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iPhone Features I Want to See

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

With today’s release of iOS 4.2, i would like to comment on a few basic features that are missing from the iPhone experience.

Voice text entry. Anywhere there is a text entry field, I should have the option to press a microphone icon to enter text via voice. I think this feature could actually save lives, and lots of dollars’ worth of car repairs, for people who just can’t seem to stop texting while driving*, even though it’s illegal in many states now. It seems silly to me that iPhones already have voice recognition for spoken commands (like calling someone, playing a certain song, etc.), but not for general text entry. This would be useful for other things too, like getting directions while you’re already on the road — I actually use Bing’s navigation app sometimes, specifically because I can search and enter addresses via my voice.

Text to speech. Likewise, I would like built-in functionality to have text messages, or other simple things (like emails), read to me. Not necessarily web pages or anything complex like that, though — I know that would be nearly impossible to do well for anything other than very simple web pages.

If this were Android, there could be an app to do both of these things, but apps don’t have access to text messages on the iPhone. Well, actually Android already has voice transcription for most places where you can enter text, from what I’ve seen. Maybe I should install Android on my iPhone. However, come to think of it, the Google Voice app could fairly easily add both of these things (for text messages), if Google wanted.

Better photo management/organization. I would also like the ability to save pictures to something other than the default album, and the ability to move items between albums. I’m not sure why this wasn’t possible from the initial version of the iPhone.

I fully expect all three of these things to be implemented by Apple… eventually. Sooner rather than later would be nice, though. And the speech-to-text feature may indeed be sooner, since there are rumors that Apple recently purchased Nuance, the makers of the voice recognition software Dragon Naturally Speaking (and also the makers of a free voice recognition app for the iPhone).

* Yes, I realize this is still distracted driving, which is also very dangerous, but it’s not quite so dangerous as actually taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds at a time.

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

This post was actually drafted a while ago… I just totally forgot to post it when I wrote it.

Long story short, things randomly screwed up and I have to reinstall WoW to be able to play it.  Boo, Blizzard.

However, in the process of doing this, I am getting to check out the option to “play as you patch.” Basically, when your client is not up to the latest version, it prioritizes and installs as you update. I was dubious about this… until now. when I reinstalled, it put in the basic files, and is now patching up.  I’ve got about 3% of the whole patch… and I’m able to play. This is pretty magical.

Also, I have had almost a full bottle of wine. So objects in your blog post may be less magical than they appear.

Anyway, this is actually very awesome. I have the minimum required to play, which means when I logged in, things started spontaneously appearing around me. Like the rug under my feet. Actually, when I first went to log in, I couldn’t even see my character.

I’m queued for a dungeon run. This should be… interesting.

Under the normal loading bar, I saw a sub-loading bar for the first time, which I guess was loading things necessary to the area my character was in. Screenshot below, click for the bigger version, in which you can see the secondary loading bar better.

OMG I’m in a dungeon run now. afk. Not that you can tell I’m afk, since this is a blog post after all. Hmm, maybe not. It’s downloading the dungeon on the fly, which is taking a minute. And now everyone is dead and I’m partway through Drak’Tharon Keep. This could be a bad sign. Or… perhaps not. Rolled it.

Anyway, this whole endeavor has been surprisingly pain-free. I can’t use my add-ons, though that’s expected. Things take a little longer to load since they load on the fly — also expected. But I’ve seen no major glitches, and was just able to run a dungeon as game data was still being applied. This is very cool. I can only imagine that the system to do this is incredibly complex, and it’s rare that such things work in a smooth way. So on that count, bravo, Blizzard.

Updates: Reinstalled Blog, Second Home

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Part of the reason for my pause in posts has been that at some point my site got hacked. It was probably due to an installation of an old bit of software that had a security flaw — I had a lot of stuff installed that I never really kept up with. In any case, I’ve wiped my entire site and recreated it, which was a bit of effort. I think I’ve still got the Livejournal crossposting working correctly, so this will be a test of that too.

In other news, I’m looking at buying a second home in Decatur. Found a deal that seemed too good to be true, but on a lark I contacted Rich Murray, a friend of mine who happens to be a kick-ass realtor. He said that it’s a short-sell, and normally at the dirt-cheap price it’s listed at the bank wouldn’t accept it, except in this case a nearly identical property sold for the same asking price.

However, there is a big bureaucratic hurtle: it has to be owner-occupied. I would actually like to rent out my house and move in there, but that’s irrelevant; when working up the loan, they will look at the mortgage amount on both properties and assume I’ll be living in the more expensive one, which is my house (by far). The value of both properties is actually about the same, but the mortgage is far different — my house has gone down in value a lot since I bought it.

So, it’s unlikely this will go through. I’m not getting my hopes up too much, and trying to remind myself that if it does go through it’ll be a pain to move and find someone to rent out my house, not to mention act as a landlord (though I could always have a third party deal with all of that). But man, this is the exact area I want to be in Atlanta, so I am still going to try my damndest.

Review: Apple TV 2G

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Today I received my Apple TV in the mail. This is the second generation Apple TV, and it costs just under $100. As with most of the stuff Apple makes, it's sexy. And the $100 price tag is pretty impressive and un-Apple-like. I've had a full-on media center PC in the past, but those are big and clunky and unwieldy in all ways; the Apple TV goes in the opposite direction.

However, spec-wise it's honestly not all that hot. Here are its shortcomings:

  • It has no hard drive of its own (to speak of). This isn't a big deal for me because I plan to stream everything anyway, be it from Netflix or my PC.
  • It only does 720p HD video, so no 1080p. Again, not too big of a deal for me — honestly having watched 720p and 1080p, at the distance I view my TV at I can't tell much of a difference. Here's a chart showing how far away you have to be to notice 720p vs. 1080p vs. 1440p.
  • It can't adjust the volume; I have to use my TV (or stereo) remote to do that. This, I admit, is a major peeve of mine. During playback, the up and down buttons aren't doing anything anyway, so why not make them adjust the volume? Maybe I'm missing something; it seems so obvious that it should have this.
  • It can't view Hulu. Or anything else other than YouTube. This is annoying to me, but I'm not sure if it's a deal-breaker. Most series, I watch on Netflix. But then again, stuff comes out on Hulu more quickly, and a lot of stuff just isn't on Netflix.
  • It can't play many video formats. This is also somewhat annoying, but there might be some workarounds for this in the near future. Though likely those workarounds won't allow for smooth playback of HD material. The other option is to re-encode videos in a format that iTunes likes, though that requires Quicktime Pro ($30).
  • It has no keyboard, which makes typing text a huge pain. However, it does work with the Remote app, so you can use your iPhone or iPad as a remote, and use their keyboards. I would be very, very annoyed with text entry if I didn't have an iPhone or iPad.

Okay, so what does it have?

  • Cheapness. Can't complain at $100.
  • Simple to set up. You plug in an HDMI cable, and the power cable, and you're ready to go. It just works.
  • Small, sleek form factor. My friend came over today and I showed it off to him, and he couldn't even see where the box was until I pointed it out to him.
  • A tiny remote and simple user interface. Very simple; even your grandma could use this thing, once she figures out that the Menu button is sort of like an exit/back button.
  • 720p HD video. Videos streamed from the PC and Netflix look nice and crisp. The latter noticeably more crisp than from the Wii, which doesn't do HD.
  • Built-in WiFi. Hey, some devices these days (ahem, XBox 360) don't include this.
  • Integration with iTunes. You've got access to your desktop's music, movies, etc.
  • Optical digital audio out. All newer receivers have it; so you don't have to hook up tons of wires to get sexy 5.1 surround sound.
  • Built-in video rentals. This would be cool if the rentals were cheaper. Most more recent movies are $5, and older movies seem to run about $3, with some at the $4 mark. Halve those prices, and you've got me interested. I mean, RedBox rentals are only $1 per night, after all.

Overall from the first night of using it, I like it. It's responsive, Apple did a good job as always with the UI, and it's overall a much more pleasant experience than watching Netflix over my Wii. I have yet to even tap into a lot of the potential, like the movie rental thing, and I'm sure in the near future someone will jailbreak it which will open up a world of possibilities. However, the Apple TV does have some serious competition coming out in the next few months, such as the Logitech Revue.

The Logitech Revue, which will run Google TV, is much sexier than than the Apple TV tech-wise. But it's also three times the cost, at $299. On the other hand, it has none of the shortcomings listed above that the Apple TV does. Also, it hooks up to your cable connection and acts as a TV guide and DVR. Except I ditched cable TV, so neither function is useful to me. It can do live hi-def videoconferencing, which sounds awesome… except it costs $150 for the webcam (you can't just use any old webcam), and I think that much like the iPhone 4's FaceTime feature, this is a neat gimmicky feature that I would never actually use. But overall the Revue is really more like a mini-computer than the Apple TV, which provides a lot more possibilities. I am very interested to see what other Google TV set-tops come out around Christmas.

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Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

One of the biggest problems with blogging to multiple places is that comments also get spread out all over the place. While as far as I know it's impossible to cross-post all comments everywhere, there is a neat WordPress plugin that will import Facebook comments to WordPress.  It's called Facebook CommentsTNG.  For those interested, here are the details:

  • You give the plugin your Facebook login info.  Don't worry, I looked over the code — it's not sending your login info to some third party or anything.
  • Every hour, or every day, or manually (your choice), it will scrape your Facebook notes for comments, and post them on your WordPress blog.
  • This only works for Notes that Facebook has automatically imported via an RSS feed from your blog.

Setting It Up

After installing and activating the module, and giving it my FB login info, I tried to test it, and it didn't work. Since it didn't work out of the box, I do that thing I do: I tinkered with it until it worked.  So here are the steps I took to get it to work, by the numbers:

  1. Install and activate Facebook CommentsTNG plugin.
  2. Click Test. It will likely show a blank screen.  If it actually shows some stuff, skip ahead to step 6.
  3. Go back to Facebook in your browser and refresh. It will probably have logged you out.
  4. Log in again. Go through the steps of verifying that everything is okay.
  5. In WordPress, click Test again. This time it should show you your friends' notes.
  6. Go to http://m.facebook.com/notes.php, scroll down, and click My Notes.
  7. In the URL there will be a variable like http://m.facebook.com/notes.php?id=123456789&fbb=r5b9aec88&refid=21 — copy that number after "id=".
  8. Paste that number into the Page ID setting for the plugin.
  9. Click Test again. This time it should show you your posts.

If that all worked well, you're set. Click to have it check hourly, or daily. Or if you want to control exactly when comments get scraped, select Manual.

Caveats

This is not a perfect solution. Comments on WordPress don't get posted back to Facebook. But the bigger problem is that this only works if you have Facebook auto-importing your blog posts from the RSS feed.

Why is this a problem? Because Facebook breaks the formatting to all hell when it does this. I would much prefer a plugin that scraped comments from RSS Graffiti feeds to my profile. I looked into hacking it to do this, but unfortunately RSS Graffiti links (and I assume links auto-posted to your profile by any other application) don't show up when you view your own stream in the mobile site. And with all the AJAX on the non-mobile version of Facebook, it would be a nightmare to try and parse the main page.

There is a plugin that cross-posts RSS Graffiti comments (Facebook Comments Importer)… but only if RSS Graffiti is importing your posts onto a fan page, not onto your profile.

Summation

If I want to have my comments cross-posted, then I have to either continue using the shitty Notes auto-import on Facebook, or make a fan page for my blog and have RSS Graffiti import there (which means my friends won't see new posts unless they're fans of that page). I don't like either solution, but for the time being I think I'll stick with the Notes auto-importer. My blog posts will look shitty on Facebook, especially whenever they include pictures (which they almost always do), but it's the best solution I've got for the time being.

Except, now that I've stopped importing blog posts to Facebook, it refuses to recognize my blog's RSS feed. Damnit, Facebook.

On a related note, I just found out there is a similar plugin for LiveJournal — so if you automatically cross-post entries to LJ (as I do), comments on LJ will also be scraped and posted on your main WordPress blog site. Just installed that and, of course, it doesn't seem to be working right. So I'm going to tinker with that now.

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MMO Design Thoughts: Permadeath

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

Permadeath. Permanent death in an MMO. Why in the world would you want such a thing? Simple:  Vampire Death emotion. The more you're risking, the greater the emotion — the greater the fear when you're risking it, the greater the sorrow if you lose it, and the greater the joy if you succeed. The World of Darkness Online will naturally have a horror element, which means sometimes you should be afraid in the game.  Also, "danger" is one of the four descriptors of what the game is trying to evoke (power, danger, mystery, romance).

Permanent death is something that just isn't done in MMOs. But it is explicitly on the table for (most) tabletop games. Why are people comfortable with it in the latter, but not in the former? And would it be possible to have permadeath done in a good way in MMOs?

I think the answer to the first question is, "Control." In a tabletop setting, the game master has control over the game, and if you're sitting down spending several hours with your group, you presumably trust the game master not to just gak your character willy-nilly. In an MMO there is no such control. In PvP games there are definitely griefers. But, I think such control could be added to MMOs. Which brings us to the second question.

To answer the second question, I do believe it could be done well in an MMO. I think that permanent death should only be able to happen under certain circumstances. In a tabletop game, your character generally only dies under a few circumstances:

  1. You have really bad luck. And even then a good game master will give you an out.
  2. You do something really dumb. Again, a good game master will generally try and give you some hints that this might not be the best plan of action.
  3. You want your character to die. It does happen.
  4. Your game master is a dick.

I think that these could be translated to MMOs quite nicely. So for each of the points above, here's how I would address it in an MMO.

  1. Mechanics can be put in place to eliminate "bad luck" as a cause for permanent character death.
  2. This is the area that has the most potential. Maybe if you kill and loot other characters enough, it flags you for permanent death.
  3. No brainer, but again there's potential here. In most MMOs you just delete your character if you want them gone. But what if there were some way to go out that had a cool story, or that set up the story for your next character coming in?
  4. In this case it would be the game mechanics themselves being the dick. Make it so that certain circumstances, which are within the player's control, must occur before a character can die permanently. As one example, maybe if you go on this certain storyline/quest, you risk permanent death — with great reward comes great risk.

To put this in terms of the World of Darkness MMO, I think permadeath is assuredly feasible. I would do it thusly:

  • Overall, anyone can permanently kill anyone else, at any time. This requires not just putting them into torpor, but making a choice to take it one step further.
  • If you permanently kill someone else who isn't the subject of a blood hunt, you yourself become subject of a blood hunt. Congratulations, now everyone is gunning for you because they'll gain prestige by killing you, and they won't have any negative consequences for it.
  • In certain areas, have NPCs come to the aid of any character being attacked by another. Maybe a cop comes to arrest the offender. Maybe some gang bangers decide they don't want other people bringing attention to their area.

foggy graveyardAs a possible alternative to permanent death (or better yet, something that could be added on), perhaps the "fog of ages" from Requiem can be tweaked. This is the effect that causes vampires to forget things (and lose blood potency) as they grow ancient. Well perhaps when one is killed really good, they don't actually die but it puts this process into fast-forward, and you lose some blood potency, which could also cause you to lose some abilities. The only thing I don't like about this route is that it smacks of the bronze age of MMO days wherein you lost XP if you get killed. However, I think Vampire has a great built-in mechanic for this and it makes sense to use it.

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The Grand Masquerade 2010, Day 2

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

So after the fiasco of the previous night, you'd think I would stay in and sleep it off, right? Fucking wrong. 4 hours of sleep, then up, shower, and down to the registration area, and shortly thereafter to a Changeling the Lost game run by The Wrecking Crew. I feel the need to put in a few notes here.

First, I was on the design team for the CtL corebook. However, I had never actually played the game or even managed to read all the way through the book, as ironic as that is. So I was interested to see what the final product ended up being like.

Second, The Wrecking Crew is awesome. They run tabletop games for White Wolf products at all sorts of conventions. Back in the day they used to help White Wolf with the setup and breakdown of their booths at said conventions, too. They are not only rabid fans, but they are very good at what they do. So I was doubly excited to play in this game.

Third, I was still vaguely nauseas, hadn't eaten since 3pm the previous day, and hadn't even had any water that morning. But I am not a little bitch, and I was determined to get my game on. So instead of doing the intelligent thing and saying, "Hey guys, give me 5 minutes to go get a bottle of water," I toughed through it. HTFU.

–Begin geeky game reminiscing–

The game had pregens, I was the last to the table but I found a great character: an Autumn Court librarian. Autumn Court changelings are the creepy ones. The girl running the game left the specifics to us, so I described him as a spindly man in his late 40s with straight, almost dead-looking black hair that was about chin-length, who had the musty smell of old books. He had sunken eyes, wore a moth-ridden tweed jacket, ivory button-down shirt, and brown corduroy pants. Also, from time to time a spider or two would skitter out from the hair hanging at his neck, scamper across his neck or face, and disappear on the other side.

His mein (how he looks to other changelings) was much the same, except instead of eyes he had black pits that seemed to suck in the light, features even more gaunt to the point of looking skeletal, and elongated teeth that were all sharp canines.

The basic plot was that the group of us "came to" on a dock with a wooden crate in front of us, and a person, with no memories of the previous 24 hours. The person was contractually bound not to tell us anything. My character snooped and sniffed around, and figured that there was most likely a dead body in there. Around that time, a car drove up and we were shot at. My character, not being a fighter, hid and used his powers to freak out the gunmen — or at least one of them.

We gain control of the situation, find out who hired them, then go up the chain to find out who hired that person to hire them, find out who that person was working for. It was basically a big court plot to make it look like the Autumn Court queen was abducting/killing the other three courts' queens, the plot lead by someone who hoped to take her place, and was working with the True Fae (bad, bad news) to do so. We blew up the would-be queen, I did some research on the fae and found her weakness (she is known as the Weeping Willow, and can't attack anyone that's crying), and the local changelings banded together to smack her down.

Behind the scenes, apparently we were hired by the current Autumn queen to investigate the disappearances.  I'd thought maybe we were the ones that had caused them, since we did "wake up" in front of a box with a dead body in it that I was pretty sure was one of the other queens, after all.

–End geeky game reminiscing–

After that, Lauren, Charles Bailey, and I went to grab brunch. I wanted some gumbo (it's New Orleans after all, and I love me some cajun food), so on the advice of friends we went to Gumbo Shop. Yes, it's a gumbo place called Gumbo Shop. It was pretty good, except that they put a crab claw in mine and there were little bits of it in the gumbo itself that I had to spit out from time to time. I found them, of course, by crunching down on them with my teeth, which was none too pleasant.

Then we went to a gelato place right around the corner, and it was divine. Lauren and I got some horchata gelato. They had some single malt Glenlivet gelato that I really wanted, but thought might be a bad idea after the previous night's debacle.

We helped Charles find a geocaching thing, then I caught the tail end of an artist panel and we went out to eat again.

What? I have a tapeworm to feed, you know. Or a hollow leg to fill. Or both.

We really wanted to check out The Green Goddess, since it seems to have great Yelp reviews and some of our friends raved about it. By "we wanted to go" I mostly mean that I did, and Lauren grumbled about it. Turns out, it was too packed anyway — it is but a tiny place, not capable of handling even the runoff of the crowds that the convention brought. So we ended up at House of Blues, where I had some shrimp and catfish creole. Though we had to wait a long time to get our food, it was very tasty, and the waitress was awesomely nice as well. I will definitely go back there whenever I'm next in the area.

Damnit, even writing about this is making me hungry. Maybe if I lived in New Orleans I'd actually gain a few pounds.

That night there was a… well, cocktail party is the best way I can think to describe it, at the Blue Room downstairs. CCP was giving the fans a chance to talk to some of the game developers, and have some nice snacks and free booze while they were at it.

This seemed to translate to "OMGfreebooze!!!!" and instead of talking to the developers, everyone seemed to go straight for the two bars, resulting in about a 45 minute wait to get drinks. I chatted some with Rich Thomas, Bill Bridges, and others before deciding to move along to bed.

Thus ended day 2. Not terribly exciting, but it involved good food, and the next day was the birthday party, so I knew adventure awaited. And indeed it did, but more on that in the next installment.

The Grand Masquerade 2010, Day 1

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

I decided to spend my 30th birthday with the White Wolf/CCP crew at The Grand Masquerade in New Orleans this year. And man was it a blast.  I had planned to do this in one post, but realized that would be a gargantuan post, so I'll do this piecemeal. So…

Day 1: Wednesday

Lauren and I drove down, got stuck behind a wreck on I-10 for over an hour, and checked in to The Roosevelt around 11. The early day was busy with work and I didn't think to eat, so the only meal I had was an Arby's meal around 3pm. This will be important in a little bit.

The hotel was… well, "fucking amazing" doesn't cover it. Opulent, gorgeous, refined, luxurious, and then some. I booked a suite, and I'm damn glad I did — not because the normal rooms are bad (they're also amazing), but the suites are that fucking sweet. Yeah, I just said that. A picture of the foyer is above, and the main bedroom is below.After having been cooped up in the car for so long, I was ready to explore. Lauren, having had to get up at 3am that morning, understandably wanted some sleep.  So, off I went to Bourbon Street alone.

Are you starting to see where that "only ate once that day" might come into play?

So I wander down Bourbon St. and find that it's pretty much exactly as I'd expected: every single establishment is either a bar, a bar with food (for some reason, they seem to think that margaritas and pizza go together as well as peanut butter and chocolate), or a strip club. None seemed to stand out until I saw a place that purported to have the most beers on Bourbon St. So I sat down and had myself an Arrogant Bastard (shut up, just shut up — it's a tasty beer!)… which ended up being $10.50. Leave it to me to find the only expensive alcohol on Bourbon St.

As I was finishing my tres-expensive beer, I got texts from some of the White Wolf crew telling me to join them at karaoke. I had a hard time figuring it out, since most of them were too drunk to correctly relay the name, but eventually figured it out to be the Cat's Meow. So I head that way, already tipsy from my one pint of high-grav beer.

I arrive to what I expect: lots of drunken White Wolf people, having pretty much taken over the place. Craig recommends the Hurricanes, I go get one. It is a $7.50 bucket of rum. Sweet, sweet rum. I take one sip and know this is dangerous. I go do the social butterfly thing, and after talking to Chris McDonough and giving him some completely heterosexual man-hugs, I look over to find my drink… stolen. For the first time in my life, I had my drink stolen. I felt robbed, I felt raped, I felt… okay well seriously I was only slightly annoyed.

"What the fuck?! Son of a…. well fuck it, they're only $7.50."

I should have taken the drink being stolen as a sign to stop. But I was only halfway through it, and I'm not a quitter. So I manned up and got another Huge Bucket of RumTM.  Remember how I said I'd only eaten once?  Yeah.

I don't remember a lot after that, other than stumbling home, buying Lauren a hot dog and having a bite of it myself, and then a few hours worshiping the porcelain goddess. At one point I was seriously wondering if I had alcohol poisoning. But I made it through, and around 5am went into restful slumber. Or to put it another way, I passed the fuck out.

Thus ended Day 1 of my grand adventure in New Orleans.

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

This post is in relation to the World of Darkness Online MMO that was recently announced at The Grand Masquerade. I've heard a few gripes that seem to come up a lot in various forms and forums, and I would like to address them here. Most of my thoughts boil down to: stop making assumptions, and have patience.

They aren't adding in X supernatural type, so I'm not going to play this game!
I realize that you don't like vampires, and that hearing whisperings of a WoD MMO made you all giddy with the possible excitement of being able to play a mage/changeling/wraith/whatever in an MMO setting, and that the news that vampires (and mortals) are your only option has filled your vagina with sand. However, if you take a moment to think about it, you will realize how retarded you are for even wanting that. Seriously, you're like a little girl demanding a pony for her birthday — you are ignorant of the logistics involved. Making a game that has multiple supernatural types out of the gate would be a disservice to the game as a whole. As the executive producer Chris McDonough said, they are focused on making the best vampire game that they can, and if that goes well, then maybe they will focus on adding other supernatural types to it, giving each their due attention as well.
 
If they were to make other supernatural types available as PCs out of the gate, then none of the supernatural types would be well-developed, and it would suck for everyone. In other words, if they were to try to give you what you want, then you would not like it. So have some patience, and encourage all of your friends who are into vampires to play the game when it comes out, and if you're lucky they'll add in your favorite supernatural type down the road and make it as cool as vampires.
 
It's not Requiem! / I hate clans! / Masquerade metaplot sucked!
Listen to what was actually said. "Based on" Masquerade. Not "going to be exactly like Masquerade."  Chris McDonough specifically stated that "we are not going to make a replica of anything we've done before. We're going to pull from all of it to make the best MMO that we can."  So stop your baseless speculation and assumptions. You don't know if there will be clans or covenants. You don't know if there will be a Caine myth in the game or not. You don't know if there will be metaplot. You don't know if Malkavians will or will not be in the game. You don't know if there will be a Camarilla and Sabbat. There will certainly be some of these things, yes. Which of these things, however, is still up in the air. And maybe there will be Circle of the Crone, or some of your other favorite elements from Requiem. Relax, wait and see.
 
They're not telling us exactly what the game is going to be like
That's because they don't know yet either. At length, they explained that MMO design is a very iterative process. What the game is like, and the direction it's going in now, might not be anything what the final product ends up being like. And if you think about it from a marketing standpoint, they don't want to blow their load too early. Excitement only lasts so long, and they've said that the game will come out 2012 at the earliest (and possibly after that, going with the Blizzard philosophy of "we'll release it when it's ready to be released, and not before"). Focus on what they have told you, and I think that should be exciting enough. Which leads us to…
 

So what have they said?

The top-level points below have been outright stated (mostly at The Grand Masquerade), sub-points are logical extensions that others have drawn.
  • It will be a player-driven game with lots of social and political elements.
    • Giving power to the players is a double-edged sword. So while they might not have mechanics to stop someone from talking in netspeak and being a douche, other players will presumably have the power to smack that bitch down1.
  • The themes that the game explores will be: Mystery, Romance, Power, Danger.
  • It will be an adult game, that aims to invoke emotion in you.
  • Vampires will be the only supernatural player characters, but stuff from the other games will be present in some form. Also, there will be the option to play a human, though no specifics on that were given.
    •  Other supernaturals will most likely be environmental content, NPCs, that sort of thing.
    •  Humans will likely be ghouls or blood dolls, but maybe we could see some human vampire hunter PCs too.
  • Character customizability and aesthetics will be big in this game. They have even hired a fashion consultant.
  • They want to make the game as accessible as possible, and this is one of their criteria for success. So they want it to be fun for both hardcore and casual gamers.
  • They also want to cater to an array of players by having three ways you can play the game: sandbox (open-ended like EVE), theme park (traditional MMOs like WoW), and coffee shop (social). These playstyles will be interconnected, with each one feeding to and from one of the others.
  • The game will not be combat-intensive, unless you choose to play it that way.
    •  Being the biggest social/political mover and shaker will garner you far more power than being the strongest fighter.
  • Factions and territories will be a big part of the game.
  • The game will have gay clubs.
  • The game will be fully PvP, but that's not to say that you can be attacked anywhere. If you don't want to get attacked, you might want to hang around Elysium a lot.
    • This will probably be like any LARP. If you go down a dark alleyway, you might get jumped by your enemies, or even some random person. On the other hand, if the person jumping you breaks the Masquerade, they're in for trouble.
  • Some Disciplines will not be included because they're impossible to have in an MMO, like Temporis.

There are some other things, mostly other nitty-gritty stuff like they are using Scrum development methodologies, have already spent like 314 man-years (which equals one Shane DeFreest year)  in development, etc. But that's the core of what is publicly known about the game so far.

[1] Few things would make me happier than to see a group of characters going around mercilessly and repeatedly killing any character who acts that way, until such point as that player starts roleplaying, or quits the game.

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How to Install Red5 0.9.1 on CentOS 5

Originally published at Umbral Echoes Blog. You can comment here or there.

 

I run an unmoderated roleplaying chat, and I've been wanting to upgrade the chat software I'm using (currently Flash chat from Tufat.com) to something a little better. Most of the "better" packages require having a Flash server installed, but Adobe's is pretty expensive. There's an open-source alternative written in Java called Red5.

However, Red5 currently suffers from pretty bad documentation. So, here's a tutorial on how to install Red5 0.9.1 under CentOS 5.

  1. Get root access (I'm not sure if this step is really necessary, but it was in my case)
    From the command prompt, execute:
    sudo -i
     
  2. Install Java
    From the command prompt, execute:
    yum -y install java-1.6.0-openjdk java-1.6.0-openjdk-devel
     
  3. Install Ant
    From the command prompt, execute:
    cd /usr/src
    wget 
    http://opensource.become.com/apache/ant/binaries/apache-ant-1.7.1-bin.tar.gz
    tar zxvf apache-ant-1.7.1-bin.tar.gz
    mv apache-ant-1.7.1/ /usr/local/ant

     
  4. Export variables for Ant and Java
    From the command prompt, execute:
    export ANT_HOME=/usr/local/ant
    export JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java
    export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/ant/bin
    export CLASSPATH=.:$JAVA_HOME/lib/
    classes.zip
    echo 'export ANT_HOME=/usr/local/ant' >> /etc/bashrc
    echo 'export JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java' >> /etc/bashrc
    echo 'export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/ant/bin' >> /etc/bashrc
    echo 'export CLASSPATH=.:$JAVA_HOME/lib/
    classes.zip' >> /etc/bashrc

     
  5. Download and install Red5 Server
    From the command prompt, execute:
    cd /usr/src
    svn checkout 
    http://red5.googlecode.com/svn/java/server/trunk/red5
    mv red5 /usr/local/
    cd /usr/local/red5
    ant prepare
    ant dist
    </p>

     

    You should see lots of output, and at the end it should say "Build successful."  If you see some errors instead of that, it's probably because you don't have Java or Ant installed correctly.  I'm not really experienced enough to give troubleshooting tips with that.
     

  6. (Optional) Edit Red5 config file
    By default, the config sets Red5 up to bind to all IPs.  If you don't want it to do that, edit red5/conf/red5.properties file, and anywhere you see the IP 0.0.0.0 replace it with your server's actual IP address. You can find this IP by executing this command:
    /sbin/ifconfig eth0| grep 'inet addr:'
    Then use the IP address listed directly after "inet addr:"

     
  7. Install Tomcat container
    This is necessary to make it so that you can verify your installation and administer it via the web.
    </p>

     

    1. Create the directory red5/plugins.
    2. Go to http://www.red5.org/wiki/AppServer/JEEContainerPlugins, download the pre-compiled Tomcat JAR and save it to red5/plugins
    3. Look inside of that Tomcat JAR (you can rename it to .zip and unzip it if need be), extract the jee-container.xml file, replace your current red5/conf/jee-container.xml file with that one.
    4. Go to http://code.google.com/p/red5/source/browse/#svn/repository/tomcat, save the latest version of each file there to red5/plugins
      • As of when this guide was written, this includes 6.0.26 of Catalina and Jasper and Tomcat-Coyote, and 6.0.20 of Tomcat-dbcp, Tomcat-juli, and Tomcat-juli-adapters
         
  8. Start Red5 and test installation
    From the command prompt in the /usr/local/red5 directory, execute:
    ./red5.sh
    If all goes well, that should end with something to the effect of "[INFO] [Launcher:/installer] org.red5.server.service.Installer – Installer service created".  If it hangs at "Bootstrap complete," that most likely means that you did not correctly install the Tomcat container in the previous step.

Note that when you launch from the command line, if you kill that terminal window then Red5 will stop running as well. In not too long I'm going to update this tutorial to show you how to get around that.

 

 

 

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