The final choice is the weakest choice

An image of the complex narrative tree for kono yo no hate de koi wo utau shoujo YU-NO, a visual novel game by games developer ELF - image source unknown

The release (and reaction to) Bioware’s Mass Effect 3 gave me an occasion to talk about game endings and the sorts of narrative cop-outs that arise from them. Now, Mass Effect 3 has had an “extended cut” of its endings, and I’m going to take that as a cue to do an extended cut of talking about narrative choices.

In short, of all of the choices presented in an interactive narrative, the final choice is almost always going to be the weakest choice.

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I can’t tell you what piracy is doing, but it doesn’t seem to be killing the industry

Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718 depicting the battle between Blackbeard the Pirate and Lieutenant Maynard in Ocracoke Bay (cropped)

The fact is that despite the movie and games industries bemoaning rampant and uncontrolled piracy of their products, both industries are burgeoning. The movie industry is “suffering” under record revenues, and the games industry revenues have grown more than 300% in the last decade (to more than double that of the movie industry).

And yes, rampant and uncontrolled piracy is happening – yet the industry is getting more money over the counter than ever before. It’s difficult, then, for the industries to show how much they’re being hurt. Would their record revenues be higher? By how much? Nobody knows the answer, but thanks to France, we can take a guess.

You see, back in 2010, France introduced stiff anti-piracy legislation that (after a bit of a rocky start in its early months) reduced online piracy by a whopping 66%. How, you might ask, did this affect sales?

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DayZ hotfix rolling update [updated]

Hordes of DayZ's zombies shamble over the crest of a hill towards a small farmhouse

Just in case you thought DayZ development was slow (due to the lack of updates during E3 and being that it is done for free), there’s another hotfix out today. For the impatient, just wanting to know what the key changes in DayZ, the summary is: Food and other generic loot is spawning again, animals are active and more numerous, night-time rendering has been altered, and there are some experimental melee weapons.

The hatchet and crowbar are experimental, and quite possibly underpowered as melee weapons. Rocket is planning to evaluate them to see whether to continue with them, or drop melee weapons again for the time being.

Want more detail?

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R18+ classification for games passes Oz Federal houses for 2013

An image of each of the Australian Classification Markers, from left to right, "Check the Classification","G","PG","M","MA15+","R18+","X18+"

It’s been a rather long and shameful road for Australia’s media classification system. The system itself requires that most forms of media sold, rented, displayed or traded within Australia be properly classified and labelled, but the system has been … well, uneven, at best.

While all other media had six classifications, computer and video games had just four, restricting the allowable content for games to that which was deemed suitable for a fifteen year old audience of minors.

The lack of an R18+ classification led to some games being restricted from sale, while others wound up getting grouped into an overstretched MA15+ classification, which seemed to contain an increasing amount of inappropriate content.

It has been announced today that the new classifications category has finally (after many years of wrangling and obstacles) finally passed the Australian Federal Parliament and Senate – to commence on 1 January 2013 – but that’s not the whole story.

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DayZ 1.7.1 rolling-update. Extra cruelty release [updated]

Hordes of zombies shamble over the crest of a hill towards a small farmhouse

The new DayZ code is rolling out to servers now. There’s some great stuff in this release, like (for examples) zombies no longer able to see and attack you through walls and floors/ceilings. You can actually hide from them now.

However, new characters will spawn with just a bandage, painkillers and a flashlight. No ammo, no weapon, no food, no water. Also, the zombies can see better than they used to, and they see based on where they are looking, rather than what direction their bodies are facing in.

Additionally, as some of you have already noticed today, vehicles are being reset with server restarts. Full list of changes and fixes are below.

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Finding your feet in DayZ, resources and tips for survivors [updated]

A roadmap of the Chernogorsk in Chernarus, showing important locations

DayZ, the free-to-play zombie apocalypse survival mod for Arma 2: Combined Operations (Bohemia Interactive Studio, 2009), can be disorienting at first. Gameplay takes place on an open-world map covering 225 square kilometres, built from satellite data of a part of Czechoslovakia. Each time you begin anew, you start without a map, and with little idea about just where you are, and often less idea about where you can find equipment (and more importantly find water).

You’d think there would be some handy online resources to help you out. And you’d be right.

If you want the thrill of discovery, you might want to give the maps part a miss. Otherwise, let’s look at what resources are available to you.

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3D graphics performance is all about control

A desert tortoise with the caption "I used to race Achilles, then I took an arrow to the knee"

The Elder Scrolls Online, Zenimax’s upcoming MMOG take on the Elder Scrolls universe is going to have nowhere near the sort of graphical fidelity that you’re used to from, say, Skyrim. And there’s good reasons for that. Reasons that are applicable to pretty much every graphical title you’re likely to encounter, from IMVU and Second Life to … well, Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online.

Leaving aside the individual hardware for just a moment, perhaps the single most important factors in graphical performance, is control.

The customer has 3D graphics hardware, and your software contains a tuned and optimised 3D graphics rendering engine and pipeline. That’s great.

However, the best 3D graphics engine on the best 3D graphics hardware can still run about as well as a wounded tortoise if you don’t exercise proper control.

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DayZ network compromised

Many, many zombies crest a hill, moving slowly towards a building

It seems a rather unpleasant person has gained access to a key email account, which in turn has allowed them to compromise the DayZ server network. Anyone who provided login credentials to the DayZ team should consider those credentials compromised. Likewise, a trojan was placed on the US mirror as dayz_auto_updater.exe, and this will have installed back-doors on systems that executed it.

Server admins, get someone to make coffee, because you’ve got a fair bit of work to do to see if you’re safe, or to fix things if you’re not. DayZ forum users, your forum passwords have been leaked. Change them.

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You are the controller. Again.

Front view of the Xbox Kinect accessory

E3 2012 seems to be a bit of a … well, mostly it seems to be … is there really a good word for the opposite of innovative announcements? That’s the vibe I’m largely feeling. Mostly E3 2012 is producing exactly the announcements and viewings that you’d expect it to, with little surprise.

One actually interesting thing is that Microsoft seems to largely be resigned to giving up, or at the very least heavily-downplaying, motion control through its Kinect product.

“You are the controller”, certainly, but it seems to be almost all focused around voice control rather than tracking the motion of players for input.

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The E3 event horizon

An overhead map of the South Hall of the E3 Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center

E3 has it’s own gravity-well, an “event” horizon (no pun intended) that pulls in game-development, and mangles development, PR and marketing schedules in its fierce, distorting grip.

Hastily cobbled together demonstrations, unrepresentative footage and more, all of which contrive to steal as much as a full quarter’s development time away from actually working on making genuine progress on the game. Perhaps the worst place to get news about games is E3 and the E3 floor. Better, more reliable, news and media mostly happen after E3 is done.

Even the trailers get tainted by E3’s peculiar distortions and gravitic homogeneity.

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