooftop, beamed down next to where Babbage was walking, jacked up all my remaining Inspirations for extra power and fired everything I had.

It worked. I got Babbage's attention. And therefore got very hurt, very fast, though not quite dead. And it gave my fellow heroes a chance to work up how to get within range of the beast. And we were able to nail the monstrosity.

In that moment, at the end of hours of gameplay and fighting vague dissatisfactions (at 17-19th level, I shouldn't feel superfluous)... suddenly, I was in a comic book. We were desperately outmatched, and the stakes were high and real (trust me, I've been on the receiving end of someone's high level ambush going "uncleared" while walking through a lower level neighborhood. You despise these people). Suddenly, we were the Fantastic Four fighting against a giant mole creature. Suddenly, we were the Justice League being pushed to the limits of our mighty powers taking on a threat no one of us, not even Superman, could fight alone.

Suddenly, it was role playing. For one brief second, I was the hero I'd been pretending I was since I was five years old with a gold towel to represent Captain Marvel's cape (not the comic book Cap, the SHAZAM! television show).

When you beat Babbage, you get a Badge in the game. The badges are fun, but generally fluffy (some combinations of them 'earn' you bonus powers, but when you're 19th level, you're very, very far away from any of those. They're just kind of cute at this point in the game). Well, this Badge represents something to me. This badge represents combat teleporting and desperation... represents those who wield entanglements trying desperately to hold the beast while our speedster tries desperately to get hold of the thing and shake something loose. It represents a multihour task force where you grind for XP and get a couple of levels and become almost jaded being transformed, alchemically, into the very heart of the genre you want so desperately to be a part of.

Oh yeah. It was worth it.

So, did anyone actually read this thing to the end?

November 12, 2004

Let's talk about monumental stupidity -- in other words, let's talk about the Comic Book Industry.

Marvel Comics is suing City of Heroes, because it's too easy to make characters who look like Marvel characters in the game.

Okay, let's stop for a moment and have a look at the Terms of Service for the game:

(e) Character Name. In order to use the service, you must create a character and choose a name for your character to identify your character to other Members (your "Character Name"). You may not select as your Character Name the name of another person, or a name which violates any third party's trademark right, copyright, or other proprietary right, or which may mislead other players to believe you to be an employee of NC Interactive, or which NC Interactive deems at its sole discretion to be vulgar or otherwise offensive. NC Interactive reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (1) delete or alter any Character Name or (2) terminate any license granted herein, for any reason whatsoever, including, without limitation, any suspected or actual infringement of any trademark or trade name right, copyright, or other proprietary right.


(f) Super Group Names, Super Group Member Titles, Battle Cry, and Character Description. While accessing the service, it is possible to name your Super Group, give titles to members of your Super Group, create a Battle Cry, and write a Character Description. You may not create a Battle Cry, Character Description, give a name to a Super Group, or give a title to a Super Group member that is the name/description/title of another person, or a name/description/title which violates any third party's trademark right, copyright, or other proprietary right, or which may mislead other players to believe you to be an employee of NC Interactive, or which NC Interactive deems at its sole discretion to be vulgar or otherwise offensive. NC Interactive reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (1) delete or alter any name/description/title given to a Super Group, Super Group Member, Battle Cry, or Character Description or (2) terminate any license granted herein, for any reason whatsoever, including, without limitation, any suspected or actual infringement of any trademark or trade name right, copyright, or other proprietary right.

In other words, you're explicitly prohibited from naming your character "Iron Man," your superhero group "The Avengers," use the battle cry "IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME," or use character or super group descriptions that make it clear you're just playing the X-Men. There is a mechanism in-game for slapping down people you see wearing Superman's togs (more or less) or the eight thousand variants of "Wolvernine" or "LogaNNN" out there.

This is apparently not enough for Marvel. They want to sue to force Cryptic to somehow prevent characters from modeling Marvel heroes at all, period, by hobbling the character creation tools so they can't possibly create the Hulk or Spider Man in any context.

It's not possible.

It's not possible. People are damn good at making graphics tools model what they want to model. Cryptic can only block explicit name-choosing and respond aggressively to reports that come in. They have no capacity whatsoever to ensure no one will dress a character up like the Black Widow. I mean, Jesus Christ, it's a grey leather jumpsuit. It's not like they can prevent people from choosing grey leather.

All this can possibly do is piss off video game fans and bias them against Marvel. And to be blunt, that doesn't do Marvel any good. Comic books are increasingly niche products. Teenagers aren't buying the Avengers -- thirty year olds are. And that's mostly okay with Marvel, because it's sale of the trademarks that drives their business now, not sale of the comics. Which is why they're suing, because they feel needlessly threatened.

Well, this won't kill off City of Heroes. It'll mean that there's going to be a lot stricter policing of character knockoffs, but I'm okay with that. Frankly, I get pretty bored with the Solid Snakes I've seen running around. However, it will pretty quickly be determined that Cryptic took steps to ensure Due Diligence, and the case will be dismissed. Or, Cryptic and Marvel will come to an accommodation before it ever reaches that stage. This won't end up being any big deal.

Except, of course, to Marvel's potential market. They will be pissed off at Marvel.

Someone explain to me how that's a good thing for Marvel. Seriously. I'd like to hear it.

October 29, 2004

My Weakness is Shiny Things!

So, I'm not that jazzed about City of Villains. I mean, I love City of Heroes the way any good addict loves his own personal crack, but part of what I love is the idea that we're all, every one of us, out there doing the hero thing. There's no PvP. There's few ways to grief new players. Every move you make in the game is heroic, with the possible exception of using stealth and teleport to make your way to reading obscure plaques in the middle of hellacious city parks so you can earn the "Intellectual" badge. I don't want to compete with others on their level, because I won't be able to. I'm a total PvP wuss. I die a lot -- alot -- when human beings are the ones fighting me instead of A.I.s. And it just kills the fun for me -- oh, here's my brave super hero. Oops! Sniper killed me from far off! I guess the world is doomed, because I'm just a piece of crap! Hah hah!

So. Cryptic just announced Prelimenary terms for the City of Villains Beta.

And my immediate... immediate thought was "oh cool. I'll qualify."

...damn their skillful coding and alluring opportunities....

October 26, 2004

It's like a brush with celebrity, only the celebrity doesn't know it. So it's more like stalking, really

So, today seems to be the day I'm trawling through Schlock Mercenary (early prognosis: "good"), which means I'm not typing in here enough. But I surface and check my feeds every now and again, and came across this post from Wil Wheaton's log.

It's weird, but I get all excited when I see famous examples of the name "Burns." I don't know why. It's not like we don't have some fame associated with the name. I mean, outside of America where our public schools are considered progressive if they have poetry that doesn't rhyme for one tenth of one quarter, Robert Burns is revered as one of the great poets the world over. And of course, Montgomery Burns extols all the virtues we of Sept Burns (Burns is a minor family, or Sept, in Scotland -- officially under Clan Campbell, which means we're all a pack of scalawags and thieves. We're also more common there than "Smiths" are in America) claim as our own.

So, I'm weirdly tickled pink that Wheaton is playing "Richard Burns" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. For no good reason at all. But heck, I'll buy a copy of the game now, so mission accomplished, I guess.

(And if anyone wonders if I feel the same kinship towards the Fox News Apologist who happens to share my natal as well as surname? I decided long ago that he was actually born Erich Berstanpeniswang, and had to change his name for television. And until I see a birth certificate, I'm sticking with that story.

Berstanpeniswang. It's Monacoian, I think.)

October 17, 2004

What makes a good video game.

So you haven't seen me yet tonight, which is really okay. I've done something almost every day since mid-August. It's good to not sweat it for a day. Today was devoted to City of Heroes, and was astoundingly fun.

A series of adventures for our team (I'm playing Transit, a teleportation specialist -- which will seem odd to CoH players, but works pretty damn well) led us to a fight against one of the Archvillains. These are always extremely cool adventures, and this more than most. You see, he had ice powers, which meant there were rooms with iced over floors that were frictionless, to make things harder on us....

Only... in one of the rooms... there was a giant ice slide down one stairwell, going up into a jump.

Seriously.

So we cleared that room of the evil Outcasts... and then blew twenty minutes sliding. If you did it just right, you could jump to a second floor catwalk. And if you jumped off the catwalk just right, you could make it all the way back up the iced over stairwell. And if you balanced sliding just right, you could half-pipe for a while.

It made sense from a role playing standpoint -- our Supergroup is officially a school for superheroes. So we were mostly supposed to be kids or teenagers. With a graduate who was embarrassed, and a teacher who was trying to balance decorum and wooting sounds. Which means this was a damn good RP scene for an online MassMOG where the goal is punching things.

This is an incidental bit in the middle of one room of one mission.

This... is why this game is so astoundingly cool.

Oh, and we took him down, hard. Ah, sweet simulated over the top superheroic violence, how I adore thee...

August 26, 2004

Coincidence? HAH! I scoff at coincidence!

gg20040721.jpgFrom Gaming Guardians.

So... EDG is vacationing in City of Heroes. But one of the recurring menaces the Gaming Guardians face is the threat of Shane Hensley, the founder of Pinnacle, creator and designer of Deadlands, and fair shot with a pistol.

And now... Cryptic Studios has announced that Shane Hensley has become Senior Writer for City of Villains.

I wonder if Graveyard Greg's going to latch onto this....

August 25, 2004

Maybe the Empire should just stop hiring Bothans.


(From Penny Arcade. Click on the thumbnail for full sized dead Bothans!)

Not to harp on Sony and Galaxies more than is strictly necessary, but once again Gabe and Tycho encapsulate what makes an issue desperately desperately wrong within a few short panels. And there is the order of the death of many Bothans. And I also have no doubt but that Worlds of Warcraft will be better than Star Wars: Galaxies, since the popular consensus of review sites are Galaxies sucks bantha.

Dude, it's a game.

stwrgl.jpgI love early morning video game news. It's never good news. It's always, somehow, some way a company we like is being crushed by the soulless forces of commerce, a company we don't like extending its vicious grip and crushing the good, decent people playing the game, or something about John Romaro getting a new job.

Today's early morning video game news is especially cheery. It seems that makers of crap MMORPG Star Wars: Galaxies had a problem with people using a bug to duplicate in-game money, which they then spread around. Sony Online Entertainment, the soulless company in question, responded by banning all characters who had used or received the fake money.

All characters.

Including all the people who received the money in good faith, had no idea it was duplicated, and would gladly have cooperated with game officials had they known.

If this were the real world, this would be like the guy at the convenience store who had the fake five dollar bills passed to him going to prison along with the counterfeiter.

If this were the real world, there would also be organizations like the ACLU to come in and demand said convenience store worker would receive his rights, make a stink, etc. so on and so forth. See... well, see America since the passage of the Patriot Act for many, many examples of the process. But that's not important here, because this isn't the real world. It's a game. And players don't actually have any rights. At all. Period. It's someone else's machine and they reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Friends of the banned players gathered in protest on one of the servers. Sony responded by first threatening to shut the server down, and then 'dispersing' the mob by randomly teleporting the characters all over space, willy nilly. Were this the real world, this would be like the police gathering up protesters, herding them into cars, and driving them all over the country, blindfolded, then dumping them in ditches all over this great land of ours. See the above regarding the ACLU in such cases.

Only, once again, this isn't the real world. Characters in Star Wars: Galaxies have no right of free assembly. They have no right of appeal. They have no rights of any sort. It's a game, and someone else is running it.

Does that make Sony's responses right? Absolutely not. It is an infuriating, ham handed way of treating the people who are paying you by the month. This is wholly bad business, handled extremely badly. Period. If people want to get together and protest, let them. Let them play the game any way they feel like it. And when your customer base is complaining, listen to them. It's not that hard, honestly.

However, Sony didn't handle it that way. And so we have many, many players directly affected, and thousands of players on the edges who see just how little they rate in this game. And they want to know what they can do. How can they seize their virtual world back? How can they force change.

Simple. They can't. Sony doesn't care.

But they can stop playing.

Dude, it's a game. If someone dicks you over while playing a game, you stop playing the game. If you've paid for the game, you cancel your account and demand your money back. If you're watching other people play the game and you see them get dicked over, you stop playing the game because you don't like the way people are treated, and it's just a game.

Now, the response is predictable. "I've been developing my character for weeks/months/years. I've invested tremendous time and energy into my character. I've invested tremendous emotion into my character. I'm not about to throw it all away because Sony are dicking players over. There has to be another way!"

There is.

You can accept that all of that time and investment was done on someone else's machine, and that if you choose to continue playing, you do so at the risk of being dicked over randomly. You accept that if Sony decides to remove all characters' pants to make random pleasuring themselves on characters easier, they're going to do it and you're not going to be able to stop them.

I understand how these folks feel. My City of Heroes characters have gotten to at least mid level and I truly love them. I love the game. I love how I'm playing it.

But so far, Cryptic and NCSoft haven't dicked folks over. If they did -- especially if I were one of them -- I'd find some other way to spend the monthly subscription fee. Because it's just a game, and I won't pay for the privilege of being dicked over.

The appropriate response to Sony's actions in this case is simple. There should be massive account cancellations, from people affected and from people who have nothing to do with the situation. Sony -- and more to the point, Lucasarts -- should be forced to have meetings where someone in a tie slaps a hardcopy onto the table and says "Damn it, Steve! Account cancellations are up twenty percent and new accounts are down fifteen percent. Who's the idiot who decided the way to break up protests was to teleport people all over gamespace? I have a garbage bag for him to put all his stuff in and a security guard to 'teleport' him off the premises!" Players should make it clear that their monthly fees means they have an expectation of how they're treated, and this isn't it.

Absent those account cancellations, there's not much point to discussing it. Their game? Their rules.

Check your pants on login, Rebel Scum.

August 23, 2004

Is it in fact objectification if the woman is a virtual object, code-speaking?

bloodrayne.jpgI got this off of Boing Boing, which is a place where wonderful mind blowing things are often found.

There is a videogame out in the world. It is called Bloodrayne. It features a female protagonist, Rayne, who is noted for being ultraviolent in a gory fashion (thus, the "blood" part of the title). She is also noted for being... female. Very female. In black leather. She is one of those characters who the term "breast physics" was developed for. In other words, yet another bondage gear fetishist daughter of Lara Croft.

Well, Rayne's beaten Lara once and for all with her sequel. And beaten Jigglefest Maestros Tecmo (known for Dead or Alive and the softcore porn "fan-friendly" Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball as well. We knew they'd upped the ante, because in some of the released screenshots of the game, we saw that Rayne's low rider leather pants were laceups, and open enough that you could tell... just barely... that... (cough) a good interior decorator was consulted in the design. (If you don't get that joke, ask a sixteen year old boy. No, it's not a Queer Eye reference.)

But that wasn't enough to take Tecmo down. After all, the DOA girls have their own line of swimwear. Swimwear. Based on video game characters who originally were supposed to punch people.

Well, Rayne is now going to appear in Playboy magazine, topless at the least.

By appear, we mean Rayne's developers are going to do several modeled renders of the wholly not-real-person character, then shade it in to make it even more... um... detailed.

They're doing a Playboy spread. Printed, not online. Of a video game character.

I think it's good Rayne declined to go full frontal, by the way. I mean, if Majesco, the publishing company, ever decides to do Lytle Wymen the video game, Rayne will need that "I didn't take off my panties" cred to keep from being typecast and shut out.