Venom and Diamonds

Such is the wicked way of the world

13:25 March 31st '04

A while back I got all excited telling you lot about a lovely game called Subspace Continuum and it's amazing longevity and fan-base. I also mentioned how Virgin Interactive tried some years back to make money of of it, failed, and how it was then resurrected and recoded by the players themselves.

I've been happily whiling away several hours of my life with it since then, and was hence a bit distraught on discovering that my favourite arena, called Trench Wars, has had it's site pulled by the US Department of Justice! Apparently the original copyright to the game has, after floating along unused for a few years, landed in the hands of Electronic Arts who have figured that it is time for Subspace 2: Legacy. Hence, they are shutting down the Continuum community with cease and desists.

While I understand and firmly believe in the sanctity of copyright, and I don't deny that EA have every right to shut Continuum down, there are a few issues I'm not comfortable with:

They've just stomped on the exact same very loyal people who would be the best audience for SS2. Instead of saying: "Hey guys, we're developing a sequel for this great game, what would you like to see in it? I'm afraid well have to shut Continuum down in the near future, but we'd be really happy if you could help us make Legacy just as good, or maybe even better" we get "Clear off or get sued". Have an eyeful of this:

...all visitors recorded in the site's logs are subject to possible pending litigation. In addition, all systems found accessing this site will be monitored and investigated by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All systems found to contain copyrighted materials will be subject to harsh fines and legal litigation from the Department of Justice, in addition to the civil lawsuits.

So now these people are going sue me! All because I played an absolutely great game for free since it ceased being commercially available years ago. If they want me to pay for it, then I will, but don't fine me for trying to keep the damned thing alive when no company wants to.

Now I don't condone piracy, and I think all artists/programmers/managers/etc should be paid their full dues for their work. But the people keeping Continuum alive for the past years have not lost anyone any money or caused any bother. If anything, they've done a valuable bit of market research for EA (for free!) by showing that there is a strong, committed audience out there who are ready for a sequel.

Heck, I'd settle for a pat on the back and a "thanks for the help", but I suppose respect and gratitude would be a bit much to ask for from anyone trying to run a successful business in a market economy.

The trouble with being sensible

7:35 March 24th '04

It's quite reassuring that standards-based design still seems to cause problems even for experienced designers like Jeffrey Zeldman. It's quite perverse how CSS designers go to such lengths to implement a nightmarish principle simply because it's the right and not the easy thing to do. Then again, it does make it feel like a real profession that requires a lot of real expertise. Especially when forums still abound with wonderful misinformation like "fonts specified in CSS are unscalable".

Zeldman's book Designing with Web Standards is the one that told me that all my time paying attention to semantic markup might have actually been worth it. What on earth originally compelled me to keep my html to <p> and <h?> tags has been lost to the sands of time. Maybe a chemical imbalance?


0:39 March 17th '04

Here's a little something I've been noticing here and there for a few weeks now, and I think I've seen it longer ago, too. Going by the slightly cryptic name of May 1st Reboot, I always thought it was something to do with protest and dissent, as most Mayday things tend to be. Hence I never really paid it any heed.

One day last week there was a thread on UltraShock that tweaked my interest enough for me to finally follow up the mystery.

Turns out that May 1st Reboot is in fact a collective relaunch: everyone who signs up agrees to take their site down for a week before 1/5 only for everyone to then relaunch their redesigned pages at the same instant. Basically it bills itself as a big community statement that proves that the internet does have a coherent culture after all; that big, organised events can be done even on the web.

Naturally it falls over with the fact that only a relatively small percentage of sites will ever sign up, and hence it won't have much (if any) impact outside of the web design community that spawned it. It's a very interesting idea, but it is also a very grand concept that the reality can only fail fulfill.

Nonetheless, it's the kind of thing I go in for, and I'm still considering signing up. Mainly because I'm a sucker for the one reason that will make this succeed in it's own way: all web designers like to redesign.

War of words

22:16 March 10th '04

If you agree that the world would be a better place if Helvetica hadn't been usurped by Arial as the de facto font for all those who don't know better, vent your rage.

Guerilla literature

10:41 March 5th '04

Not long ago I mentioned my past academic studies into hypertext literature, and lo and behold they've now spontaneously and coincidentally inserted themselves into my present interests, too.

v-2 (my new fave, you may have noticed) today posted an interesting link to a new literary experiment called Implementation which, apart from appealing to all my postmodern artsy literature graduate tendencies, also happens to involve Scott Rettberg, one of the three caballeros who wrote/performed The Unknown around 1998 and which I wrote an essay on in late 2001.

In the same aforementioned post of mine, I wrote something about a "new way of writing" for the web, and from what I can make out so far, Implementation is doing its darndest to find it and combine it with the real world in its own multimedia participatory way.

Pointless pretentious vandalism, you say? Hell yeah.

the noise is so damned loud / but everything else is just dust and sound