Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beyond LARPing: Medieval Re-Enactment Village

The Regia Anglorum, is an English re-enactment society. The society maintains a wealth of information about life in medieval England using the virtual village of Wichamstow and its surroundings. They have in-depth articles on many of the crafts and trades that the villagers would have undertaken, and about the places they would live and work.

They have also created a real live medieval village and estate with which to demonstrate medieval craftsmanship.

Of course, if you you just want to cook like those in the medieval or Renaissance period you should check out for some fascinating and tasty recipes.

TOKYOPOP Pilot Program Rips Off, Talks Down To Artists

Subscribers to the TOKYOPOP e-newsletter recently saw the following announcement:

Manga Pilots: You Read and Review -- You Help Decide What We Publish!
TOKYOPOP is launching an exciting new stage in our manga development program -- and we need your help.

We want you to read, review, and tell us which TOKYOPOP Manga Pilots should be made into a full-length manga.

Click here to help TOKYOPOP develop the next generation of manga superstars!

In the Pilot Program, you come up with a great idea, you make a 24-36 page comic, they put it online with a bunch of other submissions, and "the people" decide who wins.Sounds like a new and exciting way for new talent to get exposure, right? However, a read through of the terms, conditions and artist's agreement reveals language that is insulting couching terms that are draconian (pdf).

Brian Lee O'Malley reviews the contract point by point, here are a few choice excerpts:

...they're writing this contract in a "hey dude" style to seem less evil and confusing, but this is just another tactic for evil and confusion.


Pilot Fee $____, payable in full when we receive and accept the Manga Pilot
That's a conspicuous blank. I'm not aware of just what they're offering. Are they asking you to put up your own number? What are they, Radiohead? Also, please note that whatever amount they're giving you, they aren't giving it to you until they receive and accept your comic - which is 24-36 pages, by the way, "inked, toned, ballooned, and lettered", not to mention that you'll be doing all the digital prepress. (If you're "only writing", you get off easy - just a manuscript.)

You promise to protect us from claims anyone makes that you violated their rights in connection with your Project or Manga Pilot. This means you’ll pay for all the lawyers to fight it out and all the other costs necessary to fend off those claims, in or out of court.
And, if things do get ugly and end up going to court, this means you’ll also pay for all the expert witnesses and court costs and, if the other guy or gal wins, you’ll pay whatever the court awards them, too.
This almost speaks for itself, but maybe a little example would make it clearer. Say, maybe, your comic becomes a huge success. You get movies and toys based on your characters. You might even start making some money. THEN someone comes forward and sues your ass for stealing your idea from him back in the sixth grade. You know, one of those multi-million dollar lawsuits. Let me tell you, judging from these contracts, Tokyopop is going to be holding all the million-dollar-bills at that point, not you. They'll have the huge percentage you negotiated away, and you'll be standing there with negative a million dollars.

And, speaking of your credit, customarily we give you credit for your work as the writer and/or artist of the Manga Pilot. However, we may have to shorten or leave out your credit when the space available or the conventions of a format won’t permit it or if it would have to be too small to read (for example, when the Manga Pilot is viewed on mobile phones). You’re OK with this.
This is even worse! "We don't have to put your name on your comic if we don't feel like it." Okay? That's what it says. I've seen this. Tokyopop ads that don't specify creators. You know, all their comics come from the same hive mind. All their creators are replaceable cogs in a giant machine.

Once the Exclusive Period ends and even if you and we haven’t entered into an Original Property Agreement, we’ll still have the worldwide right, continuing forever, to publish the Manga Pilot on a non-exclusive basis.
If you realize that this means Tokyopop can continue making money from different versions of your 24-36 page comic (books, magazines, ipods, online advertising, whatever), while giving you 0% of that money, congratulations. You're correct.

Brian concludes:
"Listen to me: there are so many ways of getting your comics read by people. You can print them up on a photocopier, sell them at your local comic shop / record shop / independent bookstore. You can put them on the Internet - I believe you're all familiar with this invention. It costs very little and takes away none of your rights. Many of my good friends make their living entirely from having comics on the web. You don't need this."

Who stands to be lured in and hurt the most? Newcomers to manga publishing, or those so star-struck at the idea of working for TOKYPOP that they might not realize what they're signing away, says freelance writer and blogger Nadia:

For every aspiring novelist in the world, there are ten clip joints waiting to pounce, wrap and eat the writer's hopes. The linked establishment is a particularly horrible offender; not only does it lure in shy writers, it works to convince said writers that they'll never have a hope of publishing anywhere else. Then they do unspeakable things to the writer's rights and royalties with the help of a contract full of jargon and lies. I've known promising novelists who swore to never write again after being ground up by the machine.

These kinds of incidents are what let companies like Tokyopop get away with saying, "Hey guy, we're your friend! Dig this jargon-free contract!"

So what's the solution? Research and more research before even considering publication. Aspiring Tokyopop manga-ka have a huge head start thanks to this incident...

If you're excited about the prospect of breaking into the industry, that's understandable, but dump some cold water down your pants and think before you do anything. Is it worth writing, drawing, inking and toning 24-32 pages of manga for a paltry seven hundred? Is it worth getting nothing else from the revenue generated by your idea? Is it worth getting stuck with lawsuit bills from loonies who swear you stole their idea, while Tokyopop vanishes like Flagg, leaving only its clothes and a puff of smoke?

Unfortunately, someone will be taken in by this regardless, but the creative process is a leather-clad bitch with metal-studded rawhide lessons. Sometimes we learn best by, er, taking it. But if you can avoid heartache by talking to veterans and reading up on resources, do it. It's a long process that might snuff out your hopes, but that's only temporary because you can move on. Not only will you be doing yourself a favour, you'll be doing the community good by lessening the pool of desperate writers/artists that these companies feed on.

We'll never be filthy rich, dear freelancers, but there are still many publishers who want quality work and will pay a fair price for it. Don't be unrealistic, but don't settle for a paper full of weasel words.


Another clause that jumped out at me was the "DEFENDING YOUR WORK" section that read:

You promise to protect us from claims anyone makes that you violated their rights in connection with your Project or Manga Pilot. This means you’ll pay for all the lawyers to fight it out and all the other costs necessary to fend off those claims, in or out of court.

...because it's also a load of bunk. I am not a lawyer, but I can't see it standing in court. I mean, nobody is going to sue a Tokyopop artist-- they are going to go where the money is if they actually hope to recoup anything. Tokyopop is the company with assets (and asses) to be lost if the case isn't defended vigorously. I'd wager that all someone would need to do is to suggest in a deposition or in court that their editor was aware the rights weren't clear, and it won't matter what the creator signed. You don't get immunity from prosecution for illegal acts just by having someone sign a piece of paper!

Kevin Siembieda Calls Me "A Nasty Critic/Hater, Spreading Lies"; My Head Explodes

UPDATE: Kevin Siembieda has apologized; you can read his apology in the comments section. Thank you, Kevin.

In my recent Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles Review & First Impressions, I basically said the book looks good, the new art looks good, the rules have some welcome tweaks on one hand but don’t come close to genre emulation on the other, briefly discuss the “G.I. Joe rule change” and conclude by saying that the source book is still "the best you will have in North America as far as source material goes".

So, apparently there’s this clownboat that has a hate-on for me—he’s sniped at me before in stupid little forum posts over the years—and decides to “report” the post to Palladium—apparently trying to say that my quoting from the rule book verbatim in one paragraph is tantamount to reprinting large chunks of Palladium intellectual property. Blah blah blah fair-use-cakes, right?

So then I get a forwarded e-mail from said online loser entitled “Suck It, Hater!”. And that email contains a forwarded message to said clownboat from Kevin Siembieda himself! Here it is, in all its glory:

“Thanks for alerting us to this website. From what I could tell, he's a nasty critic/hater who is slamming us and tearing about the product, but I didn't see him using or reprinting our rules, stats, etc. Did I miss something.

Can't really do anything about jerks spreading lies and flaming Palladium and its products. Try not to let guys like this get to you.

Thanks again for the heads up. I appreciate your support.”


So, apparently because I wrote a review of a product that said I liked some parts of it, but not other parts, the CEO OF PALLADIUM says I am a nasty critic/hater. And a liar.

Never mind that one of my roommates is a Megaversal Ambassador, that I practically drool with anticipation when our GM decides to run a Heroes Unlimited game, or that that I’ve played in a little over half a dozen RIFTS games run by fellow member Wraith. Who knew that all this time, I was actually a Palladium hater?

Can you imagine the CEO of any other company acting like this?

E-mails sent to staff last week asking for a comment were not returned.

RPGX at A-Kon 2008 in Dallas This Weekend

Just a reminder—you can meet members of the RPGX crew at the A-Kon anime convention in Dallas from May 31 to June 1st.

I’ll be wandering the convention on Saturday and Sunday in-between interviewing people, or setting up interviews, or taking notes at a panel. I’ll be waering a plain-white T shirt with the RPGX logo on the front.

Fellow RPGX member (and former roomie) Wraith should be haunting the tabletop gaming area and should be playing in two Palladium Robotech games run by an area Megaversal Ambassador.

My wife is returning to the Dealer’s Room, once again running her Green Dragon Candles ‘n’ More booth, selling scented candles & incense .

Other RPGXers, check in! Any other site fans, are you going to be there? Maybe we could organize some sort of meetup?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Scenes From a D&D Barbarian Campaign

So, my character, Par Vaartal The Dark, is a barbarian originally from the frozen north. The current campaign has the group of barbarian PCs plucked from around the world and dumped in a strange, almost tropical forest and plains. So, in addition to initial communication difficulties, there is also the geographical unfamiliarities.

Michelle's character, Dru, is a fierce warrior as well. The group was just jumped by a horde of Kobolds, and through a hard-fought battle, use of the death's door rule (where if you're healed quickly enough after your hit points drop below zero, you don't die), and our groups SOLE shaman healer, Par Vaartal is taken from near death to a whopping 3 hit points.

Dru wants to help. She is not a healer. She knows just enough to realize that the healer can't make another healing check unless there is a fresh wound to be healed. Dru approaches Par, and says "Do you trust me?"

Par nos, "Yes, of course!"

... only to be poked by Dru a second later with her dagger; after all, if she can make a tiny wound, then the healer can heal that, and perhaps gain Par a few more HP...

... and ends up doing maximum damage with her dagger: 4 points. PLUS her strength bonus.

So, of course, Par was a little leery of her when ever he saw her dagger.

In another irony, the healer used the last of her healing herbs.... and brought Par Vaartal back up to positive hit points.

TWO hit points total. So it was a net loss. ;)

But also one of the funniest moments in any campaign.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

DIY D&D: Faerie Dragon PC Write-Up For Dungeons and Dragons (2nd Ed)

With the permission of her writer, I am pleased to share with you the write-up our gaming group uses for the Faerie Dragon as a PC Race. Enjoy.

Faerie Dragon (As a Player Character Race)

by the Awe-Inspiring Snowflake F. Dragon

Human Legend: A chaotic offshoot of the pseudo-dragon (though we all know this is not true), the Faerie Dragon lives in peaceful, tangled forests and thrives on pranks, mischief, and practical jokes. (Well, not really… We actually thrive on apples!)

Faerie Dragons resemble miniature dragons with thin bodies, long prehensile tails, gossamer butterfly wings, and hug smiles. (In other words… PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER… In an industrial-sized package!) Their colors range through the spectrum, changing from the red of a hatchling to the black of a great wyrm. (Or whenever they feel like being fashionable with a new trend.) The hides of females have a golden tinge that sparkles in sunlight; males have a silver tinge. (Of course! More proof that females are more valuable!)

All Faerie Dragons can communicate telepathically with one another at a distance of up to two miles. (We’re still hunting down whoever let THAT secret out…) They speak their own languages, along with the language of sprites, pixies, elves, and the birds and animals in their area. (Well, duh!?! We ARE part fey after all! Sheesh…)

Faerie Dragons make their lairs in the hollows of high trees, preferably near a pond or stream, because they are quite fond of swimming and diving. (Okay, we can forgive the humans for this little flaw… They’re only human after all… Of COURSE we live in trees… Preferably apple trees… It’s just easier to get at’em that way… However, not all of us are that fortunate. Also, not ALL of us can swim, but we all love to dive… It helps in our aerial tricks.) They often live in the company of a group of pixies or sprites. (Actually, we live with whomever we choose! We ARE all powerful after all. We’re just seen more often with pixies and sprites because they know how to PAR-TAY!)

Faerie Dragons take advantage of every opportunity to wreak mischief on passers-by, frequently using forest creatures to help in their pranks. (Okay… NOW, I’m insulted! We do NOT take EVERY opportunity to “wreak mischief.” Only on those who deserve it!) Though many of these pranks are spontaneous, months of preparation can go into a single, spectacular practical joke. A tell-tale giggle, which sounds like the tinkling of tiny silver bells, often alerts potential victims to the presence of invisible Faerie Dragons. (That would be the males’ fault… They’re ticklish.)

Faerie Dragons eat fruit, (apples,) vegetables, (apples,) nuts, (apples,) roots, (apples,) honey, (dandelions,) and grains (and apples). They are especially fond of fruit (apple) pastries and have been known to go to great lengths to get a fresh apple pie. (Well, not any more since they started putting out Faerie Dragon Shrines on their windows.)

Statistic Adjustments: Due to our phenomenal powers, yet compact bodies, Faerie Dragons have the following adjustments to their Attributes:

-4 to Strength

+4 to Intelligence

-2 to Wisdom

+3 to Dexterity

+2 to Constitution

Basic Information: Here’s what’s common in the physical abilities of Faerie Dragons…

Alignment: Chaotic Good or Chaotic Neutral. (NO EVIL! That’s just nucky!)

Base Armor Class: 5

Base Number of Attacks: 1 (Usually by Breath Weapon, spell, or Bite for 1 – 2 points of damage.)

Diet: Herbivore

Hit Dice: Same as Class

Movement: 6, Flight 24 (A)

Size: “Tiny” (1’ to 1½’ tall.)

Natural Abilities: All Faerie Dragons are capable of the following… It’s just getting the right amount of “umph!” behind it that counts…

  • -15% from all Experience Gained due to our phenomenal abilities.
  • 1xDay per Level – Able to use Breath Weapon
    o A 2-foot diameter cloud of euphoria gas
    + A victim failing a Saving Throw vs. Breath Weapon will wander around aimlessly in a state of bliss for the next 3d4 minutes, during which time he is unable to attack and his Armor Class is decreased by 2. Even though he is unable to attack, the victim can keep his mind on the situation if he succeeds in an Intelligence Check each round; if he fails an Intelligence Check, he completely loses interest in the matters at hand for the duration of the breath weapon’s effect.
  • Able to communicate telepathically with another Faerie Dragon at a distance of up to two miles. This is a natural ability, and non-psionic. (So, you squid faces and dehydrated platypuses can just stay away!)
  • Able to speak (or converse) with any fey for Faerie Dragons know all their languages; They are fey after all.
  • Able to turn invisible at will;A Faerie Dragon must make an Intelligence Check to remain invisible if they attack a victim.
  • Any spell cast (regardless of what class or school it’s from) by the Faerie Dragon has the same chance to surge similar to a Wild Mage. (See Tome of Magic for Surge Chart.)
  • Comeliness Statistic is actually considered “Cuteness.”
  • Due to the number of Cantrip: Color spells that are available to Faerie Dragons, they are able to choose whatever color they wish to be. Most are usually a variety in colors.
  • Due to their delicate frame and nature, Faerie Dragons are unable to wear armor and weapons are to be made especially for their small size (i.e., pixie bow).
  • Gains 8% Magic Resistance per Level;Up to 96% MAXIMUM!
  • Upon Character Creation, a Faerie Dragon must decide which natural “school” (cleric, druid, or wizard) their magic is based from. Each time their class increases, the amount of natural spells they are able to cast also increases. (Intelligence and Wisdom Bonuses do apply.) See chart below.

    Class Level 1 2 3 4 5 6* 7**
    1 1 --- --- --- --- --- ---
    2 2 --- --- --- --- --- ---
    3 2 1 --- --- --- --- ---
    4 3 2 --- --- --- --- ---
    5 3 2 1 --- --- --- ---
    6 3 2 2 --- --- --- ---
    7 3 3 2 1 --- --- ---
    8 3 3 3 2 --- --- ---
    9 4 3 3 2 1 --- ---
    10 4 4 3 3 2 --- ---
    11 4 4 4 3 2 --- ---
    12 4 4 4 3 3 1 ---
    13 4 4 4 4 3 2 ---
    14 4 4 4 4 3 2 1
    15 4 4 4 4 4 2 1
  • These are spells to be treated similar to any other mage or priest spells in that 8 hours of rest is required to regain the energy to cast them, and the spells selected for the day.

    Post any question or comments you have here

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Great resource for DMs: Gnome Stew

Wanted to give a little link-love to a site I discovered last week. It's called Gnome Stew.

It's a game mastering blog, written by GMs, for GMs. With 10 authors, Gnome Stew delivers system-neutral and system-specific content for game masters.

Here's a bit from a great recent article, 12 Ways To Use Google Apps at the Game Table:

Personally, I think Google Docs is one of the most powerful and useful applications that Google offers. It’s a basic word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program, but with the ability to share documents and have users edit them simultaneously and collaboratively. For instance, one of the simplest ways to use Docs is as a character sheet. Once it’s done, have your players share the character sheet with you and the other players. That way you can always access the most recent version of their characters. Now you can check their current Spot and Listen checks and don’t need to keep pestering them to update the hard copy that’s perpetually two levels behind. If one of your players misses a game, your group has a copy of their character ready to play.

Along a similar vein, you can share hireling and party NPCs among your group so that anyone can pop the sheet open and start running them.

Some more advanced usage might be to keep a collaborative party log. Nobody likes keeping a log, so let your players share the work. Changes to the document are shown in other people’s open documents nearly instantly, so when Suzie types in “Met Orc King,” John can update that to include the King’s name, and you can correct the spelling.

Loot tracking is another task that is sometimes viewed as tedious. A shared party loot tracking spreadsheet can share the load, and prevent the rogue from skimming off the top. (Sure, that’s in character. Jerk.)

If you’re busy (or lazy) you can create a house rules document but make your players do the work of entering the questions, changes and clarifications when they come up at the table.

GTA IV: New York City vs Liberty City

Boing Boing Gadgets has come across and AWESOME photo-set on flicker; it's a side by side comparisons of Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City landmarks with their real-life counterparts in New York City. Some of them are amazing. Here, check out this example at right.

On the left hand side, you have the actual Hearst building. On the right you have the GTA IV's analogue.

You can view the entire flickr photoset here.

Second Life Is Being Used... For SCIENCE!

According to the latest issue of Science News, many research institutions are leveraging the simple simulation tools of the 3-D sandbox Second Life to create immersible science learning experiences. From Science News:
“Early on, when SL really got going, it lookedVirtual Frog like it was going to be a huge playground,” says Amme. “I thought... who needs a second life unless you don’t have a first one?”

Although SL retains a large recreational component, with fantasy, racy nightclubs and sex, the science islands have distinguished themselves as places to connect with the “outside” world.

Scientist-avatars guide students through formal university educational programs — such as the University of Denver’s master’s degree in environmental engineering — or create exhibits designed to demonstrate scientific principles.

Navigational tools let users zoom in and around objects, making SL a convenient place to investigate phenomena that would otherwise be hard to visualize or understand. Avatars can, for example, initiate chemical reactions with a touch of their hand, watch a tsunami form or stroll through the internal structures of a cell.
Hat tip to Boing Boing for the screencap of the virtual frog.

Warner Bros. & DC Comics Shuts Down Children's Auction For Charity

From the blog Say It Backwards:
Thomas Denton of comic blog Say It Backwards has a nephew who was diagnosed with cancer. A charity called Candlelighters helped his family out. Thomas decided to use his connections in the comics world to organize some charitable auctions featuring original artwork by various artists to give something back to the organization. Apparently Time Warner (who own DC comics, who in turn own Superman, Batman and most of the cool superheroes who wear capes) objected to the selling of the pieces featuring their copyrighted and trademarked characters on eBay, specifically Superman from what I understand.

Using characters owned by the major comic book corporations is pretty common in charity auctions at comic book conventions. This is not to mention that if you go on eBay right now there are a lot of auctions for artwork featuring those same characters, none of which Time Warner seems to be going after.

Thomas has posted a statement apologizing to everyone involved in the affair (artists, bidders), but it doesn't seem right that he's been left holding the bag for trying to something for sick kids. Some letters to Time Warner's PR department might make them think twice about sending out cease and desist orders so wantonly, and who knows, might even prompt them to kick some cash Candlelighters' way.

Monday, May 12, 2008

First Impressions: Palladium's Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles RPG Sourcebook

I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of Palladium's new RPG source book for the Robotech setting: Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Here are my first impressions of the book, based on a few read-throughs and comparison with the previous Palladium Robotech books.

The Villians

While this source book is billed as "The Shadow Chronicles", the content seems heavier on the New Generation Secondary continuity, and lighter on many aspects of The Shadow Chronicles. Of 333 total pages, the main villains of Shadow Chronicles (the Haydenites) garner a rather anemic 6 pages of information. Important statistics for the Haydonites themselves are not given in the sourcebook at all (which means you're going to have to house-rule combat involving the main villains). The 'mech stats are there, but the book provides no numbers on to strike bonuses, number of attacks per melee, etc.

The Artwork

The color cover is gorgeous, and I love the new art for this edition. The style and linework fit this edition perfectly. What is a little disappointing, however, is seeing some recycled artwork that has appeared in other Robotech sourcebooks, going back two decades. What's particularly galling is seeing recycled artwork from other Palladium source books that aren't even Robotech books. Seriously, Kevin, how many times do we fans have to see the same RIFTS Coalition States martial arts instructor? Couldn't you have drawn up an REF instructor kung-fu just this once?

Book Organization

Most of the book is poorly organized,unfortunaly. Not all the character rules are gathered in one place. There is no index in the back of the book, which could have also reduced flipping back and forth. There does not appear to be any ship combat rules, either-- when there are signifgant portions of the movie this is based on that feature ship combat, this is a rather glaring omission. From the press releases released by Palladium before the book's release, players were going to were going to see the stats on the spaceships, and I was looking forward to seeing what the Icarus could do.

Additionally, the Invid section is mostly a word for word reprint of the original Invid Invasion sourcebook content.

Character Creation

Much appreciated is the decision to place the character sheets in the middle of the book, which makes for easy photocopying. The character creation process has also been tweaked. The MOS (Military Operational Specialty) system in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles adds some
flexibility to the Occupational Character Class (OCC) system. In the original release of the Robotech game, making a unified squadron or unit meant everyone was pretty much the same, with little to no variation between characters since there was really just one practical OCC: Veritech Pilot. Now players can select an OCC (Vertich Pilot) and each player can select a different MOS (Alpha pilot, Beta pilot, or Recon). Another nice touch: the book has some easy to use template characters that makes pre-gen quick and easy.

The Rules

As a whole, while the game is based on the Robotech anime, the combat system doesn't feel true to its source at all. There are still no concessions by the Palladium combat system to emulate the rules of the Robotech universe. For example, there are no one shot kill attacks, except for missile volleys missile volleys. Volleys of 4 or more missiles cannot be dodged at all, which is counter to nearly every Robotech anime, ever. Hitting Invid Eyes has been made nearly impossible (it now counts as an aimed shot with -11 to strike) and not worth the effort to attempt. While the MDC (Mega-Damage Capacity) of enemy 'mechs have been increased, the damage the good guy's weapons do has not. Unless the Invid in powered armor is an important NPC, it should not take a group half an hour to destroy it.

Conversely, The Robotech source book has an interesting way of handling Palladium's MDC rule, that while not quite in the spirit of Robotech, is at least a little closer to G.I. Joe:

The last M.D.C. of any armor, be it a body suit, mecha, or vehicle, absorbs all the damage from the final blast that reduces it to zero or below, saving the character inside. This is the case even if there are only a couple of M.D.C. points left and the attack inflicts M.D. x10 or greater.
For example, if a bandit is standing there with 10 M.D.C. left on his armor, and someone strikes him with a volley of 60 missiles from an Alpha mech doing, say, 3000 MDC... the bandit only loses his armor and is now standing on the battlefield naked and unharmed.

While this sourcebook may be a tad lacking as a Shadow Chronicles RPG sim, it is small, portable, and has some welcome tweaks from the first Robotech sytem that make character generation easier and more fun. If you decide not to use the Palladium Rules system, this book still is the best you will have in North America as far as source material goes, should you decide to convert to another system.

You can buy Palladium's Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles right here.

UPDATE: EA/Bioware changes Mass Effect DRM Thanks To Customer Complaints

In an update to my previous post, Mass Effect For PC Treats Legitimate Customers Like Thieves , EA recently made an announcement on its forums: they have reworked the anti-piracy detection for Mass Effect, and will no longer require online re-authorization every 10 days.

From the Mass Effect forum:

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few days on how the security requirements for Mass Effect for PC will work. BioWare, a division of EA, wants to let fans know that Mass Effect will not require 10- day periodic re-authentication.

BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them. To all the fans including our many friends in the armed services and internationally who expressed concerns that they would not be able re-authenticate as often as required, EA and BioWare want you to know that your feedback is important to us.

The solution being implemented for Mass Effect for the PC changes copy protection from being key disc based, which requires authentication every time you play the game by requiring a disc in the drive, to a one time online authentication.

What seemed to be the tipping point were those customers that were either in the armed forces, or international customers that may not have reliable online access:

Q: Did BioWare and EA change their mind on requiring that the game be re-authorized every 10 days?

A: BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them. To all the fans including our many friends in the armed services and internationally who expressed concerns that they would not be able re-authenticate as often as required, EA and BioWare want you to know that your feedback is important to us.

This is a much more reasonable measure-- requiring an authorization every 10 days was not only a rather ornerous requirement for those without an internet connection or regular connection-- MAss Effect is a single player only game that does not have an online play component.

Requests to clarify whether this means that a similar protection scheme that was announced as being under consideration for Will Wrights Spore received no comment.

Friday, May 9, 2008

EA Expands Potential Social Network For MMORPGs, Finally Makes Shawn Fanning Rich


Shawn Fanning, best known for founding Napster, has a new job. He will be working at Electronic Arts, which is about to buy his social-network-gaming startup Rupture for $30 million, according to sources with knowledge of the deal. His co-founder Jon Baudanza will also join Electronic Arts. Rumors of a possible deal for just such a buy-out offer began swirling in early February when TechCrunch first broke the story, but did not know the identity of the buyer.

Rupture’s first product was a social network for players of the online video game World of Warcraft, but it only came out with a beta version and kept delaying its public launch.

Electronic Arts is buying the company for its technology, since it doesn’t have a lot of users (it was only ever in beta) and never launched the second version of its service. Presumably, creating social networks around MMORPGs is a key component of its online strategy. The company has not yet officially announced the acquisition, but it is expected to do so soon.

Rupture had previously raised only $2.5 to $3 million in an angel round last summer from investors including Ron Conway, Joi Ito, Reid Hoffman, and Baseline Ventures. Although this is not Fanning’s first startup, it is his first real payday. Napster helped change the music industry, but it went bankrupt doing so. And although he just sold his second startup SnoCap to Imeem, that was more of a pity fu mercy acquisition.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mass Effect For PC Treats Legitimate Customers Like Thieves

Do you own a PC? Would you like to play MAss Effect on your PC since you've heard how great a game it is on a console? Well, according to the Mass Effect forums, if you'd like to play the PC version of Bioware/EA's hit XBOX 360 title "Mass Effect," you have to have an an internet connection.

Well, in order for the game you have already bought and paid for to order to remain "activated" the game needs to reauthorize itself via the internet every 10 days. Go 11 days without checking in and your game won't work until you do.

This has a few customers understandably upset. Says user "MysterD " :
It is good that Bioware and EA want to kill piracy -- but really, though; at what expense?

They already are losing a lot of customers b/c of employing such vicious tactics for a SP-game (Single Player). If this was a MMO or MP-based game, nobody would really care about the frequent Internet checks -- b/c the Net Connection is required to play online with people around the globe.

If somehow a copy of MEPC game gets out w/out any protection around comes out, that copy won't be hindered by any checks. Why should a legitimate buyer of MEPC have to pay money to be treated like he's a pirate when he isn't the pirate?
Thanatos405 agrees:
...if I buy the game and my internet decides to freak out for whatever reason I can't even play a game I've paid my hard-earned money for.
This isn't the only issue raised. What if you want to play the game that you paid for on the PC and EA or Bioware has simply shut down the authentication server? Think it can't happened?

Tell that to the thousands of MSN music customers thatfound out last month that Microsoft has shut down its DRM "license server" and left people who bought music -- instead of downloading it from a P2P site -- out in the cold.

If it can happen to Microsoft, you bet your bleeps and bloops it can happen to EA or Bioware.

Hands-Free Super MArio: Now You're Playing (Music) With (SMB's) Power

Via Kotaku, an incredible 10 minute video of a Super Mario World level that not only plays itself, but plays MUSIC.

Go. Watch it now. NOW.

Stat Shot: More Home-made D&D Characters

Partially as a reminder for tomorrow night's D&D game my wife is co-running, and partially so I can gauge interest in more homebrewed stuff, here is a quick and dirty info sheet on the character I'll be playing this Friday: a Faerie Dragon Mage.

Character: Jareth Q(uincy) F(aerie) Dragon
Class: Mage
Level: 5
Align: CG
Racial Advantages: As per Faerie Dragon PC write-up
Racial Disadvantages: As per Faerie Dragon PC write-up
ALT USE OF EXPXP /PENALTIES: One Clerical Spell, 1st Level (Cure Minor): 10%, Being a Faerie Dragon: 15%= 25% XP penalty
Bonus Spells, Any School (15 points), Improved Hit Die [d6] (10 Points), 4 Extra non-weapon proficiencies (4 points)
Allergy, apples [SEVERE] (8 pts); Behavior: Must Reciprocate or Repay Gifts (2 pts); Forbidden from Using Spell Under The Necromancy School (5 pts), Phobia, Undead [Severe](14pts)
Jareth was always a quiet and studious faerie dragon, rather shy and bookish for his kind, viewed as something of an oddball for his allergy to apples. He also turned out to be born with an unusually keen intellect (INT of 20), and wanted to know what made magic MAGIC. He dotes on his younger sister, Teedra, and encourages her to always excel in her magical studies. He also spoils her rotten (at least, as rotten as a Faerie Dragon can get), continually sending her all sorts of exotic bananas and banana-related desserts.
While Jareth doesn't need to wear spectacles to correct his vision, he dwears them because he feels they lend him an air of authority (or, in one case, are a minor magical relic). His guiding purpose in life is to study magic thoroughly enough to unlock the secret to becoming a Chosen of Mystra, goddess of Magic.
Jareth loves bananas, especially banana pie. Despite his academic nature, his devotion to magical studies, and his large vocabulary, he does have a typical faerie dragon prankster's streak within him that occasionally manifests itself in harmless cantrips (like the time he made a stuffy knight nearly beside herself by daily changing the color of her horse's mane for one week straight). Unlike most faerie dragons, Jareth tends to keep his scales one color-- a royal purple.
NWPs: Arcanology; Sage Knowledge: Cartography; Alchemy; Read/Write; Spellcraft; Religion; Heraldry; Fire building; Cooking; Direction Sense; Hypnotism; Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarvish, Draconic

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cerebus Creator Will Only Talk To You If You Sign A Petition Saying He's Not a Misogynist

No, the above headline isn't some rejected headline from parody news outlet The Onion. It's true.

For the past decade or so, Dave Sim, Cerebus creator and publisher of one of the longest running independent comics in history, has been dogged by criticism of misogyny in his work. It started first after publication of an essay in Cerebus #186, "Reads" in which he attacked Oprah, the intelligence of women, feminism, gender differences, and something called the "Female Void" and the "Male Light". Two more out-of-left field essays popped up again in Cerebus #264 and #265.

Issue #264 printed a challenge to Bone creator Jeff Smith to a fist-fight, a gesture that that drove his longtime proofreader, Diana Schutz to resign. He followed thatup in #265 with an essay titled "Tangents," an essay-length "DEBUNKING" of feminism, abortion, the "feminist-homosexualist axis," and his thoughts on, er... spanking adult women. Carol West, his adminstrative assitant, and the last of his female employees, quit in disgust midway through typing up the essay. The Comics Journal has a rather extensive write-up on that part of Dave Sim's history with his employees.

CBR's Gail has a scathing parody of both of those essays in "Dave Sim's Guide To Getting Chicks".

Dave Sim recently published "Glamourpuss", a satirical take on women's fashion magazines, and in what is one of the oddest moves I've seen in years makes you agree to an odd terms of service agreement before he'll even talk to you.

Fellow nerdcore rapperDoc Popular had this to say:

" ...[he] decided the best way to handle such a situation was to send out a form letter requiring anyone who wished to correspond with him to fill out and return with a note saying “I don’t believe that Dave Sim is a misogynist.”. “If you aren’t willing to extend that minimal courtesy to me,” he states “then I would respectfully ask that you not attempt to contact me in the future.”
You can read a scan of the original letter on the fantastic Inkstuds Blog, or hear their recent (and relatively rant free) interview with Dave here.
In his letter Dave asks “What sort of friends and fans allow a friend or the person they are a fan of to be called the lowest, subhuman form of life in our society with impunity?”. The Dave Sim Misogyny Page is chock full of his quotes on gender and Heidi McDonald has an interesting piece on the subject in The Beat.
Although I am not willing to on the record and state that I feel Dave Sim is not a Misogynist, I will state that a terms of service of correspondence is a great idea! As a matter of fact, I have decided to enact my own Doctor Popular TOS on this very blog; by commenting, reading, hearing about, or in anyway thinking about Doctor Popular or, the user is hearby stating that they agree that “Doc Pop is the awesomest guy on the internet!”.

Yeah, this sounds like a great idea to me, Doc.

My take? For me, my whole sense of awe regarding Dave Sim is that he has an eye for the design elements and page layout of a comic book that have few equals in the comics industry, even today. Sadly, his views are repulsive and wrong. I do think it's worth reading Cerebus, but I would certainly say you aren't missing anything is you stop after the sixth "phone book" volume.

What, you don't want to take my word for it on the fact that he's a great artist? Alright, howzabout this post from metafilter user :
Here's an early page, showcasing some of his writing. Here you get a feel for his comedy writing and dialogue.

Over time, he started putting negative space to work really well, see here, here, and here

Here's three pages from a climate fight between major characters. The art is gorgeous, the panels and transitions great and there's several years of weight between this confrontation that give it an emotional impact.

The rest, I'm just gonna link to and let you decide on your own.

Cerebus as pope

Cerebus pisses off Red Sonya

Who has a husband?

Face off



Three more pages.

I still don't think that invalidates Dave Sim being a messed up pile of hate and misogyny, though. He DID declare that all women are incapable of rational thought, that they want to be raped by doctors, and that "equal pay for equal work" = Communism. It's all just layer after icky, oozing layer of justification for his personal contempt and loathing for women.

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