Today’s Post brought to you by the letter “D”

  Today I wanted to talk about one of two topics, the topics being Determinism or Digital Rights Management. The latter is related to my previous game review suggestion, seeing as all available means to getting the game require dealing with DRM (as far as I know). The former has to do with the Metaphysics course that has inspired a swath of posts here.

  I flipped a coin, heads I would deal with Determinism today and Tails I would deal with Digital Rights Management. Well that wonderful little gold plated coin left me with Tails. So without further adieu lets discuss Digital Rights Management. Keep in mind I had to carve up this article multiple times…hopefully there are no sudden ends to things.

  So what is Digital Rights Management? This is a question that is most likely unnecessary seeing that most people have seen the huge protests involved with the ever increasing lockdown. However for those visiting that aren’t quite certain that’s what this particular paragraph is for.

  When we look at the wonderful world of Wikipedia the following result is returned:

Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term that refers to access control technologies used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, and copyright holders to limit usage of digital media or devices. The term is used to describe any technology which makes the unauthorized use of media or devices technically formidable and generally doesn’t include other forms of copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the media or device, such as serial numbers or keyfiles. It can also refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices.

  Now this is the theoretical use of DRM, historically it was something simple such as a CD-Key or arguably the more annoying CD-In-Tray requirement. As years have past there has been a very visible connection between the rising levels of veracity of DRM and the ever rising presence of Piracy. What has been the center of debate is what connections can truly be made. However with the massive levels of propaganda involved on either side I can only work with historical examples.

  It has been interesting to see the publics view of DRM and to contrast it with the companies enacting it. In general the large proportion of people dealing with DRM are very opposed to it, it’s generally cracked the day of or at times before the product is even released. Likewise there are stability issues that in multiple modern cases have been only seen or far more prominently seen in the DRM copies compared to the non-DRM pirated copies. A very personal event was SPORE, which ran roughly 5 frames per second slower in tests with the legitimate copy. It may not be a huge change, but considering that its a loss that benefits the consumer in absolutely no way its unreasonable.

So, if I download a purchase what makes it mine and mine alone?
Our products are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). These are systems in place to license your purchase to you only. It keeps it safe and gives you the exclusive ownership of that purchase.

– Direct2Drive

We think our Digital Rights Management (DRM) system is a good balance between protecting the content owners and not making you the consumer give up your first-born. The system associates your computer with the specific product you purchased and this information is stored on our servers identifiable by your sign-in profile, email address or your transaction record.

– Green House Games

I personally hate DRM…. But I don’t like locks on my door, and I don’t like to use keys in my car… I’d like to live in a world where there are no passports. Unfortunately, we don’t – and I think the vast majority of people voted with their wallets and went out and bought Spore.

– EA CEO John Riccitiello

  I have a problem with each of these three for some pretty specific reasons. The first being that nobody would ask the first question. It reminds me of a bash quote from a few years back.

<NES> lol
<NES> I download something from Napster
<NES> And the same guy I downloaded it from starts downloading it from me when I’m done
<NES> I message him and say "What are you doing? I just got that from you"
<NES> "getting my song back fucker"

This is the problem. Digital media has an interesting ability that no other real world product can easily replicate, which is just that, the ability to replicate. You can create a million copies of “Hit me baby one more time” and it will do nothing to harm your neighbors copy of the same song. What I think the D2D folks are trying to fabricate is the monetary sense, the idea that something is only worth as much as it is rare. So thusly the fantasy consumer is suggesting that if their copy of the game were to break loose into the wild it would make babies and be worthless.

  Now if someone broke into my house and stole my laptop, I’d be furious. However if they broke into my house and copied all my music onto an IPod I’d (assuming they broke in without damaging anything) probably not care other than being a bit skeptical that they skipped everything but the music.

  The problem with the GHG statement is the concept that DRM protects the content of the owners. While I do appreciate that their DRM takes all of a 10th of a second to deal with, it still raises the question. What happens when they disappear? The last thing on the mind of a company that is imploding financially is how to take care of their customers. Look at CITI bank and all those bail outs recently, they tried to blow all the money on 35k dollar toilets that don’t flush, luxury jets, and 1.5 million dollar office remodels.

  This ties into my complaint about the third quote. Electronic Arts is famous now for their disregard for their customers, bastardization of once cherished properties, and an overall militant approach to dealing with competition. Westwood for instance was such a hardcore swallow that they immediately cut off support for the newest Westwood game out (Renegade) and banned the use of the word on all their forums.

  Now the problem with the key analogy is that it is a decade or so off. CD-Keys were the key of the software world, much like the real world, if someone had your key they could get into your software. Likewise in theory if you could build twenty million copies of the exact same house using the exact same key you would have an exact replication of the software equivalent (some discrepancies aside).

  Likewise the ‘vast majority’ of people don’t realize they are being swindled, they feel as any normal person would, that when they spend 50 dollars or more on something that they are indeed purchasing that item. However the sad truth is that most people don’t realize they are merely paying full price to rent software. Likewise with the state of EA’s stocks and the ever increasing layoffs to stay afloat, it doesn’t appear that their ‘activation servers’ will exist once they are gone. That’s millions of dollars in software that will cease functioning only for the people who legitimately purchased it.

  The locks on your house and car, two purchases you made, are entirely optional. The entrance requirements on the software is not optional, unless you are going to become a criminal. This is why I dislike the analogy, it’s so poor that it almost creates an illusion of solidity. Likewise SPORE was a huge exception, it was a game that people had been waiting years and years for. Likewise most people didn’t even know about the DRM until after they had purchased it. Which meant they couldn’t return it. I’m an owner of SPORE and I haven’t played the game since roughly 30 days after it was released (once I realized the harsh reality of any EA owned sub-company).

  Now my brain has somewhat evaded my fingers but I’ll continue with the next available point (leaving one to wonder what I had planned before). Stardock is one of the last very companies that I can truly suggest to people outside of Indie developers. This is a company that has done incredibly well, so well in fact that their last expansion for Galactic Civilization II was and is easily the largest update to any game I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

  They chose to trust their customers and what happened? Starforce, a DRM company, released live torrent links on their own website for people to pirate Stardock’s games from. What ended up happening? Starforce was almost unanimously hated by the internet world, forums flared up with posts bashing them for poor business practices. Sales of Galactic Civilzation II (The game they were linking to) rose in protest and in the end it proved that their company was not built to protect properties, but instead like most businesses, to protect their own profits.

  The only DRM any game company should have is the very same one that Stardock has. The game itself works out of the box without a CD-Key, crack unneeded. They have an outlook on their customers that I share. People will rise to the bar that you set them to. They feel (as they should) that if you provide a quality product for a fair price you will be rewarded with profit. It also appears that as the CEO said “People are voting with their wallets”. 

  Set that to the last year and you’ll see the dramatic drop of their stocks nicely with their introduction of SPORE and the newest SecuROM (which is a sony product if you were curious). Likewise the only ‘up shot’ on that dive has been as a result of laying off people. It’s always good to know that the only shining light in your companies worth is when you throw people to the wolves.

  The only DRM that should ever be used is the one provided by Stardock. If you have a copy of the product you can play it, if you are willing to take the time to verify that its legitimately owned Stardock will reward you with very impressive patches (they certainly corner the market for quality updates). This way if they ever go under the only loss you’ll be suffering is their patch data which you’d be unable to get even if they didn’t require a key. This to me is a better use of the EA analogy. Because now your home or car continue to work even if the people who built them do not, you just cannot get further repairs through that company. Instead needing to turn to third party companies (like sites that would likely host the patches after).

  I could go on and on. But I feel this is the problem with the discussions is that people become overwhelmed. Historically all forms of censorship and banning have only resulted in the problem becoming even greater. It does not hinder crime it merely creates craftier criminals. The crime you can no longer see is far more dangerous than the crime you can.

By | 2014-12-20T21:48:26+00:00 February 8th, 2009|Journal|4 Comments

The Wonderful World of Gaming

  Just as an update. I feel that the best explanation of Aristotle’s Poetic’s is already on the interwebz. It is located here. Because of that I won’t be continuing that little ditty but I may still write on the Oresteia and the Oedipus Trilogy.

  Anywho! Today is time for something a little lighter. I want to talk about one of the many games that has actually impressed me with its design.

The first gem of this series goes by the name…

Defense Grid: The Awakening

The invasion began without warning. After a thousand years of peace, the aliens have returned. The planet’s survival depends on activating the ancient Defense Grid…
If it still functions at all.

  The concept is very simple. There is an alien race that is invading the planet, and the only way to stop them is to keep your super grid up by protecting its power nodes. The aliens come in a dozen or so types, each having its own unique talents, be they as simple as running like an asshole passed your defenses, or flying above your head, or spraying a shield across all those around them. Likewise you have something like 10 different towers you can use each with 3 levels, basic, advanced, and elite (my own nickname for them). You’ll notice a considerable difference between the green (basic) level and the red (elite) level. Likewise they look cooler as you upgrade them.

  The first level gives you a nice explanation of the basic concept of the game, you can construct towers to help defend the only access to power nodes. The multitude of towers working best in combination with one another (sometimes remarkably well), likewise the game gives you a wonderful gamble. The longer you are willing to wait between purchases and the more money you have the more that you’ll gain per second (or tick). Sometimes this gamble can cost you bad when you get overwhelmed.

  The levels are each wonderfully varied with some giving set tracks for the enemies and others giving large platforms where you can create paths with your towers. Your towers have shields around them that will deflect the aliens unless you create an impregnable wall in which the aliens will be forced to walk on through (no cheating muha).

  The combat really never lets off from the very first non-tutorial level (IE level 2). In fact whenever you feel your adrenaline feeling a bit low you can jam on your F key and cause the game to speed like lightning through wave after wave, I find myself dying sometimes because I am addicted to the key. About the only complaint I can think of during this review is that I cannot take screenshots, this may not be the game’s fault (as I’m using Windows 7) but it is definitely a downer. However actions speak louder than words or screenshots so.

You can nab the demo here.

  What I believe is most remarkable is that while this game is simple in presentation it is fantastically complicated when one is attempting to maximize their score. Likewise for an indie game the graphics are utterly beautiful, this unlike most massive budget games was not done in replacement of quality content either its a frosting upon a beautiful cake. The sound is also wonderful, the music never gets old and the sound affects are all top quality and wonderfully made.

    – Incredibly addictive game play that will likely keep you busy for hours on end.
    – Every level can be replayed multiple times with no sense of monotony.
    – High quality game for a very modest asking price.
    – Basically everything involved with the game.
    – Screenshots seem to not be supported.
    – Isn’t self aware, every time I compliment it it doesn’t respond.

  Final Grade: A – This is one of the best indie games I’ve ever played and likewise I feel it deserves a great deal more coverage than it does get. If you like the game style and enjoy the Demo the game will be nothing but good things for you. Likewise if you get it on greenhousegames (which is entirely up to you I get nothing if you do so get it wherever its more convenient for you) you’ll have all sorts of achievements to get. If you get it anywhere else feel free to post your high scores for levels on this post. Keep in mind anything unbelievable will require a screenshot that may itself require fraps or something similar ;).

  Note: This is my first game review. I’ll work on a better framework later obviously, likewise don’t expect any reviews to be this friendly after this. I feel Defense Grid is a special exception in an otherwise large vat of feces that is modern gaming. However there are at least two other Indie games that I’d like to review sometime this week.

By | 2009-02-08T12:38:38+00:00 February 7th, 2009|Journal|3 Comments

The Illusionary Occam’s Razor

  I’ll continue with the Greek Tragedy stuff a little later. This felt like a more pressing piece to speak on today. The subject of course as one would imagine is the idea of Occam’s Razor. Now this is a relatively simple concept that essentially boils down to the following.

The Simplest Explanation is Often the Correct one.

  Now I feel that the common misconception here is that any answer as long as it is simpler than all it’s competitors is the correct one. However as I’ve stated before anything that explains everything explains absolutely nothing. Essentially if you make an explanation broad enough it can be used to answer all of life’s questions, it is ambiguity that we often allow to take hold in explanations that creates a false sense of security. In fact it is ambiguity that cannot exist when deciding upon an explanation using the Occam’s Razor.

  One thing we must remember that gets missed many many times, is the following quote.

"Simpler theories are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones"

– Swinburne 1997 and Williams, Gareth T, 2008

The key word there being "other things being equal". This is where ambiguity breaks down against clarity. In many, many cases we find that people feel they can quote Occam’s Razor to justify their response of "Because". I’ve spoken on it before when discussing the God Problem, people feel that by saying "well because" they have suddenly defeated their opponent. However it comes down to our ability to concretely envision something, can you truly vision what you are postulating or are you merely examining an abstract and speaking about it as if it is a concrete thing.

  We cannot truly conceive the nonphysical world communicating or altering our physical world, in doing so we begin to attach physical traits to nonphysical things. This attribution is an error that is commonly refuted by saying "because". Occam’s Razor is not a magical cure all and it would seem that many people erroneously believe that it is. This is where the divide between faith and science seems to burst forth like an infant from the womb. The latter defines something concretely and then displays it ambiguously and for decades it results in ambiguous information being thrown about as if it is concrete fact.

  This is absolutely no evidence at all that would suggest that there is a nonphysical world attached in any way shape or form to the physical one. All explanations that seem to support this notion that there is do not have solid evidence to prove so they rely on the Illusionary Occam’s Razor.

  So the next time you think that Occam’s razor is the best explanation for your theory. Keep in mind that it requires that all other things be equal, ambiguity is always the lesser to certainty. Likewise as I’ve said before if you are willing to ignore the evidence of the physical world for no better reason than to fulfill confirmation bias then you might as well not debate at all. Nothing can be said to change your mind.

  I hope this short lesson was entertaining :). This is my 11th entry in a row, which is exciting because both my father and myself currently share ages that are multiples of 11 :).

By | 2009-02-06T17:48:31+00:00 February 6th, 2009|Journal|1 Comment

The Greek Tragedy (Part 1 of X)

  Well seeing as there is an exam in Greek Tragedy tomorrow I figure now would be a great time to discuss my feelings about the stories we’ll be tested on.

  We first peer into the wonderful world of the Oresteia. The Oresteia is the only tragedy trilogy to make it in near complete form from the time of the Greek’s to modern day humanity. Over two thousand years of wars, strife, theft, and natural disasters have been unable to destroy these unique looks into the very beginning of what became western literature and the dramatic medium.

  The three plays of the Oresteia are Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Euminides.

  Before beginning we’ll look back at Aristotles view of the Tragedy. Aristotle feels that Tragedy is the best form of Poetry, a monstrously persuasive entity that should produce two responses from its audience: Fear and Pity.

  Now for the sake of the exam I’m going to go over in more detail the following in English (as opposed to collegese which drives me insane since its unnecessary). In any case where I use the word "I" it is meant to be Aristotle speaking.

  Part 1

So I was having a drink and realized that nobody had over analyzed poetry and all the different forms it takes. I figured the best option was to complicate my words in the greatest possible manner to make things seem deeper and more complex than they actually are.

  Epic Poetry is the father of Tragedy, however Tragedy is the better of the two. Comedy likewise exists as the anti-matter to Tragedies matter. These + music are different forms of imitative art. There are three major ways to differentiate all these lovely little lasses: The Medium, The Objects, and the organization or tool of the Imitation. Each having their own distinct place, sort of like all those wonderful organs in your body.

  The imitation is produced by rhythm, language, or ‘harmony’ either by themselves or together in a wonderful potluck.

  With the wonderful world of music this is done by harmony and rhythm, in dancing you have simply rhythm alone (unless you count shoe squeaks), but there is another art. One that causes me to drunkenly giggle as I tickle myself, that is the art of that imitates through language alone: The tragedy.

  OOC Note: For those that didn’t know poetry is a Latin word meaning "Making" so one would assume that a poet is a ‘maker’. It’s good to know because Aristotle talks about poets like most people talk about architects, which isn’t an unfair comparison.

  Heck folks while I get another drop of wine I must say that there are even arts that use all three realms of imitation! Namely Dithyrambic and Nomic poetry! Likewise Comedy and Tragedy use all three. *hic* Ignoring what I said earlier. The first two examples use all these things in tandem, while the latter two examples use them each in turn.

  Part 2

  *Walks in* Ah! Where was I. Part II Eh? So as I was saying. The objects imitating in these plays are obviously men, because women don’t know how to act, and we are given two choices for these men to imitate. They can either act as better than they truly are, or lesser than they truly are, acting as the same as they are isn’t really acting now is it. I thought so! This is how you can separate tragedy from comedy. Tragedies portray men as better than they are and Comedy portrays them as less than they are.

  Part 3

Oh my. So quickly do we move on to new parts. Well there is indeed a third important point to keep in mind when looking at these plays. The way we commit our imitations. With all other things being the same the special extra we can work with is narration. Homer had a pension for acting out someone other than himself, you can even be yourself, or have all your characters instead act out the things you’d have said right in front of you…in 3-D-D-D-D-D-D…

  As I was saying. Sophocles is much like Homer, both imitating people as better than they are from another point of view. Much like Aristophanes…now you might be saying "But he writes comedies." To that I say "Quiet! Or I’ll make you get out of the pool!" Now we could start pointing fingers at who created the comedy, the tragedy, or the drama, or really anything else. But that doesn’t really matter because the only real evidence they use is language. I mean what I’m trying to say…stop moving…what I’m trying to say is that Poetry may have come from all these sources and maybe that’s why there are so many ways to imitate.

Part 4

  Oh yes. Part 4. Poetry seems to have gotten its legs from two sources, no really! These sources coming from man! As I imagine you figured since man is writing the poetry…but as I said before be quiet or leave. The thing that separates us from animals is our ability to imitate. *Eyes the Spider-Monkey raising its hand* Quiet You! We get great pleasure in imitating, seriously…it can get messy. Likewise humanity is driven naturally towards harmony and rhythm.

  These wonderful little trinkets of man are what split off like so many sticks of string cheese into two distinct strands. Homer was the initial humor mill that gave birth to the Comedy. Likewise his gangster Greekness was the first to formulate tragedies structure. Seriously he was busy…nothing like my cousin Agethus, that guy does nothing. Like I said before, Epics came before Tragedies, but Tragedies pwn Epics to a level I can barely emphasize.

  Also its important to remember that Aeschylus was the first thug to introduce a second actor. Then Sophocles said "Not on my Watch!" and added a third! There are tons of other things I could say but the booze will only last so long so…

Part 5

  Ha! You thought I was done. Comedy! Yes Comedy. It is the imitation of mans lesser form, now I’m not trying to be a prick, when I say lesser its not all bad. It is not that it is all bad, its more that while it conveys the nastier side of us, it does not in turn convey pain. This is important because without pain I mean…how would anyone get around to writing emo poetry? Point made.

  Comedy suffered unlike Tragedy because nobody took the damn thing seriously. Because of this it hasn’t evolved like it should have. Epic Poetry however was also super serious and because of that it lead nicely into Tragedy.

Part 6

  Well we are passed halfway done. Which is good, I know I’m getting tired and I bet you feel the same. Tragedy is serious business, like I said before…but it requires stressing. Now to me it would appear that while men are super neat and they are necessary for a play, but the imitation done at the heart of a tragedy is the actions and not the actors. They cannot be a tragedy without an action but there can easily be one without an actor. Ah what an awesome play that would be indeed!

  It would appear then that the plot is the most important aspect of the play. The actors come in second. The third is thought, or the elicitation of thought, or if I’m being really frisky the fact that the actions are being thoughtful and not meaningless. The fourth being the spoken word, it best be said because it needs to be said and be said correctly. Muha!

To be Continued in the morning… (It’s getting late :)) I hope you can keep your pants on!

By | 2009-02-05T23:09:47+00:00 February 5th, 2009|Journal|Comments Off on The Greek Tragedy (Part 1 of X)

Experimental Neurosis

  The following subject should interest some people, for the rest of you…for shame! It’s a concept known as Experiment Neurosis. When I was actually taking Psychology courses (before the Major’s structure caused me to want to write a collection of depressing poetry) there was a particular concept that I found remarkable. Remarkable both in the fact that it was true and likewise in the fact that it didn’t cause an outcry of "Ah Ha’s!" amongst the class room. I was utterly dumbfounded by the lack of connection. A connection that should hopefully be set within all of you very soon.

experimental neurosis
medical dictionary

A behavior disorder produced experimentally, as when an organism is required to make a discrimination of extreme difficulty and "breaks down" in the process.

  Now this definition is full of links that should hopefully aid anyone reading this in reaching a level of understanding that is required. It’s all pretty simple in concept which is why I like it.

  Think of it this way. You have a dog (or if it helps a mean person) strapped into a box so that they cannot escape. They are presented with either a circle or an oval. If they click the button when they are presented with the circle they get something nice like food (for the mean person it could be something they like like watching babies cry) and if they click the button when its an oval they receive something not nice like a painful shock (or happy baby imagery). For those that know the terms we would call the first situation an appetitive one. The idea being that all an appetitive stimuli is is one that an organism actively seeks. Whereas the latter stimuli is an aversive stimuli which is simply a stimuli that an organism actively avoids.

  What we do with this experiment is slowly make the oval look more and more like the circle until they are almost indiscernible. At this point it becomes a guessing game for the organism and after a even as little as a half dozen (perhaps less) trials you will see a spike in distress. If you continue along this path the organism will begin to show severe signs of neurosis becoming either highly aggressive or highly passive, attacking all things around them or looking almost dead.

  Now imagine if you will a situation where the entire world surrounding the organism is structured with a collection of situations where the desired outcome is masked behind a circle and an almost indiscernible oval. This is essentially what hypocritical laws and customs create. In the US alone we have the following hypocrisies (off the top of the head):

  Tobacco and Alcohol, the two drugs who hold the highest levels of deaths per year, are the only two drugs that are legal. Whereas much less harmful substances with much higher rates of quitting are illegal and have extreme penalties.

  It is illegal to be sexually involved with someone under 18 but likewise teenagers are constantly shown in sexually suggestive situations on television, in music, and in everyday life. This creates a paradigm where you are told it is wrong and yet even the Disney network is doing it.

  Humans are like any other organism built to sustain their genetic code and thusly are attracted to and pleased by sexual interaction. However we likewise have taboos that say that these things are dirty, calling people sluts, hoes, and other derogatory terms, actively sexual people are attacked when running for office and sex is the center of one of the most heated discussions in the US political scope: Gay Marriage.

  Religions are almost always quoted as being belief systems of peace and love and yet slavery, homosexual prejudice, the twin towers incident, the crusades, multiple nations invading other nations, and even the events between Israel and Palestine are all stated as being supported acts of whatever major deity depending on the event.

  Anyone reading this could likely name ten separate things off the top of their head that are hypocritical and yet pervasive throughout their country. This I believe is the cause of many of the worlds worst issues. If not the worlds worst issues it is easily the cause of the events that lead up to those issues.

  Experimental Neurosis is what I feel to be the best explanation for the reactions people have with the unknown. The aggression against homosexuality being a grand example. There is no real outside way of knowing for certain who is and who is not gay. This creates a paradigm of circle and near-circle-oval that places the person (well their brain) in a level of discomfort that leaves them with two likely responses: High levels of Aggression or High levels of Passiveness.

  It’s also likely why people hold on so harshly to their beliefs. The unknown is likely the greatest example of neurosis inducing stimuli one can deal with. It not only resents you with a circle and a near circle it essentially presents you with an infinite number of them. Even though statistically you are going to be victimized during the day most people are scared of the dark, the absence of light leaves us with a plethora of zones that we cannot see and thusly leaves us with many zones of neurosis inducing unknown. The brain enjoys distinct dichotomies because they are the simplest form of knowledge.

  So as you look at the world around you, take some time to think of all the things that are one way but said to be another. Taboos, laws that conflict with personal desire, and the conflicting worlds of reality and belief. It’s a fascinating view on life that makes the quest for knowledge all the more vital to our survival as a species. If we allow neurosis to continually spread with every increasing hypocrisies we will likely not survive it. It only takes one aggressive neurotic in control of nuclear or biological weaponry to end the lives of many.

By | 2009-02-04T19:48:47+00:00 February 4th, 2009|Journal|Comments Off on Experimental Neurosis