The Streak, 21st Century Marketing, and Virtual Ponderance

18 08 2008

Last night, I finally got my Score Duel 5-Wins-in-a-Row Streak achievement in Rock Band. This is normally nigh impossible, because in vocals unlike guitar, one mistake usually destroys you and the people who routinely play competitively rarely make mistakes. That’s WHY they’re competitive. And on the flip side of the coin, all it takes to wreck your streak is someone quitting in disgust because they’re losing. (Ah, XBLers. You are so immature and aggravating on every imaginable level!)

And yet… somehow, I got slotted against three noobs, got one perfect, and managed to make fewer mistakes than the last guy on the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower”, and lo and behold, achieve get. Did a minor touchdown dance after that one. Booyah.

I don’t have much left to ‘achieve’ in Rock Band 1. They designed most of their achievements around Band World Tour, which I can’t completely play due to having no friends (..so lonely..) and the rest are super-difficulty runs on instruments I can’t play high difficulty or can’t play at all, etc. The RB2 achieves in contrast are all reasonable and can be gotten by most folks. Looking forward to those.

Speaking of pointless yet amusing information you may or may not care about, Dane Cook (yes, the actor) has a blog too, and on it, he viciously savages the poor photoshop work in his own movie’s poster, in a well written and curious example of modern marketing. It simultaneously praises his movie and pokes massive fun at it. I approve of this sort of subtle marketing, if only because mocking poor visual composition never gets tired.

YARR.EXE project is going to be awhile in preprod. I have some story issues to work out first; notably three of them.

1. The Smart Guy of my Five Man Band is just not feeling like a female character. I know girls can be cool intellectuals too, but when I hear this guy’s voice in my head talking about what he holds dear, I just don’t hear a female voice; I hear a bishounen. Which actually may work in my favor if I’m going to re-open the issue of letting the player play a female character (or a gay male, I suppose). If I can work through the cast and make them all feel proper I may be able to do the HeX coda thing of having options for each gender and any sexuality. (Although ‘polygamous’ may not make the cut. Sorry, VN datesim jiggalo ending aficionados.)

2. The more baffling issue to me is how to handle “hacking” in a virtual space. It’s been done to death nine ways to Sunday over and over again while beating a dead horse with a new dog learning old tricks. If anything, the only way to approach it is to subvert it and say No, you are not swinging virtual swords at virtual dudes in order to Hack the Gibson. But if I do that, it makes for a very uninteresting VN, yah? Same problem Hollywood’s faced when needing to depict hacking the internets. I’ll probably need to come up with some hybrid… I keep going back to my FWLS story, Dangerous Toys, where they get around the whole fried-brain issue by *gasp* NOT using computer interfaces that directly connect to their brainmeats! No doubt I can find some other tweaks to make it look like one thing (an exciting thing) while actually being another (a boring thing).

3. If I do this right, your player character is the Social Engineer of the group, which means lots and lots of MacGyver / Burn Notice-esque schemes and espionage and verbal trickery to squeeze past security measures and gain physical access to information. But I’m not sure I as a writer am capable of making a really clever and plot-hole free espionage tale. Invariably, even when you’ve polished it and tried to make the whole thing fit together like a jigsaw, someone’s gonna say “Wait, shouldn’t this have happened?” or “This one little thing you overlooked should’ve crashed the whole plan.” Tricky business. Plausible, but very, very tricky, and something I may not want to over-emphasize as a result.

OTHER NEAR FUTURE NOTES: Duran Duran and Devo in Rock Band this Tuesday, as well as the Heavy Update for Teamfortress 2. Mono hits SL this week, supposedly, and 7Seas 3.0 beta rods out this weekend IF all goes according to plan.

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16 responses

18 08 2008
kublaikhan

Here’s a possibility: the security/black ICE for whatever you have to get by is handled by an AI that you have to get past–all that your fancy “hacking” stuff can get you is a direct interface with the AI, but for MacGuffinological reasons, you have to convince it to let you in voluntarily.
This allows you to have a wide variety of ‘key’ possibilities, whether playing a game against it or just fast-talking your way by it (“Maintenance contractors!” “Candygram for Mongo!” “No, I -am- the CEO, I’m just using my nephew’s computer today.”) or something like that.

18 08 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Yeah, but part of the fun of the player character is that he’s a meatspace social engineer; he’s the one who gets the crew into systems that have no internet access, then they do their virtual shenanigans. It cuts a few cliches in half that way.

18 08 2008
ninjarat

2. Holywood did it “right” once in one of the Matrix movies. Trinity uses an SSH exploit to gain access to a server. And how many of watching it got it? Right.
I rather enjoyed the hacking mini-games in Bioshock.

18 08 2008
jengagne

Grats on the Score Duel. :D I’ll check out the Photoshop link later, as NIH considers it NSFW. o_o;;
Wish I had some good ideas here for YARR.EXE. Maybe something will come to me.
Mono? I’ll believe it when I see it. o_o Looks like the server-side part is coming out this week and the viewer letting you actually use it is slated for a few days later. Assuming that really happens, that would be a smart move on their part; if they end up having to roll back the server-side part for some other reason, that lag before the viewer is released will avoid the trouble of potentially having Mono-compiled scripts in the wild at the same time. I was wondering and I’m relieved about that!
Speaking of early 80s bands… well, really 70-80s… I just heard that 7Seas has been installed in the official sim owned by Journey. :D Now I have to go visit! Maybe I should get their new album too. Hee.

18 08 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Rock Band will never truly be an awesome game until it gets Separate Ways. That is one bad ass song, and one bad ass video.
Still, it’s getting Anyway You Want It, which is close. I gotta memorize that one, because it’s no doubt going to be popular in online play.

18 08 2008
jengagne

What you really need is the electric version of “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young.

18 08 2008
jengagne

Mono detail from Periapse Linden: The server part is supposedly coming out today. The viewer part won’t be for two weeks. So you have some breathing room here.
llDetectedTouch sounds handy for game design, too (coming out with this server version).

18 08 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Aaargh. Come on, guys! We’ve been SITTING on 7Seas 3.0 for ages now, get mono out the damn door so we can do this thing!
As for touch positioning… VERY nice. Now, this won’t help with the need for dynamic displays, but it’ll help a bit for interfaces. You’d still need to code a system that understands the difference between one touch and another — fortunately there’s a point-in-polygon code there that’ll work nicely — and it’ll reduce prim counts in some instances, definitely.

18 08 2008
jengagne

They do need a little lag-time between the server side and the viewer side, as noted above, but… yeah. I know some folks have been waiting a year, but what now looks like end of August is a far cry from what they were saying before (start of July) eh? 9_9
I guess now that I think about it, there are only limited instances that you’d need a complex interface along with lower prim counts. Like say, the Particle Script Generator. It’s probably not worth the trouble for a HUD, and wouldn’t work for a game like FoD where you need the clicked ninjas to bamf…
Perhaps in a long term way, this will pave the way to clickability for future Flash or Web apps-on-prim, though.

19 08 2008
omahdon

Just a random suggestion for 2 – since this all takes place in a virtual space where anything is possible, why not have different styles of “hacking” based on the personality of the user? For example, someone recently inducted into the world could imagine hacking as a grand, swashbuckling adventure through mystic caverns and strange eldritch creatures of yore – while an older, more served character would think of it as a chess game. And others still – a button. A big, shiny red button. Press and presto – ur hakd bich! Admittedly, this could be quite taxing in the visuals department.
And as for 3 – I’d say don’t worry too much about it. In fact, the best part of any convoluted scheme (I feel) is the opportunity for me, as an audience, to try and disassemble said scheme and note the many, many ways it could have failed (but didn’t because, yanno, it’s FICTION). For example(s): the convoluted Xanatos Gambits/Roulettes of The Dark Knight and/or Apollo Justice. What whacky, madcap fun.
Or heck, you can even work backwards – Have the result of a mission FIRST, and then have the player choose how they managed to arrive at this spectacular finish. And if the player doesn’t believe in the resulting story then heck, they chose poorly.

19 08 2008
eyeless1

Heh, I was so going to suggest a Bioshock-like minigame for hacking, too…
…but I guess someone beat me to it.
The thing is, as I understand it cracking these days is mostly done by throwing a litany of known exploits at a system and seeing which one “sticks”. Actually hunting for *new* exploits is a task left to large groups of people with lots of time on their hands: security researchers or hacker gangs, that sort of thing.
So, what does this mean? Well, I’d postulate that in the future the actual intrusion part of a cracking job would be handled by a script, a “hacker-in-the-box” that handles the actual cycling through of known exploits. The tough part would be getting access to the root password, the encryption key, or the physical kep that gets you physical access to the computer’s interface ports. Then you just plug your little slicer-AI into the machine and let it do its work.
I imagine a little holographic AI keychain, with a personality patterned after an especially snarky version of Jane, the AI character in the Ender’s Game series.

19 08 2008
vifetoile

Greetings.
I just finished reading ‘Sailor Nothing,’ after picking up all sorts of nifty tidbits from TV tropes, and wanted to write you to tell you how amazing I found it to be. I was a huge fan of Sailor Moon when I was younger, and I don’t usually go for deliberately dark works, but such a combination sounded really interesting – and you carried the concept through. At the end I felt such a sense of satisfaction for the characters and their struggle, and the conclusions of the villains. The last book to really do that for me was a Terry Pratchett book, though I haven’t decided which one. And I’ve gotten another friend into this too.
And then I realized that stefan is not a girl’s name. Took me a while to do so.
And my world quivered. Or at least my labtop did.
Can I just say thank you, for such a great job, and for sticking to the genre of web novel? Yeah for artistic integrity! I really respect that.
Thank you. *bows respectfully*

19 08 2008
Anonymous

Stefan
I always thought Stefan was a guy’s name, not a girl’s name. Maybe the confusion comes from the fact that it is similiar to Stefanie, but still. Ah well, I liked Sailor Nothing a great deal, as well, mostly because I was a huge fan of Sailor Moon when I was young.

20 08 2008
mtws

One of the occasional recurring characters in Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels is Ariadne Oliver, a scatterbrained mystery novelist who writes popular books about a Belgian Finnish detective named Hercule Poirot Sven Hjerson she actually can’t stand (*cough*). When people ask her about writing she tends to go on about things like the agony of having a plot all nice and neat and sewn up and off to the publisher and then six months later some reader writes in to say that curare doesn’t work like that or that the housemaid should have noticed the missing spoon.
I bring this up because a) if Agatha friggin’ Christie occasionally leaves a piece out of the jigsaw puzzle it’s probably a forlorn hope that anyone is ever going to catch everything all the time and b) a certain amount of slack can be cut. Not that that’s an excuse to be sloppy, of course, but disbelief can take a fair bit of suspending.

20 08 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Re: Stefan
The strange thing is I never really liked Sailor Moon — not because it was TEH GIRLY, but because it was so tropey and repetitive in nature. Same thing that eventually turned me off Ranma 1/2. I know it’s a genre staple to have a transformation sequence you can set your watch to and so on, and this is what fans of this particular genre want… but I felt it was an avenue ripe for subversion if you considered the realistic implications of making teenage girls fight evil monsters. And lo, Sailor Nothing.
Glad you guys like the story. :D Be sure to check out Unreal Estate, too!

21 08 2008
jengagne

http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/08/20/mono-launch/
And from wiki, you can compile with the “1.21 viewer… to release candidate… week of 25 August” But it’ll be in a First Look viewer before that, AND is in the Preview Grid viewer already!
http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Mono#Mono_How-to
So actually this isn’t such a huge wait to start testing. Woot? Let me know how I can help… maybe run a $$$ contest on Sunday night to get a crapton of people to FB?
Testing aside, we should wait at least until “the deploy is complete and the 1.21 Release Candidate Viewer is available” to release anything final, he says.

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