Making Morality Matter

In response to “Pandora’s Box” from The Escapist forums:
I was once interested in this thing, but then the first Eee came out and I went for that because I knew that’d at least exist within the next year

Two years later, this thing still isn’t in the hands of the majority of people who bought it. The iPhone and Android phones flatten it in most ways. The CPU is now old. The GPU is now old.

Would’ve set the world afire if they could have got it out while it was at least slightly relevant.



In response to “Experienced Points: On the PSN Relaunch Announcement” from The Escapist forums:
As was pointed out to me, Sony *did* issue a statement that the passwords were not stored in plaintext, but as hashes. Unfortunately, the statement did not include whether or not the hashes were salted.

A bit of an aside as to the non-crypto-geeks about hashes and salting:

Hashing means transforming plaintext (like your password) into some other bytes. Given the same plaintext and the same hashing algorithm, the result will always be the same. That means that websites (or PSN) doesn’t have to store your plaintext password to know whether the password you entered is correct: they store the hash, compute the hash of what you’ve entered, and if they’re the same then you got the password right.

Cryptographic hashes have another important property: they look random, which means a tiny change in the plaintext will lead to massively different hashes. That makes them fairly secure for storing passwords, as it’s next to impossible to guess what the plaintext password was by looking at the hash.

But attackers can work around that with something called a rainbow table. That’s just a big table of plaintext and hashes computed from that plaintext. Just like the server doesn’t need to know the plaintext if it knows the hash, neither does the attacker. If they see a hash, and look that hash up in a rainbow table, they can find the plaintext password.

So it’s best to “salt” hashes: for that, you concatenate the password with some random gibberish called a salt, e.g. “s3kr1t” + “shfkusg”, and compute hash over that. Then you store the resulting value and the random salt.

When a legitimate user enters a password, you can still compute hash as you know the salt, and make the same check as before. But when someone tries to compare your hash against a rainbow table, they will fail, because it’s infeasible for them to try all possible salts. Even if they *did* know the salt, computing a hash with all possible passwords for that salt would take ages.

My problem with Sony is now a bit different: given that they spoke about passwords being stolen, I must assume one of two things:
a) They did not, in fact, communicate well. If salted hashes of passwords were being stolen, that’s not too bad of a problem.
b) The hashes were unsalted, and therefore the theft of those hashes is akin to stealing password, and they communicated well. But they still failed at basic cryptography.

Would love to know which it is.



In response to “Extra Consideration: The School Shooter Mod, Part 2” from The Escapist forums:
Yep. There’s a difference between “craft” and “enjoyment”. Craft is the objective measure of quality by all those things you mentioned. This is used in Art all of the time. If games ARE art than this is certainly a component.

They already gave a great example of a film that’s well crafted, so much so that it changed the industry, but incredibly racist (even for its time). There are entire movements of film and visual art based on the concept of making the viewer uncomfortable, and it’s usually applauded. But then, it has to be a) well crafted, b) state an intent, and c) successfully communicate that intent. Shock art such as a Madonna made out of elephant feces is still art, and it’s meant to shock the viewer into a reaction rather than have them enjoy the aesthetics of it all. This sort of thing still manages to end up in a museum.

School Shooter does not do this. It starts in bad taste, and ends in bad taste. It DOES provoke discussion, but it does nothing to justify its existence. While Super Columbine Massacre contains several essays and specific references (and therefore not “fun”, but still thought provoking), it has a solid design for its very point. The media made unfair comparisons to other media – from video games to Marilyn Manson, so the artist decided to actually make a video game based on these ideas. Characters level up by “grinding” through the school until they go to an impossible final boss in hell. There is even a morality choice. You could choose not to kill anyone, but you wouldn’t have the level necessary to beat said final boss. You have to do an extreme amount of mass murder to do this, in fact. Along the way, you find references to false accusations the media made about the kind of media the killers consumed. This is sound and cohesive design in that it makes a premise, and follows through with it. It is also extremely uncomfortable since it’s based on a real world event, and I would even argue it is still in poor taste. This is all in service of the larger point about two different violences in media – the actual violence vs. the sensationalism and misinformation of “action” news.

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School shooter presents a shooting gallery of innocents, and doesn’t even do it well.

James and Bob have made some interesting suggestions on how to explore the violence of a school shooter better.

I get what the School Shooter mod was trying to do, but it doesn’t succeed.

The reason Doom, GTA, Halo, Just Cause 2, etc. get away with some mindless violence involves a loosely held narrative that put you in the right position to do what you do. They also present clear antagonists on top of that. The violence sandbox that the SS author refers to are all right there (and I even get the point that the only difference is narrative). There’s a reason for that Narrative, obviously, it justifies the actions and allows us to see past it to do violence against pixels.

SS doesn’t make that point well.



In response to “Extra Punctuation: Action Is Not Finisher Porn” from The Escapist forums:
Cool features break things because coolness always wants to stand out above everything else; coolness never wants to just be a part of the whole. Games have to be built as a holistic unit, with each element contriving to create a singular, coherent experience. Cool elements and cool features are contrapositive to this goal. Unfortunately, game developers work on the guiding principle of “make it cool.”. This leads to creation of cool features and cool elements in the game that vie for the complete attention of the gamer and, in turn, create a jarring, discontinuous experience as each cool feature carves out its own fiefdom of context within the game. The game loses cohesion, which leads to a loss of flow.

I’ve watched this same problem for years occur in the video games industry. But I’ve seen the problem not restricted to just the video games industry. I’ve seen the problem occur with software design in general, and I’ve seen the problem in other areas of technology, as well. However it was with video games that I first came to the idea that cool things break things. They just don’t fit in with the rest of the work, because they are trying too hard to stand out, to be the only thing that gets all the attention.


I feel something that should be mentioned here is how these over-the-top powerful moves/combos tie into the competitive fighting game scene, and how infrequently they are actually used. Besides MvC3, attempting to get off these sort of moves is incredibly risky and are not of great priority. Most of the time they are blocked or whiff (miss) as competitive players are so very used to avoiding them or anticipating them in the first place.

From a casual point of view (I am a casual myself), fighting games may seem like they are entirely about these super/hyper/ultra/X-ray moves. You see them in all the trailers and there is so much emphasis on them in the media. Really though, these moves form a very small part of a fighting game’s actual mechanics and should be seen as merely a catchup option if someone is getting owned. A competitive player is more likely to burn their super/xray bar through enhanced attacks then leaving the whole thing for said move, mainly because it is more advantageous for them to do so. The sparring or ‘footsies’ of a fighting game is what a competitive player is focusing on 90% of the time. Should said ‘footsies’ allow them a small window of opportunity to properly place one of these special moves, then great! If you watch enough tournament videos you will know that it is THIS that entertains and awes the crowd, not the special move itself. This is because at the competitive level, successfully getting off one of these moves is not easy. It is incredibly hard.

I guess what I am trying to say is that people are probably looking at these moves the wrong way and thinking of them in the wrong light. Yes, for the casual beating up his friend who doesn’t know how to block these moves can get boring and probably pull the action away for both of them. But for two people who are actually fighting competitively, getting these moves off are significant, difficult and highly entertaining.


Also, fatalities are nothing more than glorified finishing moves. You don’t have to do them. Anyone complaining about how they are forcing unnecessary gore porn down your throat is just silly.


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