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The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming

Anonymous Brave Guy Symmetric gameplay is all we get now (247 comments)

I find many games where the AI is just too dumb for it to be fun. Overall, it's not smart, and it works for a casual player, but for hardcore games, it's just too dumb.

I agree. The thing is, I'm not a 19 year old student any more. I don't want to be a hardcore gamer today. I don't have time to learn FPS maps well enough to navigate them with my eyes closed and still lob a grenade/rocket everywhere the respawn/power-up/camper is likely to be. I can't sustain multiple keyboard/mouse actions per second over a half-hour RTS game. I have no interest in playing against an arena where 1 in 3 opponents is a bot that never misses, nor installing so much mandatory crapware to prevent this on my computer that something outside the game breaks.

For symmetric competitive games, things like arena-based FPS or RTS genres, the "single player" has been going up against bots on PCs since at least the days of Quake 3 Arena, which was around the turn of the century. The big RTSes of that era often had some sort of contrived plot and a series of preplanned missions, but the replay value as a single player was all in open gaming against bots. In each case, playing against real people on-line was always the natural successor; this is not a new thing.

But there used to be asymmetric games as well, where the storyline and gameworld made for a much more compelling experience that could feel more like being in an interactive movie than playing round 17 of laser tag. Classics like the Baldur's Gate series or the original Deus Ex come immediately to mind. They avoided the boredom of facing what you called "pattern AIs" by having actual progression through the game, so the situations and capabilities you'd face would be changing. You can't really do this in a multiplayer gameworld when everyone wants to start with everything and the game only ships with 2 maps. (*97 more maps are available as DLC. Payment required.)

AIs have improved since those days anyway, but the biggest problem for single-player gaming is that the industry has so completely given up on games that require actual progression and development that fighting AIs on the same handful of maps is all the replay value they've got.

8 hours ago
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Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Well now. (101 comments)

The argument about committing crime being outlawed would be more convincing if basic copyright infringement were treated as a crime and was actually investigated and punished in some proportionate way by the authorities when it occurs. The reality is that copyright is in most cases a civil matter, which means that while the cumulative damage to a genuine victim can be significant, they are essentially responsible for their own protection, without any police or public prosecutors to help them the way a victim of say theft or fraud would have. And the costs of bringing an action to recover losses are disproportionate in most cases, because copyright infringement kills with a thousand cuts.

Also, we're talking about the EU. Everything your wrote about fair use doesn't apply here. We tend to have more specific exemptions to copyright in our national laws in Europe, often including certain special privileges for libraries because of their unique public service role, and that is the matter at hand.

3 days ago
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Top EU Court: Libraries Can Digitize Books Without Publishers' Permission

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Well now. (101 comments)

The thing is, as many a Slashdotter has pointed out, you can't accomplish the same thing virtually. If you let people download material from a library then there are only two realistic options. One is that you provide the material with huge amounts of DRM and interfere with readers' own systems in dubious ways. The other is that you create a blatant avenue for copyright infringement and inherently give it special legal blessing that is intended to protect the public resource of a library for entirely different reasons. It is highly unlikely that libraries would support the former, and there is no way the latter was going to fly legally.

5 days ago
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3 Recent Flights Make Unscheduled Landings, After Disputes Over Knee Room

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Anthropometrics (811 comments)

I would agree with you, except that a free and competitive market can only work this way if it's also an informed market.

If you can lawfully sell someone a ticket for a flight, which they purchase with reasonable expectations in terms of promptness, comfort or whatever else, and you can then fail to meet the customer's reasonable expectations when they bought their ticket without their having any recourse, then you aren't really in a competitive market at all. The customer has no way to know when, or how, to vote with their wallet.

You can certainly make a reasonable argument that this is more about transparency and advertising standards than it is about needing heavyweight industry regulation, but either way the current market dynamics evidently are not sufficient to protect the customer alone.

5 days ago
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California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:One Sure Way (275 comments)

Thing is there is no correlation between quality and cost.

Of course there is. It's not 100% obviously, but the idea that you can in general provide inferior products or services and yet charge the same as or more than your competition makes no sense on any level.

5 days ago
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California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:One Sure Way (275 comments)

I don't have a fancy name for it. For essentials like shoes and food I'm lucky enough to have plenty in the bank these days to buy what I need, so I have the luxury of choosing quality without sacrificing timeliness. But for something that costs a significant amount by whatever my financial standards are today, I'd rather wait and buy something good.

5 days ago
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California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:One Sure Way (275 comments)

Perhaps you'll find a company out there that can afford to not skimp monetarily and yet compete at the same time, but I seriously doubt it.

Why? I for one will happily pay a higher price, even a much higher one, for good quality and service. I don't think this costs as much as it seems, because for example a good pair of shoes will last much longer than a bad pair that you'll have to replace much sooner. In any case, I prioritise value for money over cost, so for any non-essentials I'll usually prefer to save up for something nicer than buy cheap consumer tat that I won't really enjoy or find useful.

5 days ago
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BBC: ISPs Should Assume VPN Users Are Pirates

Anonymous Brave Guy As a BBC "customer" in the UK... (362 comments)

The irony of this discussion is that as someone who lives in the UK and pays his licence fee, I still sometimes run into content on the BBC that I'm told I'm not allowed to see because I live in the wrong place.

This is why I lack much sympathy for the Beeb when people use VPNs and the like to circumvent geographical restrictions. I do understand that there are commercial agreements and licensing conditions at work here, and I do understand that the BBC Worldwide commercial arm is not the same as the BBC itself (though it is a wholly owned subsidiary).

Just to be clear, I think the BBC is a borderline national treasure. It is certainly not perfect, but the range and quality of programming it has produced over the years is so much better than the apparent norm on commercial television channels that I pay my licence fee gladly, even if it is a bizarre pseudo-tax based on archaic rules about who has to contribute.

However, if you're going to take primarily public funding, with only a relatively small amount coming from BBC Worldwide's commercial activities, then not sharing the results with those members of the public who are paying your bills is not on, IMHO.

about a week ago
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3 Recent Flights Make Unscheduled Landings, After Disputes Over Knee Room

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Anthropometrics (811 comments)

Keep saying it's the people's fault, and they'll keep squeezing until they find your particular threshold.

Which is an argument ethically akin to car companies knowing they have a potentially fatal defect but weighing up the cost of actually fixing it and saving lives vs. the expected cost of compensation lawsuits and not fixing it if the latter is lower.

The solution, of course, is to structure the law and/or regulate the industry so that the cost of screwing people unreasonably is always substantially greater than the cost of behaving more appropriately. Passenger suffered unreasonable discomfort on any flight? Automatic 100% refund, with a presumption in favour of the passenger if your provision is significantly below the industry average (or minimum regulated standards if the industry colludes to reduce the average).

about two weeks ago
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3 Recent Flights Make Unscheduled Landings, After Disputes Over Knee Room

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Anthropometrics (811 comments)

I would have a lot more sympathy if budget airlines didn't keep pulling so many obviously shady moves to try to look cheap yet acceptable quality while actually charging more that customers expected and not always offering the experience people thought they were buying. This has become so bad that we literally have new consumer protection laws taking effect in Europe around now precisely to make a bunch of the tricks that some of these airlines pull explicitly illegal.

It should have been a reasonable and simple solution to offer transparent pricing and mid-range options, but I think that ship sailed^W^Wplane departed already. Now the industry, particularly on the budget end, needs to clean up its act or face increasing levels of customer dissatisfaction at a time when people are already looking to alternatives where viable ones exist.

about two weeks ago
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Facebook Blamed For Driving Up Cellphone Bills, But It's Not Alone

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Stupid design, appalling (131 comments)

Makes me think: is auto-playing HTML5 video a possibility?

Yes, there's a standard way to specify autoplay for HTML5 videos. However, not all browsers will respect it. For example, Safari on iOS won't play unless the user specifically starts the video, and this was a deliberate decision on Apple's part.

about two weeks ago
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Facebook Blamed For Driving Up Cellphone Bills, But It's Not Alone

Anonymous Brave Guy Re: Stupid design, appalling (131 comments)

In some ways, I wish more sites would do stuff like that. It would stop my mobile ISP from "helping me save bandwidth" by intercepting all the images on sites I visit and compressing them so horribly that they are often useless. I didn't ask them to do that, I don't get anywhere near my bandwidth allowance, and they aren't providing the service I pay for.

about two weeks ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Probably not. (546 comments)

Because even non-degree programmers aren't stupid, and this kind of general knowledge about their profession is acquired as they go.

Is it? I've worked for plenty of employers who said they offered things like on-the-job training, but in practice that often meant they had a book shelf and sometimes a senior developer would give a 45 minute talk. Compared to attending multiple lectures every day for a few years... well, it's hardly a comparison at all, it's a completely different depth of study.

As I wrote elsewhere, I firmly believe that studying for a degree is not the only way to acquire this level of theoretical knowledge, but I find the idea that any developer would just pick up the same material as a normal result of day-to-day work in a typical programming job implausible. It's not about being stupid, it's about being ignorant (in the literal sense, not the derogatory one), and it takes a lot more than reading a few chapters in a book from the office library and a couple of blog posts to meet the standard.

The number of times you are dealing with stuff that was learned in a CS degree is minimal.

Perhaps, if all you do is join-the-dots programming for CRUD front-ends. Personally, my clients pay me to create new data structures and algorithms that solve problems no-one ever solved before. I can't just write result=solve_my_problem(), because I'm the guy they hire to create that API.

Remember all that theory about space and time complexity, and which guarantees you can and can't achieve in distributed systems, and formally proving algorithms correct, and how compilers and virtual machines and run-time environments work? I use this stuff all the time.

Every programmer has a bunch of stuff that they already know and a bunch of stuff that is new to them and they need to research before doing a task. The proportion is mostly dictated by amount of experience, not whether they have CS degrees or not.

Yes it is, but the quality of that experience -- what you know and how you think as a result -- matters. As has been noted many times in this industry, there is a difference between someone who has had ten years of experience and someone who has had the same year of experience ten times.

A good CS degree course is one way to gain a lot of useful experience in a relatively short time. There are others, but a job where you spend all day writing glue code that joins up someone else's library and framework APIs isn't one of them.

about two weeks ago
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Firefox 32 Arrives With New HTTP Cache, Public Key Pinning Support

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Still having misery with Firefox. (220 comments)

We're talking about Slashdotters and other geeks who have no real excuse to not help out in this way

What do you mean "no real excuse to not help out"?

I think FOSS is great. I appreciate the work that a lot of people in the community do, and I'm happy to help out a bit myself if I can. I also think competition is healthy in the browser market, and I'm glad that Firefox is out there.

But the last time I tried to be helpful by following a Mozillian's bug reporting advice, it took me several hours to fix the damage after their instructions resulted in damage to my normal set-up. That was time I was not then billing to a client, which ultimately reduced my income by a few hundred bucks that month. Setting up a VM on my normal (Windows) PC as suggested a few posts up is not a trivial undertaking either. This is more than I'm willing to do as a favour on personal time, and it's not what my clients pay my company to do.

Mozilla Corporation is a commercial organisation. It has over 1,000 employees, it brings in millions of dollars in revenues, and it reportedly pays its CEO more than most of us here are ever likely to earn. I'm a professional, and my company is available for software development and consultancy work. If you want me to do your testing or bug fixing for you, there's a line from Goodfellas that comes to mind.

Given my own past experience with trying to help, and my position on why I won't do it myself any more, I do find it irritating when Firefox developers/fans start writing as if anyone else has some sort of moral obligation to follow onerous procedures to help out. I rarely write about this myself, but since you've pressed the issue, I thought a few facts might bring some perspective.

about two weeks ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Probably not. (546 comments)

As another example, understanding half a dozen sort algorithms is pointless. If you're writing your own sort function, you're doing it wrong.

Obviously your second statement is over-generalised, but in any case, you're assuming that the only reason to understand different sorting algorithms is to implement them. How do you know which of a variety of algorithms to choose, or even that there's a useful question you could go ask the Internet, if you aren't even aware of the possibilities that are out there?

Sure, I could go read a bunch of papers every time I needed to choose which tool to choose, but if I had to do that then someone who actually knew their data structures and algorithms would be getting useful stuff done while I was reading. What next, don't bother learning the syntax of your programming language, you can just look up operator precedence in the on-line help of your IDE, and if you get it wrong your compiler will probably just give you a warning anyway?

about two weeks ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:just for comparison (546 comments)

I agree with you that CS is more about theory than practice, but it's easy to construct a false dichotomy here. A lot of university-level CS courses are less beneficial than they could be even in teaching theory precisely because they get so stuck on theory that they forget to give either motivating examples or sufficient practical skills for students to explore on their own.

University-level mathematics often seems to suffer from the same affliction, presenting undergraduates with the kind of obscure, magical results that might be interesting to someone with a heavily theoretical mindset working on a PhD, but ignoring the reality that even among undergraduate mathematics students, those who have that mindset are probably a small minority. Maybe more of them would develop that kind of thinking during their studies and go on to enjoy or develop deep theoretical work, but if you confuse and/or bore them out of academia first you'll never know.

about two weeks ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:It's all bunk. (546 comments)

This, along with "buzz word compliance". This strongly rewards those who are good sales people over actually technical ability. software people seem to especially vulnerable to this.

How do you spot an extrovert programmer? He's looking at your shoes while you talk.

Seriously, self-promoting incompetents are a hazard in any technical field, but in proper engineering disciplines objective assessment can make up for a lot of bull. Because software development isn't yet mature enough as an industry for that to work, it's relatively easy for a snake oil salesman to do well (almost invariably at the expense of the colleagues who are constantly clearing up his mess and ultimately the organisation they all work for).

Although technical managers actually realize this is happening, the message that gets to the executive suite is "we can't find qualified candidates".

The remarkable thing is that the executive management team are often so disconnected from the reality of their business (read: ignorant and incompetent) that they haven't even noticed their company's job ads are literally asking for things like five years of experience with Leading Programming Toolkit 2014. I'm guessing the global pool of qualified candidates by that standard is... sparsely populated.

about two weeks ago
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Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:It's all bunk. (546 comments)

The value of "learning to program" is roughly comparable to the 1st year of CS classes at a reputable University. It is certainly not a replacement for the entire degree.

Yes. IMHO this is what most often gets overlooked when people debate university CS/SE as a mostly-theoretical discipline as distinct from practical experience in industry.

You can study practical skills in using a certain language or library or tool, and you can become somewhat productive. But without sufficient theoretical understanding, you're just doing cookie cutter coding, and you will always have a relatively low glass ceiling on how much you can achieve.

Put more bluntly, practical skills are what you pick up to get from incompetent newbie to vaguely useful programmer in the first year or two on the job, but improving your theoretical understanding is what gets you from there to seriously useful senior developer a few years after that when you're no longer just writing simple GUI logic in C# or trivial ORM code for a Ruby on Rails web site back end.

Also, the degree is no replacement for practical experience.

Indeed, but someone with good theoretical understanding will pick up any given tool based on that theory fairly quickly.

Now, at no point in this post did I imply that getting a degree is either necessary or sufficient to achieve a good understanding of the theory. As far as I'm concerned, you absolutely can get there with time, effort and an open mind.

However, I think even autodidacts will find the process significantly easier if they've developed rigorous mathematical thinking and the ability to read and digest technical writing first one way or another. Also, for better or worse, the reality is that having that degree certificate will probably get you better jobs early in your career, which in turn will give you better experience and better colleagues to learn from at work.

In any case, just reading lots of casually written tutorial blog posts by people who've been playing with a tool for six months longer than you have certainly won't get you to that level of understanding alone. It's very easy to spend a lot of time doing that in a field like software development, feel like you've learned a lot and can be super-productive, and never even know how much you're missing if you've never found the right course of study or mentor or on-line learning resource to open your eyes. That, IMHO, is the biggest risk for people who haven't studied formal CS/SE one way or another, and sadly you can always find plenty of examples in the on-line forums for whatever the latest shiny technology is (currently I'd say it's front-end web development).

about two weeks ago
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Firefox 32 Arrives With New HTTP Cache, Public Key Pinning Support

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:Still having misery with Firefox. (220 comments)

I'm not the one bitching and moaning about the bugs. I'm just pointing out the reality that very few people are going to go through the onerous bug reporting process that (some) Firefox developers/fans want them to, and that if they run into too many bugs in Firefox then they might choose to use another browser instead of choosing to help make Firefox better.

about two weeks ago
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Firefox 32 Arrives With New HTTP Cache, Public Key Pinning Support

Anonymous Brave Guy Re:pinning gui fail. (220 comments)

Unfortunately, I think your post is too close to the truth the be funny...

When all the developers move to the same platform with its non-standard implementations of everything, you get IE6.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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YouTube blocking premium music videos in UK

Anonymous Brave Guy Anonymous Brave Guy writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) writes "What happens when the might of Google clashes with the might of Big Media? We're about to find out: after failing to negotiate a licensing deal with the PRS (one of the UK's collective licensing bodies for music), YouTube has simply pulled the plug, and as of 6pm Monday, premium music videos will start disappearing for visitors from the UK. From the BBC article, it seems the PRS asked for an unspecified but large increase in the royalties, and when Google worked out that they would actually be losing money on the service at that price, they firmly declined. The PRS has asked YouTube to reconsider as a "matter of urgency"."
Link to Original Source
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Virgin's demise: illustrating the problem with DRM

Anonymous Brave Guy Anonymous Brave Guy writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) writes "The BBC have an interesting article up today about the demise of Virgin Digital, which has offered music on a monthly subscription system, and how this is leaving their customers in a jam because they signed up to a DRM-based subscription service. This is no doubt not a new concern to many here, but it's the second real-life example of such a service folding within a matter of weeks, and interesting that a well-regarded mainstream news source is now openly condemning DRM and vendor lock-in, and advising people to avoid such services."
Link to Original Source
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Anonymous Brave Guy Anonymous Brave Guy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) writes "The BBC reports that CD-Wow, the third largest on-line music retailer in the UK after Amazon and Play, has been found in contempt of court for selling illegally imported CDs into the UK. Describing the verdict as "CD woe", the company claimed that all they were doing was bringing CDs into the UK that had been legitimately purchased from the big media companies elsewhere, with any breach of copyright down to human error, and that "At a time when the record industry is losing vast revenue to piracy, it seems ludicrous that they can set out to destroy a section of the market that is actually making them money.""
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Anonymous Brave Guy Anonymous Brave Guy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) writes "The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, a large-scale, government-commissioned review of the current IP framework in the UK, has today published its final report. The report itself doesn't seem to be available yet, but the government's response (which includes a summary of the Gowers recommendations) is contained in the pre-budget report, linked from the same site.

Highlights include: proposing much stronger enforcement/penalties for infringement of IP rights, possibly including a fast-track litigation process and up to 10 years in prison for on-line copyright infringement; introducing a "private copying" exception to legalise format-shifting; and a recommendation that the European Commission should not extend copyright protection in sound recordings and performers' rights any further than the existing 50 years.

The government seems to be endorsing the Gowers recommendations pretty much in their entirety, and in particular has acknowledged the recommendation on not extending copyright terms via the European back door."
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Anonymous Brave Guy Anonymous Brave Guy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) writes "It looks like Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket, is planning to take on software giants like Microsoft with a new range of cheap, own-brand software covering office apps, photo editing and more. Tesco's Daniel Cook said, "When it comes to software there is little choice and prices are high. Our new range of software changes this." There's no sign yet on Tesco's web site, but an October date is mentioned in the BBC article. Sounds like a good time to be buying sell options... But in which company?"

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