Thursday, December 4, 2008

Future Thoughts...

Ten years from now, I can only dream to see myself creating the very things I believe are changing and developing our youth today, video games and simulations. Though much different from now, games and simulations seems like it could be funded and used by many different companies to train and educate many people that will be arising from the next generation. My friends will have just about the same hardships as me in how to make technology better and finding new ideas to make life easier. The government will still be in a state of crisis due to economic difficulty and involved in other country’s affairs. The internet and the technology to use the internet will be the same but some new technology will change the way we view it shortly after ten years though.

I think gaming companies will be used by many if not every company in the country, due to the fact that the younger generation grew up on, thrived and understands teachings through digital interactions. So the gaming and simulation industry will never die, it will just evolve into a new form of media. It is almost to say that games are new types of books only you aren’t just reading about the character’s story, you’re interacting with the character to draw out more of the story. Not to say our society is growing past printed books, it’s just growing into something new. Something that envelopes the reader and draws them more into the story.

I think that it will be much more difficult to come up with more content in the future because there is so much great things to look at in the past to compare to. My friend is a mechanical engineer and I have no idea how his industry is going to advance forward. Though there are many fields in mechanical engineering and much to do, it just seems so unimaginable how far that trade could go. Development of a holographic projected interface for computers would be an amazing idea to start with. Usually when seeing things in movies come to life, I start to think that some of the things could become realistic. I think holographic projected computers would be one of the biggest finds at the end of ten years. This new technology would be a space-less monitor that projects your computer screen, not sure if it’ll be touch screen as well though it wouldn’t be impossible to think of that over the next five years after that.

Though with all this technology it still doesn’t change the fact that our economy is going into shambles. People are living longer, people are having babies at younger ages, and our population is increasing dramatically. This creates a problem for people to find work. The housing crisis seems like it’s only have seen the tip of the iceberg, have not seen the huge body that’s underwater, and eventually going to put a hole in our country’s ship. I can only hope that something is done before we sink. Meanwhile government paranoia is going to be on high alert due to the fact that technology will advance even further pass the internet. Terrorism will no longer be done physically by people but through the internet.

The internet was the revolutionary information highway that will still exist only security will be much higher and protected. Due to the fact that most information is dumped onto the internet without being checked, lots of information on the internet will turn it into an opinionated resource rather than having facts. Most of the information that is factual such as online textbooks for students and digital libraries to use will have to be secured by government sites to keep the information from being unchangeable and hacked into by digital terrorists.

One decade from now is very far into the future. Technology evolves so fast that society can’t keep up with it’s measures. All that I am hoping for, is that people evolve as much as technology, and not to let it get too far away from us that we are not controlling it anymore and it is controlling us. We as mankind are always thinking of new ways to convenience ourselves by making things easier. Sometimes we need that step back to keep ourselves on our toes, and relearn what we have modified over the years, and I hope that each generation is not that na├»ve to forget where they have come from.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Convenient Paranoia

Cory Doctorow’s, Little Brother is a spell binding book. Definitely one that I grabbed, glued my eyes to the pages and buried my nose between the spine of. I still have the scent of printed paper in my nostrils lurking around. Reading other books are interesting but you don’t see many using high school students that are extremely technically savvy and going against the odds. It seems like a book that could relate to me and that’s why I picked it up and could not put it down. This book gives off a sense of paranoia, in almost every form of government that a student could be afraid of. I could recall some incidents where I was felt or that I knew I was being watched or be caught at any moment, and sometimes did get caught.

Well I could recall, going to high school as a sophomore and thinking that everything was fine one day. Basketball season was over and the end of the year was closing in very soon. The principal was the head coach of the football team and he was a very strict individual. That year, I had a computer typing class with this girl that I was dating and we would chat a lot using instant messages. I don’t think the computer teacher minded too much as long as we finished our typing lessons or if it was open lab after school. Well, to tell a story short, I was using the computer for more than just chatting. One magnificent evening, I was in class and over the intercom, a nice voice spoke out “Brandon Stockton, could you please come to the principal’s office”. I didn’t think nothing of it since I was on the football team and that year we won the championship. So, I stood up, strolled down to the principals office as slowly as possible to miss as much class as possible to only see the face of one of the angriest men I had ever seen. I thought I had got caught for cutting class a week before but this was different. Apparently, the principal had access to all the student accounts, could read chat logs and monitor anything a student downloads. So thankfully to say I wasn’t suspended, but my mom and dad were furious. The principal sentenced me to twenty hours of community service or suspension for 3 days. I took the community service. That was when my paranoia about schools began.

My friend told me about an interesting video one day. The video was research a person had done about the incidents before, during, and after “9/11“. The video was about movie length filled with lots of interesting data about the government. After watching this video, honestly I felt a sense of dishonesty and that something did seem missing from that incident. So of course I had to watch the movie again to see what happened again. The movie was very convincing and the person telling the documentary sounded very educated as if he knew what he was talking about the whole time. My thoughts came to a contorted crossroad, of what I should believe or not; The person that was feeding me facts or the government in which I live under. Certainly, I have my thoughts and theories about the government, but this was different. This was important. I guess I’m still standing at that same crossroad today in my mind.

I know that most movies aren’t real but a couple movies that really stick into my head are usually government conspiracy movies. Those movies some of the best movies, because they are so action packed with tons of suspense and action until you really find out who’s pulling the strings on the evil puppets; the government. A couple movies to name were Enemy of the State, Conspiracy Theory and The Bourne Series. All of which really sticks into my mind this day because after watching them makes you wonder about the government. The tracking systems that they use to watch people. The instant data that they could obtain about you in less than five minutes. Makes you wonder, does that all really happen when someone is being watched by the government. I think the government are pushing people have credit cards and traceable information so that whenever they need to apprehend you for any reason, they could do so in less than 10 minutes. Almost makes me want to never buy a toothbrush with my debit card ever again.

Little Brother, did bring back these same feelings while reading it. I guess I could place this book upon the shelf of memories about the government that will always haunt me. I don’t think their could be anything worse than one of the three things: nuclear or biological weapons, catastrophic nature apocalypse, and government takeover. Government takeover is probably the worst out of all three because you suffer before dying. The surveillance of mankind is almost inevitable due to technology. The more convenient of technology we create, the easier the tactics are for the government to keep track of us.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not Far At All

Just to think that my grandma can be in a virtual world makes me giggle vigorously. In Halting State the future does not seem far from it. The technology of Halting State is the sort of technology that is at everyone’s grasp and some people are afraid to use it because of it’s power and influence. The next generation of people seems fond of interactivity and hands on learning instead of reading from books. The economy could be virtual if it wanted to be, it’s only a matter of time.

Technology is an interesting thing, and everyone seems to find it interesting one way or the other. I remember in James Bond movies that Q would show 007 a room full of gadgets that he could use in awkward states of emergency. No matter how you look at it people are getting used to it more and more and sometimes without noticing. Have you ever been to someone’s house and have been told to use the microwave? Funny thing is, usually you could get the general grasp of what to do but the interface is changed from your own microwave so you don’t really know what to press. After 1 minute you’ll usually get the hang of it, because you’re starving or you’ll ask your friend how to turn on the damn microwave. The same goes for new cell phones, play with a cell phone for 30 minutes and I’m sure you’ll be fluttering through text messages like no other. It does not take long to pick up a new interface of some new technology for many people to pick it up and run with it. New technology is to make life easier in some way but why are some people so afraid of it? Is it because driving with a cell phone almost seems more dangerous than driving drunk or could it be that some people are afraid of change. Virtual or not virtual people change their interfaces all the time except some of them don’t really call it an interface, they would rather call it a dashboard, stereo, I-pod, cell phone, or computer screen. Getting used to them isn’t the problem, it’s what kind of damage that can be done with it that scares people so much.

It’s the abuse of technology that scares them even more. Several people are scared to shop online, because they think some computer hacker is going to get their credit card information somehow and take all their money. But whose to say that a burglar couldn’t come into their house and take their things. Robbing a house is just a bigger interface than hacking a computer system and a lot more hands on. I also remember when camera cell phones came out, and thieves started taking pictures of peoples credit cards in stores while shopping in line at the cash registers. That was a pretty clever stunt when I heard about that one. Thus, the reason why some people don’t like new technology, because it is another way to harm someone else.

I don’t doubt that their with be a generation, soon to come, that will be born with keyboards. Zeros and Ones will flow through their veins like blood and they will live, eat, sleep and breath technology. The next generation is becoming so technical it’s amazing. I’ve seen an 7 year-old with a cell phone. Of course she always dropped it but the point being that she knew how to use it is kind of scary and fascinating at the same time. Cell phones are starting to become a infrastructure for something new. Since you can technically access tons of information from them they are very fit to becoming the extension to a virtual environment. The thing with cell phones is that nearly everyone already has them and does not have to worry about buying another console to play a game that seems exciting. The gaming specs don’t seem too far off from a Bluetooth headset with a visor over it, or better than that the old Virtual Boy that was released by Nintendo ages ago. They even have glasses online that lets you watch movies if attached to a portable DVD player or an I-pod. Comes to show that cell phones could easily be a virtual console that could be used for a game.

Since it is already online, why not make your banking a fun experience. I could only imagine logging into my bank screen name and they would have an avatar waiting in a virtual world for my approval to add money to my account. It would be a neat way to have people spend more time banking and straightening out their taxes and stuff besides filling out paper work at a dull looking computer screen or a pile of papers using only a pen. Though hacking is relatively easy for some people and in the event someone should dress up like orcs and dragons to steal from the bank, that would be an interesting site to see, as long as he doesn’t rob me while I’m there making a deposit. Could also make a virtual stock room where players could put in stock and give advice about stock, but this too does also seem like a quirky idea. I wonder how would the virtual world respond to a stock market crash, would be interesting to watch the reactions but not a fun experience at all.

The technology is here for the use. Mostly all the technology is at the tip of our fingers and we have yet to grasp it because of the challenge or because of the dangers. Cell phones could possibly be the next virtual world if someone wanted it to be, due to the fact that it can already communicate to other people, find other people, has gaming applications, has an interface, and can connect to the internet. Interactive banking and virtual economies could be interesting, but still dangerous to open up the possibilities to more clever people to abuse it. I guess in a way I can’t giggle at my grandma anymore because I know several more people that are older than her that plays online games. I’ve never seen them before leaned over at a computer keyboard frustrated with Microsoft Word before either. So I guess I can still giggle at my grandma and I’ll have to let my grandma try World of Warcraft at Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What Players Dream...

There is actually a very adventurous and social aspect behind the game of Final Fantasy. You have your gamers that just love playing it for the community of friends, players that just want to level every job they have until they have completely beaten the game, and players that want to make as much money as possible from the game. All of these types of players, I would say enjoys the game, but has different motives behind it. Most of the players are driven by their status in the community, meaning that they have played so long that they couldn’t dream of giving up something that has taken them so long to achieve.

Social experience is bar far the most interesting part of the game. You’ll find those rare friends in the parties that you join that will talk about anything under the sun, and others parties won’t be so enjoyable because you have that one prick leader that either doesn’t know what he or she is doing and killing everyone or just a simple prick for no reason. Parties and linkshells are where the fun starts. You’ll always want that party where everyone talks about anything and has huge amounts of fun, otherwise you’ll find yourself drooling on your keyboard from staying up so late in a party that is giving you great experience but bores you to sleep. It is always great to have a party that you always level with, because you’ll know that you’re going to have fun that night and you know that when you have to leave they will also understand. Even when out of the party, you have a friends list to talk to anyone that you’ve met and usually it gets filled with so many people that you have to take off old friends. I remember Mark Stephen Meadows said something along the lines that the community will build itself once the space is provided. This is what really happens. You have people talking in linkshells about their lives and what happened to them today in school, and on ventrillo talking to each other about how to improve themselves in game and outside the virtual world. Your community is as enjoyable as you build it.

The success of being L337. Nothing strokes a gamers’ self-satisfaction than to have his character being among the top in the world. In Final Fantasy, you really only have one character, just different jobs that you can be. Of course you have those players that stay at home, eat chips all day and eyes literally glued to their monitor or television screen for several days straight because they want to find the best party to level from 71 to 75. They probably have missed a day or two of work because they were getting too much experience and almost reached the maximum level of 75. These are the players that have about 7-10 jobs mastered, and mind you, it takes a extremely long time to level a job in Final Fantasy due to the fact that not everything goes as perfect as you want them to be online. They also have the rarest items, and make sure they have plenty of time to play, to gain as much as possible.

On the other hand you have the avatars that other players scorn, the money makers. They farm their little hearts out only to gain something real out of the game. They treat this game as an opportunity or an investment to make something bigger out of it. You have your gil farmers, who camp rare monster spots and receive the rare loot. They sell the item on the auction house and sell they gil for money in real life. You’ll always see on eBay, that someone is selling 1 to 10 million gil because they have made a business out of it. They enjoy the game up to the fact that they can play, and make money out of it. Honestly, it seems like another job.

The players that dream, are the ones that are in the middle of all these other types of characters. They want to be the best, they want to be socially known, and they want to make lots of money but not to sell on eBay. These are most of the people that make up the game. They have played for many years and only play that same game because of the time they have invested into it. The more you play the harder it is for someone to give up, because of their relationships, their goals, and their success. That is what drives the average avatar. Some people that do not play MMOs do not understand the reason why people play these games, and it is the simple fact that everyone, in the back of their minds, wish that they could be something or someone else at some given point in their lives. They may have seen someone famous on television and said “gee I wish I could be as successful as him,” not knowing that probably that same guy said the same thing when he was growing up listening to the radio to another guy. I remember Mark Stephen Meadows saying something like avatars give us an opportunity to take a break from our daily lives and gives us the chance to practice another. Though with this practice, the players never knows how exhilarating and fun it can be to be someone else. To walk in someone else’s shoes, seek out an adventure that you could only possibly dream about, read in books, or see in movies and television shows. They are about living out a fantasy for the most part and secondly, finding others to live out that fantasy with you.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tales of Jeuno

I’m amazed at the site of such a beautiful environment that Final Fantasy 11 provides and yet with the people that live in it must appreciate the same. Abundant cities of avatars doing as they please to make their adventures more entertaining and worthwhile lies usually three to four large areas where avatars can roam. The place to find the most people of course would be the shopping areas. There are many different ways to interact with another avatar. Interacting with other avatars is very different from interacting with NPC just like interacting with someone in real life is different from interacting with someone in a virtual world.

As I gaze through my avatars eyes, I see a city filled with avatars doing all sorts of things. Standing around, looking for groups, browsing bazaars, flooding the auction house with items and fulfilling quests is what brings joy to most avatars in this world. Heading north through Jeuno’s stoned streets, avatars are everywhere. To the right you have your group of bazaars people who stands there selling items from they’re inventory to make some money. To the left you’ll see the auction house windows, waiting on many people to sell items to the highest bidders. Further down to the left you’ll see many synthesizers using their arts to create new items from just scraps and crystals. Then you have those random people standing around away from their keyboard or looking for a group or a teleport that sometimes would take hours at a time. The liveliness of every city in this game lies near the auction house. The auction house is where social economy booms. Avatars are selling and trading their goods to other people to make money, just like an online auction site, like EBAY. Down the street from the auction house would be the in-game shops with synthesizers lined outside the doors. The bazaars right across the cobblestone causeway from the auction house would be the downtown market and avatars would shout throughout the city for teleports somewhere outside of the city would be the taxis.

There are so many things to do and so many different types of avatars to interact with. I met a Taru Taru avatar named Ninjaru that really never played the storyline of the game; he only played to craft items. Being an amazing bone-crafter he traded me a couple spiked necklaces for some large fangs I picked up in the Jugner Forest from killing black panthers. Kittenmitt, the Mithra, was another cool avatar that I met on my journey that loved to bazaar. She would clean out her entire inventory and put everything that she wanted to sell in there that she had gathered from unusual places. Countless people would come up to her and browse the bazaar. By the end of the night she would have sold nearly everything. Some of the stuff looked completely useless to me, but I guess someone needed it. Stonedelf was my best friend in this game. He was a young Elvaan, like me, inspired by achieving glory by going out of the cities and fighting alongside me. Stonedelf and I would group up and take long journeys out to the Altepa Desert and farm death scorpions together. Like real life, finding friends in the virtual world can be a little bit difficult depending on how social you are.

Although most interactions are friendly in Final Fantasy you do occasionally have your quarrels. Usually the bickering is only about political issues happening in real life or how some players lost experience because of another avatar. People do tend to be very rude in virtual worlds. Due to the thought that mostly everyone in this world are random people with random names, no one can find each other and the true nature of the avatar comes out because he or she is free to do what they want and not bound by the nature of real life. There are some consequences in the game that will prohibit an avatar from doing certain things and constantly harassing other avatars. The game jail is where monsters instantly kill you if you leave the cell and your experience will be lost or a suspension from the game due to misconduct. I’m sure that interactions would be different if those two avatars met that same avatar in real life. I don’t think they would get into a fist fight from talking about Obama and McCain, due to the fact that there are much more dire consequences than being in virtual world.

It’s very different interacting with the actual game than another avatar. With other avatars you could get a variety of different responses. From emotes that give out hugs, kisses, comfort, and claps of excitement to other responses that disapprove, feel angry, make rude gestures and even slap the other avatar are given responses that avatar could use to feel more interactive. Some of the motions of the interactions are visible and others are not. Interacting with the game however is usually straight forward or gives you a couple options to choose but all leading to the same response give or take. Like most MMOs or RPGs for that matter, NPCs usually give the same prompt unless the story is progressing. This makes the game less responsive as it could be.

Very much so like a real city, many avatars are attracted to buying and selling goods. You could see the same interactions at a downtown marketplace or a mini mall. In this marketplace, since there is a majority of avatars there, many interactions occur. Like almost every MMO I’ve seen, there is a limit to what the avatar can do based on the content and objective of the game. NPCs won’t interact with the other avatars very much unless the story has progress to that NPC. The responses to other avatars could be unlimited to whatever the user’s imagination can see. Interacting with the avatars in the game would be very different from real life due to thoughts and consequences of being in the vicinity with that person.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thoughts of the Age

When I think of diamond age, I think of the ages of Greek history, in which every age set forth the coming of a new era. Upon reading Diamond Age I get the feeling that this is not a diamond age at all. When I think of diamonds, unlike silver, gold and bronze, I think of perfection, but the age in which Nell grows up in is very flawed. The drummers are weird. The primer that Nell and the other girls use to learn from is a very interesting technology though it is not always useful.

The society in Diamond Age is more technically advanced than the society we live in today, but with that technically advanced society it seems as though the world has spun into a more chaotic place than our own. Nanotechnology and computer literacy thrives in the world Nell lives in and it is normal for people to use it, but it seems as though the more technology people have, the world goes further and further into a dystopia. Tribal societies at war, thetes pillaging the streets using guns that are smaller than their hands, and an abundance of orphans that do not have anywhere to live. Peace and harmony exists very little in this world and it doesn’t seem like the problems between people have changed much, only the technology. Although the technology seems fantastic in some ways than others, it seems as though it could be more dangerous and risky to have.

The colony of the drummers is very interesting. It was difficult to understand exactly what they were doing because their strange culture was stunned me as I read through some of the words. The rituals used by the drummers was very unique and I could not understand why exactly they were doing it. Only in a technically advanced age would they people to hack other people’s minds and that’s what I think I’ve concluded to. The drummers would use their bodily contact to hack into other people minds through nanotechnology, which almost ingenious, but the rituals honestly seemed mildly outrageous.

I also thought it was interesting that the girls that given the primers did not grow up the same way. The best affect of the primer happened to Nell. She grew up to be extremely smart, and a great leader, thanks to the primer and the ractor that stayed with her named Miranda. The effect was not the same coming from Lord Finkle-McGraw’s granddaughter, Elizabeth. She actually wasn’t very interested in the stories the primer were teaching her and grew out of them quickly, thus becoming a member of the CryptNet later in the story. The primer also worked differently with Fiona Hackworth as well. Three different girls leading three different lives. Not to mention the orphans that obtained the primers, who eventually became an army for Nell. I think what effected these girls the most was the people that were around them and how they were being taught through the primer that changed their lifestyle the most.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Exploring Final Fantasy 11

Final Fantasy is a long blood-line of games that has been produced since the late 1980’s. Final Fantasy 11 is the first massively multiplayer online game for this set of sequels. The past inevitably brings about the present with this game as the opening scene serves your testament as a member of a nation and an entire civilization. Picking from the one of the three choices of nations, the player can create and be whatever he or she desires to oppose the beastmen. The world is massive and indeed one of the most eye-catching artistic worlds I’ve ever seen in an MMO. This difficult game to master is not a cakewalk for the average gamer, but it is the frustration and enthusiasm that keeps the gamers begging for more.

The game starts off with an incredibly stunning cinematic that drove me to play even more. The four civilizations are fleeing to a well-built keep on top of a ridge, to uphold an invasion by an immense collection of beastmen. Usually beastmen aren’t smart enough to collectively come together to make an army, but they have done so with help. The camera follows the story of two orphans, that couldn’t be over 11 years old, who are fleeing with the soldiers before nightfall. Nightfall appears, and the combined forces of beastmen appear out of the night with fury. The infantry of people used their various fighting skills to hold them off. Magic and arrows were being littered into the night air at the beastmen. Holding back the beastmen using all their might, the beastmen manage to infiltrate the keep, and overrun it. Innocent civilians are being chased and killed everywhere by the vicious beastmen with no intention of mercy. The keep is then overwhelmed in chaos. Then turning to the two orphans, Aldo and Emilan, two beastmen were thirsty for blood. Fleeing for their lives they manage to find a hole that leads them out the back of the keep, but Emilan protecting her younger brother took the sacrifice and was never seen again. The keep ended in ruins. Twenty years later, a new gathering of soldiers returns to the ruined keep, with Aldo, to begin to start over again. This cinematic encouraged me to play, through revenge. I feel that as one of Aldo’s accomplices, it is my solemn duty to return the favor to the beastmen that has caused much pain and suffering.

Creating a player is fun, though you only get one character really, and any other character you own, you have to pay an additional dollar. Supposedly you really only need one character though, but extra characters are good for banking valuable goods. First you could choose between 5 different races, Galka, Elvaan, Hume, Mithra, and Taru Taru. Then you could choose which of the three countries you will stand for, in which Galka and Hume are together to form Bastock, Mithra and Taru Taru presides over Windurst, and Elvaans reign over San D’Oria. Each them having their own racial advantages they compose the civilization you play for. I am a male Elvaan, from San D’Oria, here to protect the collective races of the world at which we know as Vana’diel. I picked this Elvaan, because he is one of the most agile characters in the game and still more powerful than a hume. Though his magic isn’t as powerful, he can deal powerful melee damage and be able to avoid attacks as well. If I were an actual Elvaan living in this world of Vana’diel, this character would be just like me. This character might make the impression that I am playing with a person that is tall and young in real life, or tall and young at heart. On top of that you could be any class you want to be instead of that same warrior-class the whole game. You can change your class throughout the game to whatever you want to be, keeping your inventory throughout the game.

Out of all the MMOs I’ve played, this is by far one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen. Overlooking miles upon mile of incredible landscapes are the four kingdoms that separate each other. This world was built with spectacular realistic design. From forests to deserts and swamps to beaches the scenery changes so drastically that even fly from above the ground on airships, you could almost tell exactly where you are.

Though the games environmental beauty is mesmerizing, the difficulty of the game just skyrocketed. Interlaced with problems finding people throughout the cities, you have lack of movement in the character. Unfortunately, the only visible interaction that you could physically do with your keyboard is target people, talk to people, and run. That is correct; you are in a no jumping game. The interface for this game is a bit different I must say. The usual keys to move in an MMO are thrown out the window. Using the number-pad on the right side of your keyboard are the movement keys, which I found a bit different to use and does take quite some time to get used to. Creating macros in this game helps out a ton, when fighting enemies.

The game is difficult to play, but that is what makes the game fun. The sense of a challenge, willpower and determination to master all your classes and be the ultimate member of your civilization is your goal. Defeating as many of the beastmen as possible, meeting new people, and unraveling the story behind what is to become of Vana’diel is the plot of my new adventure ahead of me. Though the times when camping out in different environments may be hard, and discovering new tactics, skills and magic to defeat my enemies will be put to the test, my virtue for keeping this world safe is more than just a dream of mine. It is a dream of every other adventurer like me who plays.