Saturday, April 30, 2016

The physiology of conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories, as well as most religions, are really popular. One might even say that they are addictive. People get "hooked" on them, and have hard time letting go of them once they have embraced them, no matter how much evidence is presented to them of the contrary.

There is, in fact, some evidence that this is not a purely psychological phenomenon, but also in part physiological. That means that it can have an effect that changes body chemistry.

If something is new and exciting, exhilarating, and extremely interesting, if something "blows your mind" as they say, that sensation may in fact be caused in part because of a rush of body chemistry. The brain may cause adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin to be produced in certain psychologically significant situations, such as hearing something that's very exciting and interesting. Some people literally get a "high" in these situations; not just metaphorically or even psychologically, but literally physiologically, with actual body chemistry being at play.

Many of these people get psychologically addicted, "hooked", to that new and exciting information, that new way of looking at the world. They experience an "awakening". They get a feeling like their horizons have been expanded. They may associate that feeling of euphoria with that knowledge. And they want more of it, which is why they so passionately seek more of the same.

Telling others about it also gives them that sensation of excitement and euphoria, which is why they are so eager to preach.

And of course when you are extremely passionate about something, you usually don't want to even consider having been wrong, that it has all been an illusion and a lie. Just a fantasy. The thought is unbearable.

Western justice vs. social justice

One of the core tenets of our modern judiciary system, something that is engraved in the constitution of most countries, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and many other such documents, is that people accused of a crime ought to be considered innocent by default, until it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that they are indeed guilty.

The fundamental idea behind this is that convicting an innocent person is considered a greater injustice than letting a guilty person go unpunished. It is better to play it safe, to err on the safe side, and let an accused to go free if there is any doubt that they are guilty. It's better to have a thousand criminals go free than a single innocent person to be punished. Punishing the innocent is by far the greater injustice in this situation. It is up to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty, and counter all the arguments of the defense, than the other way around.

Of course this doesn't always go right, and sometimes innocent people do end up in jail. However, the basic principle of our judiciary system tries to avoid this as much as possible, and always err on the safe side.

Modern progressive feminist social justice pretty much wants to reverse this in case of rape accusations. By large the very accusation is the proof that they need. They don't need anything else. If a woman claims to have been raped, then she was raped. (In fact, this can sometimes go so far that even in cases where the woman directly admits that she lied, some social justice warriors still keep believing that she was in fact raped. They will believe the woman when she makes the claim, but disbelieve her when she recants and admits that she lied.)

If a woman accuses a man of rape, then social justice warriors will automatically and vehemently assume his guilt by default, without question and without investigation. (In fact, they consider any kind of investigation to be offensive. In their minds it's completely out of the question that a woman could lie about this.) If it is proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the man is innocent and could not have possibly raped the woman, if the woman keeps insisting on his guilt, the social justice warriors will keep believing her, disregarding the evidence. If the woman says nothing, and the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore, then the social justice warriors will shift gears and say that probably somebody else raped her; she's just confused about what happened, but a rape definitively happened. If she says she was raped, then she was raped. That's exactly as much of a fact as gravity.

Social justice warriors do not need nor want any kind of proof or evidence of this. They will immediately and automatically assume guilt, and start harassing the accused. They have already judged him guilty.

Even if, and that's a big if, it so happens that it becomes too clear that no rape actually happened to deny it, how do social justice warriors respond to this? Do they apologize about their harassment? Do they apologize about jumping to conclusions and de facto convicting an innocent man? Of course not. They will make up excuses and rationalizations. They will belittle and diminish the importance of the damage that was done to the man, and will largely ignore him and what he suffered. It's not important to them. The end justifies the means.

It seems to be pretty much literally so that to a social justice warrior it's better for a thousand innocent men to be punished than for a single guilty man going unpunished. To them, false rape accusations are so exceedingly rare that the few instances where it happens do not matter. So what if the life of some innocent man is destroyed by this? In the grand scheme of things that's minuscule compared to the "rape epidemic" that's happening. The life of one innocent man is not important. It's an acceptable sacrifice.

Needless to say, this kind of thinking is absolutely abhorrent in the light of the core principles of our judiciary system.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Video games: Why you shouldn't listen to the hype

Consider the recent online multiplayer video game Evolve. It was nominated for six awards at E3, at the Game Critics Awards event. It won four of them (Best of the Show, Best Console Game, Best Action Game and Best Online Multiplayer). Also at Gamescom 2014 it was named the Best Game, Best Console Game Microsoft Xbox, Best PC Game and Best Online Multiplayer Game. And that's just to name a few (it has been reported that the game received more than 60 awards in total.)

Needless to say, the game was massively hyped before release. Some commenters were predicting it to be one of the defining games of the current generation. A game that would shape online multiplayer gaming.

After release, many professional critics praised the game. For example, IGN scored the game 9 out of 10, which is an almost perfect score. Game Informer gave it a score of 8.5 out of 10, and PC Gamer (UK) an 83 out of 100.

(Mind you, these reviews are always really rushed. In most cases reviews are published some days prior to the game's launch. Even when there's an embargo by game publishers, the reviews are rushed to publication on the day of launch or at most a few days later. No publication wants to be late to the party, and they want to inform their readers as soon as they possibly can. With online multiplayer games this can backfire spectacularly because the reviewers cannot possibly know how such a game will pan out when released to the wider public.)

So what happened?

Extreme disappointment by gamers, that's what. Within a month the servers were pretty much empty, and you were lucky if you were able to play a match with competent players. Or anybody at all.

It turns out the game was much more boring, and much smaller in scope, that the hype had led people to believe. And it didn't exactly help that the publisher got greedy and rid the game with outrageously expensive and sometimes completely useless DLC. (For example getting one additional monster to play, something that normally would be just given from the start in this kind of game, cost $15. Many completely useless extremely minor cosmetic DLC, such as a weapon with a different texture, but otherwise identical in functionality to existing weapons, cost $2.)

In retrospect, many reviewers have considered Evolve to be one of the most disappointing games of 2015, which didn't live up even close to its pre-launch hype.

What does this tell us? That pre-launch awards mean absolutely nothing, especially when we are talking about online multiplayer games. Pre-launch hype means absolutely nothing, and shouldn't be believed.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Feminism benefits men too"

A common adage among modern progressive feminists is that "feminism benefits men too". However, one has to understand what they really mean by that.

Does it mean that feminists are equally concerned about problems that primarily face men? Like significantly higher suicide rates, longer and harsher prison sentences for the same crimes (which is the case in surprisingly many countries), unequal treatment in child custody disputes, and so on and so forth?

No. They may pay lip service to those problems if directly asked, but hell will freeze before you see a tumblr or twitter feminist campaign, or a protest march, or any such thing, to raise awareness and combat those problems. Feminists might pay lip service to those problems, but they aren't really interested in them, nor are going to do any activism to combat them.

No, what feminists mean with "feminism benefits men too" is something quite different. You see, modern progressive feminism has this dogma that absolutely hates and abhors masculinity, and typical masculine traits, such as stoicism, competitiveness and aggressiveness. They simply cannot comprehend nor accept that men are stoic and competitive by nature, and instead have this dogma that men have been brainwashed by society, by our culture, to be so, against their innate instinctive personalities. They can't understand that they are reversing cause and effect here. (It's not culture that causes men to be stoic and competitive; it's the other way around: Typical masculine culture is caused by men being naturally stoic and competitive.) And of course they consider stereotypical masculine traits to be negative and detrimental.

So when feminists say that "feminism helps men too", what they really mean is that their goal is to shame men for their innate personality traits, and to brainwash them into trying to behave contrary to those traits. Those personality traits are, of course, considered negative and detrimental.

In other words, this "helping men" has nothing to do with their rights and equality. It's about shaming them and brainwashing them into fitting a feminist mold.

If you were to ask a feminist what they think about those certain Christian sects that try to teach and brainwash gays not to be gay, they would consider it abhorrent. Yet that's exactly what their goal is about masculinity: Their goal is to try to teach and brainwash men not to be masculine.

The next time you hear some feminist talking about how feminism helps men too, start paying attention to the details, to what they are saying about masculinity and how exactly feminism is going to "help them".

Friday, April 22, 2016

Chemophobia

Chemophobia (yes, it's an actual term) is an irrational aversion to or prejudice against chemicals or chemistry. It's surprisingly common. And it's a surprisingly common argument against substances that some people don't like, or are prejudiced against.

You wouldn't believe how common it is for someone to warn people against using something because it contains "chemicals". Just that. Chemicals. As a concrete example, I saw someone on the YouTube comments of some video rallying people against using sunscreens because of all the "chemicals" that they contain. That was his only argument. The "chemicals".

If you have even the most basic understanding of what that word means, you would understand how completely ridiculous that argument is. Basically everything is a chemical. You consist almost completely of chemicals. Heck, water is a chemical. (A chemical is, essentially, a compound that contains more than one atom, which are bound to each other. Water being a good example.)

But somehow that word has become a boogeyman among many deluded people. Somehow "chemical" has become synonymous to something harmful, toxic and unhealthy, even though anything safe and healthy they could ever name also consists of chemicals. "Chemical" has somehow become a synonym for "artificially synthesized man-made compound (which is, of course, automatically hazardous to your health because it's unnatural)".

If you want to scare people about a substance, just tell then that it contains lots and lots of "chemicals". You aren't even lying by doing so, because basically all substances do indeed contain chemicals.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Does "room scale VR" have a future?

"Room scale VR" is this gimmick mainly promoted by HTC/Valve, where you play the game by standing up and walking around your room, using two controllers that are tracked by the computer. As your head movements are also accurately tracked, the computer pretty much creates a virtual environment and it looks exactly like you were within that environment. It can look astonishingly real and impressive.

It certainly does make for very impressive tech demos. But does it have a future in actual gaming? As an actual game mechanic? I have my doubts.

Consider one of the most basic core things that's common to almost all video games in existence, with only few exceptions: Movement. You play the game by moving the playable character. In games depicted from the first-person perspective, the "playable character" is essentially the "camera", and you play by moving it from place to place.

And "from place to place" usually means significant distances. From room to room, along corridors, inside a big complex, on the streets of a city, or even a wide open outworld that may be tens of miles to every direction.

This is absolutely ubiquitous to almost every single game genre, and almost every single individual game, with very few exceptions. (I don't think we need to count games where the idea is not to control a playable character, such as board or card games, or pinball.)

It is quite ubiquitous to almost all games because severely limiting movement would be quite boring. There's only so much that you can do while restricted to a very small confined space. It wouldn't make for much of a game. Essentially you would be restricted to whatever game can be played within such a confined space. Maybe the only two even moderately enjoyable examples that I can think of are golf and table tennis. (Of course in real life golf requires a lot of walking, but in video game format that's usually completely skipped, and instead you are just teleported to the next location, and that's completely fine.)

HTC/Valve is envisioning a future where "room-scale VR" is the quintessential game mechanic. And all they have to show for it are some technical demos that are "played" through quite quickly. They may be impressive to experience, but they don't make for much of a game, really. There's only so much that you can do in these demos before you get bored due to repetition, lack of variety, and lack of things to do.

Note that I'm contrasting this with the sit-down experience that's also possible with VR headsets. There is significantly more game mechanics possible in this scenario, and that's where I believe the future of VR is, if it has any. But seemingly this is not something that HTC/Valve is promoting at all. They only want "room-scale VR".

The problem with a standing-up experience is that the computer cannot move the camera on its own, because else it may well cause the person to get confused and lose balance. The computer must constraint the camera accurately to the movements of the headset. Moving the camera otherwise would even be potentially dangerous, if people get confused, lose balance, fall over and hurt themselves. So it just can't be done in standing-up mode, if for nothing else, then for safety reasons.

Thus this severely limits what kind of game mechanics you can use. Sure, the game can "teleport" the player from place to place, and this does not cause loss of balance or confusion. But a video game loses quite a lot if you just teleport a few feet at a time, rather than actually moving. Much of what makes a video game a video game is lost. It more becomes like a shooting gallery, where the environment changes from time to time. This is essentially a trick to circumvent a limitation in how the device can be used. I don't believe that teleporting from place to place is even nearly as enjoyable as actually moving from place to place.

And that's not even talking about the fact that it's rather unfeasible to play a game for hours while standing up. Imagine if you had to play all your video games standing up.

I can't help but to compare this, once again, to the infamous Kinect. The similarities in terms of game mechanics are very noticeable. Both work primarily while standing up, both are controlled with your body movements, and both are very limited in terms of game mechanics. And in most cases, the game is just a static shooting gallery and little else. (In fact, the Kinect could be even more versatile than VR in the sense that it could perfectly well move the camera freely without problems, something that cannot be done in VR while the player is standing up, for safety reasons.)

And we all know how successful the Kinect was. That's to say, not very.

I can't help but to consider "room-scale VR" to be simply a glorified Kinect. With exactly as much prospects for the future and triple-A games.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

VR seems to be a disappointment

Consider that the first development kit of the Oculus Rift came out in late 2012. That means that game developers have had over three years of time to add VR support to their games. It was expected that when the Rift, and the Vive, launched, there would be a plethora of games supporting it.

Where are they?

The amount of launch titles for the Rift is pitiably small. The launch titles for the Vive is even smaller. And we are talking here about all games, not just big-budget triple-A ones.

Over three years of development time. So where are all these games with VR support?

On the contrary, many companies that initially announced VR support have abandoned it at the last stretch. Consider, for example, Doom3 and Doom4. From the very beginning id Software announced that they would add full VR support to both games, and they were working closely with Oculus to make it happen. Now VR support has been abandoned in one case, and cancelled in the other.

It seems to be that the general message from most game companies is that they will not be adding support to their existing games. And probably not even for any of their future mainstream games (ie. ones that are not VR exclusive). They are not explicitly boycotting VR (because that's not the reason behind it), but it almost feels like it. For all intents and purposes it's effectively a boycott, even if it's not deliberately intended as such.

(Why are they pretty much "boycotting" VR, you might ask? Because "it causes nausea" when VR is used in traditional games where movement is controlled with keyboard+mouse or a gamepad. At least it does so for some people. Therefore nobody can be given even the option to try. I get the impression that HTC/Valve, and possibly Oculus, have pretty much scared game developers away from adding support to existing games.)

For years I have been excited and expecting to experience VR in my favorite games. I could only imagine how it would be to experience games like Portal 2, Alien Isolation, Mirror's Edge and Skyrim in stereo vision. But now all the game developers are pretty much giving me the middle finger and are deliberately not adding support, and even canceling or abandoning the support that had already been developed. They are not going to give me even the option to try.

To me all this feels like VR has already failed. Game developers have lost interest and are for all intents and purposes "boycotting" it in practice, projects that have been ongoing for years have been abandoned and canceled, HTC/Valve is pretty much boycotting the mainstream gaming market, and the devices are humongously expensive.

If this doesn't reek of failure, I don't know what does.

(I'm not saying the VR will definitely fail. It might well not. It might become really successful. I'm just saying that so far it reeks badly of failure and disappointment. The early warning signs are there. The same warning signs as with the infamous Kinect and PlayStation Vita.)

Needless to say, all this has pretty much killed my passion for VR. If my excitement about VR was 100% months ago, it dropped like to 50% once I saw the launch prices of both the Rift and the Vive, and it dropped to less than 10% once I found out that most companies are pretty much boycotting VR, and I'm never going to experience my all-time favorite games with it (unless someone else adds the support).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Similarities between VR and the PlayStation Vita

I have noticed that there are almost eerie similarities between the brand-new VR headsets, and the PlayStation Vita, in terms of things that could potentially affect the success of the former. I have been thinking that this might be an early warning sign that, perhaps, VR will not become successful after all.

The PlayStation Vita had impressive specs, but Sony got greedy with its launch price, making it significantly more expensive than the competing products (different versions of the Vita ranged from $250 to $300). What's worse, there were deceptive hidden expenses. Namely, the unit did not come with a big-enough memory card to download any purchased games, and you had to purchase one separately. (And, quite greedily, the memory cards were twice as expensive as standard memory cards of the same size.)

The triple-A game library for the Vita at launch was abysmal. It didn't get much better later, as developers seemed to have no interest in making games for it. The poor adoption rates of the device led to a vicious cycle: Poor adoption rates led to a poor triple-A game library, which only aggravated the poor adoption rate... and so on and so forth. The Vita was a complete failure.

Now consider VR. The devices are astonishingly expensive at launch, there are hidden costs involved (in the form of most people needing to upgrade their PC's to meet the minimum specs), the library of launch titles is abysmal, and there appears to be a general disinterest among big-name developers in adding support.

That last assertion might sound controversial, given how much big-name companies have shown interest in VR over the last couple of years. However, I have the feeling (although admittedly it's only a hunch), that they have somehow lost interest. There are a few reasons for why I think this.

Firstly, game developers have literally had over three years to add VR support to their games (the first devkit of the Oculus Rift came in late 2012), and many companies announced support for many of their existing titles. (The list of titles that have promised support is relatively extensive.)

So where are they? Where are all these games with VR support patched into them? The developers had over three years to do it, and they had all the tools necessary to have support right when the devices launched, yet they are nowhere to be seen.

I get the impression that these companies have actually lost interest. In fact, some of them have officially announced that VR support has been abandoned or cancelled. Maybe it turned out that VR was not what it initially appeared to be. Maybe they found out that VR did not, in fact, turn out to be a generic display device for basically any 3D game. (You know, because of the motion sickness problem, which the VR device developers have taken really seriously.)

Secondly, it doesn't exactly help that, at least so far, it seems that HTC/Valve are promoting complete and absolute segregation between traditional games and VR games. Complete incompatibility between the two. VR games are made for "room-scale" VR and the specialized controllers only, traditional games do not have VR support. Or that seems to be what they are implying with all their promotions.

If VR adoption is effectively "sabotaged" by its own launch price, and if the trend seems to be a complete segregation between VR and traditional games (which means that you make a game for either one of them, not both), and if developers have lost interest, then what do you think will happen? Will we see another PlayStation Vita phenomenon? Impressive specs, but poor adoption rates and abysmal triple-A library leading to a vicious circle of failure?

Of course this is only speculation at this point. I may well be wrong. I hope I'm wrong.

I am, however, seeing at least one glimmer of hope. Perhaps somewhat ironically, it might come from PlayStation VR. It seems that, perhaps learning from their Vita fiasco, this time Sony is understanding what gamers really want about VR, and how to make it successful. The launch price of the PS VR, while still a bit high, will be significantly lower than the ones of the Vive or even the Rift. (Heck, when it launches, you will probably be able to buy a PS4, the PS VR, the PS camera and the motion controllers in a bundle for cheaper than the Vive, perhaps even the Rift.) And while there will be exclusive games, it's looking like the general trend on the PlayStation side will be for the majority of games being more traditional; in other words, playable with or without the VR visor.

If this ends up happening, and if the PS VR becomes successful enough, maybe it will affect the Rift and the Vive in a similar manner, indirectly. Maybe they, too, will start aiming for the mainstream gamer market, rather than the fringe 1%. (Although, admittedly, the Rift is already doing more of that than the Vive is. At least the Rift does not seem to be promoting a total segregation between VR and traditional games.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A more level-headed (non-user) impression of VR

I have been ranting for several blog posts about how VR seems to be going to the wrong direction, and it's way too expensive. However, I would like to write some thoughts in a more level-headed manner, and ponder if VR has actually "failed" in a manner of speaking.

You see, when Oculus first started developing the Oculus Rift, the general vision of the whole VR thing was that it would become essentially a new display device for almost all of your games, just way, way more immersive and cooler, because rather than just seeing the game on a flat screen, you would be seeing it in stereo, which would mean that it would really look like you are in the game, not just watching it on a flat screen. In other words, VR headsets would become a more or less generic display device for most games (which of course would need to add explicit support, but if such headsets become popular, it would be a no-brainer.) And not just like a 3D monitor, but due to it being a visor with lenses, you are pretty much surrounded by the geometry of the game, and it will feel so three-dimensional that you feel like you could literally touch the objects if you reach out.

However, it turns out that VR "doesn't work" as a generic display device for games. And "doesn't work" doesn't mean there's some technical impediment stopping games from supporting it. Instead, the "doesn't work" in this context means that most people easily get motion sickness if the game is controlled by something else than their own movement (ie. keyboard+mouse or a gamepad). This is because when the visual sensory input does not match your body's sensory input (balance and all other nuanced senses, which our bodies have quite a lot), the brain gets confused and usually causes dizziness and nausea. Especially when our sense of balance does not match what we visually perceive, we get nauseous very quickly. And it's not something that goes away rapidly; once nauseous like this, it can persist for a quite long time even after stopping; even over an hour.

This is something that one can get used to. In the same way that one gets used to riding a bus or a boat without getting seasick (which has very similar reasons), one can get used to playing regular old FPS games in stereo vision for hours without getting motion sickness. Many people report this.

However, that doesn't matter. It seems that the device manufacturers, and developers at large, have taken the stance that VR "doesn't work" in traditional games, and most of them have basically no interest in adding support to any of their existing games, nor any of their future "traditional" games. They are only interested in developing games designed specifically for the VR, using all the techniques that avoid motion sickness.

So what is VR good for, then? Maybe the only even moderately large genre where it works well is vehicle simulation (with which I mean racing games, car simulators, flight simulators and space simulators). This perhaps because most people are already used to driving or riding vehicles, so they don't get motion sickness in such a familiar environment.

As for the "walk around your room" game mechanic... The only genre that I can think of, which has potential for making some actual serious games, is golf. Other than that... I don't know. Maybe tennis and other sports where you are mostly standing still?

In other words, with this game mechanic VR seems to pretty much be a glorified Kinect, maybe mixed with Wii controls. And we all know how successful Kinect was... (Sure, it will work a thousand times better than the Kinect, and will look a thousand times more impressive, but in terms of gameplay... pretty much the same thing.)

So if game developers decide to stick to only game mechanics that do not cause motion sickness, it seems to limit the possibilities of VR quite a lot. The standing-up game mechanic is extremely limiting in terms of game design, becoming pretty much a glorified Kinect. Almost the only feasible sit-down mechanic is with vehicle simulators. So what else is there?

Many people are advocating VR, and saying that it will create and inspire a whole new plethora of game genres. Which pretty much sounds like what Microsoft was saying about the Kinect. And we all know how that turned out. Personally, I'm a bit skeptical.

Is VR a failure, after all? After people get bored of the tech demos, will VR be relegated to the role of a vehicle simulation peripheral, alongside racing wheels and such? Even though VR could be used for so much more?

And I am taking their word for it (ie. of HTC/Valve and Oculus). In other words, I'm assuming here that VR indeed is pretty much unusable in traditional games because of the motion sickness problem. If that's indeed the case, then that limits the uses of VR by an enormous margin. Maybe so much that it could even be considered a failure. It's too niche to be used for generic gaming, and for the wider market.

I am not the only one who is skeptical. There are other people who have actually bought the Vive, and are already saying the tech demos are getting boring, and the amateurish games available so far as completely sub-par, and also boring. Sure, this may change in the future, but so far it seems quite bad.

It doesn't help that the devices are so hugely expensive. If the intent of HTC/Valve and of Oculus is to make VR widely popular, you don't achieve that by pricing the devices for like 1% of gamers, who have too much money to spend. How many triple-A games are you expecting to see for a device with such an abysmal adoption rate? It's just not profitable to make big-budget games that only maybe 1% of the market will buy.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Videogames catering to a microscopic minority

Video game companies are in increasing numbers catering to the demands of social justice warriors, and engaging in self-censorship.

Now, consider that a typical big-name big-budget triple-A game has something 1-2 million customers. Also consider that the number or social justice warriors complaining about such a game is at most 1-2 hundred (and that's quite generous). This means that the game company will be placating to about 0.01% of their customer base.

Although, in fact, that number is completely wrong. That's because almost none of those whining social justice warriors are actually buying the game. At most maybe 10-20 will be buying it, if even that. In other words, the game company will be catering to about 0.001% of their actual customers.

The voice and opinions of the remaining 99.999% of their customers don't matter. At all.

This is how powerful social justice warriors are. And nobody elected them to speak on their behalf. It's almost scary.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Hate speech" vs. freedom of speech

It seems that during the past year or two, the term "hate speech" has become a very fashionable expression used by social justice warriors and multiculturalists to belittle, dismiss and attack their critics. Often this is done instead of addressing the actual criticism. It's simply labeled as "hate speech", and that's it.

Of course the use of the term has become popular because it's a perfect way of circumventing the question of what the constitutional principle of freedom of speech entails, and what should and shouldn't be allowed to be said. Because in most countries hate speech does not fall under constitutional free speech rights, labeling all dissenting opinions as "hate speech" gives a platform for censorship, silencing and banning, while still keeping up the illusion of maintaining constitutional human rights.

What do these social justice warriors and multiculturalists label as "hate speech"? Among other things, criticism of immigration policies, criticism of refugee policies, criticism of Islam (both the religion and the culture), and criticism of progressive feminism.

They label all that "hate speech" and advocate for their censorship and banning. And I'm not making that up. For example, here in Finland alone, there are entire Facebook groups that advocate and promote Facebook's plans to censor "hate speech", and they aren't exactly secretive about what they consider such. In fact, they are quite open about it. Exactly those things I listed above.

Labeling all criticism and dissenting opinions as "hate speech" is a convenient and clever cop-out, an excuse. It's a powerful tool to silence and censor dissent, because if they succeed in categorizing all such criticism as "hate speech", they have completely legal technical grounds for censorship, bypassing constitutional rights of freedom of speech.

Ultimately this is tought-policing, plain and simple. It's newspeak. It's state-based censorship of ideas (or, at least, that's what they are promoting). The "wrong" ideas are being silenced and censored by law, and only the "correct" ideas are allowed. It's highly authoritarian and anti-constitutional, even totalitarian, cleverly masqueraded into technicalities and loop-holes of the law. This is one of the hallmarks of totalitarianism: Criminalizing dissenting opinion.

And the scary thing is that they actually have a good chance to succeed in doing so. "Progressive" authoritarian ideas are, somehow, astonishingly virulent. By all intents and purposes the entirety of the media accepts and promotes all of their ideas and values, and politicians to an ever increasing extent. Anti-constitutional trampling over people's free speech, labeling every dissenting opinion as "hate speech" (ie. abusing the loophole in the law), is becoming more and more prevalent. Differing political views are not accepted, and increasingly made outright illegal, by playing with words and abusing the loophole.

This is not a liberal ideology. It's a deeply authoritarian, even totalitarian ideology. An ideology that not only is extremely bigoted (ie. absolutely intolerant of differing opinions and beliefs), but also dangerously virulent and toxic.

Moreover, at the same time, actual crimes, such as mass rapes, are being largely ignored, their significance diminished, and even excused. In the name of "tolerance". When those rapists belong to the right group.

You see, when some members of demographic group A commit violent crimes, like rape, these "progressives" go into a frenzy of accusations against the entire group, and how the culture of that group is depraved and horrible. But when some members of demographic group B commit violent crimes, like rape, these "progressives" start making up excuses, and distancing those individuals from that group, and claiming how they do not represent the group as a whole. In some cases even the criminals themselves are protected and excused.

And what's the difference between group A and group B? Skin color.

So not only are these social justice warriors and multiculturalists deeply authoritarian and bigoted, they are also textbook racists.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Steam Controller second impressions

I wrote earlier a "fist impressions" blog post, about a week or two after I bought the Steam Controller. Now, several months later, here are my impressions with more actual experience using the controller.

It turns out that the controller is a bit of a mixed bag. With some games it works and feels great, much better than a traditional (ie. Xbox 360 style) gamepad, in other games not so much. The original intent of the controller was to be a complete replacement of a traditional gamepad, and even the keyboard+mouse mode of control (although to be fair it was never claimed that it would be as good as keyboard+mouse, only that it would be good enough as a replacement, so that you could play while sitting on a couch, rather than having to sit at a desk). With some games it fulfills that role, with others not really.

When it works, it works really well, and I much prefer it over a traditional gamepad. Most usually this is the case with games that are primarily designed for gamepads, but support gamepad and mouse simultaneously (mouse for turning the camera, gamepad for everything else). In this kind of game, especially ones that require even a modicum of accurate aiming, the right trackpad feels so much better than a traditional thumbstick, especially when coupled with gyro aiming. (Obviously at first it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, it becomes really fluent and natural.)

As an example, I'm currently playing Rise of the Tomb Raider. For the sake of experimentation, I tried to play the game both with an Xbox 360 gamepad and the Steam Controller, and I really prefer the latter. Even with many years of experience with the former, aiming with a thumbstick is always so awkward and difficult, and the trackpad + gyro make it so much easier and fluent. Also turning around really fast is difficult with a thumbstick (because turning speed necessarily has an upper limit), while a trackpad has in essence no such limitation. You can turn pretty much as fast as you physically can (although the edge of the trackpad is the only limiting factor on how much you can turn in one sweep; however turning speed is pretty much unlimited.)

Third-person perspective games designed primarily to be played with a gamepad are one thing, but how about games played from first-person perspective? It really depends on the game. In my experience the Steam Controller can never reach the same level of fluency, ease and accuracy as the mouse, but with some games it can reach a high-enough degree that playing the game is very comfortable and natural. Portal 2 is a perfect example.

If I had to rate the controller on a scale from 0 to 10, where 10 represents keyboard+mouse, 0 represents something almost unplayable (eg. keyboard only), and 5 represents an Xbox 360 controller, I would put the Steam Controller around 8. Although as said, it depends on the game.

There are some games, even those primarily designed to be played with a gamepad, where the Steam Controller does not actually feel better than a traditional gamepad, but may even feel worse.

This is most often the case with games that do not support gamepad + mouse at the same time, and will only accept gamepad input only. In this case the right thumbstick needs to be emulated with the trackpad. And this seldom works fluently.

The pure "thumbstick emulation" mode just can't compete with an actual thumbstick, because it lacks that force feedback that the springlike mechanism of an actual thumbstick has. When you use a thumbstick, you get tactile feedback on which direction you are pressing, and you get physical feedback on how far you are pressing. The trackpad just lacks this feedback, which makes it less functional.

The Steam Controller also has a "mouse joystick" mode, in which you can emulate the thumbstick, but control it like it were a trackpad/mouse instead. In other words, in principle it works like it were an actual trackpad, using the same kind of movements. This works to an extent, but it's necessarily limited. One of the major reasons is what I mentioned earlier: With a real trackpad control there is no upper limit to your turning speed. However, since a thumbstick has by necessity an upper limit, this emulation mode has that as well. Therefore when you instinctively try to turn faster than a certain threshold, it just won't, so it feels unnatural and awkward, like it had an uncomfortable negative acceleration. Even if you crank the thumbstick sensitivity to maximum within the game, it never fully works. There's always that upper limit, destroying the illusion of the mouse emulation.

With some games it just feels more comfortable and fluent to use the traditional gamepad. Two examples of this are Dreamfall Chapters and Just Cause 2.

As for the slightly awkwardly positioned ABXY buttons, I always suspected that one gets used to them with practice, and I wasn't wrong. The more you use the controller, the less difficult it becomes to use those four buttons. I still wish they were more conveniently placed, but it's not that bad.

So what's my final verdict? Well, I like the controller, and I do not regret buying it. Yes, there are some games where the Xbox360-style controller feels and works better, but likewise there are many games where it's the other way around, and with those the Steam controller feels a lot more versatile and comfortable (especially in terms of aiming, which is usually significantly easier).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

More on the HTC Vive and why I'm not buying it

Both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are now out and available. I have written several previous blog posts about them, and their problems. Read them if you want some context for this continuation post.

Unlike my worst predictions, according to reviews, the Oculus Rift seems to be more or less what it promised to be. In other words, stereo vision with head-tracking, to be used in not only custom games made specifically for it but, more importantly, in existing and new generic triple-A games if and when support is added to them. The available game library with support is still pitiably small, but hopefully that will be remedied in the months and years to come. The price of the unit is still way too high for me to even consider it, but hopefully it will come down in the future. (It might take years, but well... I'll have to be patient.)

The HTC Vive, however, seems to have gone exactly to the extreme I predicted and dreaded. Or at least it seems so at this point. In other words, they have emphasized the "augmented reality" aspects (with which I mean walking around your room, in a laughably small space, with the computer creating a virtual environment around you, and reflecting all your real-life movements within the game) and de-emphasized, if not even outright completely dismissed, the visor's use in actual existing games.

If you watch the promotional videos, it's all about the useless "play by walking in your room" stuff, using custom games made specifically for the device. Not even a single mention, not even in passing, of using the visor to play some actual existing game while sitting down. (Which is the polar opposite of the Oculus Rift promotional material, which is all about playing normal games, even some existing games, while sitting on the couch or at the desk, using the normal gamepad or keyboard+mouse.)

Not only that, but if you read the associated forum in Steam, it's the exact same thing. Also, all the development conversation is about creating new games specifically for the device. In fact, most people are actually dissing even the thought of using the visor in actual existing games, such as first-person shooters (like the Half-Life series, the Portal series, Doom, Skyrim or Mirror's Edge).

If this is the direction they want to go, the HTC Vive has no future. (I doubt it will be, because I'm sure that game companies will be adding support for it in many normal games, especially in the vehicle simulation genre, and probably other genres, but so far it seems that Valve is only promoting custom "walk around your room" games. In the worst case scenario the device will actually be limited to this only.)

Why doesn't it have a future? Because the "walk around your room" game mechanic is extremely limiting in terms of game design, and has only very limited enjoyment potential.

How many games can you name where as a playable character you are, during the entirety of the game, confined to a very small space, unable to freely move at will over larger distances (eg. along corridors, from room to room, and on a wide open outworld)?

There is technically speaking one genre that fits that description: The abovementioned vehicle simulation genre (ie. racing games, vehicle simulation, space simulation, flight simulation). But even (and especially) in those, you are sitting down, not walking around. This is not a genre suitable for the "walk around your room" game mechanic. (But it is a genre that most perfectly suits VR visors with headtracking, while sitting.)

Other than that, I can't name even a single video game where you are confined to such a small space during the entirety of the game. That's because it would be an extremely boring game. It would greatly limit game design, and there would not be much to do.

In addition, people can't play a game for hours while standing up and walking around a room. Maybe for fifteen minutes, a half hour at most. But that's about it. Then what? Game over? What a great gaming session. Now toss the useless VR headset aside and back to the couch to play some actual video games?

This form of gaming has no future. It's impractical and extremely limiting. It may make for cool technological demos, which may keep you entertained for ten minutes, but that's it. It would just be a super-expensive toy gathering dust on a shelf, which might be occasionally used to view another technology demo for five to ten minutes, and that's it.

And this isn't even going into the fact that walking around your room blindfolded is only going to cause accidents (eg. swinging your hand against a wall, or somebody else in the room, breaking the controller, and possibly hurting yourself in the process.)

But it seems that this is exactly where Valve is taking the HTC Vive development. To a dead end. Perhaps only third-party game developers can save it, by adding support to actual regular games.

At least the Oculus Rift seems to have better prospects for the future. Despite my fears, it seems that they more or less kept focused on what's important: Playing actual games.