Tag Archives: Rambling Friday

Malcanis Picks Winners

We can’t win against obsession. They care, we don’t. They win.

-Ford Prefect, Life, The Universe, and Everything

There are a lot of words here, so I’ll get to the point up front.

TL;DR – If your conspiracy theory is more easily explained by Malcanis, your conspiracy theory is probably wrong.

There, saved you 3,000 words.  Also, don’t take this all too seriously.  This was very much a stream of consciousness “blast it out in one go” sort of post.  More so than usual even.  Of course, in saying that I know people will take this as seriously as suits them.  Such is the way of the internet.

Malcanis’ Law.

If you play multiplayer games… online multiplayer games… and you are not aware of Malcanis’ Law, then let’s correct that right now. Here is the most common version.

Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of new players, that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players.

Examples of it show up all the time, especially when you consider that “older players” is a category that includes not just age but skill, experience, depth of knowledge, and even a commitment to a game and its mechanics well beyond any new player. It explains why game companies do not do certain things and why, when they do, they do not turn out as expected.

Like any such “law” it is a general statement and applies to trends in a population rather than specific individuals. New players, after all, do not remain new players forever. Well, some do, certainly. We’ve all seen them. But many become the rich(er) and older players who then become the beneficiaries of change. Others become former players, but that is another story. But the law continues to apply even as individuals move from one group to another.

Sometimes the exchange doesn’t seem so bad.  Sometimes you just let the vets have their thing just to get something to new players. Blizzard giving a level boost out with the expansion gets new players into the current content and up with the bulk of the player base, the latter probably being more important than the former. It doesn’t make a new player a good player or given them much in the way of special insight into the game or how to play their class, but at least they are likely to be in the same area as their friend.

A veteran player with a character boost will quickly have a potential new alt with all of the account-wide advantages and the knowledge and gold to make that character a winner quickly enough. That isn’t an overwhelming advantage… I think Malcanis overstates that in the law… but it is clearly an advantage.

If you want a more egregious example of the law, we need only look at skill injectors in EVE Online.

EVE long had a perceived problem with its skill training system. Since it runs in real time, there was no quick way to gain skills. You had to fill up your queue… or pick a skill regularly in the days before there was a queue… and wait. You could optimize a bit with attributes and implants, but in the end time had to pass.

This meant, as an example, that somebody who started in 2003 was always going to have more skill points than somebody who, like myself, started in 2006, so long as we both stayed subscribed and actively training. Thus one oft heard complaint was that new players could never catch up, and as the years went along the perceived gap between new players and veterans only grew.

The solution to this problem was the aforementioned skill injectors. Now a new player could… by spending real world cash on PLEX since they certainly hadn’t earned enough ISK in game to pay for it that way… catch up with veteran players. And I am sure a few did.

Mostly though it wast the rich getting more powerful as a result. We saw IronBank use their casino ISK to max out all possible skills. What happened more commonly was that rich players were able to bypass the nearly two year training cycle for a titan alt. That was likely a greater limiting factor on the number of titans in the game than anything else by the time skill injectors rolled around. That the Imperium was able to field nearly 500 titans for the final Keepstar battle at X47 was largely due to skill injected alts.

Basically, to avoid Malcanis you have to make changes that are so crappy or so innocuous that they don’t really impact new players or old.  Something like Alpha clone skill injectors you have to buy daily and which only boost you up to the point of Omega skill training speed, which no vet would likely bother with.  But since we already have regular skill injectors, why would they?  They’d have to unsubscribe and go Alpha for no reason.

LOL! Drink a pot noob!

The thing about Malcanis is that it works both directions. The corollary to the law might well be that any mechanics change that is proposed to limit or retard richer, older players will harm new players even more so. There was an example of this in EverQuest II. Back in EverQuest there were complaints in the forums about twinking. Yes, there were complaints in the SOE forums about almost everything you can imagine, but the company seemed to listen to this complaint.

Twinking is using your high level friends or alts to power up a low level character in order to speed up leveling. Back in the day in EverQuest this was pretty common, something inherited from its DikuMUD origins. Gear wasn’t bound to a character and had no level restrictions, though sometimes a proc would only work if you were above a certain level. I recall Ghoulbane, an undead smiting paladin sword, having a level limitation on its proc, though the sword itself could be wielded by a level 1 pally. And, likewise, high level buffs that gave huge boosts to stats and hit points were free to be applied to low level players.

When EQII rolled around SOE seemed to have gone way out of its way to close off twinking. Gear had level restrictions. Buffs were of very short duration, scaled down to low level players, and in some cases could only be applied to people in your group. There was a formula that dictated the maximum level range of players in your group, so players too low in level would not gain experience. And then there was the whole encounter locking aspect of things. Gone were the days of happily buffing low level players. The only thing they missed initially was bind on equip gear, which they fixed as soon as that started to kill the market for player created items.

And this created the usual divide. Sure, at launch the difference between new players and veterans was paper thin, but it was telling. People entered the veteran class by showing up with friends, forming a guild, and grouping up to play. A regular group was a ticket to success, especially since a lot of the content past the fields in front of the opposing cities of Qeynos and Freeport were heavily skewed towards group play, which caused the minor gap to become a major one past level 20 or so for a lot of players.

While SOE eventually reversed course on nearly everything I just mentioned, this somewhat overt hostility to solo play and helping anybody who wasn’t near your level and in your group was another nail in the coffin for EQII once solo-friendly WoW launched later in the same month. (Why solo was, and remains, important is a whole different topic that I might have to revisit.)

So when I hear people suggest that the Monthly Economic Report indicates that sovereignty fees or structures ought to cost more, I know who can afford any price increase:  The rich can.  Goons can.  Raising those prices would only harm smaller organizations and put a limit on the ability of newer organizations to enter null sec.  And that was what Fozzie Sov and increased population density was all about, giving those sorts of groups that opportunity.

Because, of course Malcanis extends itself beyond players to groups as well. As noted in the EQII example, a situation existed where being a part of a group gave an advantage and went far towards setting up the optics of the veteran/new player, rich/poor, winner/loser split.

Malcanis favors those ready to take advantage of change, which brings me back to EVE Online. Gevlon, who once swore he was done talking about the game, cannot let go and has recently been back on his “CCP picks winners” excuse for leaving the game. Well, there was that and the fact that CCP Falcon made fun of him, but that was so mild and of absolutely no consequence as to sound crazy as any sort of excuse.

Anyway, his note of late was that citadels were a gift to Goons, proof that CCP favors them over other groups in the game.  This was a change from his original position, that citadels were a gift to whoever ran the trade citadels in Perimeter, but the base angle remained.  It is, as always, a corrupt developer story (the corrupt developer career path being a thing in his world view), his usual fall-back to explain the world when it isn’t working out as predicted. (I can hardly wait to see the tale he weaves when lockboxes aren’t universally banned this year. I expect a lot of explaining about what he really meant and how the Netherlands are essentially the whole world so he really was right.)

From my point of view, which is from within the Imperium and thus on the side of Goons, this theory looks more than a bit off. Certainly anybody who spends any time in the GSF forums will start to get a sense of the institutional paranoia Goons have about CCP. While they may be Lowtax’s chosen people, they certainly do not feel like Hilmar’s favorites. Some of this is just paranoia I am sure, but the relationship between Goons and CCP has been peppered by enough events over the years, from the T20 scandal (one of the rare cases of actual developer corruption, but did not favor Goons) to the “No Sions” rule for the CSM a couple of year back.

I don’t buy into it myself. CCP seems ready to ignore input and inflict pain on all comers at times, but the downtrodden under dog origins of Goons seems so essential to their identity in game that I doubt it will ever go away. To merely survive against the odds you see stacked against you is to win, and to actually win in that situation can be transcendent, even if it is founded in a fiction.

Were citadels a gift to Goons? They sure didn’t look like it when the hit. The Citadel expansion went live in late April of 2016. And where was the Imperium living then? In the Quafe Company Warehouse station in Saranen. I mean, we still held much of Pure Blind, and Vale of the Silent was technically not lost yet, but that was all well on its way to being lost. Circle of Two had betrayed us and swapped sides, SpaceMonkeys Alliance was spent and left the coalition to recover (only to fold up shop), FCON headed out the door without bothering to stop in Saranen, RAZOR looked to be on its way out, and membership in the surviving alliances was in decline. Darius Johnson, having somehow been given possession of the original GoonSwarm alliance was calling for “true Goons” to come fly with him, an offer which found few takers but which was exploited for propaganda value.

The North – April 28, 2016

And in the midst of that, while we were living in a low sec station and undocking daily to take the fights we could manage, citadels showed up. Soon there were three Fortizars and an Astrahus on grid with the Quafe Factory Warehouse station, all hostile, while in 93PI-4 there was an enemy Keepstar anchored so the Moneybadger Coalition could dock up their supercapitals just on gate away from Saranen, from which they could drop on the near portions of Black Rise as well as covering Pure Blind.

That was a hell of a gift for somebody. It sure didn’t seem like it was addressed to us though.

The war was lost. We obstinately held on until June before calling it quits, after which we began the migration to Delve. There we had a region to conquer, though the weakness of the locals meant there wasn’t much of a barrier to entry. The only worry was if the Moneybadger Coalition would live up to their promise to keep us from ever forming up again. As it turned out, that was mostly empty talk. The new north was too busy settling into their new territory to bother and thus only made a few minor attempts to thwart us in Delve before giving up to fight amongst themselves.

At that point pretty much all of the major null sec changes were in place. The regions had been upgraded so there was no more “bad sov” to avoid. Any system could be made a ratting and mining paradise with the right upgrades. Fozzie sov was in place.  And citadels were now the new thing, allowing groups to setup stations wherever, with the Keepstar variety allowing supers to dock up, allowing those alts to escape their space coffins.

While we had to police Querious and Fountain to keep hostiles at bay as well as dealing with the dread bomb threat from NPC Delve, much of the months after taking Delve were relatively peaceful. We were not at war and we weren’t keen to get into another one having been soundly beaten. Instead, the institutional paranoia served us well as the coalition began to work to stockpile ships, material, and ISK to defend our space lest our foes unite and come after us once again.

But nobody did. PL and NCDot turned on TEST and CO2 and threw them out of the north, while the rest of the sov holding victors settled into their new northern fiefdoms. So the Goon drive to restore its power was mostly unchecked. Soon we had our own Keepstar, then two, then many. They were a part of the game and we were going to use them. KarmaFleet expanded to become an even more essential part of GSF as the long insular Goons sought to expand the levee en masse option that Brave Newbies had championed and that Pandemic Horde used so effectively during the war. Ratting and mining was deemed important, both to raise defense levels of systems and to feed the expanding war machine of Delve, so incentives were offered including, for a while, PAP links for mining and ratting fleets. You could fill your monthly participation quota by making ISK.

Then there was the Monthly Economic Report which, as Ayrth put it, became one of the Imperium’s best recruiting tools. Come get rich with us in Delve! We were not only getting rich, but we were living out the “farms and fields” idea that had long been proposed for null sec. If you lived in your space you benefited. If you just held it but lived elsewhere you did not.

And yes, this is all a dramatic over simplification told from my own point of view, omitting various details, both pertinent and not. But the overall point survives even if you tell it from a completely Moneybadger perspective, call it World War Bee, and emphasize the failings of the losers.  The Imperium lost the war and won the peace.  That’s what the Monthly Economic Report tells me.

As an organization the Imperium was both prepared and motivated to adapt to the changes in the game and to take advantage of them in ways that almost no other null sec entity was. When external casinos were cut off as a source of wealth in the game, did those who depended on them change their ways? Last year, when moon mining went from a passive activity to the new active collection method now in place, how many other groups adapted as well?

The only old school revenue method left is rental space, which I am told NCDot does very well by. The lack of bad sov anymore means their rental base can be smaller… once a huge swathe of null sec… yet viable.

But overall Goons adapted to the changes, and worked very hard at it along the way, while other groups did not. So if you are putting forward the proposition that CCP picks winners, that they have chosen Goons to win EVE Online, whatever that means, it is pretty much on you to explain what CCP should have or could have done differently that would have changed the outcome.

  • Did Fozzie sov changes favor Goons? It sure doesn’t look like it.
  • Did null sec density changes favor Goons? They didn’t save us during the Casino War.
  • Did citadels favor Goons over others? Just saying it doesn’t make it so, you have to prove that their lack would have changed something.  Otherwise no.
  • Did removing casino wealth favor Goons over others?  Only over the groups that depended on it. Who will raise their hand and claim to be in one of those?
  • Did moon mining changes favor Goons? It seemed like we were doing fine mining moons the old fashioned way.  Goons had to change like everybody else.

That is four negatives and a semi-sorta for specific entities.

In the end, saying that CCP favors Goons sounds a lot like an excuse for those who would not put in the work and adapt to changes. But I guess “Well sure they won, they took advantage of the changes!” doesn’t sound as good.

Basically, it is all on Malcanis here.  The group willing and able to take advantage of the changes rather unsurprisingly came out on top.  That is what the rule always sums up to in the end.

And now there is a new war in the north and the Imperium is spending its accumulated wealth and putting hundreds of titans on the field.  Keepstars are dying and the combined losses overall reach into the trillions of ISK.  We’re throwing ISK and resources onto the fire of war.  I don’t know if we’re going to end up like the Serenity server in the end, where one group emerges as so dominant that null sec is effectively over.  But if EVE is dying at last, it won’t be because CCP picked the winner.

Follow on thoughts:

  • It would also be very much against CCP’s best interest for them to pick a winner, so why would they?
  • Not picking specific winners is different from not favoring specific play styles.  CCP’s vision is clearly that null sec is the end game and other areas suffer for it.
  • Null sec coalitions are inevitable.  There will always be a blue donut.  While there were a bunch of new groups in null with Fozzie Sov, eventually everybody had to find allies to survive.
  • While I poke at the Moneybadger Coalition for not following the Imperium to Delve to keep them down, it is remarkably difficult to suppress a group that otherwise holds together.  I am not sure it can actually be done.  Lots of groups have suffered catastrophic setbacks and returned to be a power.  Some examples of this are the Goons in the Great War, TEST after the Fountain War,  and CO2 after The Judge betrayed them and GigX was banned.
  • Real world analogies, especially WWII analogies, are always wrong.  New Eden isn’t the real world.  We don’t live there and, more importantly, we don’t die there.  We respawn and carry on.
  • If your comment on this post immediately jumps into RMT… then welcome back Dinsdale.  Haven’t seen you for a while.
  • If “Winning EVE” is leaving the game behind, is quitting and being unable to let go actually “Losing EVE?”

No More Toys for Us

I remember the coming of the big Toys R Us store in Sunnyvale, over on El Camino Real near Mathilda Avenue.  It was, in a somewhat conservative time, a brash statement of color.

Something akin to what it looked like back in the day – Pic swiped from the internet

And, more importantly to me at the time, if was full of toys.

More recently they transformed the building into the bland beige store front style so common on strip malls across the country.  But for a while it stood out.  And it was haunted.

Of course, as a kid, it was a big deal even without the alleged ghost. (There is a post on Snopes about the haunting, a recurring story here in the valley, which had to get mentioned one last time when the location was set to close.)  But toy stores seemed to be a thing back then.  We not only had Toys R Us expanding into the valley, we also had a local chain, Kiddie World, with a couple of equally sizable locations, and later another big store… King Something’s Kingdom of Toys I think… it was over off of Interstate 880 with a big wooden soldier on the front of the building … along with smaller local retailers and the mall toy stores that eventually all became KB Toys.  And then there were the pseudo-toy stores, the hobby shops and the like, which grew in importance to me as time moved along.

I suppose it is in the nature of being a child, know where all the toy stores are and which retailer has a decent toy department and which does not.  I recall being disappointed with the one at Sears back in the day.

But even before the internet began to thin the heard of brick and mortar toy stores things were changing.  Silicon Valley was growing.  The population has more than doubled since that Toys R Us location opened.  Population pressures and a level of land scarcity (exacerbated by zoning laws favoring single family detached dwellings, leading the valley to be called a gang of suburbs in search of a city) began pushing up real estate prices, something reflected in retail rental costs, which killed off a lot of the small, independent toy stores.

Time, change, and competition send others packed.  That big toy store off 880 whose name eludes me was gone by the end of the 80s.  By the mid-90s Kiddie World, shrunk to a single location not too far down the road from the haunted Toys R Us, was trying to make its way by focusing on patio furniture and backyard play sets before it closed down.  And, as I mentioned, KB Toys scooped up the mall toy stores… at least before land value made having as many malls as we did economically nonviable.  And then even it fell over, as did the famous FAO Schwartz.

But Toys R Us seemed to be able to hang on and even thrive, scooping up fallen rivals and opening up Babies R Us in the late 90s, the go-to store for new parents.  Gift cards to Babies R Us were very welcome at baby showers and the like.  And in the age of Amazon the chain was able to strike a deal with wrecker of the status quo, even if Amazon reneged on the deal.

The chain was around for my daughter to grow up with.  Trips there were fun for the both of us.  There is something about being able to see and touch toys in person, to get their measure in reality, that surpasses any online purchasing experience.  The web is for buying, but stores are for browsing.  And Pokemon events.  Toys R Us used to host Pokemon download events, and my daughter and I attended more than a few of those.

However the internet kept pressure on the company while retail competitors like Target and WalMart.  Then they screwed up a couple of season of buying and were soon in deep trouble, needing to borrow more money for 2017 holiday season, a time of year which generates the lion’s share of their revenue.  That did not pay off and, having not turned a profit since 2013, the company was in serious trouble.

And so it goes.  Today, Friday, June 29, 2018, the last Toys R Us in the US is closing down.  It has been reported that their overseas subsidiaries will follow suit and the company will effectively disappear.  There is a farewell notice on their web site.

Farewell from Toys R Us

I am, at least theoretically, well past the need for a toy store, though I have persisted pretty well on the “don’t ever grow up” front.  As well as can be expected.

My daughter too is past toy stores for now, but she was sad as well when she heard the news.  She remembers going there when she was younger.  It was a memorable experience, a rite of childhood, being able to go to a big toy store.  And she has picked up some of my sense of nostalgia as she has realized that childhood doesn’t last forever.  The only constant in life is change.

And so one more facet of my life, of my daughter’s life, of the life of the valley, passes into memory.

Good-bye Geoffrey!

It will be a while… I hope… until grand kids are a concern.  I wonder what will fill the gap for them?  What will replace the toy store experience?  Or will video and virtual be all they know?

The Unchecked Optimism of Not Knowing Better

I want to say up front that I am not writing this post to be mean.  But, given that I am going to explore something with so many things wrong with it, I am sure that is the way it will come across.  Such is life.  I suppose I could just not make the post, but I just cannot let this pass, it being an object lesson on so many fronts.

l speak, of course, of The Flower of Knighthood Kickstarter campaign.

The Flowers of Knighthood for Algernon

I’ve been down the list of things wrong with past Kickstarter campaigns.  I was critical of The Fountain War, Hero’s Song, and The World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter campaigns, calling them all problematic early on, because they all seemed to fail on fronts that seemed obvious to even an outside observer like myself.

But The Flower of Knighthood seems on track to outdo them all.

Let’s start with the asking amount.  As I have said in the past, the amount you ask for needs to reflect reality.  People with industry fame like Lord British and Mark Jacobs, they were good for $2 million.  Brad McQuaid, certainly famous in MMORPG circles, didn’t have enough pull for $800K, but came close to $500K.   Eric Heimberg, who could at least point to some successful MMORPGs he had worked on, had to take three runs at Kickstarter campaigns for Project: Gorgon before getting the mix of publicity and goals correct. to bring in nearly $75K.

Basically, a little bit of research can give you some baseline expectations when it comes to funding.  Those aren’t hard and fast numbers.  You too could possibly bring in a million dollars on a campaign without being Lord British, but you would have to do something else to bring attention to your efforts.  You could get media outlets interested in your project, have some sort of event, or maybe buy ads on Facebook.  I hear those can swing national elections.

What you shouldn’t do is just forge ahead with an ask you think you need but have no reason to expect you’ll make.  So there is The Flower of Knighthood looking for $600K.  No real publicity in advance… I mean, I pay attention to things better than most and I only heard about the campaign when Massively OP posted about it earlier this week.

Before that there was just a post about their project, but no mention of funding, no attempt to get people ready to buy in, just launch the Kickstarter without preamble and hope for the best.

This campaign is not going to make its $600K goal.

My rule of thumb, based on observations of successful campaigns, is that if you cannot secure 20% of your funding in the first 24 hours you are not going to make your goal.

The first 24 hours is when your installed base, the true fans of your plan, will show up and support you.

The Flower of Knighthood brought in just $351 in the first two days of its campaign, a dismal 0.006% of their goal, and I rounded up a bit to make that number look better.  If you follow the campaign over at Kicktraq it will give you the scale of how far they are off from their goal.  The campaign needs to bring in $20,000 a day to hit its goal.

$351 is such a ridiculously tiny amount that it brings into question how serious this team really is about their project.  Seriously, the base level of effort I would expect, the low end support they should be looking for is from their friends and family.  Surely they went out and at least told all connections on Facebook about this campaign to at least drum up some level of pity support.  If you can’t get your mom to kick in five bucks, just go home.

And yet in the first two days they managed to get pledged from just nine people.

Given the lofty goals and wide scope of their plan, I have to believe there are more than nine people working on this product.  Whose mom wouldn’t pony up?

So the whole thing is dead out of the gate.  No real publicity, no real effort to rally fans, nothing but a misguided belief that if they put up the project then fans will magically appear. (And, best of all, they have stretch goals already, out to $4.8 million!  Plan for success I guess.)

Somewhere they missed the news about how 20 new games popped up on Steam every day in 2017, a number that has continued to rise in 2018.  In the flood of new games that is our current reality, how did they expect somebody to find theirs?

Of course, that doesn’t start to get into some of the other issues hindering this campaign, like the game itself.

I know from long experience that any game, or any aspect of a given game, no matter how horrible and tedious you may find it, is somebody’s favorite thing.  That is the nature of the world.

But just because you know somebody out there will like your game doesn’t mean that there is a big enough audience out there to support it.  The campaign states “the main point of our game is realism” and they are taking that seriously.  For example, I give you the summary of the crafting system:

Authentic craft system – thanks to Dr Stephen Mileson from Oxford University we are creating a maximally authentic craft system. It means that during craft activities you will accurately repeat the actions of 15th-century blacksmiths, carpenters, leatherworkers, tailors and other craftsmen.

I am sure this will appeal to somebody, but I already have a day job.  People found the old EverQuest II multi-level crafting, where you had to refine raw materials, build components, then assemble them into a final finished product, so I have to wonder how realistic they can afford to get.  Will things take literal days and weeks to create?  And what is everybody using until production gets under way?  There is something about NPCs being able to do some of the tedious work, but will they want to get paid?

To make thine axe…

And speaking of paying people, what about the economy to support this crafting?  They don’t say much, aside from the fact that there will be no instant travel and thus, I assume, no instant delivery auction house, so it sounds like people will be walking around from town to town trying to sell things.

Then there is the combat system.  They have rejected hit points and have declared for a realistic physics based system of attacks and blocks.

This reminds me of the post from back in 2010 from the dev at Undead Labs who was going to revolutionize MMOs by eschewing auto-attack and skills for the ability to just swing a bat and hit somebody.  That… and Syp’s reaction to it… got a long response from Brian “Psychochild” Green back then.

More telling, Undead Labs ended up releasing State of Decay in 2013, a single player game.  Even the recently released update, State of Decay 2, is four player co-op, so you’re only bashing zombies, not other players.  So much for fixing MMOs. (There is an Honest Game Trailers about State of Decay if you’re interested.)

And while games like Darkfall and Asheron’s Call have done positional based combat… you have to at least be in the arc of the attack to get hit… I am not sure they attempted to match up attacks versus blocks in a PvP world.  Latency is still a thing.  I can speak from experience in EVE Online, where it has been proven that the person closest to the London data center gets their attack in first.

Okay, you might think, but maybe their goals aren’t so lofty?  Maybe they are overstating things by declaring it an MMORPG?  Maybe this is really meant to be something small, like Medieval Engineers or some such.

Well let me disabuse you of any thoughts down that path.  They want all of that and they want it on a massive scale.  From the Kickstarter:

Talk of ‘massive’ does not mean 100 vs 100. We want to make it possible to gather armies of 1,000 people on each side of the battle. This allows you to implement diverse tactics and combat strategies. You can use archers to weaken your opponent’s army and then send heavy swordsmen with high shields in to attack, and in the most tense moments you can strike with your cavalry into the opponent’s flank.

Two thousand people on field?  I have been on internet spaceship battles in EVE Online of that scale and larger, but fights in New Eden are “press the button to shoot” level of complexity, where you just have to get hostiles within your weapons envelope, open fire, and let the server calculate the rest.  The system gets so slow and so unresponsive that the thought of having to do individual attacks seems ludicrous.  And, as a defender, being able to put up blocks to counter attacks… attacks you would have to see coming… seems like a pretty dicey proposition.

When questioned about this on the Kickstarter page, their answer expressed a confidence that it could be done given enough server computing capacity, which I know to be the answer to all performance issues, but which seems a bit smug given the level of funding they have achieved so far.  Server capacity costs money.

Meanwhile, they just sort of wave away the end user’s video card capability to render such a battle with the idea that first person view will help.

But when they are planning on “realistic” graphics and character movement based on motion capture, facing even a hundred live and active players seems likely to melt ones video card.

Basically, almost every aspect of this project, from funding to design to implementation, seems like pie in the sky.  They are even missing one of the key items of every MMORPG Kickstarter campaign, the list out of the veterans on the team and the projects on which they have worked.  If you’re going to do something this crazy ambitious, you want to at least be able to say you’ve got somebody on the team who has done something similar.  There is a reference to somebody with 21 years of experience, but neither the projects they worked on nor in what capacity.  If it was somebody with 21 years experience working on server side code for some big titles, I might be impressed.  If it is somebody with 21 years experience doing character models and textures, not so much.

At best they seem to have checked too many boxes on their wishlist.  Maybe this is viable as a multi-player co-op.  Leave out the massive battles and cavalry charges and just have players join tournaments and fight off the odd bandit.

And, yes, I am sure I have just expended 1,500 or so words shitting all over somebody’s dream.  But the company, Eaglance (not to be confused with Swiss SEO firm of the same name), really hasn’t the groundwork to be taken seriously.  They’re an effectively unknown company with nobody on staff they can name with relevant experience, planning technical feats that have thwarted the likes of Blizzard in the past, with just a bunch of features, asking for an amount of money that manages to be both ludicrously large and hilariously small at the same time given their abilities and needs.

Anyway, I invite you to take a look at their Kickstarter and their web site to tell me if I have missed something that indicates that this project might have a chance.  To me it seems likely to simmer for years before either shipping something with little relation to their grand vision or disappearing altogether.

What Would Even Help This Genre Anyway?

Earlier this week Massively OP published a Perfect Ten post about things the MMO industry could do to make its games more accessible, and I have to admit that my gut response was, “Who cares?”

The Perfect Ten column used to be the realm of sarcasm and exaggeration for humor, but it seems to have crept into the realm of simply another opinion piece about the MMO scene.  And this one strikes me as another thinly veiled attempt to tell devs how to save the genre.

The problem is, the genre doesn’t need saving.  It is what it is.  It had its moment of peak popularity and now it has settled down into the niche it is.  People still make MMOs, so the genre isn’t dead.  Yes, it has WoW looming over it as the yardstick against which every other game will be measured, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Other genres have that.  If you’re going to make an RTS and you haven’t thought about how it will measure up against StarCraft, then they are doing it wrong.  Likewise, if you’re going to make an action clicky RPG, you had best know what made Diablo and Diablo II great.

If anything, I think the popularity of WoW didn’t act as deterrent enough at the peak of the genre.  Rather than seeing that they would have to compete against this behemoth, a host of developers looked at WoW and felt they could repeat WoW’s success by simply copying WoW with minor variations.

So, in this post peak era of the genre, no amount of accessibility ideas are going to bring back to the growth levels we saw back in the mid-point of the last decade.  We are too hemmed in to the expectations that come with the acronym “MMO,” or at least those that come with “MMORPG,” for any turning of the currently accepted dials to change anything.  And that list is entirely made up of “re-arranging the deck chairs” sort of suggestions.

Which isn’t to say that the list itself is horrible.  I can get behind at least half of them in some way or another, though they are pretty subjective.  What does it mean to have a “clean user interface” these days?

EverQuest in 1999 – Looks pretty clean, everything is big and well labeled

Further down the list, what does a “flexible and fair business model” even look like?  In the end the company needs to pay the bills and keep their staff happy.  If you won’t subscribe and will walk away if there is too much emphasis on the cash shop or lootboxes are a thing, what do you think the company should do?

But overall, these aren’t going to change the fortunes of the genre or any particular game… except maybe the business model thing, and I think that can only get worse for either the company or the customer… or both.

All of which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the discussion either.  MMO nerds will talk about MMOs.  I could crank out a 500-1,500 word opinion piece on 7 out of the 10 on the list.  In this case, I decided to go for the meta discussion about the discussion itself and the genre and its needs.

In the end my gut says that anything capable of causing a resurgence of growth to the genre would have to be different enough from the World of Warcraft template that we would likely call it something else.

We have what we have.  While it is no longer the aspiration of any three devs who happen to be sitting together to build a WoW-killing MMO, it is still a popular gaming niche.  Titles from it make the top ten list when it comes to revenue.  It just isn’t 2008 any more.  The future no longer seems to be a gilded path towards limitless growth.  But some times reality is a good thing.

Daybreak and All Their Sins Remembered

What a week it has been for Daybreak.

That eye should be crying after this week…

First they get caught in a pretty big lie.  And it was a lie nobody expected so when they said it people immediately questioned it.

There is absolutely no question they were lying, it is just a matter of what they were lying about.

Either Columbus Nova was part of the purchase of Daybreak back in 2015, or the company has been misrepresenting that material fact repeatedly for the last three years.  Either there was some financial benefit for them lying over and over for three years or they have chosen to start lying now as a measure of expediency due to sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

And honestly I can’t decide which is correct, mostly because I can’t figure out who they might have tricked by lying for three years.  (As a side note, somehow the same “mistake” was made with Harmonix back in 2010 when press releases announced Columbus Nova was purchasing them, but now they also say it was Jason Epstein all along.)

And Daybreak can’t manage to fully close the door even with its own definitive, we’ve said all were going to say statement posted to all of the forums.  Quoting for truth, since they’ve gone in to edit this statement already like it was on Wikipedia:

Dear Daybreak Community,

There has been some confusion concerning Daybreak’s ownership and rumors about the state of the company that have circulated from a few online game websites, and we want to set the record straight. We assure you that these rumors are entirely false and that there’s no impact on our business or games in any way whatsoever.

From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein, a longtime investor who also has investments in a variety of media properties. Jason acquired Daybreak (formerly SOE) in February 2015 and has been the executive chairman and majority owner of the company since that time.

We’re well aware of prior statements from Daybreak indicating our company was acquired by Columbus Nova. We have since clarified that the company was acquired by Jason Epstein when he was a partner at Columbus Nova, which he left in 2017. We’ve also taken steps to clarify those facts on our website and on third-party internet sites to ensure that all of the information currently made available is consistent and accurate.

We apologize for the previous miscommunication and hope that this clears up any confusion. As always, we greatly appreciate your continued support for our games, and we’ll continue to work hard to bring the best experiences to you.

So that settles it, right?  Maybe.  I just trip over the first sentence of the second paragraph:

From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein…

When you feel the need to throw in the word “primarily” it does suggest that there were other owners.  Maybe it was Columbus Nova!  Maybe that was the bit Sony held onto.  Maybe it was a couple old ladies from Sheboygan.  We don’t know and Daybreak doesn’t seem in a mood to offer anything beyond a lame understatement of their actions over the last three years.

By the way, after Daybreak edited their Wikipedia article to take out any mention of Columbus Nova, somebody went back and added this:

Evidently wanting to distance itself from Columbus Nova, Daybreak started claiming in April of 2018 that the original press release was in error and that Jason Epstein purchased the company personally. It is not clear when exactly Columbus Nova, Daybreak, and Jason Epstein severed ties.

So yeah, their efforts haven’t exactly born the fruit for which they were likely hoping.

And the kicker is that it probably doesn’t matter.  Lying to us is futile and, as you can see, even counter-productive.  A wasted effort.  If the FBI wants to know who bought them they’ll find out.  I am sure they can subpoena Sony to see who signed the check and where the funds came from.  So the lesson here is, if somebody asks you if you’re going to be affected by sanctions on Russia, just say, “No.”  Don’t use that moment to bring up a tale about how you’ve never been owned by the company you’ve been telling everybody was the owner for the last three years.  It clearly will not turn out well.

That was enough silliness on Tuesday and I figured once Daybreak got their story straight and stopped trying to gaslight the internet we’d all wander off to fret about lockboxes or whatever the next story of the moment turned out to be.

But then yesterday another blow landed as we found out that Daybreak had a significant layoff, with a reported 70 or more people being let go.  Sure, that probably had more to do with how the company has been doing rather than anything related to Russian sanctions, but could the timing be any worse?  We’ve never been owned by that Russian company, Russian sanctions won’t have any effect on us, but we’re laying off a huge chunk of our staff.

And MMORPG.com threw a bit more fuel on that fire with a rumor about Daybreak possibly being acquired by another company… at which point Jason Epstein would drop out of the picture… maybe… he might be there as well.  That story felt really thin, and given that the author also said that Daybreak acquired Standing Stone Games, I wouldn’t give it much credence.  After all, we know that it was Jason Epstein who acquired Standing Stone… erm… no… Daybreak got into a deal to be Standing Stone’s publisher, a deal that seemed to bring almost no benefit to Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons & Dragons Online so far as I could tell.  But Daybreak didn’t buy them.  I don’t know who actually owns Standing Stone Games though.  It could be Jason Epstein though.  I wouldn’t cross him off the list.  He is a busy guy.

Anyway, it was enough to make a long time fan of the Norrath feel more than a bit defeated.

I mean, I am used to having the weight of SOE and then Daybreak’s foibles drag me down.  To be a fan of theirs is to suffer.  So instead of posting a piece I already had written about the EverQuest Agnarr server launching the Planes of Power expansion and how that is the centerpiece of their locked-in-time plans for this retro server, I am spewing out text about yet another bad turn in the life of this company and its games.

What is going to happen?  What does the future hold?

My gut says that there is value in the EverQuest franchise and that, run properly, EQ and EQII could be a nice little niche money spinners wherever they end up.  I had been feeling that Norrath was doing better than anybody had a right to expect under Daybreak, with yearly expansions and content updates in between.  But with layoffs is that at an end?

I guess DC Universe Online is safe, being that it is said to bring in a reliable revenue stream.  But PlanetSide 2 has been troublesome in the past and H1Z1… or whatever name it has now… was looking pretty good, right up until the point that it got trampled in the fight between PUBG and Fortnite over the battle royale space.  Now it is going onto the PS4, but will they bother bringing it to China?  And it feels like Just Survive just won’t.

And this one-two punch of lies and layoffs has brought up all the old resentments and recriminations in the rather close knit world of MMORPG gamers.  So it seems to be the time for some to replay every grievance from the past, from the NGE and the fall of SWG to the false hopes of The Agency to the replay of false hopes and the faked demos of EverQuest Next to the early death of Landmark and every foible big and small in between.

There is a lot of resentment and feelings of betrayal when you look back down the road the company has traveled.  Every game shut down, every bad decision they had to reverse on after announcing, every upbeat demo or announcement followed by months of silence, every update that didn’t meet expectations, every bug that lingers for year after year, every nutty side project that ate up dev time only to be abandoned… it all adds up.  Also, that ProSieben thing.  How could I forget that?

Games don’t last forever.  Mistakes happen.  Bad decisions get made.  Every feature, no matter how bad, is somebody’s favorite.  You’re always going to piss somebody off no matter what you do.  But Daybreak over the years feels like it has done more than its share of all of that, and it isn’t a big company like EA or Blizzard where they can piss people off and get past it by launching another Battlefront title or WoW expansion that will sell millions of copies.

It feels like we’re getting to the end of the story of SOE and Daybreak.  Maybe not today, or even this year, but things are headed in that direction.  They’re maintaining the old titles, but the only hope from the new was H1Z1 and it seems to have fallen by the wayside in the genre it helped spark.  There might be a new title in the works, but having to lay off so many people is going to impact something.

What do you do?  Do you cut back on supporting the old base?  No more expansions for EQ and EQII?  That brings in money and keeps the old base there.  But if you don’t work on something new then the future is set as an ever dwindling player base will lead to an every smaller staff and an eventual shut down.

Not a good week to be a fan of any of Daybreak’s remaining products.

Maybe I’ll feel better about all of this tomorrow and put up that Agnarr post.

Other coverage:

In Which I am Against Instanced Content for Once

Out of the blue SynCaine suddenly decided that he had the solution to the big null sec battle problem in EVE Online.  Having seen instanced PvP battles in Life is Feudal, he felt the need to propose null sec fights like the “million dollar battle” of some weeks back be instanced as well.

My experience from that battle

He was engaged with the idea sufficiently to post a second time about it to say how wonderful it would be because it would lead to more good press about the game, since big battles and bad people are about all that gets EVE Online in the news.

And I couldn’t disagree more with the idea of instance battles in New Eden.

I am, of course, a proponent of instancing in many cases.  I think instanced dungeons and raids are part of the formula that made World of Warcraft the success it has been and remains.

The whole open world dungeon thing came from the MUD days, when communities were small and social pressure could keep people from screwing around with zone runs.  Mostly.  I still remember in TorilMUD at its peak the devs having to essentially set up rules as to who had “dibs” on a given zone.  That was during a time when the player base could maybe support four or five correctly staffed zone groups (16 players each) and so there was some competition for the prime zones.  In the end though there was no need to instance.

That changed with EverQuest and the MMORPGs that followed in its wake.  I hear people talking about ideas like “server communities” being a thing and social pressure working in Norrath back in the day, but I was there and I don’t believe it.  Dunbar’s Number gives lie to the idea that you could “know” your server “community” of several thousand people.

EverQuest had the open dungeon thing for a while, but eventually went to instancing of some dungeon content in 2003 with the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion.  That, of course, killed EverQuest, sending it into immediate decline.

Oh, wait, no… EverQuest actually hit its peak after that and only went into decline when World of Warcraft showed up having essentially copied EverQuest while removing much of the suck.

Subscriptions – 150K to 1 million

So instancing PvE content like dungeons is fine in my book and solves a lot of problems, problems that kept coming up in the EverQuest retro servers until they went back and instanced some of the old raids as well.  Instancing wins in PvE.

Instancing in PvP though… that is a different beast altogether.

I mean, I guess it is okay for battleground and similar “match” based competitions where what you are doing is essentially outside of the game.  I wouldn’t suggest that something like the Alliance Tournament ought to take place live in New Eden with the rest of us.  The temptation to third party on it would be irresistible.

But the Alliance Tournament isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things.  PC Gamer isn’t putting up headlines about the winners or commenting on ship compositions.  It is, like many things in EVE Online, something that a niche group is into and the majority of the game barely notices.

And you could say that about big null sec battles as well.  As Neville Smit pointed out at a point in the past, 85% of the game doesn’t play in null sec, or didn’t when those numbers were pulled.  The difference is that big null sec battles are one of the places where EVE Online stands out from other games, something that does get PC Gamer and the like to write about.

My gut reaction to the idea that CCP should instance big battles is that the whole idea breaks the core philosophy of the game, that everything that happens in the game happens IN the game.  There is supposed to be no magic in New Eden.  No transport fairy moves you ships or modules or ore around, you have to schlep it yourself or pay somebody to move it.  When you lose a ship you have to go get a new one, you don’t just respawn with one. (Okay, rookies ships get handed to you, but within the context of the game it has a reason.)  And when you are out doing something, mining, hauling, running a mission, or shooting somebody’s ship, somebody else can show up and start shooting at you.

When you undock in New Eden, you are taking a risk.  That is part of the deal.

So the idea that you can undock and have a battle over an objective in null sec and are able to keep it private by locking out interlopers just breaks the game in my book.

I’ll grant that is just an opinion.

The Dude has me covered

I would even suggest that CCP would agree with that opinion.  But that doesn’t make it a concrete absolute in the universe.  So I won’t just stomp my feet and say “It’s wrong!”  There are other arguments against the idea.

The first is, of course, how would CCP even implement such a thing?  Saying that they should just instance those fights is like a line item from the product manager.  They drop that turd on your desk and leave you to figure out how to deal with it.

I won’t play the Blizzard “impossible” card, as they are wont to do, but this isn’t an easy change.  You have to setup an instanced battle via some automatic procedure that needs to happen for a specific set of circumstances (e.g. Keepstar final timer), which can successfully limit participation in the eventual battle to exactly the right number of exactly the right people, and doesn’t have an obvious exploit.

While it is an interesting topic to game out the options for… and there are many, from what objectives should trigger such battles, to whether or not the battles should be the same size for all objectives or scale based on the objective (or maybe scale based on the defender’s size?), to choosing between absolute number of ships (bring 1,000 titans!) or some sort of point system, who gets to fight and how they get flagged and who won’t get flagged, how does the structure itself figure in the calculations, whether reinforcements are allowed ever or never, how big is the battlefield, if there are other structures on grid in the system are they on grid in the battle, and probably many more that haven’t come to mind.  And each of these has to be explored to see how it will change group behaviors and whether or not there is an “I win” option for somebody.

Somebody will come along and say, “Just do x, y, and z” and think they’re done because there isn’t an obvious exploit in their vague statement.  But they are kidding themselves.  They are not done, not by a long shot.  You aren’t done until you work out the details, all the details, and then have gamed them out with enough scenarios to have some confidence in them.  And then, as we have seen many times before, the players will have at it and spot things you never considered.

And whatever it is then has to go on top of the current software, follow the specific set of rules for the battle, and not disrupt the every day game.  This all adds up to an incredibly deep and complex project… and all the more so since I haven’t even considered what technical limitations may be faced… and it will need a lot of development resources dedicated to it that could be working on other items.

Is the issue important enough to warrant that?  Given the whole “85%” thing I mentioned before, I am going to guess there would many voices declaring against the idea.  I’m not sure that even the null sec voices would be in favor of it if it meant sacrificing development on other things.

Furthermore, should CCP actually decided to commit to this, does the desired end result come to pass?  Will this actually end up with EVE Online having more battles that will get press coverage?

Here is another problem.  The reason for doing this is to limit the number of players able to participate in a battle.  But part of the reason that EVE gets coverage is because of the huge number of players involved in such battles.  If we trade ugly 4000-6000 player battles with time dilation and lag and disconnections for nice smooth reliable 2000 player battles, is the new situation newsworthy?

I am not sure they are.  Maybe you get one story about CCP testing their new battle architecture, but after that raw participation numbers are out the window.  There needs to be a lot of dead titans to make the news again.

And how does that change the null sec meta?  Currently in 0.0 space we are in a very egalitarian situation where line members get to show up en masse to fights.  If the seating is limited, who gets to show up and play?  Will leadership let in a Jackdaw fleet?  Or will it be a supers vs. supers battle where titans will eat all the capital and super carriers will take care of the sub caps,  so unless you fly one of those two you need not even apply?  Or will it just be titans with refits to handle sub caps and that is all?  Then there will be a push for 1,000 of the right titan fit optimally because in an even fight you have to find your edge somewhere.  And if you can’t compete in that game then you just lose the fight automatically to the few organizations that can.

I honestly think we’re better off with the current situation, as ugly as it is, where people pile on until the server breaks rather than having nice set battles in their own little space.  And I speak as somebody who knows full well what such ugly battles can be like.  I had my guns jammed at Z9PP-H before CCP fumbled the node, I was there all day for the big battle at 6VDT-H, I saw us kill the server at battles like HED-GP or KW-I6T, and I was even there at B-R5RB where access to the battle was being strictly controlled by the coalition lest we bring down the server yet again.

Battles like this are rare and as often as not are spontaneous affairs that may or may not fall within the instancing parameters.  CCP has better things on which to spend their limited resources. The results likely won’t be more headlines for the game.  And, frankly, if we play the N+1 game we get what we deserve, and I’m good with that.

Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be

-Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You’re not being the ball Danny.

-Ty Webb, Caddyshack

One of the problematic aspects of talking about video games is how differently two people can perceive and interact with them.  This goes double in writing, where the reader can inject tone and choose to define words in a way the author did not intend.  I’m sure we’ve all run into somebody online who defines a word in a very specific way and then pedantically defends that definition against all evidence or logic.

Take “immersion” for example.  There is a ticklish concept that I have concluded means something different to everybody.  I have had people in the comments here argue that immersion is literally not possible in a video game, or that certain things, from pop-culture references to graphic detail, prevent or break immersion universally, or that you’re not really immersed unless you’re role playing and literally believe that is your reality.

But it isn’t so easy, so black and white.

I find immersion in a video game totally possible and quite independent of a lot of things that might break it for other people.  It certainly has nothing to do with role playing in my case.  But I couldn’t tell you how I get there any more than I could say how I go to sleep.  One moment I am not there and then I slip across some invisible barrier and arrive.  And, as with sleep, I don’t even know I am there until the spell has been broken.

Or so it goes for me.  It is a fairly rare experience for me and, as with sleep, has become less likely and more fleeting as I have grown older.  But I know when I have been there.

Anyway, this all comes to mind because of an article The Mittani posted over at INN, The Masks of Cyber-Purgatory.  I saw several people praising it on Twitter and went to read it myself.

My reactions were… mixed.  There are truths in the post, but also things I found at odds with my own personal voyage through New Eden over the last decade.  For example I can’t recall hearing anybody saying that the only way to win EVE Online is to quit often enough to make that a point of universal agreement.  I’m pretty sure if it were as universal as all that people would be responding to posts on /r/eve with, “Look forward to you winning the game!”  And the whole “slave name” thing was just bizarre.  Never heard that before, would scoff at it if I had.

Perhaps that is a sign that New Eden is less purgatory and more full-on Dante’s Inferno, where each of us ends up stratified in our of circle of the alleged hell that is internet spaceships.  Because clearly The Mittani and I are in different spheres.

But I could have told you that before this article.

And then there is the whole concept of masks, the adopted identities that we use in the game.  I get that, and then again I don’t.  Or, rather, I see it, have seen it, will no doubt see it again in other people, but it isn’t me.

Among my many personal issues is a sense of detachment from things, including video games.  I almost always see the game itself and its workings, they are almost always in my thoughts and calculations.  And, as I have said in the past, when I make and play a character in a video game, I am almost always playing myself.  There is no mask, there is just me.  Me playing a video game.

Or at least me in the constructs of the video game in question.  I’m pretty sure real me would get shiv’d by the first kobold he met in Norrath or Azeroth and would never climb into that pod in New Eden.  And, up to this point at least, I have never take part in a murder for hire scheme to kill ten or a dozen strangers for a few pieces of gold.

So I never don a mask because I am never “in” the game, any game, enough for my character or avatar to be anything apart from myself in any deep sense.

Is it cosplay or just me wearing a jacket?

Going back to immersion, for me it is passing into a brief state where I don’t see the mechanics, where I am not looking at the map or planning how best to fulfill this latest task, but am in the moment in the game, doing what I am doing without it being a part of a plan or a goal.

But there are masks and there are masks.

What I think of me on my side of the screen is only universally applicable if I am playing a single player game.

Out in the world of multiplayer games… or out in the world dealing with other people in general… what goes on inside your head is invisible.  It is how others see you and their own filters and biases that turn you into what they think you are.  You can wear any mask you want, or no mask at all, and somebody else will put a mask of their choosing over that all the same and claim that this is the real you.

I am brimming with examples of this, in video games, in reactions to things I write here, and of course, in real life.

I used to sit across the way from a guy who used to get really angry at email that came from HR about company policies.

Something like that would pop up in both of our email inboxes simultaneously.  I would look at it, try to figure if it had any impact on me, and generally get back to what I was doing without spending too much time on it.

On the other hand, I could hear him getting angry, spouting expletives, and generally fuming about the email.  And, of course, he would have to call over to me for the inevitable, “Can you believe this?” routine.

He would ask if I saw the email that just came in and I would acknowledge that I had, adding the “what are you going to do?” shrug to show my indifference.  But he would have to make sure I could see his point, reading from the email in question using tone and inflection to give it the worst possible spin he could.  As he framed it, this was the most unreasonable, insulting thing they had done yet… today at least.  And I could not talk him down off of that cliff.

Of course, I saw myself as in possession of the facts and had the email in question read in a neutral tone in my head.  But that was just my own spin on it, the parameters put upon the whole thing by my own perception.  While I’d like to say I was more likely to be right, or at least closer to reality, than my co-worker, I couldn’t really prove it any more than he could.

We all put masks on other people through our perceptions, biased by the filters and experiences that are genuinely our own alone.  We all like to think we’re in possession of the truth.  I know I imagine myself being reasonable by simply not getting excited or indignant about things that seem like matters of interpretation.  But even that point of view could be wrong.

And I am prone to put my own spin on things, to apply masks to others even when I know I might be yielding to my own personal bias.  Even in humor… or especially in humor… playing to that puts a mask on somebody else.

As an EVE Online illustration… also, I made this and wanted to share it

All of which doesn’t roll up to a nice tidy point and set of suggested behaviors I suppose.  I started out here with a point to make, but as I drove along down the path, I seemed as unlikely to be in a position to give guidance as anybody else.  I apply masks, or labels, or whatever metaphor you care to choose, on others as much as anyone.  That I tend towards what I think is a charitable view of others doesn’t make them any more accurate than my co-worker who would work himself into a lather about email messages from HQ.

Anyway, this many words in this late in the evening and I am committed to this post.  So I suppose the only thing to say is to be mindful of both the masks you wear, as nobody can see the inner you, as well as the masks you apply to other people, because you sure as hell can’t see the inner reality of others.