Monday, September 08, 2008

Spore released with Draconian DRM

It would appear the much hyped game Spore has hit a snag; namely it's draconian DRM. The out-cry over this has turned into a hate bomb on Amazon of over 500 1-star reviews, mostly criticizing the DRM but also the dumbed-down game play.

First of all, the game incorporates a draconian DRM system that requires you to activate over the internet, and limits you to a grand total of 3 activations. If you reach that limit, then you'll have to call EA in order to add one extra activation.

"Creating" your creatures is pointless (cosmetic only, because everything is based on stats), and brings you about the same excitement as dressing up a plastic doll.

I seem to recall Will Wright giving a presentation where he said that how you designed your creature would determine it's survival. Apparently it's been dumb-down so much that the creature design is mostly cosmetic; depending on the run-of-the-mill stats and dice rolls of the average RPG. The space phase supposedly pales in comparison to Sins of the Solar Empire that boast 500,000+ sales, in part, thanks to no DRM.

Maybe EA will learn a powerful lesson from this. Who knows?

I know that until they get rid of the DRM, I won't be bothering with Spore or any other EA game.

How to improve the MOO2 AI

Master of Orion II multiplayer is typically the place to find challenging games. What about times when you just can't find an opponent or don't have that much time? The single player AI just doesn't work for practice games in single-player mode. Here's what I did to help make the AI a bit more challenging.

After starting MOO2:
1) Click Multiplayer->Hotseat->New Game
2) Do the game setup as if you where playing multiplayer
3) Keep adding custom human opponents with good race picks.
4) Start the game and play the first turn for the AI then save it.
5) Click Multiplayer->Network->Load Game then load the AI saved game.
6) Click start game after 1 person as joined.
7) Click yes to confirm start with AI opponents.

Another way to do this would be to save your first turn from a multiplayer game then load that with AI opponents. The idea is that with stronger race picks the AI will have less of a disadvantage. On Impossible, with good race picks, the AI plays about as good as the average new player. They still make lots of mistakes but it's better than just using their default race picks.

The main flaw with the MOO2 AI is that it has MOO1 mentality associated with one habitable planet per system. Instead of building colony bases it tries to expand to get the most systems possible. Since colony bases are cheaper than colony ships, this is inefficient. It also errors when building ships; tending to use lots of bombs and few weapon mods. That doesn't work for well ship-to-ship combat. Another problem is that it values a systems position over it's actual worth. It'll populate and defend a poor planet that is near a rival rather than colonize a back-water rich planet.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Peter Diamandis: Taking the next giant leap in space

Peter Diamandis says it's our moral imperative to keep exploring space -- and he talks about how, with the X Prize and other incentives, we're going to do just that.

Scientists Fear Impact of Asian Pollutants On US

This news comes via Slashdot

During the Olympics we discussed the international monitoring effort as China shut down factories and curtailed automobile travel in an attempt to reduce pollution. Now reader Anti-Globalism sends in a story that reveals that monitoring effort to be ongoing, with a bigger mandate: assessing the impact of China's pollution on the US. In fact the problem is bigger still because, as one researcher put it, "It's one atmosphere." Scientists are finding that pollution from, for example, Europe can travel right around the globe in three weeks. "By some estimates more than 10 billion pounds of airborne pollutants from Asia — ranging from soot to mercury to carbon dioxide to ozone — reach the US annually. The problem is only expected to worsen: Some Chinese officials have warned that pollution in their country could quadruple in the next 15 years. While some scientists are less certain, others say the Asian pollution could destabilize weather patterns across the North Pacific, mask the effects of global warming, reduce rainfall in the American West and compromise efforts to meet air-pollution standards."

Wow. I remember reading about this possibility years ago in environmentalist fiction. Interesting that's is becoming a reality just as they predicted it would.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google Chrome

Google Chrome works better than most of the beta products that I've ever played around with. It installs, loads and processes Web content faster than either Firefox or IE. It works especially well with Google apps likes gmail and Google reader. Seems to get along well enough with other web tools too.