Some small bits and pieces a bit longer than gurgles and hopefully quite a bit less than my usual posts in scale, but still blogworthy. I could describe the interconnectedness of the disparate topics (winding from adventure game controls to DRM to trolls and how to deal with them), but instead I'll offer an achievable to anyone willing to stitch some or all of it together themselves.

Direct Control in Adventure Games

As loyal fanboy, I of course acquired LeChuck's Revenge: Monkey Island 2: Special Edition.

One of things that got hyped in the build up for LR:MI2:SE was the addition of "direct control" for Guybrush, as opposed to point-and-click--based pathfinding. For the third time in the series (following EMI and TMI), and the first time in a 2D entry in the series, there are now controls to left-stick (or "WASD") your way around.

I still remember the great debates on the subject around the time that EMI was released (which were a shadow of the longer ones preceding Grim Fandango, of course).

I find it interesting which adventure game fans believe which control scheme is preferable. In playing LR:MI2:SE I've been using a 360 controller (although I own it this time on the PC, via Steam), primarily because I've been playing it on my larger flat screen second monitor.

The control scheme for adventure games has swung back and forth between both poles for far longer than gamers often seem to remember. Certainly in the Golden Age of the 90's all of the majors used point-and-click, but that wasn't always the case. I think it is easily forgotten that the early AGI and SCI games from Sierra used direct control, with joystick support even. (They also had often parsers, what a wonderfully classic control scheme that was.)

Given the number of classics across both control schemes I feel it is high time to have a moratorium on the debate of which scheme is superior. We should be happy with whichever one makes the most sense for the game, or developer, at hand. In the best of times, maybe we'll even get both schemes in one shiny package, just like LR:MI2:SE delivers.

Whoever thought that treating customers like criminals was a good idea?

It needs not much elaboration, but trying to play one of them newfangled blue laser discs on PC with a drive that can supposedly play them is damn near impossible. It reminds me of the early days of DVD. (Yeah, I'm the kind of idiot that likes a general purpose device that can handle multiple tasks including film watching. The first DVD player I owned was also PC drive.) It's even worse than the current state of DVD on Linux, as bad as that is...

The problem is that in order to keep the content "safe" from "criminals" everything is flaky and you never can tell (and there's nobody to ask for troubleshooting help that seems to have a clue, either) whatever the hell the root cause is. Perhaps it might be:

  1. Bugs in the software (most of which is overpriced)
  2. Bugs in the hardware
  3. Inclement weather
  4. Bugs in the disc
  5. Failure to pay your proper blood sacrifices to the film industry
  6. Bugs in the software on the disc (hi, Java!)
  7. The correct operation of the "iPatch" detection technology (arr!)
  8. All of the Above

Here's the thing that weirds me the most out:

From time to time my player software has a bad habit of crashing. For instance, today I made the "silly mistake" of trying to close the program. I had watched 20 minutes of a film before deciding to have dinner then finish the film on a different device.

Just a few minutes after the program has crashed, my drive stops responding. The eject button doesn't work, Windows' eject menu item doesn't work. The drive stops spinning and stops even attempting to read anything. Eventually Windows starts to think the drive has been disconnected.

I can't get the drive to respond at all until I've shutdown the system, let it cool, then bring it back up.

Everything about that seems broken to me. Why is the player software so prone to crashing when it costs so much? Why does it seem that the software crash happens to crash the hardware, rather than the much less surprising reverse? Why do I feel that this possibly is the "correct course of action" on some specification document somewhere?

That'll show some imaginary pirates somewhere: lock the device so that it no longer functions until the proper authorities get there. It's not like someone might try to watch actual films in the device.

I haven't even figured out how to approach the subject with support people: is this a software problem or a hardware problem? I honestly have no idea.

Don't Feed the Trolls

I've gurgled plenty about Activision Blizzard's RealID fiasco and I'm glad it is mostly over. I am a bit sad that more people didn't take the fiasco as an opportunity to join my not-very-organized "boycott" of the industry's current top evil publisher.

Most of what I could say has been said more effectively in the last few days by people that have more at stake in the battle than I ever will. What I want to point out on my blog is that I highly disagree with the supposed prime motivation for Activision Blizzard's attempted stupid community-melting blunder: to fight trolls.

First of all, this motivation was obviously a lie. Actiblizzardo obviously wants to do a roundabout on Facebook (and Xbox Live and Steam, and just about every other social network out there) and bootstrap their own behemoth on WoW and Starcraft coattails. That's a fine motivation, but it sounds a lot more evil when you try to bury your real intentions in a cloud of smoke (and below some of the worst community management decision making ever; do their suits even use the internet?).

More importantly, I think it is generally unhealthy in any community to make any far-reaching decision whose prime motivation is to fight trolls. The one and only true law of dealing with internet trolls--- do not feed them. (SFW view from Wikipedia on the law of not feeding the trolls and NSFW troll's eye view of don't feed the trolls, which also reminds us that one man's troll is often another's spirited provocateur of justice.) Going out to specifically fight trolls just tends to give them a lot more food, a lot faster. I learned this lesson many times over in my young whippersnapper days.

Actiblizzardo's proposed RealID forums where every warlock knows each other poster's truename is the equivalent of proposing to nuke underground-dwelling creatures with orbital strikes. There is going to be a ton of cross-fire and collateral damage and in the end you'll find out that you wind up bringing closer to the surface the even worse creatures that lurk even further down.

(For an enjoyable reenactment of this very desperation strategy and how brazenly it fails, may I suggest the Gears of War series? Also, for those that did not know the plot of Gears, or never realized that the story is all about how stupid Sera's humanity is: you are welcome. I think I won an achievable here for connecting Activision Blizzard's bad decision to analogy with the downfall of the human colony Sera. Much more fitting to use a game reference when talking about games than the Lord of the Rings analogy I had planned for a disclaimer I decided to skip.)