One Move to Change a Match-Up

I was going through the SCR Norcal vs SoCal match after watching Evo and was taken back by how Ricky vs Snake Eyez played out so differently. Now Snake Eyez won both games, but the matches were extraordinarily different. At first I thought it was due to change in Ricky’s play, but I hadn’t considered the Ultra changes too much at the time.

So during SCR, we see Rufus HAVE to play like Rufus in a matchup where you don’t wanna be up and close. Rufus has to be aggressive because he has no other choice. Zangief can outfootsies him easily and most of Rufus’s moves get beat by Zangief’s standing medium punch.

Ricky vs Snake Eyez at EVO is a whole different beast and while there are many chnages that effect the matchup, but that change to Standing Medium is by far the biggest. Zangief’s biggest tool in that matchup has been weakened and now Rufus can play defensively. That change alone (an increase in St.M’s hurtbox) is enough to create this entire change in dynamic. Now Rufus can play footsies instead of feeding himself to the Zangief-Grinder.

Now I’m sure Ricky DID have an axe to grind after that match at SCR and I’d guess that matchup got a bit of attention leading up to EVO, but the biggest change was the hurtbox on a single move.

Mechanical Irony and the Suspension of Disbelief

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This kills me. This is right by the Shrine of Winter in Dark Souls 2 (which I love, by the way. Perhaps an article on that some other day). This tiny bit of rubble — one that would take two big steps to clear — is responsible for half of your epic journey. You spend hours tracking down powerful souls and risking your life, rather than just finding a stool.

I call this mechanical irony. Mechanical irony is when the limitations in control we have over our character become all too real. “If only I could climb over that” or “if only I could jump off this ladder” or “if only I could step over this gap”. or whatever. When the sensible, real life to a video game problem becomes obvious, it becomes difficult to sustain immersion and the suspension of disbelief. To an extent this is unavoidable. We’re making games and not simulations. We don’t want to give the players the ability to do all these things, we want to convince them to think in the verbs we’ve given them. We want the player to trust us and give we get that, they will give us a lot of leeway.

Bionic Commando for the NES is very good at this. The game requires a large conceit (.. can you even use that word like that?when talking about mechanics?) from the player. You can’t jump. You have to move around with your bionic arm. You’d think the game would be litered with moments of “if only I could jump, I wouldn’t have to go through all this hassle”, but it’s surprisingly not. Every situation where you wish you could jump is quickly solvable with the mechanics the game provide. The game doesn’t want to remind you that you can’t jump, it wants you to focus on swinging around. To a degree, new players still get frustrated with the inability to jump, but when you consider what a huge concession that is, the game does an amazing job of making the player think about it’s core mechanics.

The Shrine of Winter in Dark Souls 2 does not do that. It’s downright taunting. It could possibly be ignored as a dead end, except for the item on the other end. While many areas of souls games could be destroyed with climbing skills, you generally don’t think about it (though probably also in Belfry Sol!). Here, it’s preposterous. Here it looks like, without invisible walls, you could possibly even jump over it with the mechanics given to you in the game. It could even get you to think about other things. Like, what is that shrine even for if it would be so easy to walk around in real life? Little stuff exists like this every where (welp, fell down, time to walk all the way back to the stair case instead of pulling my self up from the edge) but usually those are so minor, people don’t notice. Here? It’s HALF THE GAME and totally avoidable. No one looks at the Lordvessel door and goes Well you know, if I had some TNT or a hammer…”. People just go with it. If the Shrine of Winter blocked a bridge, most people wouldn’t think about “simply getting rope”. That’s because they’re not having their face rubbed in it. They’re not being taunted. The players want to be immersed. Not everyone is going to fall down little thought-holes like this, but they’re best to avoid when possible, especially when trying to construct games with structurally sound worlds.

Now, taunting isn’t always bad. Dark Souls taunts all the time (though usually not in ways that damage the integrity of the world). A good example of this is Vini Vidi Vici in VVVVVV, where the character, who can’t “jump” is forced to reverse gravity and fall through several screens of spikes to get around an ankle high block. VVVVVV has little “immersion” to speak of and it serves as an excellent gag for an excellent challenge. You could even argue for this in more serious games. Again, the Belfry Sol is an annoying taunt, but it’s repercussions are mild. Is it a good gag? I personally wouldn’t do it, but I could fancy an argument for it. In most cases though, if you’re making a game with any kind of “world” you want to avoid bringing attention to aspects like this.

Horrible hacks and Language Support in BEP

Usually I don’t do too many updates anymore because I’m afraid of just running out of material and showing the whole game off before it’s done, but this should be fun.

So one thing I noticed with IWBTG is that it was very popular in Japan and the Japanese fans of my work are super cool. While this popularity probably won’t extend over to BE:P, I still always wanted the game to be easily localizeable for them. Unfortunately, far too late in the development, I discover Construct Classic doesn’t support unicode. Brutal!

So in the last two days I implemented a hack I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Construct uses the ANSI character set, provides 217 characters. BE:P uses 83 of those characters by default. The rest of the characters are accented letters and bizzare stuff like § or † or even ‡! Really wacky symbols. So most of that could all go. Unfortunatey, even if I used all 217 characters, that would be an insignificant amount of kanji. FORTUNATELY, basically all NES games were written, due to space issues, in kana. Kana lends it’s self better to this, being two syllabic character sets. Between alternative characters and japanese diacritic marks, the set comes out to 100ish characters, just barely squeezing in. In fact this is apparently how any “English -> JP” fan translations end up being done.

So the next step would be keying ansi characters to kana. Fortunately, BE:P doesn’t use a real font or anything so it’s easy for me to make a character appear however I’d like. Characters are searched for on a big key string and that index is used to set the text objects frame. The character key when Japanese is enabled looks like….

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz!/#$&’()*+,-./0123456789:;<=>? @`;€ƒ„…†‡ˆ‰Š‹ŒŽ‘’“”•–—™š›œžŸ¡¢£¤¥¦§¨©ª«¬1®¯°±²³´µ¶·¸¹º»¼½¾¿ÀÁÂÃÄÅÆÇÈÉÊËÌÍÎÏÐÑÒÓÔÕÖ×ØÙÚÛÜÝÞßàáâãäåæçèéêëìíîïðñòóôõöøùúûüýþÿ”

Everything up to ? and ” ” is represented in game in english. @ and ` are controller characters for linebreaks in the dialog engine and everything after that is dedicated to kana. So if we were to search for “©” on this string it would come up as character 120. Frame 120 of the text object is the pixel version of “は”. Easy breezy! The dialog file also has support for easily creating additional text boxes. This is going to be important for Japanese because “kana only” japanese is, screen space wise, pretty inefficient and the kana font I’m using now only allows for 3 lines of text to english’s 4. Still, it ends up looking really nice! Also in this setup, I can easy change the secondary characters. The game can only display one set at a time, but that still allows me to implement all accented latin characters, or Cyrillic or any other non-logographic character set.

Of course this brings up the issue… if construct can’t handle UNICODE, how can I even read the dialog? Oh, well I had to hack together a crummy little python script that’ll read a file and “encode” it into the hacked ANSI characterset setup. So when release is near (it isn’t) I’ll make that available to help people localize the game in other languages if they want without having to resort to dealing with super gross hacks directly.

bepkana2

Not sure if the Katakana is even right, but it’s looks pretty cool!

Scanlines, CRTs, Faux Retro games and whatever

So I was browsing 4chan, as I often do (because I make bad decisions) and decided to drop into /vr/. Without fail there will be a thread about scanlines and NTSC/CRT/RF shaders. I actually find this interesting, because despite not caring about the aesthetic, I do want to have some sort of filter for Brave Earth that isn’t just “lazy scanline overlay”. So I ran into this and found it hilarious.

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Personally, the appeal there for me, is baffling and I’m no sure it’s going t make people wish indie devs were “more accurate” with retro stuff. My first memories as a child involve me playing on my mom’s Atari 2600 and my uncles NES after that. All on crappy old CRT sets over RF. Hell we had one of those hilarious furniture looking console TVs. Maybe it was building sprites in Mario paint, or the better pixel quality of computer monitors and making games in ZZT and megazeux, but the whole “retro means blurry and with scanlines” thing never quite clicked for me. I see thing as pixels. When I play games on the CRT I still use for console games because I’m cheap more than anything, I don’t “see” blurry phosphors. Since our brains fill in a lot of details for us, in my head I’m seeing pixels. So games emulated on LCDs are a plus to me. I like big clunky sharp pixels. Other friends I have look for stuff like framemeisters or buy line doubles and scanline generators to get something closer to what they see in their heads when they play retro games. That’s all cool. It’s awesome to try and recreate things in the past to preserve it for the future. IT’s why stuff like Higan (a super accurate and CPU intensive multi console emulator) are important, even if I will never bother using it.

Still there is a growing number of purists I see getting mad about this stuff. It won’t be a big deal if it was just crazy people /vr/ or those crazy shmup forms or whatever, but I’ve seen even people I know say shit like “this game couldn’t run on the original hardware” or “this isn’t what retro games look like”! I even had one person I know complain that Jamestown had too many bullets for a Neo-Geo game, which is absurd since Jamestown doesn’t claim to be anything. So here are some thoughts on all this, because it’ll probably only get worse once BEP is out (in 50 years).

But old games were designed to be viewed on CRTs!

This is mostly bologna and the thing you need to ask your self is, for any technique, would the art designer NOT have done that if their art was on a LCD or better quality display? Things like dithering come up a lot. Something like say the contra logo… on a CRT the colors blur together more, making the gradient smoother. But the technique of dithering has been used quite often on LCD screens (Just look at Jim’s portrait in this EWJ gameboy port) or in PC Games forever. Acting like LCDs and CRTs is silly — they obviously have visual differences, but there are really very few techniques you’d use exclusively on a CRT. Besides, this is basically any unfalsifiable anyways since we can’t know what the artists were intending or not intending. I would imagine you’d see both artists glad to see their art viewed crisply, and ones who are disappointed by it.

with modern indie stuff where this stuff is thrown around (like with the picture at the beginning of the post)… well, I’ll have more to say about that later, but for now I just wanna say… Play the games on a CRT. Why is it the game’s responsibility to pretend it’s something else? If you plug an NES into an LCD it doesn’t give you scanlines and blur. Internally, for the purposes of this discussion, “retro” indie games and old video games are sending the same thing — an array of pixels. How the device they’re connected to displays them is the displays business.

Besides, this all doesn’t matter anyways. Many greek statuses were intended to be painted, but we prefer clean white marble. Modern statues and modern pixel art reflects that change. Even if it’s not accurate, it’s what most people enjoy and prefer now.

This game claims to be like a (insert console) game but it does this that and the other thing wrong!

If we wanted to make a perfectly accurate game, we’d probably all do what Battle Kid did or what Retro City Rampage tried to do. Most of us don’t. What we want varies. Some of us are just using lo-fi aesthetics as they’re one of the faster style to make while still being a style people respond to well (and remember, making games is hard, especially by yourself. Try it sometimes, it’s fun!). Some care a little bit more about the whole package. When this discussion comes up with people I know, oftne they’re like “Oh but you’re using colors and stuff in a mostly authentic way, you’re okay”… Like, am I? I modified the NES palettes to give me new colors I didn’t have, I don’t obey rules regarding sensible sprite sizes. I have far to many objects on screen at once and like megaman, these already large sprites would need to use MORE sprites just to get the density of color of some sprites.

In fact, adding those extra colors on Naomi was a big thing to me. When I made a mockup and asked people if I should give her more colors (technically possible, but not in the overall picture of the game), people pretty much universally said “Yes. Do it. Why wouldn’t you do it?”. For most people, they want the style up until the point where it interferes with the game. That’s why BEP has a third button. Oh sure I can say it’s start or whatever, but that’s an excuse.

This is the thing with art and fashion. When someone takes stuff from the 80s and 90s, no one (sane) ever goes “OH YEAH WELL IN THE 80S NO ONE WOULD WEAR THEIR HAIR LIKE THAT” because that’s not how fashion works. We take aspects we like forward. We take things that are familiar and transform them. I personally feel that if everyone who made “retro” games tried to, collectively, be more accurate about this stuff we’d be WORSE off. We’d just be wanking nostalgically to things that have already been done, instead of using the past as a spring board into the future… and that’s someone who loves when people maintain history. Making games for old hardware is some awesome digital SCA type stuff. But it’s historical more than anything.

Brave Earth started relatively more accurate earlier on and has gotten progressively more ridiculous in some of the things I put on the screen. But I don’t regret this — when I started this was supposed to be a small free project that didn’t have to move things forward. Now it’s something far more ambitious and better offfor it. It has an identity beyond being “Castlevania but with a sword”. Retro City Rampage also moved on once the shell of the NES got too hard for it to be contained inside and while some may bemoan that all that’s left is a prototype rom, most people are happier for the change. If all retro graphics mean to you is reliving your childhood and everything that comes with it, well… I don’t think much retro indie games are even meant to appeal to you.

We need to understand, lo-fi and pixel art and all that is a STYLE. Do you think the superbrother games are trying to be like a “retro game” and that they would look better if their games seemed more ‘authentically 8/16 bit’? No, and that’d be completely missing the point. People will point to Ridiculous Fishing as being “retro” when the art in the game is composed almost entirely of triangles. There is a huge gradient hereof how these styles can manifest and anyone is free not to like them…but to act like a certain kind of style is somehow more noble is ridiculous. You can still criticize how a style is executed but we have to realize that most of this is a matter of taste and priorities. We all have different desires and developers have different goals. I get driven crazy when games that MOSTLY get it right do things like transparency and sprite rotations, personally. I’m sure Brave Earth will set off people on different issues. But then people will complain that IWBTG doesn’t maintain a consistent pixel density and uses rotating sprites and stuff and it’s like… seriously? Did you miss the point that hard?

The past is a tool and we should not be slaves to it… and that said, I’m still going to try and get construct to do some amount of CRTish effects as a toggle option because I hate my self.

NES VRC6 mod with CV3/Akumajou Densetsu cart

Gyromite

Gyromite

So this all started with reading about how gyromites occasionally containing famicom converters. Due to early supply constraints during the NA release, the first run of gyromite carts all contained these funky little adaptor, which allowed them to resell famicom gyromite in the US. So I tracked down my gryomite cart, felt it was clearly super heavy and cracked it open.

Gyromite, disconnected from the FC converter

Gyromite, disconnected from the FC converter

The inside of Gyromite, with FC converter

The inside of Gyromite, with FC converter

A converter! Hooray! So immediately I decided I wanted to make my self an Akumajou Densetsu cart. CV3 is my favorite castlevania, and I much prefer the Japanese version to the US version (mostly due to the music, but also because I hate level based damage scaling). So I went and google and found this cute mod. Now I REALLY needed to make that cart. So I ordered an Akumajou Densetsu famicom cart and began planning out the rest of the mod. I didn’t wanna do the wire-out-of-cart mod — that’s cute but kinda ugly. So I began researching how I’d do the console mod. Turns out there are like a million small variations on how to do this, so that took me forever to work out.
Also had to take the time to do my version of the cover. Callan’s nice looking and was the basis for mine, but certain elements, like weirdly cropped art and the logo didn’t work for me. Since there was no good scans of the CV3 splash art, I had to sorta rebuild the logo. In the end, I did the label with photo paper and some glue. Worked much better than the ‘label’ method. Label method gets the label thickness right, but lacks the clarity of a nice print.

Akumajou Densetsu with my custom logo

Akumajou Densetsu with my custom logo

I cannot explain how much hell this was to get out of that fucking case

I cannot explain how much hell this was to get out of that fucking case

Anyways eventually I got all my components and decided my course of action. One source of confusion for this mod was the resistors. Resistors are required to balance the audio of the VRC6 with the NES, else the VRC instruments will overpower everything. Most recommend 47k resistors, but other recommendations, especially with famicom carts, went up to 100k resistors. So instead I just got a 100k pot. There were also several different unused pins you could use on the nes for this mod and I decided to use the same one as the powerpak. I doubt I’ll be buying a 120$ powerpak any time soon, but hey, best to be careful. Then I could also adjust the volume accordingly.

The annoying thing with the powerpak pin is it required me to wrap a wire around the converter. It also sucked because that pin was harder to solder without interfering with the contacts. Worked out fine in the end. The internal mod on the NES was much simplier. The NES has extended audio capables, but they were only made to work through the expansion port on the bottom of the NES. Soldering the pot between expansion port 9 (the expansion music min) and port 3 (audio out) was all that was needed to get the mod working. The pins didn’t take solder well, so it was a bit of a pain, but working on those pins felt less risky, so it wasn’t that big a deal.

Connecting to pin 54 on the other side

Connecting to pin 54 on the other side

Connecting to pin 45

Connecting to pin 45

Pin 3 and Pin 9, with the pot through the front. Just need a nice dial now.

Pin 3 and Pin 9, with the pot through the front. Just need a nice dial now.


Anyways here’s a little peak at the mod. Sorry for the poor quality and rotated video. I’ll probably stream the game tomorrow.

On “Being a Hardcore Gamer”

I’ve been seeing this pop up from time to time in twitch chats I hang out recently “Oh they play Call of Duty like a casual”, “Oh consoles are for the casual market”, “Oh I’m not casual, I play Dark Souls” or whatever. There are two components here that bother me. First is that there is an overly large focus on the “What” rather than the “How”. Secondly the whole thing is stupid to begin with (but we’ll get that).

Being a hardcore gamer is treated more of being part of a group than being a mode of playing. People talk about “What” they play to determine there status. This isn’t being “hardcore” this is like fashion in highschool. “Oh I’m not like those popular kids, I where band shirts and am hella edgy”. Playing on a PC doesn’t make you a “hardcore gamer”. I know many people who would describe themselves as relatively casual gamers who are HUGE tech enthusiasts. They want to achieve the best looking games at the best framerates, but their playing is, admittedly, casual. I know people who were hardcore into Call of Duty, playing it with a super competitive mindset. In fact, I can’t see anything casual at all about playing a multiplayer shooter. Hell I know people who are crazy sick at bejeweled. Telling me what you play, on what platform, tells me very little about you as a gamer outside of your tastes. I want to hear about HOW you play. It’s about how you use play to express your self.

The whole ‘hardcore/casual’ dichotomy is stupid because it isn’t binary. It isn’t a ladder. It’s barely even a spectrum. If you appreciate how we play differently, it no longer becomes about being fundamentally “better” than some other kind of gamer. It’s hard to try and keep up that dichotomy when you know how far the rabbit hole goes. Most of the people I see complaining about I can look at go “Hardcore? You’re all casual. Behold my works and despair” but I also know how feeble and insignificant my accomplishments are compared to others I know. The only thing I know is we’re all passionate about games and we are often passionate about them differently. For example, skill wise, I’d say I’m pretty damn accomplished, but how many games do I actually play? Not to many. My friend Rachel jokes that I don’t even actual LIKE videogames. On the other hand there are people with less hand eye coordination than me who are just up on the whole videogame zeitgeist. They play everything (possibly quite well!) and are passionate about new releases and discussing them. Who am I compared to them? Some old grouch who’s really good at some old games. That’s an entirely different axis completely than “people, skill wise, are better than me”. Some people measure stuff totally different. For me, my gut interpretation of MMOs is that they’re kinda ‘casual’ in some strange way that only makes sense in my dumb head, but that is CLEARLY not the case and for many people the coordination and dedication required to excel at an MMO is the greatest thing in games. Any TBS game puts me to sleep, but for many, the games I like are for impatient ADD people!

So there is basically no standard for anything here. We can’t even agree on what are the most worthwhile skills. We can’t possibly make a pecking order out of all this. It’s literally the geek hierarchy thing

So talk about our love of games is fun and interesting! Using it as a tool to boost your own ego is just being a dick and usually comes from a place of insecurity. You should have to feel insecure about gaming and if you do, you’re not actually going to better your situation by putting others down.

Please stop misusing “Freedom of Speech” and “Censorship”

I can’t believe that I’m writing a blog post where the two driving forces at Duck Dynasty and Bravely Default, but here we are.

So some weeks ago, some old dude on some A&E show made some homophobic comments in an interview. Due to Duck Dyantsy’s absurd popularity, this made a whole lot of people on facebook really mad. A common sentiment was “But this is America! What about FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” or whatever. Freedom of Speech, coming up over and over again. I almost feel embarrassed writing about this, because I feel like it should be ridiculously obvious, but it isn’t. I’ve even seen it come up in many intelligent circles, with even one… quite well known game designer and writer who’s forum I used to post on a lot. “We can’t ban people on this forum, this forum supports free speech” (unsurprisingly that did not work out). Needless to say, this is not how freedom of speech works (and this serves as a perfect intro to censorship talk).

Freedom of Speech (in the US at least) protects you from the Government. Protection from other people would infringe on those peoples freedom of speech. If you say something that offends me, it is my right to be offended. If you work for me and hold opinions I find offensive it is my right to not employ you. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t need non-discrimination laws. No where in the idea of Freedom of Speech was the intent that you shouldn’t be judged by society for your shitty opinions. The idea is that you should not fear the Government (a ‘more powerful’ entity) and legal repercussions for saying things. Your friends might disown you, but you won’t end up for prison for saying shit (… well, maybe not so much anymore, but you know what I mean). Where this idea that saying something gave you a magical shield is beyond me. I dunno about you, but I don’t know if I want “Freedom to be a douchebag without any social ramifications” as a basic right. Just sayin’.

So now there is this Bravely Default shit. People are complaining about censorship left and right. Also lets just ignore the whole fact that people are complaining about not getting under aged girls in thongs. Plenty of people are arguing about that and I’ll leave that to them….

So unlike the Freedom of Speech thing — they’re right. It is censorship. The issue is people don’t seem to realize the difference between self inflicted censorship and government enforced censorship. When a smug tumblr 14 year old sends someone a nasty Ask about Bravely Default to someone, declaring “I don’t believe in censorship”, what don’t they believe in? “I read 1984, I know how scary censorship can be!” Even if that has nothing to do with a company modifying it’s own content. Do they not believe that I, the owner and content creator of my own work, shouldn’t change it? Fuck you. You don’t even know all the things that got ‘censored’ before these games were even released. Is that still censorship? Do you still care and not believe in it? What gives you the right? They are treating two hugely different concepts as one and applying the gravitas of government control to a taste choice made by content creators with their own content.

You can COMPLAIN about changes (HELLO STAR WARS), or you can complain about the reasons for the changes if you really want, but to act like they’re doing something inherently bad or immoral by modifying their content is absurd and selfish. In a sense, you’re attempting to ‘censor’ the desires of the creators. You’re not against censorship — you don’t understand what it even is. You’re just against not getting the thing you wanted and are now crying about it.

I’ve actually had friends ask me why I was ‘censoring’ myself with changes I’ve made to unfinished games, which to me raised a lot of questions. Should I not account for taste or my audience at all? Should I always go with my first impulses? Am I never allowed to change my mind? Is making shit sexy or violent a ziptie where I can take clothes off (and limbs) but never put more on? If you accidentally offend some people and want to change something, is changing it to make them feel better somehow bad? How? Shouldn’t it be the content creator’s call?

By complaining about ‘censorship’ in a context like this, you are not taking a moral high ground or defending any sort of noble idea. You are being selfish and demanding and saying “but I want THAT thing over there instead”! Square-enix is not your government. They cannot infringe on your rights. They were not forced to make the changes they made. No ones freedom of expression is being infringed. Perhaps you can argue that somewhere in the company, someone is upset that they have to change away from the old outfits, but there are people on any game design team sad about TONS of changes. That, again, is not censorship. That’s making a project with a team of people.

So please, people, stop saying this type of shit. At best you come off at clueless and at worst, you seem selfish. If you really want to complain, there are a million better ways to go about it. I complain about design decisions in games all the time. It’s not hard.

Why Twitter’s new blocking policies will probably benefit the harassed

Twitter has changed it’s blocking policies in a simple way. When you used to block a user, you would block them from getting updates of your tweets. Now when you block them, you effectively just mute them. Many people take issue with this — often blocking stalkers, exs or just assholes who they don’t want seeing their updates to maintain privacy. The problem here is that your tweets are public information and the problem of blocking single users from public information is exceptionally difficult. Ask anyone who has tried to run a forum or an IRC channel and has had to block someone their. Crazy IP wildcard strings to ban ips and all that, only to have that STILL be thwarted. Under the old system, the only thing the blocked party had to do to view your information was to go to your account (which seems to be the thing most harassers do anyways… I mean, do you follow all those political figures you hate and tweet angrily at on occasion?). Even if that policy was changed, all they would have to do is log out, since, by default, all tweets are public. Blocking, as a denial of information to the blocked, was, at best, an inconvenience.

Also anyone who has ran a forum or IRC channel will tell you — the first thing someone who’s banned will do is try and evade their ban in any way possible. The same is true for twitter. This is where sockpuppets and troll accounts pop up like a hydra to endlessly harass you. Now your harasser isn’t just anonymous, they’re super-anonymous. You can’t even tell them apart. Also in my experience, the best way to block someone has always been a silent one. I’ve seen this on forums — you hide the persons posts from everyone but themselves and eventually they just get bored. That occasionally breaks down on forums due to how they work (at least SOMEONE has to respond to me!), but that seems like a policy that would work excellently over a service like twitter. This twitter policy change seems to be one that trades an aspect of blocking that fundamentally didn’t even work to begin with (the denial of information) for more obfuscation. A policy like this will hopefully keep down the creation of new harassment accounts and keep harassers in the dark and the only thing lost being the illusion of security and privacy.

This might not all work out and there might be ways the old policy actually worked that I wasn’t aware of, but I think this is at least a good explanation for the rational behind the change and how it was aimed to help victims of harassment.

What I would like to see would be ‘semi-private’ accounts. Accounts closed to those not logged in and without a twitter account. This at least makes the process of blocking way more definite and effective (.. even if they just have to add a new account to follow you, but other policy options could help, like the requirement for accounts to be over a user defined age or something). This could be less oppressively closed that a ‘private’ account while still providing a lot of the benefits.

edit: That was short lived. Twitter has rolled back the changes. While I preferred the new policy, I don’t feel the rollback puts things in a partially worse state. But I’m going to say this, because a lot of people don’t quite get this. The block system does not stop people from stalking you. It does not stop them from seeing your tweets, and is only a minor inconvenience. It does protect your personal information from getting into the hands of jerks.

So basically be safe.

‘Cleaning up the Comments’ on Youtube and Google+

Well, Google+ and Youtube are force integrated and it’s pretty much a user interface nightmare. But hey, it’s fresh and new and even though I totally hate everything about the change, I have to be real and acknowledge it’s not going to stay this bad. So usually I’d just grumble a bit on twitter about this until the site eventually became usable again, but there is an idea I hear echoed by people that I really don’t think is true…

“If people had to post with their real name, people would be a lot nicer” is a sentiment I hear often. I hear it most often from people in the tech sector with reputations, but still, I hear it often enough. Yet by all accounts, the comments aren’t better, at least in that way. Bad comments are getting shuffled down, but that has nothing to do with exposed identities.

Why would we expect this to happen? It’s as if the social media managers of the tech sector think that if someone misbehaves, they can look them up, find their name, call whatever tech startup they work for and get them fired. This is an idea that seems to be forwarded from career white dudes with reputations.

You can argue it doesn’t work because it’s easy to make false Google+ accounts (Though most hilarious, I’ve heard people suggest that this would be a deterrent as one would have to switch frequently between their troll and ‘real’ account, as if the real account would ever really exist). While that is likely part of it, at the core, the whole idea is flaws, because.

  • Most people don’t have a reputation
  • Most of the time, they don’t care anyways (hi facebook trolls)
  • What are you really going to do now that you know their name?

People always bring up the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, but what does anonymity in this case even mean? It implies pure anonymity but in practice, it does not require it. It’s the same way people will be dicks while driving cars. You can follow them and confront them for shit they do — they’re even less anonymous than they are online, risk wise, yet people can still be huge dicks because the risk is still relatively negligible. For a person working shitty part time work, or for a teenager in highschool or whatever, what are you going to do to them? What does it matter if you know their name? Can you even find the name of the construction company they work off the books at? Maybe you’ll tag a few middle class office workers, but is it worth it? How many people are going to bother? Each troll is indistinguishable from the last and unless they said something really nasty or vile or racist, can you really even get them in trouble for the things they say?

Of course this isn’t even addressing the morality of forced ‘real identity’ shit and how it effects people in very inequal and unjust ways and is just as likely to hurt someone innocent (if not more so) than it is to punish people for being bad. But that’s a different soap box.