Saturday, May 26, 2012

Random Review - In Progress: Dust 514 (NDA Compliant!)

So I'm in the Dust 514 beta, and the non-disclosure agreement is pretty draconian for a semi-public beta.

Nonetheless!  I have a few things I want to record as I slog my way through this thing.  Here is the NDA; I've read the confidentiality agreement and an confident that nothing here violates if.  If anyone wants me to take this post down just let me know.

Let's start with some background.  Dust 514 is the "ground side" compliment to the zealously-love-it-or-rabidly-hate-it EVE Online.  EVE is an a "massively multiplayer" game contained entirely within a single persistent universe where hundreds of thousands of players (though there are usually only 20-40 thousand on at a time) engage in pretty much anything you can imagine, from working the player-driven markets for a quick (and fake, this isn't Diablo 3 with its insane "real world money" mechanics) buck or fighting in 1000+ person battles for control of large sections of space.

It's kind of hard to explain, but I love it.

All of the action in EVE Online takes place flying in spaceships for the most part (you spend an unfortunate amount of time staring at menus in space stations though).  Dust 514 is an attempt to add planet-side warfare to the macro-strategic elements of EVE.  While EVE is a PC/MAC exclusive game, Dust 514 is only on PS3.  There is no space combat in Dust, instead you get a FPS in the vein of the Halo/CoD/Battlefield series.  Right now there isn't any real connection to EVE other than thematically, so I can't really comment on how well it integrates into EVE's radically different style of gameplay, but that will change as the beta test progresses.

Impressions after about an hour of gameplay, including dead-time sifting through menus:
  • I play on a standard-definition television, and CCP (the creators of EVE and Dust) unfortunately hasn't taken into account the effect of HD-text on a proletarian's TV.  I literally can't read half of the things written on the screen.  This isn't a unique problem to Dust, but there are plenty of contemporary games that don't have this problem and I hope CCP addresses it soon.
  • The visuals in general seem low-resolution and ugly.  The battlefields are rather large, but the lack of visual fidelity is alarming.
  • It is way too frustrating to tell the difference between allies and enemies.  The low-quality visuals and the lack of easy identifiers means you often can't pick out who is who in a firefight, and will inevitably waste some ammo on team mates.
  • Overall it is still fun, and character customization does feel a lot like spaceship 'fitting' in EVE.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An unelected and unaccountable official who I'd vote for!

America, Fuck Yeah! [link to article by Glenn Greenwald]


A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Birgitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yes Virginia, the Public Sector is the problem. [micro-updated]

Whenever the so-called Great Recession* is discussed the conversation has a tendency to become binary in nature.  If you read the comment threads on a site, such as Matt Taibbi's excellent blog, the discussion becomes this-
Person A: "The financial industry is to blame."
Person B: "No, the Government is to blame."
Sometimes Person C will butt-in (and rudely turn the discussion into a ternary one) to pin the tail on the lazy donkey, "No, the Idle Masses are to blame!"
As with most any over-generalized caricature there is a modicum of truth to all three, though in this case it is not in equal amounts.

The main problem is that A and B both fail to realize that the government and financial industry are indistinguishable at this point.

There are small pieces of the various governments, such as the public sector unions and populist politicians, who don't view their role as shoveling wealth upon the elite economic interests.  Those pieces are being marginalized and excised with increasing zeal every day by the real powers in government.

In order to understand the role of government in this mess you have to start with the hack politicians.  They are funneled through an electoral apparatus such as the US's Two Party System which requires them to cozy up to the economic elites in order to have a chance of being elected, though typically the politician is one of those elites to begin with.  Once in office the politicians appoint unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, drawn from the corporate and financial sectors, and it is those bureaucrats who do all of the actual work of governing!

To blame only the public or the private sector, to only blame one or the other, is to miss entirely half of the problem!  They are not competing interests, but rather are one unified power structure which thrives on confusing and dividing the general population.  Just look at how the American Republicans blame the government that they inhabit and the Democrats offer tepid chastisement of everyone while both the Rs and Ds execute political programs that are merely different interpretations of the same economic strategy.  Incidentally, while the differences between different main-stream political parties are very important, in the long run the end results are nearly indistinguishable!

And the "idle masses"?  They, including the non-idle masses, have yet to organize themselves and smash apart the systems of financial, corporate, and government exploitation.

Unfortunately I'll need some more coffee before I'm ready for that.
* I'm sure that the citizens of the Southern Cone were happy to be informed by Serious Economists that the '70s and '80s weren't a time of great economic suffering like they remembered.
[Updated because I forgot a paragraph and also can't spell.  Sorry.]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So my Greek comrades have done pretty well for themselves....

Just chiming in for a second so that I can be on the record with this:

The radical left coalition has done amazingly well in the most recent elections in Greece, and are already shaking things up. [from the Guardian, emphasis added]

The fate of Greece is, on Tuesday night, in the hands of the leader of a far-left party who launched the quest to form a government by declaring the country could no longer commit itself to the terms of an international loan agreement keeping its economy afloat. 
After accepting a mandate to create a multiparty administration following inconclusive elections, Alexis Tsipras sent shockwaves through financial markets by announcing the pledges Athens had made to secure rescue funds from the EU and IMF were null and void. 
"The popular verdict clearly renders the bailout deal null," said the politician, whose stridently anti-austerity coalition of the radical left, known as Syriza, sprung the surprise of the weekend's poll, coming in second with 16.8% of the vote. "This is an historic moment for the left and the popular movement and a great responsibility for me."  
[...]Syriza, a coalition of ex-communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, socialists and greens[...]
Two important things to say here:

  • The Maoists are on board with this and still the KKE (a Stalin-esque party) is refusing to join the coalition!  Somebody needs to tell them that the 3rd International is long dead [hurray!] and they can stop being slaves to Soviet Union reactionary policies.
  • On the Marxist/Socialist/Communist spectrum I'm ideologically closest to the Trotskyists; when I refer to "my comrades" in the title of this post I primarily mean them.  I'm also perfectly happy to include other Eevull Commees when they are doing good work.
    • Anyway, I won't be terribly surprised if Syriza coalition ultimately disappoints on every front, but please comrades, don't let me down.