Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hack Update

My EVE account was restored just a bare two days after I discovered that it had been hacked. It would have been one but for a snafu with Customer Service (They didn't see my typed reply the first time, since it came after a bunch of stuff I quoted. Sigh.)

In the meantime, I downloaded and ran Avira and ran a system scan. I found no less than four intrusions, one of which was a JAVA trojan. All of them were banished to a place where all the hair is blonde, and all the ears are rounded. (Mind you, I have nothing AGAINST blondes as such, but life without red hair is, well, unthinkable).

Ouch. I have avoided using virus scanners for years, because they have this tendency to kick in at awkward times and make your frame rate go to that place we were talking about in the previous paragraph. And it worked, mostly because I never opened things or clicked on buttons that I shouldn't have. I never sent my browser into those bad neighborhoods, either. Life, apparently, has got more complicated.

My corp was hit along with me, since I had just received some new corp roles, due to becoming Skyforger's US Time Zone POS Manager. So the corp wallet got hit for about 2 billion, and my wallet for about 1 billion. All of this was restored with my personal account.

I'm impressed by the speed with which CCP realized that I'd been hacked. In less that 24 hours from my last login, the deed had been done and detected, and my account frozen. They did not mention to me how they figured this out, but I can make a few guesses. Large ISK transfers probably raise a flag, as does a change in login IP address. IP addresses can roughly be correlated to geographic location, so that's probably another flag. All of these flags prompt further investigation: where did the money go? Is there any prior connection between these characters? And so on.

The most bizarre thing is that the EVE version of Toldain was put up for sale on the EVE official forums. Cheeky! I guess that was in case I didn't catch on all that fast. I had email in my inbox from a potential buyer from my own alliance when I got back in game. I had to explain to him that I had been hacked, and he offered condolences.

I am lucky, I think, that I had just done a clone jump to Gallente space before I got hacked. There wasn't all that much that was valuable in my hangar. Still there was stuff that could have been sold instantly and the money siphoned off. That didn't happen. Instead, my toon was flown roughly 20 jumps to the site of a Skyforger corporate office, which was where I found it when I logged in. Fortunately, there wasn't much there in the corp hangar to be stolen. I guess that's what they were looking for.

After changing the passwords for all the games I play, I logged back on. Ginta was busy running a scan on his machine and changing his passwords, having been inspired by my situation. There was an alarmed evemail from our CEO asking me why I had taken so much money out of the corp wallet. However, out of game Eperor had sent me email saying he had realized I had been hacked, so no worries, and please get the corp funds reinstated when you petition. Which is what happened. It was gratifying to find out that my corpmates were so ready to believe that I had been hacked, rather than thinking me a thief.

Hmmm, but this is EVE. Should I be insulted that they don't think I'm a pirate? Is that disrespect? I'll have to think on it.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Came Here To Be Podkilled, Dammit, Not Hacked

I've taken to logging into EVE in the mornings and doing my PI then. I started doing this when I decided to do two 5-hour cycles per day rather than one 23 hour. (more stuff is extracted that way, and I wanted a cushion.) My evenings are more flexible that way.

So yesterday morning I logged in, cycled all my extractors (23-hour cycles, I have my cushion now) and then clone jumped to Empire. Finally all the wardecs against us had expired, and I needed some skill books. Got the book, started my training and logged out and went to work.

This morning I attempted to login but could not. Some poking about on the CCP website revealed that my account had been banned. Say what?

In my email this morning, now that I'm at work.

2010.11.23 10:52:00 GM Nova

This mail is sent to inform you that your EVE Online account, has been closed as the account security is compromised.

It appears that hackers have gained access to your account and have in all likelihood robbed it of ISK. Please reply to this email in order to open the account again and make sure to clean your PC of keyloggers and trojans before accessing the account again.

GM Nova
Senior Game Master
EVE Online Customer Support

Best I can figure is that they got the userid/password from a forum somewhere.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Lawful Neutral?

I Am A: Lawful Neutral Human Wizard (7th Level)

Ability Scores:







Lawful Neutral A lawful neutral character acts as law, tradition, or a personal code directs him. Order and organization are paramount to him. He may believe in personal order and live by a code or standard, or he may believe in order for all and favor a strong, organized government. Lawful neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you are reliable and honorable without being a zealot. However, lawful neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it seeks to eliminate all freedom, choice, and diversity in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

My Good-Evil axis score had 14 points for Neutral, 13 for Good and 0 for Evil. Meh.

Lawful is a fair cop.

What's your score?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops

When I was younger I was a full-on pacifist. I've moderated a bit now. And I practice martial arts, and play MMO's where I'm constantly killing things, and people. I guess that might make me a hypocrite to some, but the distinction between game and life has a strong boundary, doesn't it?

Watch the ad for Call of Duty: Black Ops above. What's your reaction?

Anyway, there have been mixed reactions to the commercial above. For negative, see Sam Machovech's piece on the Atlantic Monthly website. Basically, he's anti-violence, and anti anything that might inspire violence.

For a different take, look at this by Margaret Hartmann on Jezebel.

UDATE: In comments Machovech has confessed that he was more or less concern trolling:

I wrote this piece because I think there's a clear difference between the game of Call of Duty and the real-life violence of this ad, and I feared that mainstream media would focus on the latter as a means of saying "video games are bad." That's their job -- to drum up interest via fear and trolling.

That's what I hoped to combat with my phrase "these aren't the games I play." I do play Call of Duty games alone or with friends; I don't senselessly mimic real war.

Machovech seems to think that the ad is too realistic. Is there anyone who can't figure out that it's fake, a game, a fantasy? In about the time it takes to walk two steps through rubble in high heels?

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Monday, November 15, 2010

How To (NOT) Get Your Girlfriend Into Games

Show her this advertisement. That will be a real enticement.

Here's the advertising blurb for it:

Get Your Girlfriend Into Games! is a set of minigames designed specifically to engage any woman in video games entertainment. Best played in couples in versus mode. Suitable for children too!

I see this in a couple of ways. First, the man is fully clothed, the woman is, ahem, not. She is in a more comfortable, relaxed pose, and has a zombie stare at the screen. The text mentions that the game is "designed specifically to engage any woman". Basically, the ad seems to be a product of Objectifications R Us. With a surprise extra from the "women are equivalent to children" grab bag. I don't dispute that reading, but it isn't the only one.

To me, and I think to a lot of men who play video games, the woman sitting next to you on the couch playing video games with you is, at that moment, the most beautiful woman in the world. You might be a total shlub, but she is a goddess. Even in her curlers (do women wear curlers any more?) and bathrobe. I mean, you're breathing the same air, maybe almost touching each other. And she's joining you in one of your favorite activities, which, as far as you know, most women think of as a turn-off or competitor. Nerd Nirvana!

What this game and its ad says to me more than anything is that a lot of men would really, really like to have their partners join them in videogaming. And the company selling this game is bent on exploiting that desire. I seriously doubt that this game, even shorn of the offensive advertising, would do much toward enticing a spouse to play video games.

I happen to know several couples that play MMORPG's. For most of the women, they first got into the game through their husband/partner. So how did they do it? I'm not sure, because my spouse started MMO's the same time as me, and we both had tabletop RP background. She's special that way.

One of the qualities that MMO's have is that they almost all have a fairly gentle learning curve. And if you are playing together with a partner that has more experienced, most of the bumps can be navigated around. It can be tough to be a noob. But as the noob gains confidence, they start to strike out on their own a little, or more. It's a wonderful blooming, which I enjoy watching.

But there are a lot of videogames that don't have such a gentle learning curve. PvP games can be particularly brutal this way. You might have to go months before you experience any success. But there are other issues.

Tobi Beck is a woman who has served in the Army and has put on armor and done a considerable amount of fighting in the Society for Creative Anachronism. That's right, what we do with pixels, she does for real. She wrote a book about her experiences called The Armored Rose

At one point she lists five hurdles that she feels women need to overcome to be successful at fighting in SCA. I think that they have some relevance to playing PVP videogames. I'm just going to list a few of them. I personally believe that men face these hurdles as well. However, men have a lot of cultural support for overcoming them.

  • It can be fun to hit someone Most women (and not a few men these days) are trained to never cause anyone discomfort or pain. But in a PVP game, you are trying to ruin the day of the person sitting next to you on the couch. That's kind of breaking a big taboo for you. But for the experienced player, busting each other up is a bonding experience, and fun. In Tobi Beck's world, it involves actually getting hit on the head with a stick (you're wearing a helmet and the stick is padded, but still.) This can be adapted to, but it's got to be understood.

  • It can be fun to BE hit. In videogaming, this translates to losing, getting pwnd. This strikes at self worth. This may feel like punishment. This may feel like abandonment, like he(she) doesn't like you. It can be relearned though, and experienced as respect.

  • You can have fun with new people Tobi writes of women that can spar with a few people and enjoy it, but don't expand their circle to new people. I see this happening a lot in video games. We all hate PUGs, right?

I don't know where to take this that doesn't sound offensive or condescending. What advice would you give to someone who would like their partner to play more videogames with them?

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Where "High Heat" Has a Whole New Meaning

I watched the Giants win the World Series for the first time since 1954. In a sports bar in the Bay Area, no less. I normally watch sports from home, sitting on the couch, or lying in bed. But these days, I don't get cable, we just don't watch too much of it.

It was fun. The crowd was loud, but really pretty well-behaved. The most memorable moments for me were the deep flies. The first was Posey's long ball that Cruz ran down on the warning track, succeeding where he had failed on the prior batter, whose dying quail was just beyond his reach.

Then there was Renteria's game-winning home run. For most of the flight of the ball, the outcome was in doubt. Those of us in the bar were silent until we saw it drop safely in roughly the third row. By contrast, Cruz's home run for Texas in the bottom half of that inning was never in doubt. The swing, the sound and the lower hang time all said "home run".

What makes baseball special to me is suspense. Not knowing what the next pitch will bring. Not knowing if that fly ball will make it to the seats or get run down. I love that delicious moment when you don't know if the ball will be caught or not. I also love the little crazy moments, when what ought to be routine is not. But we didn't see any of those last night.

I have talked to some folks who really don't get baseball. They decry the lack of action. I get their point, but I think they miss the point of baseball. Which is suspense, not action. It is a Hitchcock thriller, not a Stallone action flick. The world is big enough to contain both.

But this thought got me wondering. Would it be possible to capture this sense of suspense and drama in an MMORPG? Or in some online game, not necessarily an RPG. MMORPG's seem to focus more on action, and it's understandable. There are a lot of Stallone fans out there.

Of course, maybe that game already exists. In Eve Online, at least in PvP. At least once I've been aligning while the target alarm is going. I did not know, nor did they, whether they would lock and scram me before I got into warp. And that would make all the difference. Kind of like waiting to see if that long fly is fair or foul.

But I'd like to see more things like this in MMO's. There are a lot of Hitchcock fans out there, after all.