Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Score One for the Good Guys

It ain't much, but anything against DRM is good, in my book. Found this over at techreport.

Yahoo Music to be DRM-free by Christmas?

Following Steve Job's open letter about digital rights management last week, the New York Times reported that the EMI Group had been in talks with Apple, Microsoft, Real Networks, and Yahoo over a proposal to make its music available without DRM. Yahoo Music General Manager Dave Goldberg has now told USA Today that he expects most of Yahoo's music catalog to be DRM-free by Christmas. Goldberg told the paper, "The labels understand that DRM has to go. It's nothing but a tax on digital consumers. There's good momentum behind DRM going away." He predicts that sales would increase by 15-20% without DRM, which may help compensate for dwindling music CD sales.

EMI declined to comment when asked directly by USA Today about its plans for DRM-free music. However, according to a Forrester Research analyst quoted by the paper, EMI has every reason to ditch DRM. The move would "slow the loss of its sales . . . and get a lot of attention for its artists," and besides, "anyone who wants to pirate music is already doing it."

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

As if WoW Wasn't Socially Wierd Enough

It's the nearest weekend to Valentine's Day. And Blizzard knows it. Apparently, during my hiatus from WoW, they came up with all kinds of automatic in-game events triggered by real-world holidays. They did Christmas even back when I originally played, and I had heard they added in a haloween festival of some sort after I left, but clearly, things have now gone crazy.

In-game Valentine's Day ORGIES.

Well, ok, not exactly. And certainly not explicit. But here's what I spent most of the day doing - Seducing various women (and occasionally men) of the police forces and chambers of commerce of the (virtual) world.

I hadn't ever quite thought I would say that.

It all started innocently enough. As I was checking my paladin's mail and taking care of his auctions, I noticed a new dwarf NPC out in front of the bank in Ironforge with an exclamation point over his head. Being the quest-hungry dork I am, I of course went to go see what epic tale of adventure would occupy the rest of my day today.

It began, as many quests do, innocently enough. The dwarf went to Stormwind recently and met a human girl, and he couldn't get his mind off her ever since, so he wanted me (a complete stranger) to deliver a little love note to her, since as he put it, "the mail is too full." Shrug.

Many might have seen this task as too trivial for a holy warrior of the light who had about 90 other things he needed to do, but being the shrewd guy I am, I knew that, in the parlance of our times, one thing would inevitably lead to another, and another. Such is the way that Blizzard often gets big balls rolling down steep hills: Deceptively slowly at first.

But I had no idea how right I was.

Upon arrival in Stormwind, I immediately noticed something was different. I had already taken note of many red candles and pink, heart-shaped paper cutouts adorning various shops and such in Ironforge, and thought "oh, Valentine decorations. Ok." But there was just.. a lot of activity in Stormwind that usually wasn't there. People were racing around, seemingly in circles, to seemingly random NPCs. The NPC would suddenly start giggling like a schoolboy/girl, and a big heart would appear over the player who apparently must have said something very naughty indeed, and then the player would run off to another random NPC.

By the time I arrived in the trade district, the random drive-by antics had thickened into a churning knot of humanity. Well, with all the other races mixed in, too, but you get the point. Never had I seen Stormwind so crowded and bustling. Usually, when the city is crowded, at least half the people are just standing around, waiting, looking, or chatting... but no. This time, dozens upon dozens of people scrambling like mad in every direction, like a freshly kicked anthill. It was enough to make you crosseyed.

I finally made it to the object of our lovelorn dwarf's desire, a cute Human girl (though it's hard to really get much meaning out of adjectives when all female humans share the exact same dimensions, proportions, and mass) out in the trade district plaza. I casually flipped the soot-stained valentine from the bearded forgemonkey at her, and noticed another new human nearby with another big yellow "!" over his head.

The guy turned out to be a real piece of work. He had noticed that, for some reason, people were acting funny ("Gee, you don't say," I thought, as another 50 people bustled and jostled around me). He was worried that whatever was going on would affect the city guards as well, leaving Stormwind vulnerable to attack, or crime, or whatever. So off I went to check it out, at his bequest.

I found a nearby guard, looking for all the world as normal as usual in her white and blue Stormwind armor and tabard, but when I spoke to her she made a comment on my smell. Beg pardon? I've mushed people under my big bad hammer for less than that! But the comment was that she might be a lot more "interested" in me if I might dab on some cologne.

And wouldn't you know it, enterprising individuals that they are, the innkeepers had suddenly started stocking cologne (and perfume for the ladies, and little valentine gift cards).

So I stocked up, spritzed myself with some toilet water, and immediately was jacked in to the Matrix of Love.

I could see it. There was something in this stinkjuice I just squirted on myself that allowed me to detect the ardor of those around me. The seemingly "random" visitations of the sloshing masses wasn't random at all, it was a mad scramble to see who could first get to each conquest as he or she came into heat. And let me tell you, buddy, all of Stormwind was one big Red Light District, and business was booming. I went back to the guard I spoke to earlier, to suddenly have her gush all over me and shower me with adoration and a smartly packed valentine box containing all kinds of junior-high tokens of affection. There were handfuls of rose petals to throw, cupid arrows, friendship bracelets, and to top it all off a big cardboard valentine card like the one Lisa Simpson gave Ralph Wiggum: "I choo choo choose you" (or so I imagined it said).

Armed with this evidence, I returned to Silas B. Worrywart to confirm his worst fears: the guards were now not so much as patrolling the streets as they were "cruising for love."

The next few hours are difficult to sort out, but it involved cologne, valentines, and a whole string of anonymous Stormwind denizens. All I have to say is, the cobblestone streets of Stormwind must have excellent drainage, given my activities and the fact that a couple hundred other folk were up to exactly the same shenanigans. But at the end, I had great big boxes and bags full of cards, letters, and homemade baked goods, which for some reason I was inexplicably compelled to pack together in one gigantic yet easy to handle package. A catalogued and compiled locker of evidence of my "conquest" of Stormwind, or at least the fairer half of it.

And yet there was more. The same unknown source of knowledge that bade me pack my trophies into organized stacks and then into a single container labeled "Stormwind" also hinted that similar situations were afoot in the other capitals of the Alliance.

With this startling epiphany, it was back to Ironforge as fast as a clanky tram could carry me.

I found that, while slightly less crowded, Ironforge was in a similar state of amorous activity. Compelled by the desire to not leave a job unfinished, I set about putting together an "Ironforge" box to keep with my "Stormwind" box. But I ran into an interesting, and rather awkward, obstacle.

Have you ever, once in your life, seen a female guard in Ironforge?

After a quick lap of "making the rounds" in the concentric subterranean city, It occurred to me that my visitations were all to civilians, and that my box would not be filled until I had an equal number of prizes claimed from the constabulary.

But there are no female guards, I argued with myself.

And I paused on that reflection.

There are no female guards in Ironforge...

So... what do they do to pass the long, cold, snowy northern nights when all the players have shuffled off to bed? Could it be possible that the most rugged and manliest of races perhaps had a military reminiscent to that of ancient Greece?? Perish the thought! But... what if it were true? Maybe that busybody in Stormwind really was on to something. Who knows what kind of tawdry wormcans I would open in the course of my investigation.

Steeled by the clarion call of duty, I resolved that I must grudgingly see for myself.

One bottle of perfume, a big stack of valentines and a lifetime of shame later, I found I couldn't fit anything else into my Ironforge package, nor could I ever look another Ironforge guardsman in the face again.

So what do you do, when you've just spent an evening emasculating yourself by flirting with bearded dwarves? You go away. Far away. And if possible, do something immediately to reassure yourself of your own masculinity.

So, I found myself arriving in the night elf capital of Darnassus, with a quiet little hope that the situation would be similar, and a great deal of mental images of stern-looking nuns from paladin school scolding me for my behavior and impure thoughts.

Not only had the valentine affliction spread easily to the already-sexual-imagery-soaked shores of Teldrassil, but an acute shortage of adventurer traffic had created a sizeable army of lovelorn, desperate elf girls.

The remainder of this section is self-censored for fear of losing my paladin license. But if there is a sudden rash of short elf children with copious facial hair in the near future, you don't know a damned thing, you got that?

So by the end of the trip, I staggered back into my home neighborhood in Ironforge, drained, disheveled and even a little tender. But for my, er, efforts... I had amassed a giant box of cards, letters, and handmade tokens of affection from every corner of alliance territory.

Which has been seized and is labeled exhibits A through Q in my excommunication trial.

Anybody got a minute to be a character witness?

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Sic Transit Mammarus

We'll miss you, ladies.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Late to the MacroParty

Back when I originally played WoW, I was a UI purist. I believed that anybody who was adding anything in to the default Blizzard User Interface was either lazy or looking for a cheat.

I've matured since then.

I've come to realize just how inadequate the basic interface is, especially considering some of the addons out there. But the problem is, as the title says, I'm late to the party. I missed out on the "Golden Age" of the addon.

There were addons for everything. Addons that kept track of who needed to be buffed in your 40 person raid. Who needed healing. Buttons for automatically healing who needed healing worst, and with the most level- and speed-appropriate healing spell from your book based upon the urgency of his need and the state of your mana supply. Addons that dynamically changed a button you would hit over and over again to be the most advantageous attack for the moment based on your position/energy level/number of combo points. And on and on.

But somewhere around version 2.0.0, Blizzard decided that these Macros and UI enhancements were doing too much of the playing FOR the player. So they told every single addon maker that they were changing everything about how the UI addons would work, and specifically that during combat, no addon or macro would be able to make an intelligent decision for the player.

Frankly, I'm surprised a lot of people didn't quit over it. Well, I suppose it is WoW... so maybe I shouldn't have expected anybody to quit playing. However, a number of modders did seem to throw in the towel.

But anyway, for me, the last few nights have been an excercise in raised and dashed hopes as I got Addon after Addon promising to make my experience so much smoother and more efficient... only to find they went obsolete with 2.0.0.

I guess I can see why Blizzard decided to do it, and the vestiges of the UI-Puritan left in me from back a year or two ago is huffing at me in disdain that of course people shouldn't have these wonderful labor-saving devices that basically reduced the playing of any given class to pressing one key over and over again.

But I still feel like I showed up to the party after all the fun was already had.

And that's the word from bandit camp.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

My Father Sent Me This

I wonder if he's trying to tell me something.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Sometimes it Sucks, Always Being Right

Computer, "Delete Star Dot Star."


Even in my low expectations, I can't believe MS thought that a default system of voice control would be a good idea. I mean, hell, Dilbert covered this years and years ago when Wally walked by Dilbert's cubicle and yelled "DELETE.. FILE!!"

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