Friday, March 15, 2013

DDO Buyer Beware

I've been making sure my gamer friends are aware of a kind of duplicitous item pack DDO has for sale. They don't outright lie about it, but lie by implication and omission. The item is the "Dungeons & Dragons Online™: Starter Pack - Digital Download".

First the implication. To date the only "pet pack" DDO has sold directly was the one that came with the Underdark pre-order. Everything on the pre-order was per character. Which makes sense. They are digital items so there is nothing to produce after it is made. The other implication you can see above: "Permanent Cleric Hireling - Every new adventurer can use a hand! Enhance your journey with Elieri Thistledown, a Level 3 Hireling." With how they've been handled to this point and that wording many would think that this item is collectable on a per character basis.

That is where the omission comes in the fact that this is one per account. You don't get one per character. While the Cleric(and xp potions) is Account bound and can be passed around the scorpion is not. And if you don't want to have to keep track of who has your Level 3 Cleric each time that means you would have to pay 20/30/80+ dollars depending on how many characters you have. Not once in the purchasing are you warned about this fact. They know to many this starter pack isn't worth the $10 dollars that they are trying get you for. Especially for a digital item that costs them nothing to produce. However rather than informing people they want to catch those that would be willing for one that gave on a per character basis.

It is extremely underhand when coupled with the fact that many people have been telling them this on the forums and yet they still do nothing to warn others.  So far everyone that I know who is playing is passing on the item once they know it is basically $10 per character. I hope this post helps others before they make the same mistake I did.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Elements of a story lost

Just to warn that while this post doesn't contain any profanities nor anything explicit it does however mention what are considered adult concepts.

While I think there are a great many of good writers I think there are a lot of stories that end up unenjoyable or even awful. There are a great many reasons for this. Everything from personal preference to good writing with poor execution. An individual reader's personal preference generally isn't something a writer can actually do anything about while poor execution is. I say generally because too often were a writer of a series will go wrong is in the execution which as I said is something that can be controlled.

You might ask what I mean. Go ahead, ask. Thank you. ;) What I mean is there are two key points consistency and plot structure. While consistency is extremely key to the life of a series where writers seem to fall down even more is in plot structure. I can't speak about education much before or after my own, however if you graduated high school around 1994(you have even less excuse if you went to college) some time during those long years of schooling you should have learned that any good story can be broken in to essentially three parts. Generally you will first learn this as Beginning, Middle, and the End. What you learn later is that actually the key is Build up, Climax, and Resolution(while it can be broken up even further these are the three main points). Which, yes, actually applies to many enjoyable aspects of life. :p

The red line is to show that a book might cover not only a key point but be a transition between two.  In this instance the transition between the climax and the start of the resolution.

The difference is subtle but important because the climax doesn't have to be the exact "middle" of a story. It will be in there generally between a Build up that isn't stretched out too long and a Resolution that isn't rushed. The problem I see most in a series is that while they can get down each stories BCR they fail in the series. They can't see the series for the books. They then wonder why they've lost readers around book 3 or why people are upset about the series end.

This gets worse the longer the series is. Too often they end up repeating elements so much that nothing it really left for the resolution of the story. The climax is about the hero/heroine continually almost getting(or getting) raped, maimed, death of best friend number three, or their relationship is over....again. The elements are repeated at nauseam to the extent the plot is a run on sentence.  TheHero/HeroineRisesToGreatPowerFallsFortheHeroine/HeroTheHero/HeroineGetstheirLimbsChoppedOffWhileTheHeroine/HeroIsRapedInFrontOfThemThenTheyWinTheEnd. Too often instead of the above of BCR we instead end up with the above run on sentence with a series story that just suddenly ends.

If you stop and look at it there is no wonder why people are left the way they are. A reader looks up after some point and wonders where that great beginning went.  Some times they are even apathetic to the end of the villain because it was anticlimactic.  They are then left wondering why the end feels so poor while they enjoyed the series(assuming they finished it). Another reason is that if in book 1/2 they are ending a relationship or killing the ultimate villain then in book 4/5 they really shouldn't be doing the same things again.

Goodking and the Sword of Truth series is a good example of the repetitive. The first book is a great build up and then after that each book is pretty much the same. Some where around the 6th(may have been 7th) book when the Heroine was almost getting raped for the 7th or 8th time after them going through hell and back again, I kind of gave up. I finished that book and then never picked up another one. By this time, for the most part, I knew exactly how the story would end.

There are exceptions where the author wakes up to the fact. The Frost and the Night Huntress series#I'm speaking of the series and not the spin offs). I was about done after book 3. For a UF series it was annoying that at start of each greater conflict was their relationship conflict. The meat of the story always dealt with a much bigger conflict which, thankfully, made the relationship conflict redundant. Especially so because it happened at the beginning of each book. I'm not sure if it was the plan from the start or that she did wake up to the fact that you can't carry the over all series story with "and they broke up again".  Book 4 was a noticeable improvement and instead of this steady flat line there has been this feeling of build up.  To what we don't know yet, but if she can keep it up without falling back into what was happening in the first books then we could be in for a good series end.

As regrettable as Twilight is(mainly for the type of standards set), the series manages to keep sight of the fact(either on accident or no purpose). While the final book has its own BCR the whole final half of the book is a resolution. People who like "romance"(I quote because I know some romance readers would kill me for calling it a romance) have the whole end of the book(in spite of the conflict that is still occurring) to soak in their happily ever after. I feel safe in saying this because you'll notice that they were not calling for Meyer's head on a pike. You laugh, but I've seen animal less rabid over food than some of the fans over this series. I know a guy that went to buy the last book left of the series final for his daughter and lost an arm(ok I don't actually, but I'm sure it almost happened).

Build up, Climax, Resolution are important elements to a story and this becomes no less when dealing with a series as a whole. It becomes even more imperative if you are going to keep readers for the life of your series. You can't ignore this very basic aspect of storytelling. At some point you need to move past/resolve a subplot so that you can give way to new ones and not just the same ones reused.

(Did a little clean up.  Also updated chart 2 to show a better relationship between books and points along the plot line and add a note explaining the red line.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Circle of stupid

I read a blog post by one of the author's I like to read that sparked an overly long response from me. Her blog post can be found here: What sparked her blog was her thoughts on this blog post: So if you continue what you are going to read is a blog post, sparked by a blog post, sparked by non other than a blog post. It a chain re-blog-action.

I have to agree with was seems to be the opinion of the author's post that it isn't about regression and more conforming to the idea of not conforming. However I think it goes beyond just that and beyond just an age group. It is the circle of stupid. It started in media that society decided to start reflecting so media started reflecting society. It comes down to two thoughts. That it is both the in thing and the fun thing to do. Many when asked say they do it because it is fun, but if they are honest they often don't find it fun at all. They have rather bought into the fact it should be fun. That because some people like them can find it fun it therefor is. That maybe they just are not trying hard enough. So they go out and drink, drug more, cheat more, because at some point it will be fun. And that fun will make up for everything that they've done.  They will hit that magical critical mass where everything beyond that point what follows is the fun it appears to be.

This has become more and more reflected in all media, but it is extremely noticeable in books. 50 shades of grey just being the top of the mountain to this point. From a UF reader perspective there seems to have been this push that a writer must follow a formula. That certain things will make a hit book and lacking these things means the series must change or will not make it. Not being a writer I'm not sure if these are coming from the publishing side or the writer side. Cheating, addiction, and a certain sense that if it is 60's -ish then anything done can't be a morel issue, but rebelling and that bad is the new good. Either outright (cheating, drug addiction, etc) or indirectly (it isn't cheating if you love the person your cheating with, various other substances drug like but not, etc). Entertainment came up with this and it has come full circle to where it now reflects some views instead. I vomit a little every time I hear or see reviews how romantic it was that character Y cheated with X because they are so much in love and how at the same time Y still love her/his husband/wife.

I mean we has humans have always had perception problems. However it has come a point to where it is more than just a few people, but many people where truth is only in how we perceive it. Only what I see as the truth is the truth. And then I gather around people that also want to see my truth. You can take for instances as was mentioned the punishing of a child. How all whipping is bad. How you are obviously abusing your child. Another example of perception at work I use to work support for a cable provider.

I got yelled at a few times because their child watched something they didn't want them to while they were not at home. How it was my/our fault. "I work till 8 o'clock at night and my kid is at home watching show X/ordering adult PPV/etc" Because they didn't want to set parental controls, hire a baby sitter, restrict their access to adult content, it was my/our fault. I was specifically told it was my fault more than once(not the companies). I guess I failed to hit the little red button on my desk that stops that sort of thing. My bad.

Another thing that left me speechless. I was listening to a radio show a few months back and they were interviewing some of the people a part of the first part of the Occupy Wall Street thing. They were talking to one of the organizers or a spokesman for one of the groups (I came in after the said who the person was) and couple of the other people. One of which I can call nothing but one of his followers. What really disturbed me was the attitude of them all especially the follower. She said she saw this sit in on the news and realized that what our country was going through was just horrible. I'll be paraphrasing a bit here and have to admit that my perception of some of this maybe incorrect.

She said that night she told her husband good night, went and tucked her two children into bed, and walked out to join the sit-in. How she had to do something. Any responsible person would. Went on to talk about how all the support from people was great(never speaking to the question about whether her family might have supported her or not). How it was tough, but they persevered. She and the organizer went on about it all. How it was so great that a few of them let her share there tent at night. How they even rented an apartment and the two of them would go there for an hour some times.

It is at this point you can hear the interviewers mental breaks slam and come to a screeching halt. He didn't say or imply anything, but he starts with the probing questions about the apartment. I can't remember the exact words that led up to the moment, but you can hear the point when her voice goes into utter panic when she starts to put together what the organizer and her had said in the last 15 minutes that pretty much sounds like she left her husband and kids to sleep around at a wall street sit in. I mean I could be wrong. She could have clued into the fact everything the both of them had been saying could be misconstrued into this fact. She could have had an utterly dumb blond(being blond I can say that) 15 minutes where no actual thought was put into what she was saying vs what was actually happening. After the mindless tripe they had been spouting the 30 minutes before that has me doubt though.

There was(or is?) a certain mind set that set out to, like with the tea party sit in, show a legitimate grievance in a passive aggressive way. Then there was this other mindset that wanted to live or relive the 60's "in all its glory" and fix everything that was wrong in the ways they thought it was wrong sure in the knowledge a problem is fixed only by complaing about it. The first I can laud their attempt whether I believe it was the right way or the wrong way to do it or if a better way may have been missed. The second need to just grow up.

I remember sitting around listening to my grandparents talk about what they saw as a decline in values.  I remember thinking that while what some of what they said could be true they just didn't get it.  Now I sit and see the same thing.  I don't know if it is the fact I can't understand the change(though I'm much younger than when they started) or if it is just that messed up.  There is a problem however in that while I could be wrong, I might be right.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Professionalism by any other name

It seems there is this debate that has been going around for a little while that has been labled "Librarians vs Bloggers".  The crux of it seems to have come out of a recent American Library Association Annual Conference.  Some of which has this blogger scratching his head.  First here are a few posts an articles to catch you up.

I have to say I came away with a very different view of the PW article than some did. It mentioned a problem some people are seeing. Maybe I'm wrong, but many seemed to have taken it more personally than the article seems intended for. Many a blogger seems to feel the martyred because of this whole issue. Which leave this little blogger scratching his head. Whether a blogger is or can be a professional is really totally beside the point.

I have to agree that bloggers can be important word of mouth outlet for Publishers. I also know there are a lot of other ways to get access to ARC's (Advanced Reader Copy) as well. It seems to me a convention like the American Library Association(I feel that people want to gloss over the importance of it by using the acronym) shouldn't be one of those places for bloggers to try and obtain them. Nothing against bloggers, but a convention designed specially for a group of professionals in the end is for those very professionals. It isn't very professional to over look that fact.

People in their righteous indignation seem to want over look that fact. As if the fact they are right in their mind(being right or not being aside the fact) excuses certain behaviors. It doesn't. Too many seem to think that being polite about something means they can be rude about something else. I've seen this on both sides and like many things people have been taking it to ridiculous lengths.

I also want to point out I don't see the Publishers failure to comment(in both the PW and in other places) supportive of the blogger view. I think it was nothing more than the sense to stay out of the argument. Whatever they decide to do, nothing positive could be gained from making a vocal stance either way. Even a moderate response could be used in a way that might not be intended just as no comment might be found supportive. Their best interest is to officially have no interest at all. In the end their only say is if they show up to something like the ALA and how many ARC's they decide to give out or not. Anything else is up to the event and attendees.

If what tLL said in a follow up blog post(linked above) was true then the video wasn't taken as intended, but the whole issue does bring up something that perhaps need to be resolved. The PW article to me does nothing but help point that out. I didn't come away from the PW article thinking less of some bloggers. I have come away from some of the responses to it thinking less though.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Justice Department vs Apple and Publishers

Original Article:

Follow up by Columnist:

Breakdown(have no clue who this is, but was referred to it by several authors and it is a good read):

And now my 2 cents.

It is about time. While Amazon was quite likely under pricing that really has to be argued on a case by case basis since we don’t have a scale by which to judge a minimum price. However if you can say that they were then you can definitely say the big 6 are over pricing a great many if not most. I ran into several books that were 20 year old best sellers that they were trying to sell at $20 to $50 dollars.

1) Not a hard back.
2) 20 years old!!!
3) Bite me.

Rather than find a happy medium apple gave them cart blanche because they had no reason to care about the outcome either way as long as they could sell to their customers. And it also made for more friendly considerations. That little Apple back stab to readers allowed them to force price fixing(often over the actual cost of the last printed copy). On top of the fact of contracts being just vague enough to apply to the new medium often preventing an author from self-publishing a re-release or contracting to have it done.

I just hope something GOOD comes out of this because there are a lot of ways things could become much worse.

Another thing while I can't deny that Amazon's ability to under price has a lot to do with not maintaining store fronts I cannot agree this is solely the reason why many are going out of business. The land scape has been changing and would change over time even if we didn't have someone as big as Amazon. Proof is in just how the various markets changed before said Amazon. Book stores long ago move from selling just books to selling other items, adding cafes, to giving incentives like free wifi. I would say in the case of books their biggest limiters have been the publishing comapines themselves. They seemed to forget that they did have a symbosis with brick and morter stores. One that they are effectively choking off.

The other part falls on the stores themselves as it is up to them to provide the value(as I've pointed out they've had to do in the past) to keep them going. Some do, but it is kind of haphazzardly handled. Story readings, lauch events, etc are a short list of things that have proven effective, but are rarely used. Many authors still do signing and such. You can't put up a token effort and expect people to come flocking in or take time out of an already full schedule to come in. Value isn't only it the price of what you sale, but in everything you can give to the customer to shop with you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Protests about Mass Effect 3 Endings turns into a great charity opportunity.

Like many when I heard the alternate endings of Mass Effect 3 and found that none of them appealed to how I would play the character, I decided to not purchase the game. As well I chose to pass up on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning because it is another EA title. I thought nothing more of it after that. Generally there is no better way to protest a video game. It seems others went above and beyond in protesting the endings however. In what hast to be one of the most positive protests that has to have been seen in years.

Yes, they are talking with their money but not in a traditional sense. They are doing so by giving money to charity. How cool is that. As I said I see it as the most productive protest in a long, long time. It shows that these people are not trying to come from a position of entitlement that often they are disparaged as doing, but a true dissatisfaction with the state of the game.

Now you might ask how can you get involved? The best place is to start here. The community has been keeping on top of this and Bachuck's opening post is kept up to date with really great information.

Addational Links(warning some containt spoilers):
Game Front: 5 Reasons Fans Are Right

Friday, March 16, 2012

In responce

With the announcement of the Enhanced Edition of Baldur's Gate 1 & 2 I became aware again of Trent Oster's (of BioWare Fame) blog. Reading down I was faced with a post he made to an issue that as far as I'm aware still isn't dead yet(though I haven't found anything more current than that). That being Lodsys and their attempt to collect on what they claimed was license fees due from Apple App Developers. Which brings me back to his post. While I can agree with where his comments came from I can't agree with what I read as a knee jerk reaction.

Below is what my response to his post would be. Since the post is over 10 months old I didn't post this to his comments. It would be pointless to start a discussion on something he posted that long ago. However since I have a blog where I can post my thoughts no matter their source I'm going to post what my response would be any way.

I just found your blog again after having not read it for over a year and I read this old post about the situation with Lodsys. While what you said at the time would be good in theory it didn't look at the other side of the coin. Those people that have the ideas, but are unable to produce them. In your example since a patent is public a company that can produce "it" need only wait the 5 years. They then profit off that persons work without which they may never have been able to create the item.

In many fields the 20 year(at maximum I believe) exclusivity rule works because the item will be either worth the money to buy right to produce it now, be improved to the point waiting to the end of the patent term is worth the money, or be obsolete and therefor not worth anyone's time to produce now or maybe ever. The length of time is generally dependent on those very facts and the impact the type of patent could have for the good.

I'm not saying that any of that stands in this case nor do I agree with what is happening as I know it. I find, by what I've read is happening, their actions totally abhorrent. And as much as I can agree we have major issues with our system and how much it promotes greed/stupidity the core is to protect those that do not have the ability to protect themselves. Sadly on the flip side of what is happening here is the people who do get cheated out of their hard work. Many is the well known that died poorer because of their invention which was then lost to those able to take advantage.

I guess that was all just a long winded way of say it works both ways.