Odds & Ends…

Space Siege, Whitehead vs. Wright, DCMA and other topics, all below…

ODDS & ENDS…

Another month has gone by. Here are my thoughts…

SPACE SIEGE (2008 game) Mini-Review…

I must be a glutton for punishment. Action-RPGs, for me, are neither “action” (It’s mostly just grinding with many options) nor “RPG” (role-playing means that there’s more than one way to accomplish a task, as opposed to the Action-RPG version which simply means, “Would you like to put upgrade points into having large biceps or would like to learn how to use a machete better?”). I have yet to play an Action-RPG that has ever held my interest throughout an entire game before I resorted to cheating to finish the darn thing. However, “Space Siege” came surprisingly close. Close… But no cigar.

Were the criticisms of Space Siege legitimate? Not really. I can see their arguments, though. Is the story of Space Siege fresh and original? Not really. It’s good enough. It’s humans versus cyborgs (and robots) versus space aliens. There’s a bit of a morality question in how augmented with robotic limbs you should be. One NPC hates any augmentation (the woman), another is moderate about augmentation (the scientist) and one is hog-wild about all things augmentation (the soldier). In the end, it’s man versus machine (gee, who didn’t see that one coming?). Original? Hardly. However, the data pads that are laying around gives a little bit of an interesting side story and back story that the humans aren’t exactly pearly white either (the human government gets downright oppressive). What upset me the most about the story is that there’s an intriguing side-story told through the data pads about a father trying to find a missing daughter and then you begin to see the daughter in here-and-there glimpses while she’s always running away from the player. This plot line is never resolved. Is she a cyborg? Does she become the adopted child of the woman and our hero (who could only be male, for some mysterious reason)?

Space Siege avoided some of the obnoxious pitfalls that most Action-RPGs fall into. For instance, enemies don’t re-generate with every save. Therefore, once you clear out a corridor, it’s always cleared out. Yea! A feeling of legitimate progress. Also, enemies don’t drop weapons. Therefore, you’re not collecting a bunch of weapons and selling them back to some merchant. What enemies do instead is drop these upgrade parts (think of it as “currency”) and you take these parts back to a workbench to upgrade your weapons, yourself, eventual robot companion or to “make” supplies such as medical kits and grenades. The workbenches are in rooms with regeneration chambers that heal both you and your robot companion completely.

I didn’t mind the architecture of the levels although there was some repetition. I didn’t mind the repetition because the story is set on a space ship and you’d expect some amount of assembly-line sameness on something manufactured such as a space ship. However, I think that a data pad or two explaining this probably would’ve relieved some of the criticisms. As a space ship, though… It wasn’t a very believable spaceship. Seriously… There is a LOT of wide open spaces on that space ship. The game almost reminded me of those really cheap sci-fi B-movies where the setting is a space ship but the movie is actually filmed inside of an abandoned warehouse factory thingy with a bunch of steal girder walkways and random large infrastructure machines. I don’t care how far into the future Space Siege was set… That’s way too much open space for a believable space ship. It would’ve been more believable had it been a space station or something but not a spaceship.

While the main story was serviceable, the lack of any sub-quests was very glaring. Space Siege attempts a version of sub-quests but, in all honesty, it doesn’t work. Space Siege’s sub-quests are just to get weapons, either for yourself or for your robot companion. You don’t HAVE to get these weapons but, combined with the linearity of the levels, you don’t have to go out of your way to get to any of them; You will stumble upon them automatically if you perform your due diligence as a gamer. While you eventually save survivors, talking to them doesn’t yield any additional… anything. It’s not as though you talk to one survivor and they say, “Hey! If you go here, you can do this!” Nope.

Without sub-quests, the main story of man versus robot versus alien eventually falls apart. Yes, there’s a sequence where you go outside of the ship and gravity (or the lack thereof) plays an interesting role. Yes, there’s a point in which you can travel to (almost) any part of the space ship via the train system (but even this is mostly linear as you can’t access certain areas until the right time in the story). Yet there’s a certain point where the story merely begins to feel old and tired, like most Action-RPGs. Go here, collect that, do this, access that. Yup.

The final cruel twist for this game is that, unlike previous “Siege” games from Gas Powered Games, this one never came with any modding tools. Ouch. Games, these days, live and die by their post-release community of players. There could have been some nice mods for this game. Too bad.

Was Whitehead “Wright” All Along?

If you check your calendar, you’ll see that it’s been about 100+ (more like 110+) years since humanity has been able to fly through the air in a heavier-than-air craft. Good for us. We’ve gone from propeller planes to jet planes to rocket engines in a little over 100 years. That’s not just commendable; That’s phenomenal.

Unfortunately, the “who did what and when” during that history is also phenomenal but for all of the wrong reasons. I can’t claim proficiency in aviation history; Few can. The current accepted history of aviation is that the Wright Brothers were the first to make a heavier-than-air craft fly. There’s no disputing that they did make a heavier-than-air craft fly but an emerging question has begun to grow louder: Were they the first? There continues to be mounting evidence that a person named Gustave Whitehead may have been the first.

Personally, I don’t care either way. Yet I’d prefer an army of historians and aviation experts to settle this dispute rather than an army of lawyers and politicians in doing so. The Wright Brothers, while they were alive, were not as clean and pearly white as their PR firm would love for them to portrayed as. My understanding of their history was that they were quite aggressive in their litigation towards anyone or anything that attempted to make an airplane that even remotely resembled what they made. This type of aggressive litigation has continued to this day with the Smithsonian museum being forced to claim that the Wright Brothers were the “first in flight” if they want to display the airplane in question.

I’m not keen on history being decided by contracts and lawsuits. I don’t think that it’s in the public interest and I don’t think that it’s in the interest of pursuing knowledge. Just because I don’t have a camera phone with me when I see Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster didn’t make any potential interactions with them less real. My understanding is that there were eyewitnesses and a few photographs of Whitehead flying but no motion video of it. Does it make that incident any less valid?

The Wright Brothers flew. The Wright Brothers continued to fly. And, along the way, thanks to a lot of help through the legal system, they seemed to have had a choke hold of that industry in the United States for a long while. None of that is in dispute. What is in dispute is if they were the first to do so. Finding the true answer to that will make us all better people. Maybe it was the Wright Brothers. Maybe it wasn’t. It’s time for the unvarnished truth to be revealed, regardless of the outcome, without an army of lawyers and politicians interfering with the outcome.

DCMA…

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I do not prefer copy protection for computer games. I am particularly not pleased with the latest round of Internet-based copy protection. Copy protection may have a legitimate purpose but that purpose becomes very outdated very quickly. Operating systems change and, as a result of that change, copy protection schemes must change as well or they become broken. They do not work. If a copy protection scheme does not work then you can not install a game. With Internet-based copy protection schemes, if the copy-protection server is taken off line then you can’t install the game. Period. That’s the whole point.

Recently, the Digital Copyright Millennium Act was modified to reflect this reality. If you own a game and the copy protection scheme of that game becomes outdated to the point where you no longer can install and play that game… You can now hack it legally so that you can play the game. Wow. That’s phenomenal. That’s progress. That’s common sense. And, better still, it’s now the law.

I think that I will end this post here. Until next time…

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