May 12, 2010

QotD: National Post goes full Anarchist

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:14

Speaking of Queen Victoria, the Calgary Herald‘s editorialists are disappointed that Banff National Park is banning alcohol at its campgrounds on the 24th of May weekend. Better enforcement would take care of “the young rowdies in the tents,” they insist, without denying “the family out for the weekend in the motorhome” a glass of wine with dinner. We suggest such families do as we did when we were young rowdies in tents on the 24th of May weekend at parks where alcohol was banned: Ignore it. This land is your land, this land is my land, pass me another Big Rock.

Chris Selley, “Full Pundit: Jesus comes to Ottawa”, National Post, 2010-05-12

Dynamic events in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:43

Reading through this article by GW2 Lead Content Designer Colin Johanson shows that the game is going to be significantly different from other MMOs:

When building an MMO, we had to examine every core piece of accepted content from traditional games in the genre and ask, “How can this be improved?” By looking at the traditional quest system used in basically every MMO ever made, we’ve come to the conclusion that quests have a lot of areas for improvement. To address these flaws, we’ve developed our dynamic event system.

[. . .]

In Guild Wars 2, our event system won’t make you read a huge quest description to find out what’s going on. You’ll experience it by seeing and hearing things in the world. If a dragon is attacking, you won’t read three paragraphs telling you about it, you’ll see buildings exploding in giant balls of fire, and hear characters in the game world screaming about a dragon attack. You’ll hear guards from nearby cities trying to recruit players to go help fight the dragon, and see huge clouds of smoke in the distance, rising from the village under siege.

[. . .]

In traditional MMOs, when a quest is completed it has no real effect on the game world. You receive your reward and then move on, looking for the next quest to do. The world appears no better or worse for your actions. In GW2, the outcome of every event will directly affect the game world around you. If an enemy dredge army is marching out of their main base, players will be asked to mobilize with their allies and help destroy the army. If the dredge army is defeated, other events will cascade out from there. Players will be able battle their way inside the dredge base, face off against their commander, rescue captured friendly troops being held in the dredge prisons, and even hold the captured base while fighting waves of dredge, who arrive from deep underground to try and take back their home.

This sounds great, and helps to explain why Guild Wars 2 has been so long in development: you can’t use off-the-shelf programming for something that hasn’t been done before.

I’m quite looking forward to the new game (the original Guild Wars has been my main online addiction for years), although I am concerned that the development team may be attempting to change too many things away from the MMORPG default models. The whole “the world changes based on player activity” thing could get quite messy — although it’ll certainly take away a lot of the “been there, done that, got the reward” feeling you can get in games of this type.

Technical snag delays further testing for EMALS

Filed under: Britain, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:32

A minor directional error has caused a several month slip in the testing for a new aircraft carrier catapult design:

The so-called Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, is now under development in a shore-based test facility at Lakehurst naval air station in New Jersey. However, according to reports, the test mass-driver installation suffered serious damage earlier this year in a mishap blamed on a “software malfunction”. Apparently the “shuttle” — which moves along the catapult track to accelerate a plane to flying speed — went the wrong way in a test shot and smashed into important equipment.

The Newport News Daily Press, reporting on an interview with EMALS programme chief Captain Randy Mahr, says that the accident has delayed the shore-based testing by several months. It had been planned to commence launching aircraft — as opposed to test loads — this summer, but that will not now happen until autumn.

The next US supercarrier, CVN 78, aka USS Gerald R Ford, is now under construction and intended to join the fleet in 2015. Navy officials confirmed last year that it is now too late to amend the ship’s design and revert to steam catapults: EMALS must be made to work or the US Navy will receive the largest and most expensive helicopter carrier ever.

The EMALS development is of great interest to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, as the two new carriers under construction (pending the new British government’s defence review) will not be equipped with catapults. Conventional catapults are steam operated, and the British carriers will have gas-turbine propulsion (unlike US and French carriers which use nuclear power plants, providing plenty of steam on demand). If EMALS works as designed, it could be fitted to the new carriers, allowing the Royal Navy to pass on the (ultra-expensive) new F-35B in favour of conventional carrier aircraft.

Welcome to the new British PM: “Dick Clameron”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:19

The Register‘s guide to the new British government:

The people have spoken — and party leaders Nick Clegg and David Cameron, henceforth to be known as Dick Clameron, have filled in the details.

A document released this afternoon reveals what Lib Dems and Tories have been talking about for the last four days, and what our new coalition overlords have in store for us over the next four years.

As with every political stitch-up, it’s going to be a Curate’s Egg, but there are some positive things being promised:

On civil liberties, there is much to please (most) Reg readers, including

A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill

* The scrapping of the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database
* Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission
* The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act
* Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database
* A review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech
* Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation
* Further regulation of CCTV
* An end to storing internet and email records without good reason
* A mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences

As with any coalition, there’s no guarantee that any of their announced plans will be carried through, but this list of improvements would be a very good thing.

The full text of the agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is at The Times. On reading through the document I’m actually rather pleasantly surprised: more of the sensible policies from each party appears to have slipped into the mix and rather fewer of the authoritarian (Tory) or redistributionist (Lib-Dem) ideas. Yes, it’s only a temporary agreement, but it’s better than I expected.

When politics takes on religious attributes

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:48

Frequent commenter Lickmuffin sent this link, discussing some interesting notions from the 2008 US presidential campaign:

Cast your mind back to January 2009, when Barack Obama became the president of the United States amid much rejoicing. The hosannas — covering the inauguration was “the honor of our lifetimes,” said MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews — by then seemed unsurprising. Over the course of a long campaign, hyperbolic rhetoric had become commonplace, so much so that online wags had started calling Obama “the One” — a reference to the spate of recent science-fiction movies, especially The Matrix, that used that term to designate a messiah.

It all seems so long ago now, as one contemplates President Obama’s plummeting approval ratings and a suddenly resurgent Republican Party. Yet it’s worth looking closely and seriously at the election-year enthusiasm of media elites and other Obamaphiles, much of which was indeed, as the wags recognized, quasi-religious. The surprising fact is that the American Left, for all its claims to being “reality-based” and secular, is often animated by the passions, motivations, and imagery that one normally associates with religion. The better we understand this religious impulse, the better we will understand liberal America’s likely trajectory in the years to come.

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