Brad Wardell's Blog


Will aliens even understand us?

Published on Monday, August 27, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Galactic Community

Great article on Astronomy.com today.  The question is, would aliens even understand us if we communicated with them?

We take so many things for granted when it comes to communication.  For example, in Star Control: Origins, there tended to be an assumption that aliens would have a mouth.  Why would they have a mouth for communication? That seems to be a pretty big assumption.

It seems fair to ask whether anything that would encounter what we send out would be able to make sense of what we send out.

record_and_cover

This might mean nothing. And the sounds the record produce might not even be in a frequency that something could hear.  The range of frequencies we can detect are pretty limited.

 

Star Control: Screenshot Friday 8.24.18

Published on Friday, August 24, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

We are less than a month away!

Here are some new screenshots to show some of the progress as we near "gold".

Update to the old-style computer monitor.

New introduction after you enter in your data as you arrive at Star Control!

 

The Codex is just about done. This is the in-game manual.

 

Lots of subtle changes based on beta feedback on how to make it clear how much damage you're going to get.

 

Terran Cruiser updated in style to match the flag ship style.

Lots of little tweaks to the visuals on planets.  Not easy to see but significant performance boosts combined with being prettier. The optimizations let us have much more detailed textures.

 

A new Menkmack character arrives.

 

Stay tuned to this thread for more!

You do not have an absolute right to anonymity

Published on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

This morning I awoke to see one of the most flagrant examples of doxing ever.

Now, to be fair, this person did apologize:

image

This event started because the social media person at a game company made a joke that this person didn't like.  To make that person pay "in real life", they took it upon themselves to find out who the person was and make their information public.  This is an ugly trend that seems to be gaining momentum.  Someone offends you with words, you try to ruin their reputation or career in real life. How do we stop this?

Well, let's look at this case. What caused this person to suddenly apologize and protect their account? We can only speculate.  But I suspect you, the reader, have some pretty good guesses of what happened.  I suspect that people found out who this person is in real life and found out they too have a career that they don't want to have affected.  I suspect, like many people, they instinctively believed in anonymity for me but not for thee was in play.  That said, good for them for apologizing. 

As someone who has been doxed hundreds (literally as in >99) of times over the years including having my home address posted with a picture of my house posted with a note that someone "should do something" about me as well as someone using that information to call our house and threaten to murder my wife and (disgusting act) my son, I am very well in tune to what doxing is (and isn't). 

You do not have an absolute right to anonymity

What happens online should stay online.  We should respect people's privacy and we should respect their desire to be anonymous.  But that is not the same as having an absolute right.  As soon as someone's online actions start to have real world consequences for their target, all bets are off.

I've been online since the Commodore 64 BBS days. There has been a gradual, but unmistakable, trend towards believing that no matter what someone does, it is out of bounds to reveal who that person is in real life.  That's insane.  If someone is trying to get someone else fired from their real life job then they should have no illusions that the target or friends of their target might return the favor.

To give you an idea of how out of touch some people are, I've actually had people quote me saying what I essentially wrote above as evidence that I support doxing.  This is akin to saying I support violence if I believe in the right of self-defense. 

Would those critics suggest that if someone was calling for violence against someone and posting their address that it would be immoral to find out who that person is? Of course not. They've already agreed that anonymity isn't absolute, we are only discussing when it should be pierced.

If we want people to stop trying to destroy other people's real-life careers, we need to find a way to discourage that kind of behavior.  To do that, we need to reverse the trend that allows people to think that they can hide behind their Internet anonymity while they try to destroy someone's livelihood and that is to recognize that anonymity isn't a right, it's a privilege that shouldn't be abused.

Rule of thumb

If you are trying to harm an individual in the real world, such as trying to get them fired or do not be surprised if they or their friends return the favor. I suspect that is what Matt there discovered when he decided to try to damage the employee at CDPR in real life.

Star Control: Origins Prelude 8 of 13 - The User Interface of Star Control

Published on Monday, August 20, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

Most fans of our previous games know that we make a lot of strategy games. Strategy games are all about having as much data on-screen at one time as possible.

But Star Control isn't a strategy game, it's an action RPG.  It took us a very...very long time to nail down the user interface we wanted for Star Control: Origins, mostly due to having to quit trying to make a strategy game UI for an RPG. 

SC__UI_Watermark

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Screenshot Friday 8.17.2018

Published on Friday, August 17, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

It is...FRIDAY!

New screenshots!

 

The further you get from Earth, the stranger the planets.

The Codex is designed to help provide background on the lore of Star Control: Origins as well as a "how to play" guide wrapped into one.

Don't want to do any spoilers so I can't really show off some of the other pages. But over the course of your adventure, you'll start picking up a lot of...stuff.

Your ship from orbit.

Just little bits of polish.

 

Destinations on planets are now fully handled by things you can build in the building crafter.

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

5 Social Media Truths

Published on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Personal Computing

Being involved in gaming communities means dealing with a lot of drama.  The most common problem I observe are people who have no capacity for empathy.  It never occurs to them what someone might do back at them.

Here are a few truths I've come to recognize:

  1. If you attack someone's livelihood, don't be surprised if someone returns the favor.
  2. You have no right to anonymity. People should respect your privacy but don't confuse respect with rights.
  3. Do not assume that you can attack the "Bigger person" with impunity. There is no rule that states that your target won't punch down in response.
  4. If you dance around a dumpster fire along enough, you will get burned.
  5. Don't apply rules to others that you do not keep yourself.

For me, these 5 rules have been a survival guide over the past three decades I've been online.  As I once explained to a colleague, you cannot infinitely absorb abuse from people and stay balanced.  You have to either redirect it harmlessly or failing that, make sure the perpetrator is given a figurative knock with a rolled up newspaper.

The counter-response, the one I've heard decade after decade usually involves "you have to ignore them".  That sort of response only comes from people who have never been the subject of social media mob justice or someone dedicated to your personal, real-life, destruction. 

One example of someone who got a harsh lesson was a friend of my wife who heard me complain about the review bombing of my book.  Mind you, this book was released in 2010, long before there was any awareness of the concept of "Social Justice Warriors".  In brief, a handful of people from a particular political forum wanted to make sure my "vile" (i.e. libertarian-like) political opinions resulted in me paying a price in real life.  Sound familiar?

Now, back in those days, I was still firmly in the "don't dignify with response, ignore it" camp that our PR people always insisted on.  So I just took it and complained to my wife and her friend.  She insisted that I just had to grow a thicker skin and proceeded to write a glowingly positive review that quickly resulted in the dogpilers to turn on her.  She became incredibly upset and raged "My family can see these comments about me!" and proceeded to delete her review.  Doing so, incidentally, resulted in a long-running myth that my wife reviews our stuff. 

But the point was made: It's easy give advice that amounts to "ignore the haters" but it's another thing to actually be on the receiving end of it. Which is why I live by those 5 rules. 

Star Control: Origins Prelude 7 of 13 - The Aliens of Star Control Part 2

Published on Monday, August 13, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

In one of our other dev journals, we showed the pipeline of how aliens came to be in Star Control: Origins.  The process started with the artists and the writers working in parallel.  The artists would sketch up lots and lots of alien shapes, and the writers would design the history and lore and roles of the aliens. From there, the process would begin to merge to ensure that the final alien visual expression matched up with the lore for them.

Today we're going to begin walking you through how the Star Control aliens that appear in Star Control: Origins were developed.

Do you have enough Jeff in your life?

We first have to separate the difference between a character and a species.  In the classic Star Control series, there was Fwiffo, the character and Spathi, the species.  For the most part, Star Control: Origins focuses on species but there are also a few characters and one of our favorites is Jeff.

Ironically, as far as I know, Jeff's species is not revealed in Star Control: Origins.  I won't spoil Jeff's personality but you can get an idea of what he looks like and how he evolved.

First, you have the inkblots:

Character_Thumbnails_LGSheet_02

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Star Control planet names

Published on Thursday, August 9, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control

We are in balance mode for Star Control: Origins and part of this process involves placing hand crafted planets to help with late game pacing.

Since we are hand placing them, we're hand naming them too.

If you have a planet you would like to name, feel free to suggest them here.  No promises but if they are fitting, we will do our best.

 

Star Control: Origins Prelude 6 of 13: The Ships of Star Control

Published on Monday, August 6, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Star Control Journals

Not all ships are created equally.  This is particularly true for the ships of Star Control itself.  In the year 2088, the United Earth Advanced Space Vehicle Program (UEASV) had done its best given the politics involved.  But ultimately, what Star Control starts out with is a ship with very much the capabilities that a ship in 2088 would have, which is to say: it can... turtle around the solar system.

The first long-range ship program - the Vindicator program - was designed to allow the ship to be frequently updated with new modules.  Because the ship was designed to handle technology from different nations such as the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, etc. the interfaces are remarkably flexible.

Ironically, this need for flexibility has also made the Vindicator class well suited for plugging into alien technology that arrives...

image

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Trademarks vs. Copyrights - A layperson's guide

Published on Sunday, August 5, 2018 By Brad Wardell In PC Gaming

Every day, more and more people are becoming aware of intellectual property. As a software developer, this is great!

When I started my career, I routinely ran into people who couldn't understand how someone could justify $100 for a piece of software when it only "cost" $5 to produce it because they didn't understand the concept of intellectual property.

Unfortunately, enough people know just enough to get themselves into trouble.  So in this article I will try to walk lay people through two of the three major types of intellectual property (the third being patents). 

Note, I am not a lawyer.  This article is not providing legal advice and if you have specific legal conclusions you want researched, you should speak to a qualified intellectual property lawyer. 

What is "IP"?

IP can refer to trademarks, copyrights, patents and other forms of intellectual property.  A trademark is IP.  A copyright is IP.  A  patent is IP.

Copyrights

Copyrights protect original works of authorship from being copied.  It's pretty straight forward.  Original. Works. Of Authorship.  Is that that thing a copy of that other thing?

Songs, poetry, movies, computer software and even architecture are protected by copyright.   Copyright does not protect names, facts, ideas, systems, recipes or methods of operation.

A copyright comes into existence the moment you create something that could potentially be protected. You don't have to file something to have a copyright.

You can't copyright an idea. You can copyright an expression.

Here's a simple example:

You can't copyright a cake recipe.  If I make a cake following a recipe and you make a cake following the same recipe these are two different cakes because they are both unique expressions of that recipe.  On the other hand, if we had a machine that could duplicate your cake then those cakes would be copies.

At the end of the day, a juror is ultimately asked "is this a copy of that?"  That means thing A and thing B are put next to each other and if thing B is substantially similar, then it's a copy.  Substantially similar doesn't mean just "similar".  It means that one is pretty obviously a copy of the other.

More reading:

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ33.pdf 

https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/187385/clone_wars_the_five_most_.php 

A good rule of thumb to follow on whether something is copyright infringement is to simply ask yourself: Is this a copy of this other thing?  Not similar. Not inspired by. Copied.

Famous Copyright Lawsuits

The question usually asked of jurors: Would a typical person recognize A and being B?

Sims Social vs. The Ville (EA vs. Zynga)

Rogers vs. Koons (Photography)

Star Wars vs. Battlestar Galactica (Too similar?)

My take

  • The Sims Social vs. The Ville are too close to call for me.
  • Rogers vs. Koons was pretty obvious copyright infringement to me
  • Fox would have lost the case handedly, BSG isn't a copy of Star Wars.

Trademarks

A trademark is a word and/or symbol to identify goods and services from one seller from another to prevent consumer confusion over the source of those goods and services.

Trademarks exist protect consumers and to contain the good will and reputation of the seller of goods and services.  "X: The name you trust!"

If the question is whether something is associated with something else or if people will "believe" something is actually something else, you are in the land of trademarks.

More reading:

https://www.uspto.gov/sites/default/files/documents/BasicFacts.pdf

Famous cases

Adidas vs. Forever 21 (the case of confusing shirts)

Starbucks vs. Freddoccino (the case of stealing good will)

Superhero (Marvel and DC have trademarked the word Superhero)

My take

It's pretty rare for a trademark case (within the US) to involve someone actually using someone else's trademark to associate their new product and service with it...so most cases involve third parties trying to pawn off on what they believe is the good will and reputation of their mark.

  • In both the Starbucks and Adidas cases, the argument seemed to be that people associate the stripes or the name+design of the drink with their mark and thus are benefiting from the good will and reputation of the former.
  • Superhero is way above my head. No idea.

 

Conclusions

On the Internet, everyone thinks they're a lawyer.  And sometimes, even general practice lawyers will opine on IP without really knowing much on it. 

I'm obviously not a lawyer but I have been through millions of dollars of IP litigation over the past 20 (mostly those patent trolls you hear about but multiple trademark and copyright suits as well).  

The very first IP lawsuit I was involved in was with Entrepreneur Magazine.  We had a video game called Entrepreneur and they argued that people would be likely confused into thinking our game was related to their magazine.  We settled and hence The Corporate Machine was born.  Would we have won if we had gone to court? Even today, I have no idea. You tell me.  It wasn't worth spending millions of dollars on though.

Anyone who tries to tell you they know the outcome is only showing they have no idea what they're talking about.  A better analogy would be to think of it as weighted dice.  When you're dealing with the courts, you are dealing with human beings and while different cases have better odds of success (No, you can't call your OS "Lindows") or failure ("No, Battlestar Galactica is not a copy of Star Wars") there's no sure thing.

Which is why a layperson's guide like this will get you 75% of the way because the last 25% of the way is largely dice rolling:

Copyright: Is X a copy of Y? Put them next to each other or describe in detail the two or list the source code of both, are they substantially similar? (i.e. a copy?)

Trademark: Would the average person familiar with the subject matter be likely confused into believing that X and Y are connected?

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