Archive for the ‘Blessing of Kings’ Category

Tobold recently wrote a post on Board Games Philosophy that I thought was rather interesting. He explores the concept of “Eurogames” vs “Ameritrash”, which is described as:

As RPS describes it, “Eurogames are the board games you can play in polite company” and “If you’ve ever rolled a dice to hit the guy sitting to your left with a poisoned lance, causing him to storm out of the door and march back to his mum’s house with tears in his eyes, you’ve played some prime Ameritrash.”

Tobold feels that Eurogames are a much more popular genre than Ameritrash. But I am not so sure.

First, let’s get rid of the prejudicial names. I observe that there are two main styles of adversarial games: Last One Standing, and First to the Mark.

Last One Standing games feature people being knocked out as the game goes on. The winner is the person who survives and defeats all her opponents. Examples include Monopoly, poker, Axis & Allies, and Diplomacy.

First to the Mark games usually feature everyone gaining score, with the winner being the first person to reach a predetermined state. Examples include Settlers of Catan, Clue, and trick taking games like whist or euchre.

There’s also a third type, High Score at Time. But these games are often just one of the other two types with a time limit. If you remove the time limit, it’s often pretty obvious which category they fall into. For example, Risk is a Last One Standing game, only with a time limit. Scrabble is a First to the Mark game with a time limit.

As you can see from the examples, it is not at all obvious that First to the Mark games are innately more popular than Last One Standing games.

I think that both game types have strengths and weaknesses. To me, Last One Standing games are often better when the stakes are higher. Poker dominates the other card games when it comes to gambling. On the other hand, Last One Standing games are very annoying if the elimination period is very long. It’s no fun being the first person knocked out when the game continues for a significant period of time. As well, two people can often team up against a single other person, and the out-numbered person can rarely survive.

With First to the Mark games, everyone usually gets to keep playing the game until the very end. On the other hand, one thing I loathe about this type of game is the presence of kingmakers. Kingmakers are players who absolutely cannot win, but can determine which of the two leaders will win the game. Often times, a kingmaker’s support will have nothing to do with the game, but much to do with outside relationships.

First to the Mark games are also less adversarial than Last One Standing games. A lot of people might say that this is an advantage, but I am not so sure. Many times, First to the Mark games don’t really feature a lot of interactivity between the players. It’s like each player is playing solitaire, and the fastest player wins.

In more interactive First to the Mark games, negative interaction comes in the form of “refusal to help”. Somehow I find that an outright attack in Last One Standing game is just more honest and less frustrating. An attack is what one expects. Maybe it’s just me, but I take getting attacked in a wargame–or even getting betrayed in Diplomacy–much better than someone refusing to trade in Settlers of Catan.

So both types of games have strengths and weaknesses, and I think it is incorrect to say that one type is obviously better or popular than the other. But one thing is that Last One Standing games are best when they reset quickly, and that is often against the nature of MMOs.

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I copied Coriel over to the PTR this weekend and tried some heroics. Some thoughts:

1. I don’t think the mana requirements are in at 80.

Now maybe the mana requirements drastically increase from 81-85, but at level 80 they’re negligible. The only way to run dry would be to spam Divine Light (the big heal) or Flash of Light (now an expensive, fast heal).

2. Holy Shock and Word of Glory are the go-to heals.

They’re fast, cheap and heal for a decent amount. I was using Holy Shock on cooldown, tossing WoG when I hit 3 Holy Power, and filling in with Holy Light on non-tanks and Divine Light on the tanks.

3. Beacon of Light is now dirt-cheap.

It’s so cheap that Beacon is a no-brainer now. Just put Beacon on the tank and heal as if Beacon did not exist. It only transfers 50%. If you heal a non-tank, the tank gets a little heal as a side-effect. If you heal the tank, you get a boost of Holy Power.

4. Flash of Light is obsolete.

Holy Shock is instant, costs 25% of the mana, and heals for something like 66% of FoL. WoG heals for 66% and is free. Plus, after a HS, HL or DL are sped up, so they can land very quickly. And you can proc Daybreak to get double HS and then chain into Word of Glory for very quick heals. I’m not really sure I see what situation FoL would fit in now.

5. One-click buffing is awesome.

One button press, and everyone gets Kings. Heaven.

6. Light of Dawn is … interesting.

I don’t really know about this spell. The thing is that in the two heroics I ran, the only time everyone took damage was when the DPS pulled aggro. More often than not, they were running around like monkeys so it was really hard to get all of the them in the cone.

As well, it’s a good heal, but it won’t keep a group up when mobs are beating on them. It seems fine for splash damage, but not when people pull aggro. Plus it’s on a fairly long cooldown, long enough that it often falls out of mind.

7. The Healing Mastery is okay.

The healing mastery puts a temporary shield on your heal target for 8 seconds. The shield is for about 8% of heals. It’s okay, but the only problem is that the shield doesn’t increase with subsequent heals unless it expires. This is especially problematic as Holy Shock tends to hit quickly after the last heal, before the shield can expire. So you often end up losing some of your mastery if you heal the same target twice in a row.

This could be a bug, so we’ll see if Blizzard fixes it.

Conclusions

So is the new healing model better?

Well, it’s certainly better than spamming Holy Light all the time. But I’m not sure about the actual triage involved. The thing is that you want to use HS all the time, because it’s cheap, fast, heals for a decent amount, and is the primary generator of Holy Power, which gives you your Word of Glories. So really, I found I was following a strict priority of WoG-3, HS, then Holy Light. The only exception was if the tank dropped to 50-60%, at which point I used Divine Light to bring them back.

The problem I see with making mana more important is that if Holy Shock gets more expensive, then a paladin will be less likely to use it. But that will mean less Word of Glories, so you’re kind of just left with Holy Light.

It could work, but it does feel as if HS and WoG are too tightly bound to really allow one to truly triage and conserve mana. But I don’t know. I’d really have to try first-hand the later levels when mana restrictions actually kick in.

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I’m just rolling new classes and giving the first couple levels a whirl on the PTR. These are some impressions.

Hunters

Uhh, low level hunters are a little insane. Before, Arcane Shot had a 6s cooldown, so you only got one shot off per fight. Now, Arcane Shot costs 25 focus, and you start with 100 focus, so you can pop off 4 Arcane Shots in a row. The new hunter starts with a pet, which is great, but stuff dies before your pet even reaches the mob. Maybe low level Arcane Shot should do a little less damage, so combat lasts longer than 2 GCDs.

Mages

Mages are very nice at low levels. You start with Fireball, which is pretty much the essence of magery.

Then at level 3 you get Arcane Missiles. The new Arcane Missiles is a lot of fun. It’s now activated (like a proc) by your spells, but it’s free. So you Fireball a couple times, and then Arcane Missiles proc and you blast the mob with them. It’s lots of fun, and much better than just spamming Fireball.

The proc also shows off Blizzard’s new built-in Power Auras. When Arcane Missiles proc, two purple lines appear on your screen to either side of your character. It’s very noticeable, and is much better than watching your action bar or buffs.

Warlocks

Warlocks start with the Imp and Shadowbolt. They also start with Demon Armor, but that wasn’t on the action bar so I didn’t notice it.

The Imp is good, but I don’t agree with Shadowbolt. It makes the low level warlock feel too much like a mage. But then again, I’m prejudiced against Shadowbolt. I think the single worst mistake ever made by the WoW Class Dev Team was warlocks at the end of TBC. We started with a pet class with a focus on DoTs and lovely, lovely complexity. Then it was turned into a class that sacrificed the pet and spammed a single nuke.

So yeah, putting Shadowbolt forward as the introductory warlock spell is bad. I would suggest giving level 1 warlocks Drain Life instead. It’s very different from mage spells, and is much more appropriate thematically. Warlocks don’t just blast you down, they drain the very life from you, healing themselves at your expense.

As well, 4.0 warlocks get Drain Life at level 8, so moving Shadowbolt up to level 8 in its place doesn’t really change things in the long run.

Warriors

Level 1 Warriors are very meh. You start with Attack, which starts auto-attack, and Strike, which is a 20 rage attack. It’s better than starting with Heroic Strike, I guess. It takes about two auto-attacks to generate enough rage for a Strike. I found that I was actually pressing the Attack button, just to have another button to press during combat.

But then, at level 3 you get Charge. And the warrior goes from meh to great. Charge, swing, Strike, good times. Charge is just awesome, definitely a contender for best spell in the game.

And at level 5, warriors get Victory Rush and go from great to outright amazing. Victory Rush does a fair chunk of healing and damage. Charge, swing, Strike, Victory Rush the next target, swing, Strike, Charge, Victory Rush, etc. It just flows so beautifully.

Other Observations

I like the low level tooltips on abilities. They’re geared to the beginner, and often offer tips on how best to use the ability. For example, Fireblast suggests that you use the spell when you are moving or in melee.

Ranged classes also had their range increased to 40 yards. I’m not sure I really like this. It feels a little too far from the mob. 30-35 yards felt a little better.

As well, from a healing point of view, 35-ish yards was ideal because heals reached 40 yards. The tank was often on the other side of the mob from you. So when ranged stood at 35 yards from the boss, you could stand with them and still reach the tank on the other side. And if mob did that charge the closest range thing, they’d hit the ranged instead of you.

Now with both heals and ranged hitting 40 yards, if the ranged stands at 40 yards, the healers will have to stand closer to reach the tank. That creates some separation meaning that AoE heals will be a little less effective. Not to mention that rather than just having the melee in one place and ranged in another place, we’ll now have melee at point 1, healers at point 2, and ranged dps at point 3. As well, healers will soak random mechanics that target the nearest range. Or that any effect which causes the ranged to run will probably cause the healers to have to run farther or in different directions.

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So the 4.0 PTR is out. You can download it (16 gigs!) and test all the new class talents and mechanics. No Cataclysm content is available though.

Character copy wasn’t working for me, so I decided to test out the low level paladin experience.

First off, the UI changes are superb. The new character pane is great. The new guild pane is pretty nice as well. The only thing I would change is that the Guild pane really needs a default hotkey.

As for the newbie paladin experience, I don’t really like it. The thing is that the very first level sets the tone for the class. Cataclysm Paladins start off with only Crusader Strike. No heal. CS is a great skill, and does make leveling more interactive. But it makes the level 1 paladin feel like a warrior. Previously, a level 1 paladin had Seal of Righteousness and Holy Light. It set the tone that the paladin hits her enemies and heals her allies.

The next few levels don’t help either. At level 3 the paladin gets Judgement and Seal of Righteousness. Judgement doesn’t even have the healing debuff, so it’s a straight combat move. You get Devo Aura at 5, but still, it just doesn’t feel right.

The other problem with level 1 paladins is that CS generates Holy Power, but you don’t have any skills to use it. An extremely common question in general chat is “What is this yellow bar under my paladin’s health/mana?” The first skill that uses Holy Power is Word of Glory (the instant heal) at level 9.

What I would suggest is that Word of Glory gets moved to level 1. That way the paladin gets both a melee attack and a heal right from the very start. Both facets of the paladin are represented, and paladins are once again differentiated from warriors. As well, you get an outlet for Holy Power, and get paladins used to the new mechanic right from the start.

Then you could move Judgement to level 5 and push Devotion Aura to level 9. You don’t really need Judgement right away at level 3.

I think this scheme would work better for the initial paladin experience.

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For some reason, I feel like the Tier sets in Wrath were less … effective, maybe … than the Tier sets in TBC and Vanilla. For me, the main differences are colors and uniqueness.

When I think of old Tier sets, I remember the colors more than anything else. The red and gold of Lightforge, the black edged with red/gold of Judgement, the blue and gold of T6, and even the purple of T5. The Wrath Tier sets, on the other hand, have as many as 3 different variations, and that greatly decreased their memorability. You couldn’t just look at someone and recognize the Tier set, like you could in the previous version.

Of all the paladin sets of Wrath, the white T8 may have been iconic enough to stand near T2 and T6.1 But having the other recolors of the same set diluted the effect.

The other issue with Tier armor this time around is that the non-Tier armor shared the same look with the Tier. Perhaps that this was done so people would look more cohesive, not have the “clown” effect of TBC. But it just made Tier feel less special. You couldn’t just look at the crowd and pick out someone in her full Tier set.

Blizzard should step back a bit and make Tier armor feel a bit more unique. Use a single, iconic, color scheme for both normal and heroic variants. Use a different, more generic, armor model for non-tier gear. Tier armor pieces are the main Loot as Reward items in raids, the armor you collect and save in your bank. Someone in full Tier should look significantly different than someone in mixed gear, and that really wasn’t the case for most of Wrath.

1. Also, T10 should have gone with pants. I like the plate skirt/cassock of T2, but it’s something that should be used sparingly, and regular plate pants worked better with the rest of T10. The skirt/cassock works better with sets that have a cleric-ish vibe, but the dragon helm of T10 evokes knights.

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This is a response to Spinks’ That ‘women in gaming’ post. I posted a comment to that post in haste, and didn’t really convey what I wanted to convey. So this is my second stab at it.

Proposition 1: A significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic.

I completely and utterly agree with this proposition. It’s pretty much self-evident.

Proposition 2: A significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic, because of the way games are designed.

I completely disagree with this proposition.

Aside from the few companies who are stupid and/or deliberately provocative (*cough*Rockstar*cough*), modern Western games–not gamers, but games–are extremely respectful to women. They feature strong, competent female characters. Off the top of my head consider Jaina, Sylvannas, Jaheria, Bastila, Annah, Fall-From-Grace, Leilana, Morrigan, Wynne, April Ryan. Western game rulebases do not differentiate between male and female. Female characters are just as likely to be successful as male characters.

Female villains are just as daunting as male villains, without resorting to offensive caricatures. Quite frankly, this is something the game industry does better than any other media out there. Consider Onyxia, Queen Anora, Kerrigan, SHODAN, GLaDOS, Carmen Sandiego. There aren’t that many female villains, but the ones that are tend to be drawn quite well.

Most game companies also go out of their way to be welcoming to women. A decade ago, when Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, they wrote the rulebooks using female pronouns (she, her instead of he, his), to basically hammer home on every single page the point that women were welcome. I don’t really know how successful that method was, but I thought it particularly stylish, so I copied it for my own writing.

In my experience, the modern game industry is more respectful of women than most modern movies, music, television, fiction, and even media aimed mainly at women like romance novels1. In my opinion, the only genre that routinely treats women better than modern games is young adult fiction, and even young adult fiction rarely has good female villains.

So then, how do we square the fact that many gamers are misogynistic, when most games are not, and in fact do make significant efforts to be respectful to women?

I think it is a combination of three factors.

The first factor is that gamers, especially teenage gamers, are treated badly by female culture. Male culture has mostly absorbed gaming to the point where almost every young male games casually. But female culture still looks down on gaming. Exactly how many guys would tell a girl that they gamed on first acquaintance? Versus pretty much any other hobby? What other moderately mainstream hobby carries such social stigma as gaming?

So is it any surprise that some gamers, especially teenage males, lash back defensively? It completely fails to excuse that behavior. Misogyny is inexcusable. But if the misogyny stems from this cause, then there is really nothing that game makers can really do. They’ve been trying to make games more popular and more main-stream for years now.

The second factor is that it is much easier for like-minded gamers to find each other and group together, reinforcing their negative tendencies. This is because gaming communities are heavily internet-based. In a smaller or geographic-based community, the community leaders could police these behaviors, and bring deviants in-line with the rest of the community norms. But in a very large community, such as the internet, the deviants just slink off and form their own sub-community and impose their behavior on others.

Again, I am not really sure what game makers can do about this. Would you really accept limitations on your right of association? Imagine if you could not choose your guild, but were randomly assigned to one. And you could not easily switch guilds. What would the social structure look like? What norms would prevail? I think it would prevent the reinforcement of an individual’s misogyny, but it would also prevent reinforcement of some positive norms. Not to mention that most people want to play with their friends.

As well, so much of association is carried out on Vent and external message boards that the game maker cannot control.

The third and final factor is anonymity. Anonymity dehumanizes people. You don’t see other people in the game, you start to see just characters running around. These gamers do not see how many women actually play the game, do not see that real people control the characters that they are insulting. Anonymity also reduces fear of reprisal. People act badly just because they can. They pay no social price for their vitriol.

Consider the game of chess. In many ways, chess maps to gaming in that very few women play, and it has a low social cachet. Yet, chess culture is not nearly as misogynistic as game culture can be. Now, maybe it’s because chess is more staid, but I think it is because chess lacks that culture of anonymity. Everyone uses their real name and are ranked with that. And as a result, chess culture is far more respectful to everyone than gaming is, even if almost no women play.

But then again, none of you agree with me about anonymity and real names. Everyone is too concerned with “privacy” in video games2. And so we reap the consequences of that decision.

That’s where I stand on this issue. I agree that a significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic. However, I think the games themselves have done a really good job of driving out disrespect to women in the actual game and rulebase. I’m not sure that there is too much more that they could do. They can’t force female culture to not stigmatize gaming. I think gamers would fuss if they made a solid attempt to break the right to choose your associations. We’ve already seen that gamers howl if their precious “privacy” is in any way threatened.

So what’s left? Fiddling with crafting and pet collecting in a futile effort to entice more women to play? (Does anyone really believe that women don’t game because there’s not enough pet collecting?) And this will reduce the misogyny how exactly? More women in the game won’t matter because you cannot force the misogynists to associate with them. Social shame is pretty much the only option to control them, and that path is blocked.

Games cannot be held responsible for factors out of their control. Modern games have done, in my opinion, a superb job of creating strong, competent female characters and generally being friendly to women. If I had daughters, I would much rather them take Sylvannas as a role model than most other characters in non-gaming media (though maybe with less emphasis on the whole “raising the dead” thing).

1. I read Regencies, and kind of frankly, sometimes I wonder that women accept the way women are treated in a significant minority of those novels, let alone how men are treated. If women were treated that way in a male-dominated medium, there would be Senate hearings. Also, what’s the deal with red hair?
2. Meanwhile, your local government is probably putting your house plans and property taxes up on the internet. Not joking, by the way.

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One of the good things about WoW is that Blizzard never deletes old characters, and Blizzard allows to have up to 10 or so characters on each server. However, each character’s name is unique per server.

I wonder if this combination of factors will reach a boiling point as Cataclysm approaches. It is getting harder and harder to find a name for a new character. Instead it’s a continuous round of “That name is not available” until you finally hit some acceptable combination. I think this factor has contributed to the large amounts of odd names and non-standard characters used these days.

Over 5 years worth of names have been locked away. And that might present a problem when Cataclysm hits. With two new races and a large overhaul of level 1-60, people are going to be making lots of new characters which will require new names.

Maybe it’s time that Blizzard starts looking into ways to free up some of the names that are gathering dust. Deleting characters is excessive. But maybe Blizzard could unlock the name of any character under level 40 and that has not been logged in for 4 months. Anyone could take the name, and if the old character logs on, she will have to choose a new name.

I was skeptical at first, but I really like the way Cryptic handles names. They use “characterName@accountName”. In-game and on nameplates only the Character Name is displayed, while the full name is shown in the chatbox. Though, the character name is emphasized and the account name dulled. To friend someone or send tells, you use the account name.

It’s really nice to be able just create a new character with the exact name you want, and not have to play “That name is not available” roulette.

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So there was some chatter in the blogosphere over the last couple weeks about women or feminism in WoW. No real comment on that issue, but on reading some of the posts, I had a random thought:

What if Garrosh was female?

Would Garrosha still be presented in the same fashion that Garrosh is, as a hot-headed warmonger? What would the player-base’s reaction to a female character who displayed the same traits as Garrosh does?

I actually started thinking about this while playing the Starcraft storyline. There is only one female character1: Dr. Ariel Hanson. The thing is that there is nothing wrong with Dr. Hanson. She’s smart, educated, kind, a leader for her colonists. She is entirely unobjectionable. She is also completely uninteresting. For all of Tychus Findlay’s flaws, he was a far more intriguing character.

You kind of see the same thing with female Warcraft NPCs. The only interesting (non-villain) female character is Sylvannas Windrunner. The other ones, Jaina, Tyrande, Liadrin etc., all tend to fall into this unobjectionable category. They’re all competent, powerful, smart, non-sterotypical2 characters.

The female villains are interesting. Lady Prestor had style, and I really liked the portrayal of High General Abbendis of the Scarlet Onslaught, as revealed through her diaries3. But this doesn’t seem to extend to female heroes.

Varian and Garrosh are at least unique characters, even if they are–or perhaps because they are–terribly flawed. They generate debate and passion. But it seems very unlikely that Blizzard would make a female NPC like those two.

I wonder if that’s a defensive reaction. To keep people from objecting to their portrayal of female characters, they make those female characters unobjectional. It’s just too bad that this process seems to make them uninteresting as well.

1. Discounting Kerrigan/Queen of Blades as she is a villain.
2. At least, they don’t match the sterotypes of previous generations. Whether this in itself is a stereotype of our current generation, I leave as an exercise for the reader.
3. [The Path of Redemption], [The Diary of High General Abbendis]

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I was surprised the other day when I logged in a found that I had advice in the mail from a long-time, though anonymous, reader:

I thought I’d go through this faithful reader’s concerns, and talk about my choices about my current gear. (Points slightly rearranged for ease of response.)

Your armory makes me cringe. Drop the MP5 and SP gems and the MP5 enchants. Utter garbage. Gem pure int with 1 Nightmare Tear in the helm.

This is the major point where I differ with what I see as established Holy paladin theorycraft. Most high-end paladins gem, and even enchant, pure intellect. Personally, I like getting socket bonuses, so I use SP/Int, Int, and Int/MP5 gems. So far I haven’t had any issues with mana. But if I was to change anything, this would be it.

I’m not really sure what MP5 enchants are being discussed. The only MP5 enchants I have are the faction head/shoulder SP/MP5 ones. As far as I know, MP5 is considered better than crit, so these enchants are the ones to use.

Get the 245 libram from Triumph Emblems. It’s BiS.

I use [Libram of Renewal]. My loyal reader suggests using [Libram of Veracity] instead. I am somewhat puzzled by this. The point of gemming full Intellect is to spam Holy Light. Holy Light spam costs a lot of mana, and reducing the cost of HL by 10% is very powerful. Plus HL spam tends to have high overheal, so extra spellpower often just increases your overheal.

Pick up another 400 Haste. Stop wearing MP5 gear. Crafted legs are BiS. 60 Frost gloves are BiS. Crafted boots are BiS

These are pretty good suggestions. To be honest, I kind of just take gear as it drops. I don’t do 10-mans, though, so I’m relatively behind on badges.

Consider a 51/5/15 spec for better HPS and efficiency.

I use a 51/20/0 spec for Divine Guardian. I think Divine Guardian is a really powerful cooldown that is extremely useful.

Drop Glyph of BoL, it’s garbage. HS or FoL is the way to go.

I disagree here, Glyph of Beacon of Light is a better choice. It saves a bit of mana, saves a GCD every so often, and most importantly, staggers your BoL and SS refreshes. Taking two GCDs in a row to refresh buffs is a long time between heals. As for the other two, HL is the spell of choice, so buffing the other two is less valuable. Better to buff the spells you use most often, and Beacon is always up.

Drop enchanting for JC.

My second profession is already Jewelcrafting. Seems kind of silly to drop Enchanting at this point.

Seriously, after you got denied from Reclaimed I thought you would at least try to fix your !@#$. It just bothers my soul that you have a blog and give people advice when your own character is such a wreck. I feel bad for your guild. You at least owe it to them to research your class and play correctly.

Heh, Reclaimed was two years ago. I’m somewhat surprised that someone would remember and consider it important enough to reference. Or take time to look up my armor, make notes, create a character on my server and send me an anonymous mail with advice.

Still, the “bothers my soul” line is a tad over-wrought.

It’s always useful to see what better players are doing. Let’s take a look at Diamondtear of Paragon.

The immediate difference I see is that Diamondtear gems and enchants pure intellect, and does gear for haste (though she uses the same legs that I do). Otherwise, we use the same faction enchants, use the same libram, and have similar specs and glyphs.

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The Original Bargain

THQ and Penny Arcade kicked off a debate last week on used games. Tycho compared used games to straight-out piracy, and got a lot of heat for that view. Here is my perspective on the issue.

Our society created a bargain called copyright between creators and consumers. Creators got certain rights, such as the sole ability to make and distribute copies and derivate works for a set period of time. Consumers got certain rights, such as the right to sell or lend their copy to another person, and to quote snippets of the work in other works, such as essays.

By and large, this bargain worked pretty decently up until the end of the last century. Creators got enough rights that they could make a living selling their work. Consumers did not get penalized for using works in a normal manner. Aside from maybe Disney’s efforts to extend the term of copyright for far longer than originally set, the copyright bargain was fair to both sides.

But this bargain was forged when all creative works were physical media. Digital media, on the other hand, differs from physical media in subtle ways. That difference may be enough that the old bargain is no longer fair to one of the sides.

Differences Between Physical and Digital Media

There are two major differences between physical media and digital media.

First, physical media can degrade. Why buy a new book instead of a used book? Well, for one thing, the new copy is pristine. A used book might have water stains, or torn or dog-eared pages. Some barbarous philistine may have underlined or highlighted sections.

That concept of pristine doesn’t really apply to digital media. Pardon the pun, but digital media is rather binary: it either works or it doesn’t. Your game either installs and runs, or it doesn’t.

Second, copying physical media is expensive. Copying a paper book is an arduous process for an individual consumer. There’s no concept of making a backup copy of a book, or a transformative copy to a different format.

Copying and manipulating digital media, in contrast, is trivial. That’s pretty much the whole purpose of computers: to copy and manipulate data.

Because copying physical media is so expensive, copyright’s restrictions on copying really only affected the corporations and not the end consumer. But digital media changed all that.

Conclusions

These two differences have put more pressure on the creator side of the bargain. It is important that the bargain is fair to both sides. The harder it is for creators to make money, the fewer works that will be created. There is such a thing as “killing the goose which laid the golden eggs.” At the same time though, making end consumers jump through hoops is just going to annoy everyone.

I think that the differences between physical and digital media are strong enough that the copyright bargain may need to be adjusted. For example, maybe we could ban resale and lending, but cut the copyright term to 5 or 10 years. So the creators can make more money, but only for a shorter time.

If we had a political class worth a damn, maybe they would look at this issue and hammer out a reasonable compromise. But we don’t, so we’ll just muddle along, trying to force the old bargain to apply in a world that it is not suited to.

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