Can't sleep.

So, I got an iPhone. Observations follow.

1) There seems to be some kind of vague internet/techy backlash against the iphone. Among my friends (high proportion of programmers or those generally tech-oriented in both career and personal interest), the general response seems to be 'Yeah, it's not as amazing as everyone says it is.' I don't know enough iPhone owners to judge that - my brother used to constantly talk about how his changed his life, but he said the same thing about the time he ate bone marrow at a french restaurant, so I tend to automatically filter that out.
2) No flash support, or java. At first I was very disappointed, since I'm a maniac for flash in general - I wanted to watch flash animations while on the go, etc. But I'm starting to realize this isn't as big a deal as I originally thought.
3) I got it for 100 bucks. That makes me happy. Just wanted to say that. Moving on...
4) The entire interface of the phone is downright smooth. Smooth to the point of being charming. That's normally a nice feature, but on a cell phone it's practically a godsend to be able to interact with contacts, schedules, web apps, etc and have it not feel like a pain in the ass. I previously had a Sony Ericcson w810i, and really... it was a piece of shit. Candybar phone that was too small to feel comfortable while talking on it. Sure, it had java apps, but who gives a shit when finding apps for your phone is such a time-consuming, disorganized chore? Small buttons made it a pain to type anything into. No native web browser, etc, etc. The list goes on. With the iPhone, there's instant connectivity with various popular web-based email apps (All my main accounts are Gmail now), the apple store is the nexus for all apps, the screen is large enough to support an on-screen touch keyboard, etc. It's just smooth all around.
5) The app store, along with the general feel and features of the phone, has the potential to make the iphone into a serious contender for hand-held gaming.

It's number 5 that I really want to focus on, naturally.

Cell phones, even PDAs, never really had a point where they took off in a big way as far as apps go. Features, yes - the cell market in particular is bristling with all manner of phones that each compete with each other on those terms, and I think this has been the case for years now. But applications, software? No. And I can think of a number of reasons for this.

* A broad variety of phones each with different features and capabilities means a potential nightmare for compatibility concerns. It's hard to even target 'Nokia phones' or 'Sony phones' because they still have models distributed all over the place, ranging from cheap minimally-featured phones to multiple feature-packed phones that still have considerable differences between each other. You couldn't really make a cell phone app. At best, you could make an app for Sony Ericcson w8***-series phones (excluding d models) and note that your software may work with other models but they're unsupported. Yes, java is supposed to solve this by being multi-platform. It didn't.
* Not only did the variety of phones lead to problems developing apps to begin with, but it led to problems for finding the apps that did get made. There's no good, single site or group of sites a cell phone user can go to for information on the latest software for their phone. Instead there's a fair swarm of amateurish sites for particular phones or ranges of models. Yet more discouragement for any programmers to really see a reasonable opportunity for money or notoriety. Yet more discouragement for casual cell phone users (And they've got to be the vast, vast majority of the market) to even considering delving into the app market.
* What did proliferate were scam apps. Misleading websites and advertisements that let you download the stupid joke of the day or some moderately interesting service all for the low low price of 14.99 a month, offered in such a way that you probably wouldn't notice the charge until it showed up on your cell phone bill. The phone companies, doing their best Gordon Gekko imitations, came up with and turn a blind eye to this bullshit for whatever reason - and the result has been further spooking off people from even thinking about meddling with apps on their phones, much less trying them out.
* Finally, even in the rare case you found a legit app that was compatible with your phone, you still have one more barrier to climb: The phone itself. A device which typically is constructed with third-party app use as an afterthought - after all, there's not all that many of the things fors ome reason. So you have to decide if the usefulness of the app is worth dealing with the typically tiny screen and the just as typically tiny dial-pad interface to get anything done.

Compare this to the iPhone.

* They more or less force you to familiarize yourself with iTunes, which functions as not only an app hub but as the sole legit app hub for the iphone. They also, to my knowledge, require you to have an internet subscription service with AT&T to even activate and use an iPhone. The entire market therefore is linked to a single website.
* The interface is smooth. You have a large screen - large enough to support a QWERTY keyboard for the touch sensitive interface. Syncing is easy to learn, popular web-mail carriers are smoothly integrated outright.
* As a result of great PR, the iPhone has considerable market share - and the feature differences between the iPhones are minimal. In essence, a decent chunk of the cell phone market is truly single platform.
* You have both the interface and the concentrated market. But you also have Apple setting up a cheap entry path for would-be programmers along with a straightforward 30/70 profit split on their site where new apps are policed to keep at least the unquestionably trashy programs out.

The result is what you'd expect: The iPhone has a swarm of apps already out, with more coming. Yes, some of them are dinky little pieces of crap, or experiments at most. But there are also many apps that are not only damn good, but free. All they really need now is a killer app and...

Oh wait. They have one. It's called Aurora Feint, and it's more or less the same concept as Puzzle Quest but with the stated goal to go in an MMO direction. I know I don't have to explain PQ to any of you addicts. Watch the video, and tell me you don't feel like playing that game right now.

If you would have told me a week ago - and I've had this phone for longer - that the iPhone was in a position to line up beside the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP as a handheld gaming system, I wouldn't have believed it. I'd have expected ports, maybe even some fairly inventive indie games. Competing with the DS and PSP? Sorry, that's too optimistic. But after seeing the quality of some of the free - free! - games that have come out for the iPhone, I can't rule it out. Not in an age where 360 Live Arcade, Wii Ware, and the PS Store form important, integral aspects of even dedicated console gaming and demonstrate the desirability of games with a casual, indie flavor. Not when Apple has positioned the iPhone as one of the most potentially desirable platforms for programmers to get in at the ground floor with.

I want to go back to the first comment I made about the phone on this entry: The annoyed reaction of more tech-savvy people to the giddiness of iPhone owners. Yes, I know they're babbling about the features their phone has, and that those features are nothing new or truly exciting. Yes, I know you've been able to do all this and possibly more with phones you've had in your possession for 1, maybe more years. Understand that for some of these people, the excitement isn't due to stupidity. You're probably dealing with people who, due to the reasons I listed above, were discouraged from using their phones in these ways, or really, even finding or knowing of phones that were capable of such things. It's not the raw capability of their cell phones that's causing this - it's the newfound ease to understand, find, and use these things.
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    tired tired


Continuing that long-running blogger/LJ-user trend of posting articles just because they confirm their own beliefs, I give you this:

For Most People, College Is a Waste of Time

Some choice quotes.

Outside a handful of majors -- engineering and some of the sciences -- a bachelor's degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance. Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.

The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.

I favor autodidactism, certification, and the essential end of the university system as we know it - so naturally, I'm all in favor of the tone this article takes, though I'd go several steps ahead of it - primarily because I don't just view the university system as inefficient and outdated, but generally nefarious and an anchor around the neck of modern society. It remains the last archaic institution whose existence and membership should be regarded with the same level of skepticism we treat political leaders, business leaders, and religious leaders to.

Mister Pengo rates Everquest 2

Pros: Has the most solid fundamentals of any major MMO. Broad diversity of classes that each manage to perform in a distinct manner, while at the same time allowing each to fit into 1 of 4 'major roles' that every party needs (Tank, healer, dps, scout). Tradeskilling is actually useful, which is a rare feat. Consistent content updates and quality tuning. Game is tremendously solo-friendly. Tertiary link to a fun CCG. Game has truly improved with age.

Cons: The WNBA also has extremely solid fundamentals, and is about as popular as EQ2. Scenery is beautiful, while PCs and NPCs have a distinct 'Poser 2.0' appearance to them. Population consists primarily of housewives and the children of housewives, leading to a distinct impression you're exploring a fantasy world located inside of a suburban K-mart. Soloing too much makes you feel like a creep. Native UI stinks, though it can be replaced.

Overall: Hey, they're letting you play the game for free until the end of September, so go for it. They're trying like crazy to get people to play, and it shows.


Just a quick quote I like:

"Regardless of whether your candidate wins or loses by more than one vote, your vote was irrelevant. In the highly unlikely circumstance that your candidate happens to win by the one vote you cast, the courts will arbitrarily determine the outcome."

Can't argue with that.


You wanna know what's creepy? People who go to public forums and, in detail, describe what they really like to see in pornography.

See, when I was in high school, friends of mine started to talk about their favorite porn movies. To this day, I remember some of those preferences in detail - and every time I remember it, I start to think how a psychologist would analyze "I like it when the chicks are with dudes who, like, have really insanely oversized cocks. So big that it'll hurt them." That's the sort of line that could have gotten Freud to quit smoking cigars. For the record, that guy is now a successful ocean biologist. Coincidentally, I'm pretty sure whales have the biggest cocks on earth. So, hey. Convenient.

Anyway, I'm not interested in analyzing the inner workings of the mind right now. Mostly I'm posting to say that I sure hope Age of Conan makes with the bigger patches soon. Also, it'd help if they outlined some of their near-term plans right about now. An MMO dev can only get away with silence in situations like FFXI, where they both add a lot of content to the game on a regular basis, and they're all foreigners so you reason they probably don't speak english even to an 'adorably mangled' level of skill.

Age of Conan

Hey look, I'm not talking about anything controversial and boring! Well, maybe boring!

So I got into Age of Conan. At this point I join most MMOs the way a dog ends up eating bread that falls off the dining room table. I start off totally disinterested, because it's clearly not meat. I mean, sure, it's /edible/. But it's just not worth the effort. But by the time it actually falls off the table and hits the floor, I'm feeling kind of hungry, and the schipperke's acting like there may be meat INSIDE the bread, and so I wolf it up.

Age of Conan was the same way. The promotional stuff I saw leading up to the game left me more annoyed than anything - some paunchy producer making a video talking about the exciting 'minigames' in AoC. Minigames? Yes, like capture the flag. CAPTURE THE FLAG? When did Conan ever capture the flag? CTF may be a game played in the first-person shooter genre now, but it has its origins less in the bloody expanse of pre-history than 'what people played in grade school'. Keep in mind that, up until this point, AoC was being billed as a full-on PVP game, completely with open-world PVP, sieges, etc. So hearing about 'minigames' and 'arenas' was a letdown.

Still, some Scrunchie bastard ended up getting me interested in it at the last minute, and so I threw down the money.

Experiences so far.

1) I joined the RP-PVP world, and I don't regret it. If I had to do it over again in WoW, I'd have joined a PVP server outright. For all the ganking and camping, it just makes the game a lot more fun.
2) Graphically, the game does something that annoys me more and more nowadays: Uses some 'realistic' poser skin for human textures. Look: I don't play games to see realistic looking people, especially women. I play them to get away from that. Let's face it, most people - even attractive people - when you really, really look close at them (Like on a 46" monitor with a good graphics card), actually look kind of bad. Maybe you like freckles and pockmarks, but to me it looks like skin disease. You don't see the asian MMOs doing this!
3) Classwise, the game is fantastic. The individual classes, while needing balance tweaks, are able to be developed in pretty fun ways that make PVP (naturally, the centerpiece for me) more fun. Each class has 2 distinct talent trees, and a general tree for their class group. They also call them 'feats' instead of 'talents', but fuck it, they're talents and everyone knows it.
4) There's a ton of content in the game, as near as I can tell. Lots of quests, even raid areas are waiting for the level 80s. Maybe they're kind of bland tech-wise, but who cares? I sure don't. I don't even know the story with half the quests I do. I just click through to get to the objectives. Yes, I'm that kind of gamer.
5) It's buggy, but that 'acceptable for launch' kind of buggy. There's crashes here and there, some obvious bugs, but on the whole it's not a big issue. When you get to the outdoor zones out of newbieland (they really should make it an option to just start at level 20), you'll care more about the state of the content than the bugs, for the most part.
6) On the downside, the game relies heavily on instancing and zones. For outdoor zones that's not so bad (though frankly, this sort of thing always means that PVP will not be taken as seriously as it can be), but in dungeons it's downright atrocious. Who the hell makes a dungeon where you have to zone to other wings of the same dungeon? That's EQ technology.
7) While I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the game, it's clear that they blinked on the promise of PVP. You lose nothing by dying in PVP (Hell, if you die in PVP, get someone to PK you and you clear your debuffs - it's beneficial to die!), and right now you gain nothing by winning, other than annoying people and possibly getting them out of your hair. I'm not sure they have the stones to change this.
8) There are tradeskills in the game, but they're poorly implemented. Why does it seem that every MMO aside from EVE-Online approaches tradeskills in this way: "Okay, the rest of the game is made and should appeal to the widest range of person. All that's left are tradeskills. Now, what would someone with latter-days Howard Hughes level OCDs enjoy doing?" The main advantage of tradeskills is that gathering resources is so frustrating that I can already smell the blood that will be shed over resource nodes.
9) The environments are beautiful, but the models leave a lot to be desired. Everyone looks very 'budget Renfaire' to me, but I suppose that's what they really looked like in 10kBC or whenever this takes place hypothetically. I don't really mind though, since gameplay is all that matters to me. Conan could look like Billy D Williams for all I care.
10) The most worrying part of the game thus far is the anemic rate of patching. It's only been out a few days but.. the developers aren't talking to anyone at all, as near as I can tell. What are they thinking? Their game just launched and was a major success. Now is the time to start talking about all the great plans for AoC and what they're working on now.
11) Oh, the combat. It's fresh, and fun. Simple to learn, hard to master, particularly when it comes to PVP. It's odd how something as simple as combo button presses, at a lazy pace, adds a whole lot to the game. I'm not sure anyone is going to copy this, but they should - it's the sort of 'small step, giant leap' thing that has a lot of potential in games of this type.
12) The fatalities, however, are annoying. See, there's a certain % chance that you'll perform a fatality if you kill a character with a combo finisher. The problem is that a fatality locks you into a prolonged, supposedly cool-looking animation of you brutally slaying your foe. It grants a nice buff and is fine in a way, but several seconds of unbreakable animation means that a hostile player can get free hits in quickly. They should really implement temporary invulnerability during that stuff.

All in all, 'lots of potential, here's hoping they don't fuck it up'.