Friday, June 2, 2023

It's All You, You, You, Isn't It?

Straight-up Friday Grab Bag. No Messin'.

Okay, let's open the bag and and grab something. What've we got?

You Call That An Offer?

Prime free games for the month, here we go... Remember when this used to be a post of its own? Ah, the heady days of May '23. Now it's relegated to and in other news.... 

There was even a moment, about a week ago, when it looked as though Prime Gaming would get a second post all to itself for May. I got an alert telling me "Prime Gaming Adds Eight Games, Bringing May Line-Up Total to 23 Free Titles" but when I read it, the extra games turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of stuff they'd brought back from previous offers, so that was the end of that.

This month brings a baker's unlucky dozen of thirteen. The pick, from my perspective, would be Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition and SteamWorld Dig 2 but even those aren't the draw you might think they'd be. 

I already have two versions of Neverwinter Nights - the original box and the "Diamond" edition on Good Old Games. Granted, it would be a lot more convenient for me to play NWN as an Amazon app but the chances of me playing it at all are vanishingly slim. As for Steamworld Dig 2... I have  Steamworld Dig on Steam and I haven't played that yet so do I really need the sequel?

Of the other eleven games, the only one that looks remotely interesting is Once Upon A Jester. I'll claim that one but the rest I wouldn't waste hard drive space on. If you want to check them out for yourself, here they are.

I hate to have to align myself with the cavilling crowd but it is getting harder and harder to pretend that anyone who matters at Amazon gives a damn about the Prime Gaming App any more. I get the strong feeling that whatever plan they had for the platform they inherited from Twitch has either failed outright or already fulfilled its purpose and been shunted into the promotional equivalent of maintenance mode. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

You Do Know They Can't Hear You?

A couple of people asked questions or raised points in the comments that I either answered there or said I'd post about. Since I doubt many people go back and read the comments to posts they've already seen, comment threads are a particularly poor place to make pertinent points so maybe I thought maybe I should highlight them here.

Angry Onions left a comment on the "Covered in Confusion" post to the effect that AIs "don't know and can't think", which is demonstrably and absolutely true. You wouldn't think it was even in dispute if it wasn't for the claims that keep being made about them, although not on this blog, I hope. Everyone does realize I'm treating them like toys, right?

I really ought to do a proper post, laying out my motivations and interests and explaining why I feel the need or desire to keep posting about the AI trend. I'm mulling one over. Maybe I'll even write it myself. Until then, the tl;dr version is that I grew up reading Philip K Dick and I've been waiting all my life for this, so I'm quite excited and when I get excited about something I want to share, whether anyone wants to hear about it or not.

I do realize that we won't get to the autonomous, cranky, personable AIs of science fiction in my lifetime or possibly ever, but for a long, long while it seemed like no-one was even trying. At least now they are and I'm very happy about that. Yes, it could all go horribly wrong but then doesn't everything? Is that a reason not to try?

On a a much less emotional, more practical level, I'm experimenting with and posting about the current generation of AI apps because I can see a lot of potential uses for them that would either solve problems I have or make my life easier. 

One thing I'd really like is an automated research assistant, something I could set parameters for and send out to find, collate and precis information that I could use in posts I'm writing without having to start from scratch. I've been trying to find out if Bard or ChatGPT could fill that role and so far it's clear they can't, mostly because of that endearing but infuriating tendency they have to make things up if they can't find the answer.

I'm sure plenty of older readers (Heh! That's all of you, isn't it?) will remember Ask Jeeves, the search engine that you could talk to in full sentences. It wasn't very good, was it? I learned something from it all the same and that was to treat all search engines as if they could understand normal English. I generally don't just type keywords into Google; I ask it questions. I also cut and paste whole sentences into the search bar and let Google sort out what I want to know. It works very well.

It seems to me that it wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine a version of regular Google Search that can parse sentences and paragraphs and return results that have been sorted and summarised in good English, rather than just pulling up a page of links you have to go read for yourself. That's what I've been hoping the AIs would be able to do. That they can't is frustrating but their failures are hilarious. 

That's basically what I'm up to with these posts, just in case it hasn't been obvious - pushing the AIs to do what I want and then laughing at them when they can't. Probably going to come back and bite me in the ass when AIs get full autonomy and non-human rights but I reckon I'll be long gone by then. 

You'd Look Pretty In That Dress

On yesterday's post, Redbeard asked if I'd say fashion was one of the primary parts of Noah's Heart. I gave him some sort of reply in the thread but it's not such an easy question to answer because, if I'm honest, I have no clue what the point of the game is or even what it's supposed to be. One thing I can say with some confidence is that I'm sure you're not meant to play it the way I do.

When I began playing Noah's Heart I treated it like any other mmorpg. I explored the world, levelled my character and followed the storyline, all of which were fun things to do. After a few months I found myself doing very little in the open world, beautiful though it is, because I'd opened all the teleport locations and kind of felt that was enough.

From then on I concentrated mainly on the monthly story Seasons, which were complete in themselves and had somewhat intriguing plotlines, if you could pick them out from the execrable translation. Those have a time-gating mechanic based on tokens you get from doing dailies so I got into the habit of making sure I hit my daily max of two hundred points.

As the months went on and the game lost players, as evidenced by the multiple server merges, the new content drops dried up, to be replaced with not much more than a rotating sequence of quasi-holiday events and cash-shop driven minigames. No more story seasons have arrived since the one I'm supposedly doing, which is handy in a way because I got fed up with that one half way through, when it became obvious it was padded out with stupid boss fights, and stopped. 

Despite no longer needing tokens for the season unlocks, I've carried on doing dailies because I actually like doing dailies now. Guild Wars 2 gave me Daily Stockholm Syndrome and I've never recovered. 

Apart from enjoying them, the two practical reasons I do dailies are a) to fulfill my Guild responsibilities and b) to get mats and sundries to progress my Phantoms. My guild is a lot quieter than it used to be but I still like being in it and I don't want to get kicked out for not meeting the minimum activity requirements. 

As for my Phantoms, while I don't do much fighting these days, I do still like to see how far I can get in the Fantasy Arena, where Phantoms are pitted against one another in a form of quasi-PvP. If I'm ever going to get past Diamond 3 I need my team to get stronger, so that's a motivator.

Dailies in Noah's Heart are also very quick and easy now. I won't bore everyone with the mechanics of how it works but suffice to say that a while back the devs added some automation to the daily mechanics that allows me to get things done in a matter of seconds that used to take me half an hour or more. I've also built my home up to the point where it provides me with a hefty supply of crafting materials every day just for the few seconds it takes me to set some switches.

That's meant I have a large supply of materials for crafting gifts to give my Phantoms so they'll like me more, which is how I persuade them to give me the patterns I need to copy their clothes. I also get a fair amount of a number of currencies I can spend on items needed for both upgrades and crafting. If I had to go out and harvest or fight for those myself, the way I used to, I don't think I'd have become as invested in getting the different appearances as I have done. I'd probably have given up quite a while back.

Since my playstyle is so truncated and limited, I find it impossible to say whether fashion is intended to be one of the endgames but I'd have to say it is for me, not least because I have no clear idea what the alternatives even are. There are several ladders for PvP and PvE that I guess competitive people work to rise to the top of and there are a few of those endless progression dungeon things that seem to have become mystifyingly popular in a number of games of late but other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to how people spend their time in Noah's Heart.

A lot of people do wander around all dressed up, though, so it looks like I'm not the only one working on their wardrobe. For a game with a lot of looks to collect and a payment model that relies on cash shop sales, I'd have to say there don't seem to bthat many clothes or accessories you can flat-out buy for real money. Most things seem to come either from the kind of in-game activity I've been doing or from unspecified "Events" that I never seem to be able to find.

It's a strange game in so many ways. I like it a lot but I can't see it lasting much longer.

You Can Be My Daddy

I love the way Lana del Rey's father, Rob Grant, is playing with the odious concept of "Nepo Babies". That's the concept 'm calling odious, by the way, not the babies. 

Seriously, at what point of human history has it ever been about what you know rather than who you know? And what are children supposed to do? Actively reject the experience and advice of their parents? 

Are we going to accuse someone of nepotism because they've decided to train as a doctor or a teacher, following in the footsteps of a parent or grandparent? Are we going to ban offspring from carrying on the family business? If not, why should it be different just because the family business involves singing or playing the guitar?

It's even more stupid considering the result is right there in front of us to make up our own minds about. Aren't we capable of judging value by the quality of the work any more? Is it all about the connections, now?

Pah! And pfooey! Anyway, having the dad ride in on the coat-tails of the daughter is hilarious, especially when you consider the lyrics of any number of Lana's early recordings - and when it comes out sounding like this, it's glorious too. I'm gonna buy the album, which I certainly wouldn't if Lana wasn't on it. Nepotism works! 

You've Got To Laugh

If you remember the post I wrote about whether cover versions can be considered free of the stain of their corrupt originals, you might also remember me mentioning a book called Monsters by Claire Dederer. At the time I hadn't read it. Now I'm about half-way through.

As I said then, the copy I have is an uncorrected proof so I can't quote from it. It says so, right there on the cover: "Sceptre uncorrected proof. Not for resale or quotation". I'd post a picture of the cover to show you but I imagine that's not allowed, either.

It's a shame, because there are plenty of lines I'd like to share, not so much for the political or critical or socio-politico-critical points they make but because they're damn funny. If there was one thing I wasn't expecting from a semi-academic treatise on the moral conundrum of what to do about art we admire when it's also created by men we revile, it's that it would have me laughing out loud. 

But it has and it does. I've laughed a bunch of times now and inwardly chuckled a whole lot more. A hundred pages in I'm not at all sure what case is being made or whether I agree with it but I'm certain I want to read more by this author.

At one point she describes herself, somewhat uncomfortably, as a memoirist, something that would be hard to deny, given she's published two memoirs, one with the highly unappealing title "Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses", which apparently has a recommendation by Elizabeth Gilbert on the cover, enough to warn anyone off, I'd have thought. The other's called "Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning", which isn't a whole lot more enticing.

I read some of the Amazon reviews and wishlisted both books. I mean, who wouldn't, when people are saying such amazing things about them, like "The book had quite a few stains on the front which I wasn't expecting" and "It is mildly interesting, but to my mind the contents would've been best left in the author's diary". I mean, it's better than a nod from the author of Eat, Pray, Love, that's for sure.

And that, I think, is just about enough. Working the weekend so that's all until Monday.


  1. My issue with AIs, aside formt he potential for hatred and violence, is the way in which they both are not what I want and actually will make more difficult to get what I want. I'd love an AI I could ask questions to as to a person and get answer as from a person who knows the answer. Like "What is a song from the 1990s whose lyrics say something like a, b and c?". Because Google is bad to terrible to worse as the time goes in actually finding this kind of descriptable but fuzzy information. And now enter AIs, which will just make up a false answer and run with it, and will never reach beyond this stage because they don't know and don't think. Add to ti Art AIs, which can't take a description of what I see in my imaginaton and tewak it through verbal orders so it ends up liek what I imagined (that could be doable with a human artis,t if you get past the human interaction). Add on how VR is a forever dead limb and endless ways in which I *do know* what I want, but the Market can't provide... all the way from my teenage years when I went to that brand new massive shop in my city which sold every poster and print imaginable (over 20,000, wow!), and turned out that me imagining posters about cloudscapes was unthinkable and unthought of (le sigh).

    So now, as if finding stuff wasn't difficult enough (new music? Good luck parsing through the 60,000 new songs uploaded every single day), but AIs will add a massive overload of bullshit to the issue. Instead of helping us to find gold nuggets, will provide the idiot tax with a milion tons of pyrite for us to sort out... because there be money on it.

    If I've learned a thing about the future as imagined, it's that reality always looks as it pleases and holy sh*t how it turns out for bad and sometimes good.

    Internet, VR and Ais weren't supposed to be what they are. My inner child/teen/young wants his money back! Grumble grumble!

    1. Google and Microsoft are going to have to stop their AIs just making stuff up if they're going to be any use as the next-gen search engines both companies are clearly positioning for. It's funny but no-one is going to them instead of an actual search engine once they find out the things they're being told about don't exist.

      ChatGPT, on the other hand, isn't making any claims to be a search engine. It pretty much tells you it's using you to gather data for a science experiment every time you use it. Presumably at some point it'll move to a commercial phase, when I imagine the whole idea will be for people to buy or rent it and either use it for specific functions, like code debugging, which it apparently does quite effectively, or train it on their own, specific data sets for much more focused output.

      I can imagine a whole load of possible uses for even the primitive AIs we have now - I'd pay a decent chunk of change for a wifi-enabled cuddly toy that could respond to natural spoken English conversation in real time, generating its responses the way ChatGPT responds in text, for example. I'm quite surprised we're not seeing those already, as I've mentioned before.


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