Posted inGames

What would you do with 790 Billion ISK?!?

Only a couple of people reading this blog probably have any idea what “ISK” is. (Of course there are probably only just a couple people reading this in the first place, so I think I’m safe in saying that I’m effectively serving my audience. ;-))

Interstellar Kredits (or ISK) is the currency in the world of EVE Online (which I have discussed previously). EVE features an open economy, where the players are responsible for almost all of the buying and selling in the game. The economy is closely tied with the political aspect of the game, which of course is also player driven. Corporations rise and fall as they struggle for market dominance and control of valuable resource-rich territory.

Unfortunately the economy is so flexible and open-ended, players can fall for the same scams that sometimes work IRL (in real life). Recently, the mother of all online scams was perpetuated in EVE Online, as discussed in this article from the MMORPG blog on…

It’s the story of a guy named “cally”, who ran a corporation, a player-operated bank called “Eve Intergalactic Bank”. Over the course of four months, hundreds of players deposited money in his bank, which offered interest, loans and insurance like every other ordinary bank. Except for the fact that one day, cally decided to grab all the money that was deposited and fly off to space with an alleged total sum of 790 billion Isk. In real life, this would translate to $170,000 – quite possibly the biggest MMO scam ever conducted.

Not only that, he also took the time to record a video in which he confesses his crimes, makes fun of the community, and reveals that he is a pirate, who once held the highest bounty in the game.

Here’s a link to the video on Google, but be warned… It contains some expletives, is occasionally difficult to understand, and worst of all, it’s really really boring. The most interesting quote from the video comes right at the beginning…

This is an official announcement from Cally of the EIB. Just to let you all know, yes, it was a scam. Sorry about that, but, what can I say? I scammed you.

As a result of this scam, a debate has broken out in the EVE community, and the MMOG world at large, discussing what if anything should be done about situations like these… Should the game developers step in to take action against the scammer and restore the lost money, or is it simply caveat emptor (buyer beware)?

Keep in mind, no actual money was stolen (just a huge investment in game-playing time) and no specific in-game rules were broken. So, in this particular situation, I personally am leaning in the “buyer beware” direction. (Of course, it wasn’t my ISK.)

I find it extremely interesting how virtual worlds like EVE (and Second Life and World of Warcraft and many others…) are starting to model real-world behaviors more and more.

Posted inNews

Parental Discretion Advised

In other words, Mom don’t read this one! :-)

A couple of unusual stories caught my eye over the past couple of days… The first involves an incident last week at O’Hare airport. A Chicago Sun-Times article reports that a man named Mardin Azad Amin was stopped by airport security after a suspicious object was found in his baggage.

So, Amin, 29, handled the delicate situation this way: He told security the object was a bomb, Cook County prosecutors say.

The security guard then asked Amin to repeat what he’d said to a supervisor. This time, Amin was chuckling as he spoke, prosecutors say.

In fact, Amin was trying to disguise the fact that the black object — resembling a grenade — was a component for a penis pump.

Amin eventually told investigators he’d lied about the object because his mother was standing nearby when it was discovered and he didn’t want her to know about it. Unfortunately, he might get up to three years in jail for lying to officials (and his mom, of course).

The second story comes, appropriately enough, from the world of Second Life (also mentioned in a previous post). This Wired News report covers a Second Life convention held in the real world (San Fransisco) last weekend. Specifically, the article discusses a panel dedicated to sex in Second Life. I would call it cyber-sex, but it turns out that it’s not so cyber any more… A robotics engineer, who’s avatar name is qDot Bunnyhug, presented “the first open-source interface for controlling sex toys from within the virtual world.”

“I created the first Second Life sex-toy interface in July of last year and had it running within three days of creating my account,” qDot says. “Actually, it’s why I started my Second Life account.”

He describes that first attempt as “really bad,” and says it limited you to changing the vibrator’s speed just once per second, which resulted in a stuttering effect in the vibrations on the other end. “You could update the values once per second, and there were ways to smooth the transition between the power levels, but it still didn’t feel quite right,” he says.

But he couldn’t quite stay away from the vibrator interface. He built a new version entirely with open-source code (from It enables you to send 10 to 20 updates per second to the vibrator, resulting in much smoother speed transitions than the first release. It also offers anyone with time and coding ability the chance to customize their own teledildonics system.

Teledildonics?!? There’s a word I never imagined I would read.

OK mom, you can start reading again… :-)

Posted inToys

Hi-Def?!? Bye-Def!!!

I don’t even have hi-def TV yet, and it’s already so last week. According to this story from Wired News, Phillips is releasing a new line of 3-D televisions…

A new line of 3-D televisions by Philips uses the familiar trick of sending slightly different images to the left and right eyes — mimicking our stereoscopic view of the real world. But where old-fashioned 3-D movies rely on the special glasses to block images meant for the other eye, Philips’ WOWvx technology places tiny lenses over each of the millions of red, green and blue sub pixels that make up an LCD or plasma screen. The lenses cause each sub pixel to project light at one of nine angles fanning out in front of the display.

A processor in the TV generates nine slightly different views corresponding to the different angles. From almost any location, a viewer catches a different image in each eye.

The article goes on to talk about one likely application of this technology…

One nearly ready-made source of content is modern video games, which actually generate three-dimensional objects internally, then flatten the images into 2-D representations for standard monitors. Philips has developed hardware and software that can extract the original depth information from the game engine and use it to create 3-D images on a WOWvx display.

In New York, the company demonstrated the technique with the first-person shooter Call of Duty. It looked almost perfect, except for a little shimmering around the edges of objects, which Philips says will be fixed in the coming months.

Sorry, I need a second to wipe off the drool… :-P

Of course, it’ll take some time before the technology is affordable enough to earn a space in our living rooms. Makes me wonder what the porno industry is going to do with this technological advance. Gives the name “boob tube” a whole new dimension. :-O

Posted inOn The Web

Hear ye! Hear ye!

I bet you didn’t know how inspiring this blog was, didja? (Hey, quit laughing!) The existence of my blog has inspired my buddy Jeff to start his own, called Isn’t Life Strange?. I’ve helped Jeff with the technical stuff, but the content is all his and I can’t recommend it enough (despite the fact that he’s a Cubs fan – LOL! ;-)).

Anyway, the point of this entry isn’t Jeff’s blog, but his first podcast. This is truly a case where the student has surpassed the master. I’m listening to a “professional” podcast right now from the Barenaked Ladies (free, but iTunes required), and I gotta say that Jeff’s ranks right up there in production quality and content. Bravo!

Please, check it out and let him know what you think… Rock on, dude!

Posted inAbout

One point Five ONE

I must’ve had a hundred different people (OK, just one person) tell me that they noticed a strange thing about my blog entries… Each one seemed to be entered either at 6AM or 6PM. So, I finally got around to fixing the bug in the format of the “posted by” time at the bottom of each entry. And of course, that deserves a version upgrade to 1.51.

You should see 12:10 at the bottom of this one. Yay! :-D

UPDATE: Added additional formatting on block quotes. Although it took much longer than it should have (to make it work with IE), it doesn’t deserve a version increment. :|

Posted inMusic / News / Technology

Duran Duran Gets a Life Life

Not sure how I missed this piece of earth-shattering news when it initially came out last week…

The 80’s pop music group Duran Duran announced that they are planning to get a life; a second life in fact… The members of the band will appear and perform as custom designed characters, called avatars, in the Second Life 3-D online virtual world.

Second LifeSecond Life is a virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by more than 400,000 people worldwide. Users can build virtual homes, have fantasy jobs, experiment with alternative lifestyles, and apparently enjoy online music concerts.

I’m pretty sure that a Second Life appearance won’t be enough to trigger a full-blown Duran Duran comeback, but it’s a decent way to get some cheap press coverage. Rock on!

Posted inNews

Don’t Be Evil (Most of the Time)

This article on the UK news site called The Independent states that Google, known for its mantra “don’t be evil”, has fired off a series of legal letters to media organizations, warning them against using its name as a verb.

Google has become known for their anti-corporate image of youthful non-conformity, from the jeans and T-shirts often worn by its billionaire founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, to the scooter lanes and volleyball courts at its Palo Alto headquarters.

In the letter(s), Google gives an example of what’s appropriate and what’s not…

Appropriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party. Inappropriate: I googled that hottie.

Given the rep that they’ve cultivated to this point, it’s a little surprising that Google is acting like such a suit now. Especially after all of the negative press that AOL received recently for releasing potentially sensitive search data.

OK, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go google that hottie, uh, perform a GoogleTM search regarding the attractive young lady in my office… :-P

Posted inGames

“An Inside Look at the Coolest Game in the World”

I once worked with a guy that was attempting to single-handedly create his own MMO (“massively multiplayer online”) game. He tried to recruit me to his small team of developers who were helping to work on the game. I politely declined for a couple of reasons… 1) At the time, I had never played an MMO and had no personal experience to draw from, and 2) I thought he was a little bit crazy. ;-)

MMO’s require a tremendous investment of time, money, and manpower not only in the development of the game, but also to support on-going hosting and maintenance of the game servers once the game is finally released. The credit screens for these games roll on almost as long as most big-time Hollywood movies.

Which brings us to the subject of this entry… I found (via Digg) a Website for a new game called Genesis put up by a guy trying to accomplish the same Herculean task of developing his own MMO. However, the difference is that I think he might actually have a chance of getting it done.

This guy has already put a lot of work (more than two years) into designing the game and developing large portions of the software engine. He recently published the Website to ask for help in developing the game, by way of monetary, artistic, and coding contributions. And that’s why I think he might possibly succeed. The emergence of open source software development makes it possible for teams of developers in disparate locations (sometimes completely different countries) to work together on a common project. In fact, the Mozilla Firefox browser that I’m using to write this blog entry was developed in this very way.

Anyway, back to the game. The Website goes into much more detail about the overall philosophy and design of the game, but here are a few of the highlights…

Distinguishing Features at a Glance:

  • Dynamic, Player-Created Environments: Build and destroy houses and other structures, one wall at a time (no pre-fabricated buildings). Dig out terrain and pile it up elsewhere. Plant seeds, watch them grow, and harvest plants and lumber. Anything that can be created in the game can also be destroyed.
  • Volumetric Terrain: Terrain can be hollowed out to form caves and tunnels, versus simply raised or lowered like most games.
  • Dynamic, Player-Created Storylines/Quests: All quests and storylines are generated naturally based on the current state of the world, its political structures, its economy, its ecology, and so forth. A very advanced expert/logic system analyzes the state of the world and its inhabitants to create motivations and aspirations that drive your character to play their role. For once, role playing truly lives up to its name, as players even go so far as to assign personalities to their avatars that actually affect gameplay dramatically.
  • Reproduction and Permanent Death: Players have the ability to reproduce, but are also mortal (and can only be resurrected under very rare circumstances). However, player’s offspring absorb a mix of their parent’s traits, so they aren’t forced to start from scratch necessarily. The player permanently resides in one spirit throughout the entire game which can assume control of any available humanoid or creature.
  • No AI controlled opponents or NPCs: Every player and creature (with the minor potential exceptions of fish, game, and livestock) is controlled by another human. Players can play as creatures that can evolve any manner of traits, allowing them to assume forms of classical mythological beasts or other creatures.
  • Open Content: In addition to building content within the game using the game’s engine, players can contribute base content for the game (entities which must be built outside of the engine), such as music, artwork, models, and even some code and scripting. Of course, all content is approved for quality and appropriateness before it is included.
  • Open Funding Model: Players can decide how they want to fund this game. If I receive enough donations to support myself (and potentially a small team of people), I will release the game for free. If I must find alternate methods funding to continue developing the game I will (as a last resort) accept a publishing deal. I am hoping that players will donate enough money to support this project independently, that way the game could be given out for free, and I would not be under a publisher’s budget/time constraints. I am not a greedy person, but I do need to put a roof over my headÂ…if there were some way for me to develop this game on zero dollars now that I am out of college, I would.
  • Unique Graphics Engine: the engine used to power Genesis has an old-school isometric look, but is enhanced by new-school technology. Unique rendering algorithms are used that allow millions of polygons per scene, with displacement mapping and per pixel materials (not to be mistaken with texturing). The engine is designed from the ground up to facilitate procedural content creation.

Sounds interesting… I hope this guy is able to see it through. I know I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Posted inGames / Rant n' Rave / WTF?

It’s just a game!

I read a very interesting article earlier tonight on the upcoming video game Spore, which was already featured in a previous blog posting. It gives more details about the mechanics of the game, which unfortunately isn’t due to be released for another year (or probably more)…

The game will let players create a custom-built microscopic germ that can evolve into a macroscopic critter that can walk on land, build its own cities, and eventually discover the secret of space travel. One of the most intriguing features of this open-ended game is how it will focus on “procedurally generated content” — that is, content that’s created on the fly by the game in response to a few key decisions that players make, such as how they make their creatures look, walk, eat, and fight.

Sounds very cool.

However, this particular entry was inspired not by the article itself, but by the six pages (at current count) of reader comments following the article. Even that’s not all that note-worthy given the hype and anticipation surrounding this game. What surprised me is that, because the game models an evolutionary process, a majority of this commentary is an argument of evolutionism vs. creationism, or more accurately an argument between a few anti-creation zealots vs. a few anti-evolution zealots.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I absolutely agree that everyone has a right to believe whatever they damn well want to. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Voltaire (or is it?) is, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I think this is the epitome of the American ideal.

However, when a limited number of extremists on either side of an issue, any issue, control the dialog about that issue, that dialog can get loud and rancorous enough to interfere with my right not to give a shit.

For the record, do I believe in evolution? Yep. Do I believe it’s the absolute answer to this particular question and that it precludes any and all other alternatives? Nope, I’m not that smart… I don’t have those kinds of answers.

Do I have opinions on other issues that divide our towns, our states, our countries, our planet? Yep. Am I going to rant and rave in the vain hope that you will end up believing the exact same thing that I do? Definitely not. I simply ask that you extend me the same courtesy.

OK, I think I’ve gotten it out of my system now. I’ll step off my soapbox and get you back to your regularly scheduled blog… ;-)

Posted inComics / On The Web

Seduction of the Innocent

Seduction of the InnocentIf you’re a fan of comic books and unintentional sexual innuendo (and who isn’t?), I have just the place for you (virtually speaking)… is a site created by a comic book fan to showcase some of the more ridiculous, humorous, and/or offensive comic book covers, storylines, and superpowers that have appeared throughout the years. For example, the section titled Seduction of the Innocent collects a great number of comic images featuring some of the funniest unintentional sexual references ever commited to paper.

All I can say is that the golden age of comics must’ve been a much more innocent (and politically incorrect) time. Enjoy! ;-)