Friday, April 21, 2023

What's In A Name?

Man! I've written a lot of long-ass posts lately. I really ought to lay off for a bit. Well, I guess I'm working all weekend, so there's two days I won't be posting. I wouldn't want to miss today, though, so what shall I do?

Oh, I know! One of those Friday Grab-Bags! Except not one where I start out meaning to post half a dozen short paragraphs on six different topics then end up writing two thousand words on one of them and taking all day about it. No, these are going to stay short. Really...

That's Not My Name

Let's start with DCUO, Haven't mentioned that one in a while. I saw there was a new Episode, Shock to the System, and I thought it might come with some free stuff for my Lair, so I logged in to see. 

It didn't. Boo! Hiss!

The first thing I saw after that disappointment was a message saying the server was about to shut down in twenty minutes for maintenance so I didn't even have a chance to investigate the new content. I did manage to find my way to the new area, Dakota City, and take a few screenshots. It looks gorgeous, like all cityscapes in DCUO. Very retro-futuristic, all 90s glass and deco stylings.

More importantly, I spotted an announcement on the launcher warning - or I probably should say promising - a Name Reclaim event next month. This is, apparently, only the second there's ever been and it's been much demanded by disgruntled players, frustrated by the "millions and millions" of abandoned, forgotten and unplayed characters sitting on prime naming real estate.

There's a fascinating six-page thread in response on the forums, from which I learned that last time this happened there was an absolute feeding frenzy, involving people selling names for hundreds of dollars and going nuts over the availabilty of "OG" names like Sentence, Paragraph, Shopping List, Goat Milk, Dog Food or Credit Card. (Actual examples quoted in the thread.) People are weird. 


Here's how it works: 

On or around May 11, 2023, we will reclaim names from characters on inactive accounts, freeing up those names so that you or anyone can again use them when creating new characters or renaming existing ones.

  • Characters on accounts that have not logged into the game since April 11, 2022 (or, in the last 12 months) will be renamed.
  • Renamed characters will have an underscore and Roman Numeral added to their existing names.
    • Accounts and characters will remain otherwise intact. No characters will be deleted.
  • Those names will become automatically available to current players through the regular character creation or rename processes.

If you want to save that name you gave some character you made back in 2017, played once for ten minutes then forgot about for five years, just log the dormant account in before 11 May and it's safe - for as long as it takes for the tide of name-deprived anger to rise again and they have to do this a third time. I'd guess sometime around 2030 if precedent stands.

You only need to log one character all the way in and it flags everything on the account as protected. I'll be logging both my accounts in although the chance of anyone wanting to steal my names is about as small as Ray Palmer when he goes into action. 

Ray Palmer is The Atom, or used to be, by the way. I knew that without having to look it up although I have no idea who The Atom is now, except I bet it's not Ray Palmer any more.

So much for the PSA. On to the next freebie.

Sixteen Candles

Similar story. I read that Lord of the Rings Online was giving stuff away for the Sixteenth Anniversary, which reminded me - wasn't I playing LotRO a while back? I bought an expansion or something, didn't I? How quickly these things slip away.

I'd tell you what I got when I logged in except that I've been into DCUO, taken my shots and written all of this post so far and LotRO is still patching. And I've played it this year, I swear. There can't be that much to update. And I started patching it before DCUO! I'd make a joke out of it if it was funny but the LotRO launcher and its staggering inefficiency stopped being funny a decade ago, if it ever was.

It's still not done so let's get on to the next thing. I'll come back to LotRO later, assuming I can be bothered.

The Stanford Experiment

With all the talk about AI going around, I'm sure no-one needs another post about it from me just yet. Which is a shame, because I have plenty more to say. Oh, boy, do I. 

I'll restrain myself for the moment. Instead, I'll just link this opinion piece from Rob Fahey at  As he says, there's a lot of crazy talk right now about where all this is going but I'm willing to bet that one of the first practical gaming-related applications we'll see is this: smarter NPCs that don't just repeat the same stock phrases over and over. It seems like a gimme.

In the piece, which is well worth reading all the way through, Rob mentions a "proof-of-concept" by researchers at Stanford that involved "a bunch of LLM-driven AI agents running around in a Sims-style simulation". He didn't link to it but here's a write-up on the experiment. And also the Stanford/Google team's PDF on it, if you're really interested. 

You can watch a replay of the little guys doing their thing here. It's weirdly hypnotic.

Sixteen Again

Oh, LotRO finally finished patching. Let's go see what I got!

Bleh. I forgot I didn't start playing LotRO until a couple of years after it launched. I got a present but it was the 14th Anniversary package. Old news!

It was the usual, anyway: some xp potions, a few fireworks, a title and a hat. More junk to take up inventory space. Although the hat's not bad. I'd wear that. 

There are better and more up-to-date rewards at the Anniversary event itself but for that I'd actually have to play the game. Maybe next week. I do fancy running around with "a twee celebration goat pet" as Syp puts it

 You Ought To See Me In A Gown

And finally, because I am, for once, going to keep my promise and make this quick, I suppose we should have some music, just because we always do. Let's see, I have a whole raft of stuff stashed but most of it is earmarked for a couple of posts I have in mind...

Ah, how about this?

Nostalgia - Suki Waterhouse

When I picked Suki Waterhouse as a standout from the cast of Daisy Jones and the Six, I had no clue she was an actual musician and performer, not just an actor playing one. I knew I'd heard her name but I didn't realise it was from seeing it in the sidebar on YouTube. 

It still doesn't explain what her cut-glass accent is doing in the show (Yes, I know why. I'm being arch.) but it certainly explains why she's so convincing in the role.

I could go on but I won't. Things to do. Places to be. 

Back after the weekend.


  1. "Ray Palmer is The Atom, or used to be, by the way. I knew that without having to look it up although I have no idea who The Atom is now, except I bet it's not Ray Palmer any more."

    I'm not enough up on my comics to know if heros changing identities is a DC thing, or just a thing in general? I know about all the Green Lanterns, and I seem to remember multiple Flashes? I'm having a hard time thinking of a Marvel hero that changed identities off the top of my head, but I'm probably missing something really obvious. It seems like The Atom is not an identity that could easily change: how does one freshly acquire those powers? But I would have thought the same about The Flash.

    1. Oh, of course. Captain America, if I recall correctly.

    2. Unlike Marvel, which has, by and large, tried to keep to some vestige of a throughline, DC has fallen into a pattern of restarts, revamps and reboots. It's not jusrt a case of different individuals taking up the mantle and wearing the costume, although there's a lot of that too - it's that every few years they scrap the entire universe and start over.

      It was thrilling the first time it happened but increasingly irritating after that and I lost track of which version is current years ago. The confusion is compounded by the fact that sometimes they go back to a partial, previous version. It's all very easy for them to do because the entire DC Universe is founded on the multiple reality concept, going back to at least the very early sixties, when the Justice Society from WWII were found to be stil in business on an alternate Earth, a story that, if my memory serves me, happened in a story called Flash of Two Worlds. Ever since, the number of Earths - and Universes - has been expanding and contracting and it's anyone's guess who's who at any given moment.

  2. Damn, that song is good. I'm impressed.

    1. Very catchy melody. It was going around my head all day today.

  3. Back to AI in games... something you might want to check out:

    Square Enix has gone back and added "AI" to one of its old games as (copied from the steam page):

    This software is a demonstration of Natural Language Processing (NLP), an AI technology, as applied to the adventure game “The Portopia Serial Murder Case” (first published in Japan in 1983). Talk to your partner, give him instructions, and try to solve the string of mysterious murders.

    1. Wow! Thanks a million for that link. It looks very intersting indeed. Adding it to my Steam library as I type!


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