Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prediction: SJWs will convert to Islam en masse

From time to time I like to make predictions for the near future about society. Here's one:

Some time in the near future, social justice warriors will start converting to Islam en masse.

Perhaps islamists have not yet caught on, or taken full advantage of it, but in general the regressive left, the social justice warriors, simply cannot say "no" to Muslims. But when they finally do catch on, islamists ought to have a relatively easy way to pressure SJWs to convert. The logic will go something like:

"Do you hate Islam?"
"No, of course not!"
"Do you think there's something wrong with Islam?"
"No!"
"Well, if there's nothing wrong with Islam, why aren't you a Muslim?"

What can the SJWs respond to that? How can they argue to an islamist why they aren't converting to Islam? After all, they are too afraid to offer any sort of criticism of Islam, or say anything against them, for the fear of being labeled islamophobes and racists. They simply cannot say "no" to Muslims.

So, what argument could they present when an islamist asks them why they aren't converting to Islam?

When islamists eventually catch up with this, and start using it as a weapon to pressure SJWs to convert, I predict that they will start converting en masse. And when that starts happening, it will become an avalanche. The converts will start pressuring their SJW peers to convert, and so on, using psychological manipulation and shaming (of the sort of "if you don't convert, you are an islamophobe and a racist, and you are supporting the white supremacists".)

And do you know what's the scariest thing about this? The sheer amount of influence that the regressive left has on governments. Once the regressive left becomes converted to Islam, entire governments will invariably follow suit. And when governments become islamic, that's when they will start oppressing women and throwing gays off of rooftops. The only alternative, at least in some countries, is if the extremist far right gets in power instead, and starts fighting back. Which won't be much prettier.

It will be a massacre.

Why the PS4 Pro is actually better for 4k than a PC

The title is, perhaps, a bit too extremist for what this post is actually about, but blog post titles ought to be relatively short, and it's hard to summarize the subtleties in a short sentence.

Many hard-core PC gamers are eager to laugh off the PS4 Pro as a 4k gaming device, and consider a top-of-the-line PC a clearly much better choice. However, owning a PC with somewhat similar specs to the PS4 Pro (i5-2500K overclocked to 4.2GHz, GTX 970, 16 gigs of RAM), I have to say that in many cases the PS4 Pro may actually be the better choice when it comes to 4k gaming, unless you want to spend something like 2000€ on a PC.

How so?

The reason is not because the PS4 Pro would somehow be more powerful than a top-of-the-line PC (after all, its graphics chip is somewhere around the Radeon RX 480 in prowess, which is approximately equivalent to a GTX 970, possibly a tiny bit less). The PS4 pro might barely fulfill the minimum specs requirements of a "VR ready PC".

No, the reason is a bit different.

You see, on the PC side games very rarely, if ever, are especially optimized to be run at 4k resolution on a slightly older PC (eg. one with the specs of mine). They are mostly just optimized to run at 1080p, perhaps 1440p, and with simply support for 4k resolution (ie. 3840x2160) and that's it. They don't have special optimizations specifically targeting 4k resolution while still being capable of being run at that resolution on a slightly slower PC.

This means that if you want to run a game at 4k resolution, it will require roughly four times as much prowess from your PC than when running at 1080p. (Or, to state it in another way, if your PC can run the game at 1080p while using only about 25% of your GPU, then it might be able to run it at 4k.) With modern games this is quite a hefty requirement, given that very typically they will take anything between 50 and 100% of the GPU when running at 1080p, unless you have a really top-of-the-line most recent GPU.

On the PS4 side, however, the situation is different. That's because more and more games are being specifically optimized to be run at 4k resolution on the console, using all kinds of optimization tricks. Tricks that you seldom, if ever, see on the PC side. This allows the games to look better on a 4k display without compromising much of the graphical quality. I have yet to see a single PC game use these same optimization techniques, even the simplest ones.

Some games render at a resolution that's somewhere between 1080p and 4k, and then use various upscaling techniques (which may in many cases be of higher quality than just a raw doubling or upscaling of pixels). Such (sometimes odd-sounding) resolutions include things like 2400x1350, 2880x1620, 3360x1890, and 3200x1800. And yes, many of these games do look better than if run at 1080p.

"Hey, stop right there", you might say. "You can do that on the PC as well! Just select such a resolution in the game and let eg. the graphics card upscale it for the 4k display!" Great idea, except that there are no such resolutions available in most games! You see, most PC games only support a certain list of "standard" resolutions. There aren't many resolutions between 1080p and 4k available. At most something like 1440p might be an option. You don't have many options to optimize the rendering resolution specifically for your PC.

Secondly, PC games usually don't really care what the resolution of your display actually is, and thus don't offer any advanced upscaling techniques. They simply leave it to the display hardware (either the monitor or the graphics card) to do the upscaling, and that's it. They do nothing themselves.

Moreover, some PS4 games go even beyond that, and use even more clever optimization tricks to be able to run at 4k with higher quality. For example, at least one game uses the trick of rendering geometry (polygon edges) at 4k but textures and shaders at a lower resolution (1080p). Sure, it might not look as good as if everything were rendered at 4k, but it certainly looks better than if everything were rendered at 1080p, and it doesn't require as many compromises in image quality. I have yet to see a single PC game offer anything even resembling this kind of optimization. (Who knows, maybe in the future some PC games will start doing things like this, inspired by PS4 games, but so far I have yet to encounter or hear of even one.)

As strange as it might sound, I actually prefer playing games on the PS4 Pro now, at least if they have been specifically optimized for it, because they will look better than the exact same game would look on my PC, even though my PC is a bit faster. It might be a bit faster, but because games do not use 4k optimizations, I can't run them at 4k using the same graphical quality.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some VR headset sales figures

So, both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have been on the market for over a year now. I think it's time to look at some sales figures.

It appears that neither company is directly publishing exact sales figures (I wonder why), so these figures are based on estimates by analysts, but I think they are probably at least in the ballpark.

But before we go to those figures, let's get some perspective by looking at sales figures of other gaming hardware, for comparison.

The PlayStation 4 was released in November of 2013. In the United Kingdom alone it sold 250 thousand units within 48 hours. In the United States that number is over a million. Overall, by the end of December of that year (ie. one and a half months later) 4.2 million units had been sold worldwide. One year later that figure had climbed to 18.5 million. (As of January of 2017 the estimate is 53 million.)

The Xbox One was slightly less popular, but still sold like hotcakes. It was likewise published on November of 2013 (about a week later than the PS4), and it sold about a million units within the first 24 hours. By the end of the year (ie. a bit over a month after release) it had sold approximately 3 million units. One year later the console had sold about 10 million units.

The PlayStation 3 was released on November of 2006. By the end of that year it had sold about 1.7 million units, and a year later 10.5 million.

The Xbox 360 was released on November of 2005. By the end of the year it had sold 1.5 million units, and a year later 7.6 million.

For the Nintendo DS (released in November 2004) those figures are 2.8 million by the end of the year and 14.4 million a year later. Its successor, the 3DS, was released in February 2011. Within three months it had sold 3.6 million units, and within a year about 17 million units.

These ought to give a generic picture of what the sales figures of popular gaming hardware is. Almost invariably they will have sold about 10 million units within a year, often more.

So what are the sales figures for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive now that they have been out for a year?

HTC Vive: Approximately 420 thousand.
Oculus Rift: Approximately 355 thousand.

That's less than one twentieth of what new consoles typically sell within a year.

Even the PlayStation Vita, which is generally considered a commercial failure, sold 1.2 million units within a couple of months, and about 4 million within a year.

Fans of VR still keep telling me that VR is a success, it's marvelous, it's the future, and will revolutionize video gaming as we know it. How long will they keep saying that, I have to wonder. Those sales figures don't really back up their claims.

I'm not saying that VR will never experience a resurgence and a huge boost at some point. However, so far it seems really, really bleak. VR headsets are selling much, much worse than other gaming hardware that have been considered commercial failures.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

AGDQ and PCF questionable practices

I have written previously about how the Games Done Quick marathons have become highly "sterilized", bureaucratic, "sponsor-friendly", commercial, and outright authoritarian, which has garnered criticism from many people.

However, some people present even more criticism about the whole thing, and not only about the events themselves, but more particularly about the Prevent Cancer Foundation, to which the AGDQ marathons raise money for.

During the marathons the presenters and speakers keep constantly reminding how "100% of the donations go to the Prevent Cancer Foundation." Many people criticize this statement as, at the very least, borderline misleading.

Notice how the statement does not say that 100% of the donations go to cancer prevention and research done by the PCF. It says that they go to the PCF. There is a difference.

Since the PCF is a non-profit organization, they have to publish in detail what they spend their money in. For example in the period between July 2014 and June 2015 their total revenue was slightly over $6 million (about 25% of which came from the AGDQ event.) From that money 62% was spent on education, research, and community outreach.

62 percent.

That means that about $2.3 million went somewhere else. Sure, running an organization this large requires expenses. But $2.3 million a year? Really? How many people who donate to AGDQ know that 38% of what the donate goes to something other than preventing cancer?

Also, how many people from outside the United States, who donate to the event, are aware that the PCF operates solely within the United States? Not a dime of that money goes to research, education or other activities outside the country.

But, here's the kicker: Part of that money goes to sponsor and organize the AGDQ events themselves. And this is where the heaviest criticism stems from.

You see, part of sponsoring and organizing AGDQ involves paying the event organizers and volunteers. Which is why the "100% of the donations go to the PCF" is deemed to be so misleading: Yes, the donations go through the PCF... but a sizeable portion of that money comes back to the AGDQ organizers and volunteers the next year. They are paid by that very money that's donated.

Sure, many donors may be just fine with that and wouldn't mind. However, the criticism comes from the misleading statement that's so often repeated that "100% goes to the PCF" that gives the false impression that nothing of that money goes to the AGDQ organizers (often including the very person saying that!) Some of that money does go to the AGDQ organizers and workers! It's misleading to imply that it doesn't.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why I think VR will fail

I have been writing quite a lot about my disappointment in VR, and how it seems to be failing badly, and much of this is repeating the same points, but anyways...

Recently Microsoft announced that their next console, "Project Scorpio", will have no Kinect port. In fact, they did the same with the Xbox One S. Moreover, they have also stopped giving Kinect owners USB adapters for the Kinect for free. Most commentators agree that the Kinect is dead for good. Neither Microsoft nor anybody else is making games for it anymore, nor have been for years, and it's quite clear that Microsoft has zero intention of supporting it anymore, except for legacy reasons. It's a dead piece of technology that was very niche in the first place. (Perhaps the only reason why there are so many units out there is because for about a year it was a mandatory peripheral for the original Xbox One. You couldn't buy one without the other.)

This reminded me of how similar VR is to the Kinect, in more than one aspect.

For one, the Kinect tracks the user's hands, head and body to some extent, and games are mostly controlled by moving these body parts. Does this remind you of anything? It's eerily similar to "room-scale VR". (Granted, the latter is approximately a million times more accurate and immersive than the former, but in terms of gameplay and game mechanics it's very similar.)

Secondly, the Kinect requires a hefty amount of room space to work properly. Many Kinect games have to be played by standing up, at quite a distance from the device. Some kinect games could be played while sitting down, but rarely. Again, any similarities to something else?

Thirdly, and more importantly in terms of why the Kinect turned out to be a failure, there is little cross-over between Kinect games and regular games. Meaning that most Kinect games are Kinect-only, and can't be played without it. And the vast majority of regular games do not have (and cannot reasonably have) optional Kinect support. The two groups of games are pretty much separate, with extremely little overlap. The Kinect pretty much requires specialized exclusive games designed explicitly for it.

Again, does this remind you of anything?

At first, when the Oculus Rift was at its development stage, and there existed only development kits for it, it was envisioned that a VR headset would be, effectively, just an alternative display. A much more immersive one. Maybe games would need to be patched for explicit support, maybe support could be automated via in-between drivers, but overall it could potentially work with almost any 3D game.

However, both the VR manufacturing industry and the gaming industry at large have decided that VR and regular old games don't mix very well, and there's very little overlap possible. Most game developers are not bothering, and some are even outright refusing, to add VR support to existing games, or even new games of traditional genres (with a few exceptions with some driving simulation games.)

The divide between Kinect games and regular games exists because of technical and practical reasons. The same divide between VR games and regular games is mostly self-imposed. But it is what it is. VR games pretty much exist on their own separate category, and there is very little overlap.

Which is one of the reasons why it's possible that VR will fail. VR is a gimmick, very niche, and it requires its own specialized exclusive games designed explicitly for it. Just like the Kinect.

Then there is, of course, the lack of games. The library of triple-A games for the Kinect is abysmal. The library of triple-A games for VR is abysmal. Lack of games has killed numerous gaming platforms in the past.

In some aspects, however, VR is is even worse then the Kinect.

For one, it's very expensive. After all, you can grab a Kinect for something like 100€, while the price for the PC VR headsets range from 700€ to 900€. Prices that are too high have killed the adoption rates of devices (especially niche ones) countless times in the past.

Secondly, if you have an Xbox 360 or Xbox One, you don't need anything else to use the Kinect. However, just because you own a PC doesn't necessarily mean that you can use a VR headset and have it work properly. VR headsets have very specific, and steep, hardware requirements, and most PCs even today don't meet them. VR would require a hardware upgrade, which would increase the price of VR even further.

I'm not saying VR will definitely fail. I just can't help but notice the numerous similarities with the Kinect, which is pretty much a failed product.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why feminist comedy just doesn't work

There are a few feminist activists, who try to be comedians. At least one of them even tried to make a series about it (I think it was on Netflix). They all fail spectacularly. They, naturally, attribute it to misogyny, patriarchy, oppression and what not. However, that's not the reason why their "comedy" doesn't work. The actual reasons are several.

For starters, and perhaps most importantly, they don't understand that mockery is not comedy. Mockery might be funny to (a portion of) likeminded people, who might laugh at the targets of the mockery, but to the general public it's just not funny.

If you look at good comedians, there are several essential characteristics, and common traits, to their comedy. For one, it's often self-deprecating; in other words, the comedian is making fun of him or herself. And it's always light-hearted, not overly self-indulgent, whiny or "emo".

A good example of such comedy is a joke by one of the most famous comedians (unfortunately I can't remember exactly who, but might have been the great George Carlin), which goes something along the lines of: "As a kid, when people asked me what I will be when I grow up, and I told them a comedian, they laughed at me. They aren't laughing now."

As a comedian, you should never make fun of your audience, nor in general of any large group of people, even if they aren't your audience. The more this "comedy" is just outright mockery of the audience or a group of people, the less funny it is. Sometimes comedians may make fun of celebrities, but it's always light-hearted, not mean-spirited. It's always something that the target of the joke would laugh at him or herself as well. Likewise if a (good) comedian ever makes fun of a group of people, some particular demographic, it's also likewise light-hearted rather than mean-spirited. Mockery, insults and accusations just aren't good comedy, and is not fun. And these feminist comedians have really hard time understanding this.

Another thing that they do not understand is that political messages, and political activism, doesn't make for good comedy. Making a political statement or a claim about something related to politics or society, even if indirectly, without a punchline or an absurd twist, just isn't a joke. It's not comedy, no matter how much you try to dress it as "humor".

Humor, a joke, is funny when there's an unexpected twist in the punchline that plays with the mental image formed by the setup: First form a rather mundane mental image of something, and then suddenly twist it into something absurd. This sudden change from mundane to absurd is what makes people laugh.

A good example is the cliché old joke that goes something like: "I flew this morning across the Atlantic to get here. Man, are my arms tired!" The joke works because the premise forms a mental image of something mundane and normal, and the punchline then elicits a completely absurd interpretation of it. This sudden juxtaposition of the mundane with the absurd is what makes people laugh.

Even when a good comedian deals with some political topic, a good comedian doesn't take sides, and instead makes a complex topic into humorous banter. For example Chris Rock is a master at this. As an example, in a standup comedy routine he deals with the issue of the "n-word privilege". Rather than take sides, he makes light-hearted fun about how complex the whole thing is.

However, if you are just making a political statement, some kind of factual claim, or just mocking a group of people in a mean-spirited way, this kind of juxtaposition is completely lacking. It doesn't elicit laughter. It's just not fun, even if the "comedian" tries to dress it as if were a joke.

This is why comedy just doesn't work for political activism. It has to be light-hearted and in good taste, it shouldn't be mean-spirited and just outright attack the audience or a group of people, and it most certainly shouldn't be mockery. Also virtue-signaling is never good for a comedian. Light-hearted (but not whiny) self-deprecation works as humor significantly better.