December 16, 2018
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Author: Matt Diamond Matt Diamond homepage
Location: Holland PA, USA

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Memorial Day, and a real Call of Duty

My wife has a cousin getting on in years, with no immediate family. Long story short, he had to move to an assisted care facility, and decades of possessions had to be moved out of his house, gone through, and in most cases disposed of.

We knew he'd been in the army during WW2, but he never wanted to talk about it. Somehow I figured that his tour of duty had been somewhat uneventful. Not every soldier was in the thick of the fighting, after all. But going through his war effects was very sobering. Here's his draft notice, May 1943, inducting him into the army. Here's his diary that he kept during training, a young man who had no idea where he was going, hanging eagerly onto every rumor of an early end to the war. Here's a handbook that looks very much like a boy scout handbook, but its telling the reader how to approach and pass windows without being shot. Here's a guide to London, a map of Rome, an Italian phrase book, maps of France. There are patches, pins, a Purple Heart (the only story we managed to get him to tell us) and even a Bronze Star. The written notice describing the actions that led to the awarding of the Bronze Star made my hair stand up on end. It's something that would have been perfectly at home as a level straight out of Call of Duty.

Speaking of which, Call of Duty is a great game because it somehow manages to convey just a fraction of the messiness, terror, and heroicism of WW2. Even the level loading screens are covered with just the kind of stuff we've been finding in this cousin's effects.

I don't have a nice tidy conclusion to all this. It's just stuff that's been on my mind lately, and Memorial Day is a good day to think about it some more.

Posted on May 31, 2004 at 7:55 pm
WB's review-based royalty payments

I was so appalled by WB's announcement that I actually got off my butt to make my first-ever blog entry. (Here's the announcement if you missed it:

To rely on third-party reviews to determine royalty levels is ridiculous. Many of the problems with it have already been eloquently stated at Penny Arcade (near the bottom of the page, "Tycho Reads From Your Letters.")
But here are some additional points of my own:

1) The market already has a mechanism for varying the compensation given to developers. It's a truly amazing mathematical construct known as "percentages." Here's how it works! The developer is entitled to a certain fraction of the profits that the game makes. If the game does well, the developer makes more money. If the game doesn't sell well, the developer makes less. Thus the developer already has plenty of incentive to make a good game.

See? It's like magic! Brainy mathematicians assure me that it works though, so I think we can take it on faith.

2) The majority of reviews are written by (and for) hardcore gamers. A perfectly fine game can get bad reviews if it is intended for a casual audience, or if it takes more risks and confuses a few people. Do we really need more cookie-cutter, unadventurous games that primarily target young males?

3) Studios like WB already have a great deal of control over how their properties are used. If they influence a game's development and ultimately approve its release, they can't then just turn around and blame someone else when some reviewers don't like it.

Here's some historical context. Movie studios are famous for finding clever ways to avoid paying royalties. We shouldn't be surprised when they announce new ones. In fact, here's an informative essay about such shady practices, and Warner Brothers is mentioned in it more than once:

I refuse to stand idly by while this injustice is perpetrated! I hereby announce that, effective immediately, I am boycotting "Seventh Heaven" until WB comes around. And before anyone asks: yes, this includes the episode where Ruthie first gets her period and the entire family wants to celebrate.

Posted on May 27, 2004 at 10:18 am
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