Why Diablo III, Frankly, Sucked.

Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage on Diablo III. All I can say is that my memories of the first Diablo matched his, and why I enjoyed it is the same. As is why I didn’t enjoy Diablo III.

That’s how bad it was: I can’t even say I hated it. I just… nothinged it. It was the gaming equivalent of eating boiled paper: tasteless, unfilling, and lacking all nutritional value.

It did, however, make me hate always-online games. MMO fans are used to these, I suppose, but I’m not, other than some Borderlands II I play with my brother.

And after Diablo III, and seeing the much love aimed towards the latest SimCity, I can safely say that always-on gaming is a horrible, terrible, no-good, dumbo nothing idea. And the fact that the next Xbox will make it mandatory for everything…

The only people served by “always online” are the companies. It’s a horrible anti-feature for players. It only exists (in non-MMO and Deathmatch FPS’s) for the sake of DRM.

And, companies, your worries over used games (not even piracy anymore, used frickin’ games) isn’t a sufficient reason to cripple my play experience. I don’t have to buy your shit, and if always online is a feature, I won’t.

Crafting Languages for Fun and Profit

Lately I’ve been hanging around on the Conlang mailing list, a forum for people devoted to crafting fictional languages. Recently one of the members of the list — David Peterson, the president of the Language Creation Society — was tapped to create Dothraki and two forms of Valyrian for the Game of Thrones TV series, another for an as-yet-unannounced CW pilot, and 8 (!) different languages for the Syfy series Defiance.

Peterson, along with the creators of Klingon and Na’vi, were featured at a UC San Diego panel, discussing their experiences manufacturing languages from purest imagination. This article (and also this other one) covers the panel discussion, and includes a too-short video interview with the three linguists.

For myself, hanging around on the list, begging for help with Edeinal and my metalinguistics writeup, has been humbling and intimidating. These are some seriously sharp folks, all throughly educated in topics I am utterly ignorant of.

The highest compliment I got on Edeinal (my writeup of the Edeinos tongue, located here) was that there were “[l]ots of interesting concepts in your description”. Folks, anytime something you did is interesting to people who’ve done it for 20 years, you’re gold. The second highest compliment was that I “avoided so *many* silly mistakes” when writing it up. Sold. Again, anytime you can avoid looking like a fool in front of complete strangers, is a good day.

I am definitely not getting deep into conlanging, but it is cool to have done something not wholly terrible my first time out. (Yeah, I’m bragging. What of it?)

(And, seriously, if you’re at all interested in how Klingon, Na’vi, and Dothraki were created, check out the articles.)

How Did You Find Me Again?

We had a banner day yesterday: more traffic than any time since the combat mechanic imbroglio back in November. Most people who don’t read the site regularly tend to come here through various odd Google searches. Here’s three that came yesterday, along with links to the posts they found (and some commentary):

boobs god — Is there really a god of boobs? If not, why are you searching for that term on the net? What did you expect to find?

is understanding the enemy important in seizing the initiative? — It’s actually a pretty good question, but I hardly feel reading one of my rules postings will provide much insight.

how to block every attack in hand to hand combat — Ambitious fellow, no? Again, bound to be disappointed at what he read.

Well, being a friendly guy, I welcome all the new visitors. Except the “boobs god” guy, at least until he can offer a good explanation as to exactly what he was looking for. :)

WordPress’ App is a Piece of Crap

During the Ongoing Bloody Annoyance of living without my computer for two weeks, I was forced to conduct all blog updates through my iPad, specifically the WordPress app.

I wasn’t impressed. Here are a few of the problems:

  • When you tap to edit, it jumps to another place in the text. Look, guys, when I tap on a specific word in a text field, it’s because I want to edit near that word, not some other word a random number of lines up or down the page.
  • Duplicate entries. After editing a draft post, the program would sometimes have duplicate posts, sometimes three or more, with no way of telling which was the “real” draft. The only way to get rid of these was to delete the program — and all associated data — and reinstall it. Not a sign of skillful programming.
  • Hard to navigate. The app has local editing, via a badly implemented interface, and an integrated web browser, so you can edit files directly on their web server (which I normally do, when I’m not confined to my iPad). The online editing mode even has a custom layout for mobile/touch devices. The problem is, it depends on mouse-over menus,  which don’t work in a tap environment. Why go to the trouble of creating a whole new layout specifically for tablets, that doesn’t actually work on tablets?
  • Stats page often doesn’t load. Hey: you programmed an entire mode to load info from one page on your own site, and it doesn’t work. Incompetent much?
  • Can’t do a full edit of links. Big problem — I’m writing for the Web! Links are kind of a big deal, you know? “HTTP”, bitches. It’s right there in the name. Yet the app won’t let you actually edit links via the GUI. It was actually easier to go to a separate browser, in a completely different app, to edit links using their standard web view. When your optimized, custom program is harder to use  on a mouseless tablet than a shrunk-down, unoptimized mouse-and-keyboard layout, you screwed up.
  • Poor responsiveness means you inadvertently rearrange panels. So annoying. Each “panel” holds different data, and can be rearranged: tap-and-hold, then drag. But the poor responsiveness of the app means that when you tap, just tap and only tap, it treats it as a tap-and-hold, meaning you drag stuff all over the place. So annoying. (Did I mention that? Plus, it’s annoying.)

I am really sick of companies half-assing the user experience. I know they got away with it for decades (because “Screw users!” is the motto of way too many programmers), but it’s 2013. The future. The year that Black Box Cyberpunk, the RPG, was speaking of.

And we can’t make an app that uses the built-in web browser in a decent way? You’re a web company, it’s all you do. Literally.

Get it together, WordPress.

Software Patent Rackets

Joel Spolsky, a man I admire, discusses the current infestation of patent trolls — people who make no products, but instead make money off of suing those who do. The most dubious patents — and most active patent trolls — seem to concentrate on software patents.

Many people hate patents and intellectual property with a passion. “No patents, no trademarks, no copyrights!” I am not one of them.

Abolishing intellectual property rights (my right to my own writing) is a stunning variety of idiocy, which would rob hardworking people of their income and deprive the public of a lot of great novels, music, and cinema, not to mention many of the devices we depend on. The problem with intellectual property isn’t its existence, but the laziness and dishonesty of a small percentage of freeloading intellectual property owners.

Take Disney. They stacked phat loots (I think that’s the technical term) off public domain works: Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Hercules, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, The Jungle Book, and on and on. They mined Western Civilization for stories they could animate and sell. (This isn’t shameful, Shakespeare did the same thing. Of all his many plays, only one has an original story, and that not one of his best.)

Yet, when their own copyrights are about to lapse, and Steamboat Willie about to become public domain, they run to Congress to rewrite the laws for their own benefit. They want to mine Western Culture, but don’t want to contribute in turn. It’s understandable, if greedy, and thoroughly selfish. Walt Disney is dead, his family is wealthy, and it’s time to pay it back.

At least Disney made something. (Once upon a time.) Patent trolls make nothing, contribute nothing, do nothing.

In most cases they just patent an idea — “using an Internet server to send media on demand” — an idea that (in my opinion) is often an obvious use of other people’s technology (Of course the Internet can serve media on demand — the entire reason it exists is to send digital data on demand!), then they lock that idea up and prevent anyone else from using it. (At least, not without paying the lazy free-loader an unearned fee.)

Patents and other IP protection exist to encourage and reward the truly creative. And it has worked. But when the system gets so distorted that it punishes the creative and rewards the freeloader, things have gone badly wrong somewhere. The current state of events robs hardworking people of their income and deprives the public of actual, shipping innovations. 

Bad people ruin good things for everyone else, until they’re stopped. I have no deep insight about how to fix the patent system, or how to punish the lazy freeloaders (“rent seekers” in the current economics parlance), but something needs to be done.