July 21st, 2017

"...keep them playing – and paying."


Server Crashes, 40GB Patches and DLC: Gaming's Biggest Irritations Explained [The Guardian] "Video games have changed immeasurably since the days of tape loading and cover-mounted floppy discs. Today, we get lifelike 3D virtual worlds where the player can seamlessly connect with companions and opponents from every corner of the globe. An online triple-A title will now offer literally hundreds of hours of fun spread across years of play. Yet, inflation aside, the price we pay at the till remains the same now as it was 25 years ago. To make this possible, a lot of things have changed about the way the games industry works – but those changes haven't always been well received. When problems arise, frustrated consumers will often blame "money-grubbing" publishers or "lazy" developers. But is that fair? We asked the industry to explain five of the most controversial aspects of modern games buying – and, crucially, why they happen. 1. Downloadable content 2. Season passes 3. Day-one patches 4. Pre-orders 5. Server crashes"

• With the Apparent Death of Season Passes and $15 DLC, Did We Actually End Up With a Worse Deal? [VG24/7]
"For the longest time, games followed a single cadence with post-launch content: expansion packs that launched at around 50 percent of the base game's price, and required the main game to function. Then DLC happened, and with it came season passes. Since then, season passes and piece-meal content packs have been the defacto way for publishers to support multiplayer games post launch, until very recently. Suddenly, one game after another started offering or promising post-launch content for free. Sometimes this takes the form of new maps, modes, and weapons. The one thing all games that shifted to this model have in common is microtransactions. For the most part, these tend to offer cosmetic items and other trinkets that don't interfere with gameplay. When they do interfere, they're handled well enough that you can ignore them, or earn an equivalent just by playing. This move has largely been positively received, save for those who have a principled stance against microtransactions in full-priced games."
• Season Passes Are Starting To Sound Like Scams [Game Informer]
"The first season pass that I can remember clearly was for Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire. Although many people (myself included) reacted negatively at the notion of pre-buying DLC, Rockstar successfully detailed its plans for L.A. Noire's extended content with descriptions and release dates for each piece. Yes, Rockstar put an incentive on buying it quickly – a two-dollar deduction for early birds – but there was no guesswork on the consumer's part. We knew exactly what we were getting into. That's an example of how season passes can (and should) work. Given how these passes are issued now (especially the examples I listed), they sound like scams coming from money-hungry corporations. The point of DLC is to entice the player base to hold onto their game and revisit it. I get that. I like the proposition of getting more value out of my game, even if I have to pay for it in some way. But I want to feel confident in my purchases, and not be left wondering if I'm being taken advantage of."
• The Multiplayer Season Pass is Almost Dead, This is How For Honor and Titanfall 2 Are Killing It [GamesRadar+]
"For Honor's developers plan to release all of the game's post-release multiplayer maps and modes for free, following more than a year of high-profile games that have abandoned the once-common paid DLC format. If you play many big, non-free-to-play multiplayer games, this development likely feels long overdue for you, and doubly so for your wallet. Titanfall 2, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch, and Gears of War 4 have all taken a similar angle. The latest scions of the two big shooter series, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, persist in parceling out paid map packs on top of their full game price, but clearly the times are a-changin' - I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last year for both of their usual passes as we know them. It's a welcome sea change for multiplayer gaming, and the reason couldn't be simpler. [...] "We need to trust the player and they need to trust us," McCoy said. "Trust that if we do the right thing - not sell maps and modes - we'll get more people investing with us, investing in the game as a whole. They're going to trust us not to screw them over and they can be happy with their $60 versions". That doesn't mean multiplayer games just want to take your $60 and to leave it at that, of course. They're just finding smarter, less-disruptive ways to get extra cash out of you."
• 7 Reasons Why Gamers Support DLC and Season Passes [The Gizmo Life]
1. Season Passes are cheaper
2. Season Pass holders get Early Access to DLCs
3. Season Pass holders get exclusive bonuses
4. DLCs offer normally inaccessible content
5. DLCs help in keeping things fresh
6. DLC items sometimes give godly benefits
7. To show support to the developers
• From Expansion Packs to DLC: The Evolution of Additional Video Game Content [The Artifice]
"Anyone with a good internet connection now has the ability to purchase and download a title on release day. Good expansion packs like those for the older Blizzard games on PC are not things of the past as some would think – The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine being an example of that – yet the marketplace is filled with an over abundance of frivolous offers that many see as a detriment to the entire industry of video gaming, a shallow cash grab from a cynic's point of view. Overall, what the history of additional content for video games has shown is that it is not the distribution abilities that is the pivotal aspect to what makes additional content worth it or not, but whether or not the time and care was put into the project. Because of the high profits being made currently, this practice that the majority of game companies follow concerning downloadable content will continue on without any major changes. Gamers should demand that additional content be something that thoroughly expands on the initial experience of the original title, and perhaps most importantly these additions must show that the makers respect their fanbase."
• Nintendo's New Fire Emblem DLC Costs More Than the Game Itself [The Verge]
"Given that Shadows of Valentia costs $39.99, that makes either DLC option more expensive than the base game, something that even games with price $50 season passes like Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty, and Battlefield 1 have yet to accomplish. That price gets you five DLC packs: Fledgling Warriors, which offers two new maps and a dungeon to explore; Undaunted Heroes, for another two maps and a dungeon; Lost Altars, which will add some more dungeons and new character classes, Rise of the Deliverance, which offers some prologue story DLC with new missions and voice acting; and a fifth and final pack that Nintendo has yet to detail. While that's not a bad selection of content when it comes to add-ons to the base game, the total price — which is, again, more than the entire "main" game — isn't a great look for Nintendo, which had spent years holding out on selling downloadable content and instead simply packaged games as complete experiences out of the box."
• What's One Lesson You Wish Developers and Publishers Would Learn? [Destructoid]
GoofierBrute: File both of these under the "never going to happen" folder, but I wish publishers would A) stop rushing out their games just to meet a deadline, and B) don't announce DLC or a Season Pass when the game isn't out yet. Let me break it down:
A) In the case of the first one, I wish publishers and developers would take their time when it came developing games. I know this is all about money, and in this day and age of digital distribution it's super easy to patch games, but you only get one chance and make a good first impression. Take No Man's Sky; it's a lot better now than it was when it first came out, but because the game was such a disappointing mess, it doesn't matter that it's better because everyone else just moved on. I'm not saying a game should be indefinite development (hello Duke Nukem Forever), but a game shouldn't be rushed out the door just to meet a deadline. Take your time, and make the best possible game that you can.
B) This one is pretty straightforward: stop trying to sell me a Season Pass for your game that isn't out yet. I don't know if you're going to support the game after launch, let alone if it's even good enough to warrant buying DLC, so why should I buy a Season Pass? And if you are going to do that, at least tell me what's in it before I buy it. I'm not expecting a full checklist, but at least something like what Nintendo did with Mario Kart 8, where they said "here's our Season Pass. You get two packs, each coming with three racers, vehicles, and 2 cups. You can buy them individually, but if you get both, you get it at a reduced price and free in game skins that you can use right away."

Does "Fuel On Hand" Make Coal and Nuclear Power Plants More Valuable?


Does "fuel on hand," stored onsite in substantial amounts, make fueled power stations somehow more resilient and valuable than other generators? It's a good question with more claims than analysis, but historical experience may suggest useful insights. (Rocky Mountain Institute)

Big Pacific Behind The Scenes Filming Pufferfish Building A Nest


Take 15 minutes to watch "Chapter 1" of this Big Pacific episode "Behind The Scenes", wherein a film crew innovates ways to film a pufferfish building a nest to attract a female. I'm sorry there is no transcript, and I can't check for region blocking.

Also apologies that I cannot link directly to the episode but it is at the top of the PBS page for the show.

there is a reason it looks like pvc piping and couplings...


In 2002, the Science Museum of Minnesota absorbed the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices when the curator's health failed. Many of them are still on display, but even those of us unlucky enough to live far from St. Paul can still tour the museum virtually. Come see the foot-powered breast enlarger! Feast your eyes on the Prostate Gland Warmer! Marvel at the Timely Warning! But whatever you do, perhaps don't sample the delights of the Shoe-fitting X-Ray or the Relaxacisor.

Mathematical Paintings of Crockett Johnson


From 1965 until his death in 1975 Crockett Johnson painted over 100 works relating to mathematics and mathematical physics. Of these paintings, eighty are found in the collections of the National Museum of American History. We present them here, with related diagrams from the artist's library and papers.

Note that the "expand" link by each entry reveals detailed information.

Bonus link: A Geometry Theorem Looking for a Geometric Proof

Why Women Pretended to Be Creepy Rocks and Trees in NYC Parks During WWI


Imagine taking a quiet stroll through the expansive wilderness of Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, New York. You're surrounded by a forest of oak trees, stony ridges, and a tranquil lake—completely isolated and alone in nature. But in 1918, visitors to the 1,146-acre park were unaware that they were in the company of a group of women hiding among the rocks, trees, and grass.

... The women disguised in special (and fairly creepy) dried grass or "rock suits" were student military camouflage artists, or camoufleurs, of the Women's Reserve Camouflage Corps, a forgotten division of the National League for Women's Service.

A treasure trove of electronic tunes from Aphex Twin and his aliases


Aphex Twin recently launched a countdown on his website. It began on the same day he performed at Field Day festival in London, where he sold a mysterious 12" and, for the first time in his career, live-streamed his set. And then he dropped the biggest bomb: an expanded collection of the Richard D. James releases since 1991, even pulling from some of his alternate alias side projects (AFX, Polygon Window, The Tuss, etc). You can buy FLAC or MP3s, or use the embedded streaming audio player with unlimited access to the entire catalog, and there's still more to come...

Lying to ourselves about mortality is what separates us from cats.


It's Okay to be a Coward about Cancer. Josh Friedman, tv writer and showrunner of the (late, beloved) tv series Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, shares some thoughts on dealing with cancer. Cancer doesn't give a damn how tough you are. Cancer doesn't care if you stared down the North Koreans, or won the Tour De France, or wrote two seasons of a scary robot show.

They're good wolves, Bront


Your dog is basically a super social wolf, and scientists may have found the gene that makes him want to cuddle with you.

A new study shows that friendliness in dogs is associated with the same genes that make some people hyper-social.

The study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, found that structural variations in three genes on chromosome 6 are correlated with how much canines socialize with humans. An analysis of DNA from two dozen animals revealed that these genes look very different in dogs than they do in wolves.

Mutations in the same genes are also linked with a rare developmental disorder in humans called Williams-Beuren Syndrome, or WBS. People with WBS are typically hyper-social, meaning they form bonds quickly and show great interest in other people, including strangers. Other symptoms include developmental and learning disabilities as well as cardiovascular problems.