Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gamer Entitlement Going Too Far

Anyone who works in or even near the game industry is probably familiar with the phenomenon of entitlement - how people who play games feel they are entitled to rather a lot more things from a game than the game's developers, or legal terms of use, might actually reasonably expect.

This happens in other areas of life too of course, but for some reason computer game players seem to get particularly passionately attached to their games of choice, and can sometimes react unexpectedly strongly to the most minor things.  I've read feedback reports from my own game where people have said they're quitting the game over ridiculously tiny things - to give one example, because we changed the little picture that appeared on the coins in our game (graphics only even visible a tiny portion of the time).  I've read submitted feedback that compared the developers on my game to pedophiles, Saddam Hussein-followers, and much worse language too.  A week often doesn't go by without seeing someone in the feedback saying that at least some of us should be fired, are incompetent, could be replaced by a 3 year old, or clearly have no brains/sense/right to life.  And you need only stop by the discussion forums of pretty much any MMO to see similar passion is alive and well in discussions of most games.

I don't agree this is right, and although I understand how someone who loves a game can be so passionate about it, I think it's a misguided sense of entitlement that leads people to cross the line between politely stating an opinion or objection, and personal insults or even threats.  Happily, the majority of people who play the game I work on are generally polite and sane, despite a few apparent exceptions.  However, I read an article on Kotaku today that made me really fume about the misplaced sense of entitlement that some groups of gamers can develop, and somehow manage to justify:

Minecraft Apparently Under Siege

The gist of the article is that a group of players are disappointed at how slowly developer Notch is putting out updates to the small independent game Minecraft, and have decided to try to "force" him to work faster by launching a DDOS attack on the Minecraft servers.  Their thinking, apparently, is that if they prevent ANYBODY from playing Minecraft then Notch will lose money and have to do what they want.

From the article above, a post purportedly from the people responsible for the attack:
"It's purpose is to send Notch a clear message of how the future of minecraft will turn out unless he gets to work, namely by influencing the amount of sales taking place, due to the attacks.
Start providing your customers with the updates that you promise them.
We have roughly 83,000 bots available, and preserved for this seizure, we could if we wanted to keep this going for weeks, however we have decided to give it a week, and see whether or not your attitude, and commitment will change, we believe it will when money stops rolling in for the time being..."

I just haven't got the words for my disgust at this behaviour.  As a human being and democratic citizen, I resent some other group of people impinging upon my freedom of choice by deciding for me what I can and can't play and what I do and do not want. As a gamer who happens to be enjoying Minecraft, I am perfectly happy with the level of updates in Minecraft and I don't appreciate someone else telling me I should not be, let alone attempting to prevent my playing it.  And as a game developer, I am disgusted by the damage that this group is trying to do to a small, dedicated independent developer.  From what I've read, Notch is a very smart and talented programmer who has managed to create a really captivating game pretty much all on his own, and is trying to continue its development independently.  This is an accomplishment that many game designers can only dream of: the freedom to work for yourself, and do exactly what you want to create what you believe is the best game you can, without having to operate within the confines of a big corporate structure or team.  Notch has that dream within reach, he may become that one in a million game designer who is really able to be independent -- and a small, selfish group of individuals are trying to bring him down, just because as an independent developer he's not able to work as fast as they want him to?  Sickening.

The guys who are launching this attack have spent as much as anyone on Minecraft:  10 Euros (about US$13).  That's the cost of going to see a movie in the theatre ... less than you'd pay for a nice meal at a restaurant.  If they are that passionate about the game, then they've clearly already played it for many, many hours longer than a movie or a nice meal would have lasted.  There is no possible way they can justify their feeling of "entitlement" to more than they've already had.  They paid a very tiny price for days of enjoyment of an excellent game that they are well aware is still in alpha stage -- not even in beta.  This isn't the way to express their disappointment that updates aren't forthcoming as fast as they would want.  This is outright bullying, and it's inexcusable.  It's also illegal, and I hope they get their pathetic selves thrown in jail for it.

Acts like these make me lose faith in computer gamers.  :(

Edit to add: another great post on the topic, from @LivingWorlds.  In which he uses rather stronger language and discussion than I was comfortable using, but quite agree with.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yay, Arixystix!

A co-worker of mine from SOE has just become a former co-worker, abandoning us to work full time at her real-life crafting.  She's an artist and has worked on a number of SOE's games over the years, most recently FreeRealms and Clone Wars, but she's been doing more and more "real life" crafting over the past couple of years and finally decided to try and make a full time business of it.  It's a big step, particularly in this economy, but she's already had some great publicity in the gaming press for her plushies based on the Plants vs. Zombies game, as well as other custom commission work including a Pocket God display for Comic-Con 2010.

Check out her blog here, her Etsy store here, and follow her on twitter @arixystix!  Best of luck Alix - though with all those adorable plushies, I'm sure luck won't even be needed.

Butter Tarts Recipe

Butter tarts are apparently a Canadian classic (though I had no idea till I left Canada and nobody had heard of them). They're delicious and easy to make, and I still have some former co-workers who drool at the memory and demand I make them when they visit.

So here's the recipe, in two parts (pastry, and filling).  Pastry can obviously be used for any kind of tart instead, also!

Short Pastry

This is an unsweetened shortbread-like pastry. You might be able to find pre-made short pastry in a supermarket; if so, you can be lazy, and skip straight to the filling section. It probably won't taste as good though, and this isn't hard to make, so here's how.

4 oz butter (softened, though not totally melted - leave it out of the fridge for a few hours, or microwave VERY briefly, maybe 5-10 seconds.)
8 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt

Put these into a bowl, use a knife to chop the butter up into small blocks about the size of a pea, then use your finger tips to mix the butter in completely.  The mixutre will look a bit like fine breadcrumbs at this point, depending a bit on how hot it is where you are. If it's a very hot day you may find the mixture is soft enough to stick together, in which case you can stop here.  Probably however it'll still be loose crumbs, so in this case add no more than 2 tablespoons of cold water and mix in, using the knife, adding only the minimum amount of water required to get it to stick together. (Note: flour + water = paste.  This is not tasty.  Flour + butter = shortbread.  This is yummy.  Therefore, the less water you add, the more tender and tasty your pastry will be.)

The pastry will still look fairly crumbly but can be carefully rolled out into a sheet, or just shaped by hand. For tarts I don't usually bother rolling out the pastry but just shape it to the baking dish - I used fancy little tart dishes here because these are for a dinner party, but you can use almost anything - muffin/cupcake tins work well for example.  Use your fingers to push the pastry smoothly into the dishes/muffin tin, and stick it in the fridge to wait while you make the filling.

Clockwise from top right:  pastry ready to be pressed into the dish; pastry ready for filling; pastry with walnuts; filled tart ready to bake.

There is no need to grease or spray the dishes before putting the pastry in, since it contains so much butter it should be easy to remove as long as the sugary insides didn't overflow and turn to sugar cement; and if that happens all the greasing in the world won't prevent them from welding themselves to the dish. If you have a little sugar overflow and are using something smooth edged like a muffin tin, try using a sharp knife to gently slide down the sides and ensure the tarts can spin slightly in place while they are still hot, which will make them much easier to remove when cool.

Butter Tart Filling

4 oz butter (softened, as above)
8 oz light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg
chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix together in a bowl (don't need a mixer, just a spoon). Put into the pastry shells, fill them only about 2/3 full as the filling will expand a bit and bubble while cooking. Add some chopped walnuts into each tart if you like, this is optional.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 400 F. When the pastry is just starting to turn colour but not too brown, and the filling should have significantly darkened, they are good to go. (They can be taken out earlier, but this will leave a liquid filling in the center which is still tasty but more dangerous to eat!)  Let them cool to room temperature, or refrigerate them for about an hour, before eating them.

This recipe made exactly enough for 6 tarts this size.  It will make 8-10 using standard muffin tins, or even more using mini muffin tins (and these are very rich, so smaller may be better).
This is what they looked like directly after removing from the oven:

And this is what they look like when cool.

Depending on the size of the dishes or muffin pans you use, you may end up with either extra filling or extra pastry.  Both can be separately frozen in air tight containers and thawed to cook later.