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Tron Legacy Needs A Script Upgrade

Just some thoughts after seeing Disney's sequel to the cult hit, Tron:

There's little other than fanservice for those who liked the original to grab hold of here. Even recognizing that the original film was not without its flaws (quite a few clunker lines and some questionable performances) it did have a straightforward and comprehensible plot in which two understandable conflicts are introduced and resolved, and characters whose motivations you could understand and identify with.

Kevin the Younger

Encom has a problem. Its top leadership is turning the company's computer system into a totalitarian state, restricting access by users and getting in the way of them doing their jobs. It's inconveniencing the company's founder, now working on a cool laser that "digitizes" objects, and is motivating programmer Alan to make an independent security program he calls Tron, as a counter to the system's megalomaniacal new Master Control Program.

A little later on we find that Kevin Flynn also has problems. He used to work at Encom, but now operates a seedy arcade. His beef? The executive who is putting the screws to Encom's computer systems with his MCP got his job by stealing credit for video game programs Flynn wrote. Flynn wants to prove this to redeem himself, and to do that, he needs to hack into Encom's computers.

Shamus Buys Used Games

Shamus Young over at The Escapist (of Shamus Plays LOTRO and now Shamus Plays Champions Online fame) has weighed in on the THQ-Penny Arcade-The Internet discussion on used games.

He agrees that buying used is "not cheating" (thanks Shamus for joining Tycho in begrudging us our legal rights, we appreciate it) but still has a few bones to pick. Personally I think many of those who spend a lot of time writing about games on the Internet, and consequently end up spending plenty of time interacting with game developers, are speaking more from a sense of sympathy with individuals and studios crying out they are in financial dire straits than any well-reasoned position on the matter... but I digress.

I think this situation is shaped by three simple facts:

  • Developers and publishers want to earn a living.
  • Gamers, like any consumers, want the most value for their dollar.
  • GameStop has taken advantage of the fact that used games are - in a gameplay sense - indistinguishable from new copies.

Ledesma is talking about a real problem. An unknown (but obviously large) portion of the money being spent on games is ending up in the hands of retailers instead of going to where it can fund more games. But the language he's used to describe the problem is really unfortunate.

A few points in response:

"Unfortunate" is an understatement. There's a word for what the concept of "cheating" implies within a commercial transaction, and it's "theft" (not to be confused with "piracy" which is something else again). So, yes, I suppose it is "unfortunate" that in defense of revenue that Ledesma's company is in no way entitled to, he felt it necessary to accuse used game buyers of theft.

Exploring the Moral Dimensions of Used Games

Tycho responded to some of the ideas in my post yesterday (I'm sure he received the same ideas from many, many different writers) in his newspost today. It reads in part:

People who buy used games are not pirates, by definition. Used games (used everything, really) are and will continue to be a legal and protected form of commerce. Other industries have done what they can to co-opt, destroy, or harvest those markets, but their existence is settled law. What I have said is that the end result of that purchase from a developer perspective must be indistinguishable. Isn't it? That is the question I couldn't answer. I still can't answer it. And because I couldn't, I had to change the way I invested my leisure dollar.

So the first question is, should the end result of a used purchase be the same as a new purchase, from the perspective of a developer?

My answer, you might be surprised to hear, is yes-- but this is already true.

Gamers, Developers Respond To PA On Used Games

Gabe and Tycho over at Penny Arcade have gotten a lot of responses to their post yesterday about the used game market.

Here were portions of responses they got, along with my responses to their responses:

What other customers expect a used product be be identical to a new product? Buying a used car comes with increased wear (and thus decreased function)

I actually don't object to initiatives like "Project Ten Dollar" that use DLC bundled only with new purchases to initiate a relationship with used game buyers. It's voluntary. They're not entitled to that income, but if the end user wants the content they can get it-- like any DLC. This, I think, is the appropriate way to approach a difficult problem.

However, the issue of product degradation is bogus.

Used Game Buyers Are Customers, Not Cheats Or Thieves

I'm a big fan and longtime reader of webcomic Penny Arcade, and more times than not I find myself in agreement with Tycho's rants, which I enjoy just as much as the comic itself (if not more).

However I do find myself on the opposite side of the issue of used games, which is odd since by and large I don't buy used games. Out of all the Xbox and Xbox 360 titles I own (I'm not a PC gamer anymore, and I don't own another console) I think perhaps two or three titles I bought used out of a collection that spans some 100 games or so.

Tycho picks up some of the objections to statements by developer THQ's Cory Ledesma earlier this week, to the effect that gamers buying from the used market were "cheating". Some of these objections were phrased as "disrespectful to THQ's customers", to which Tycho responds that buyers on the used market are not THQ customers. This is wrong in a number of important ways.

Notwithstanding the significant rights granted by the doctrine of first sale, it is reasonable to believe that if it became illegal tomorrow to sell a game one had bought new, either to GameStop, another dealer, or third party individuals, the sales of new games would drop. Some people have gaming lifestyles that exceed what they are able or willing to pay for at new release prices, and subsidize their habits either by selling their own games on the used market to recoup expenses so they can buy more games, or by eschewing new releases at launch time and buying games used for discount prices.

Google Exporting Cultural Values? No Kidding.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua in an editorial accused Google of being a political tool to "export culture, values and ideas," a day before the world's largest search engine is expected to announce that it would leave the country.

Of course, they didn't just realize it now. They're just repeating it now so that if Google announces it is leaving China tomorrow, it will look not only like a confirmation of what Xinhua is saying, which is that Google exports Western culture, but that Google is ashamed of it.

Droid The Winner? Not So Fast, Now

Ars Technica just did a review of one of the latest Android OS mobile phones, Motorola's Droid. However, in their haste to praise the phone as not just an improvement over previous Android phones, like the HTC G1, they highlighted a performance comparison to Apple's iPhone 3GS-- and declared the Droid the winner.

The problem?

The data says otherwise. They assigned the phones average times for loading a series of pages, on which the iPhone averaged 8.0 seconds and the Droid averaged 9.3. Then they drew a graph, noted "longer bars are better" and claimed the Droid's score of 9.3 was better than the iPhone's 8.0.

Even in the article it says that the Droid is only faster on some mobile-optimized pages, but you have to jump through some hoops to see that result, too:

The article states:

The results are pretty obvious, and match the results of the synthetic benchmarks. The Droid is slower than the 3GS in Javascript-heavy pages, but is as fast if not faster on the mobile-optimized pages.

The problem is that this is unsupported by the data unless you are only considering the m.digg.com page "mobile-optimized".

This Feels More Familiar

What a difference a week makes.

With MC-UML the only matchup that wasn't a tie, everybody manages to pick up points except Merrimack, dropping the team into 8th place.

Ouch.

Good news?

Games in hand against BC, BU (3) Maine, NU, and UNH (2) as well as UVM (1). The only team with fewer league games played to date in Hockey East is about the only team that is hands-down in a worse position than MC right now: Providence, with five games played and only one point to show for it.

While being near the bottom of the hole looking up might feel more familiar to fans, let's hope it lights a fire under the team. They've been perfect at home and also perfect on the road-- just in opposite ways. They've yet to lose at home and have yet to win on the road, and next up are the surprisingly first-placed UNH Wildcats-- tied for first with BC with 10 points each, but holding a game in hand over the Eagles.

Warriors Put Themselves In A Good Position

Okay, I know this isn't normally a sports blog, but...

And pretty soon I hope I can stop prefacing every statement with, "it's still early, BUT..."

So far the statistics on Merrimack's performance and the performance of their opponents in games against Merrimack have been a pretty good predictor of what happens. In tonight's win over BU, the ones that weren't actually turned out in Merrimack's favor.

Merrimack so far had been outshot and BU was outshooting its opponents (but not scoring).

Chinese iFud Takeout

iFud

The sheer amount of disinformation being bandied about by posters on this story about the iPhone's launch in China is absolutely staggering.

Here are some of the more amazing bits:

"Wow, china unicom failed at their pricing."

The iPhone is a high end phone with a high margin, like most Apple products. While the Chinese market is large, and a large portion of it does not participate equally in the country's economic development, that does not mean there are no potential purchasers with money to spend. The iPhone has been an underground success in many poor countries with hacktivated phones selling for high margins. An official iPhone, even without wifi, only needs to be marginally cheaper than those in order to be successful. If Apple were to significantly reduce the prices of Chinese iPhones without tying then even more strongly to the local networks (which they have so far been unable to do) then all they would achieve would be to help those exporting iPhones unofficially into unsupported markets, which does not help Apple any more than selling locally, helps them less than selling on the local market for a higher price, even if they sell more units, and does nothing to help their local partners, the Chinese operator.

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