Archive for December, 2004

Book Review: Locust by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Back in the 19th Century, agricultural areas on the frontier were often ravaged by huge hordes of Locusts that devoured all the crops that they could find. However, during the 1890’s, the severity of Locust outbreaks dwindled and by 1902, they had become a thing of the past.

There were several theories offered by scientists as to just why Locusts had apparently become extinct in North America. None of them satisfied Jeffrey Lockwood, a professor at the University of Wyoming and he set out on a personal mission to solve the mystery of the extinction of the Locust. After a long time of study and research, he presents his conclustions. One of these is that Locusts are still present at the Yellowstone National Park even though they have become extinct elsewhere on the continent.

This is a book that could have been a masterpiece. Lockwood does a good job describing the potency of the Locust plagues on the 19th Century frontier, as well as how he arrived at his conclustions. However, this iis almost undone by the fact that Lockwood obviously has a high opinion of himself and his preening, especially toards the end of the book, undermines the respect that the reader has built up for him.

In the final analysis, this is a book one should seek out at the local library or through interlibrary loan. Its worth a read, but unfortunately not your money.

Vatican to Fight Rise of Satanism

Sunday, December 26th, 2004

The
Vatican is to be holding a special seminar
to combat the rise of Satanism in Italy. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 Satanic sects in Italy alone. Lest you think that this is a case of hysteria, consider the following:

Seven young members of a sect called The Beasts of Satan were arrested in June near Milan, accused of murdering three of their friends and suspected of having forced a further two to take their own lives.

“They are charged with manslaughter and some have admitted to satanic practices and membership of the Beasts of Satan, which amounts to aggravating circumstances,” said an examining magistrate.

Of course, the fact that Satanists engage in heinous crimes does not come as a surprise to folks who have been following Satanism in the U.S.A. American Satanists have long engaged in crimes ranging from cattle/horse mutilations to vandalism to murder. Worst of all is the fact that even those Satanists who are caught & ultimately convicted dead to rights are able to find folks who are willing and able to promote the nonsense that they were “framed” for being members of a “minority religion.” These characters even go so far as to create websites filled with the most fallacious statements and distortions of fact aimed at freeing the guilty Satanic scum.

A “Lunatix” Blast From The Past

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

This interview was originally done over 3 years ago when I was the News Editor at MPOGD. Since then, it has been deleted from the News Archive there for what reason I have no idea. This interview was done with Mike Snyder aka Wyndo of Prowler Productions and has been saved for posterity through the
miracle of the Internet Wayback Machine
.

And now the interview from the dark mists………..

Monday, July 30, 2001

Exclusive Interview With Mike Snyder aka Wyndo
Posted by – Charles Rector 6:59:38 PM Admin: Edit
Reply-to: “Mike Snyder” From: “Mike Snyder” | Block Address | Add to Address Book To: “Charles Rector” Subject: Re: Interview Questions Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 10:51:01 -0500 Organization: Prowler Productions

How long have you been into online gaming?

As a developer, since February of 1995 when I figured out how to write BBS Door Games in QuickBASIC. At the time, the BBS market was at its peak. If you were online, you were probably using a Bulletin Board System. The internet was available, but just beginning to reach the masses. These games were text-based (with “ANSI” graphics – colorful and often stunning, but still text-based). I’ve been programming games (just not “online” ones) since 1987.

What was your inspiration/motivation for creating Lunatix Online?

In a way, it was inspired by itself. Prior to Lunatix Online, there had been Lunatix for MajorBBS/Worldgroup systems. And, prior to that was the original Lunatix BBS Door Game. Each of the three (which includes Lunatix Online) has been a complete re-write (QuickBASIC – then C — then Perl) to fit the platform. This has allowed us to expand on the idea, and improve game play with each incarnation.

The inspiration for the original Lunatix came from two other games. The setting is a tribute to one of the first Adventure (Interactive Fiction) games I ever played – “Bedlam” for the Radio Shack Color Computer. The rest of it (play style, options, and so forth) were heavily inspired by Legend of the Red Dragon (LORD), one of the best-known and most profitable BBS games of all time. In fact, Lunatix 1.0a was essentially LORD in an asylum. Through its updates and rewrites, the parody has long since evolved into a game with features and originality all its own.

With the decline of the BBS market (especially the Worldgroup/MajorBBS market), we had discussed writing a “web” version of Lunatix off and on for over a year before we actually “committed” ourselves to doing it. We knew the potential of the WWW, and there weren’t many (if any) other browser-based games (BBG’s) out there at the time (aside from maybe small or simple Javascript games, all-text adventures, maybe Earth 2025 and a couple others). It was more or less an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” idea. We had waited so long primarily because we had convinced ourselves that it would be a waste of time. So much out there is free, who would pay for a browser game? We were a business after all. I’m not sure how the motivation finally hit us, but we started working on Lunatix Online around August or September 1998 and finished beta testing after December the same year.

What was your inspiration/motivation for creating Prowler Productions as a multi-game site?

Our original idea was that more games would mean more of a reason for people to stick around. We applied this to the idea of developing new games of our own (StarLock was planned as our second project, with a 3rd major game after). The idea was to allow 1 subscription ($5) to access all games (which might be revised when StarLock is actually released).

Development is taking longer than I would have hoped. Lunatix had two prior versions to use as a “model” – it’s much easier to write a game when you’re copying something you’ve already done. Not true of StarLock. We were approached by a couple people who had written browser games and needed hosting, and decided to increase the site content that way. The motivation was that other browser game developers could partner with an existing site and gain more players than they might otherwise, and we’d benefit by having more “bait” to the site.

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. Most people coming for the free games pay little attention to Lunatix Online. In fact, in all the time we’ve done this, I’m not sure anybody who has stayed on with a subscription actually “heard” about it from one of the other games we host. Still, the resources are there and it’s good to be able to host a site where so many free games are also available.

What is this StarLock project about & when will it come out?

This is the biggest, most complex project I’ve ever attempted. It’s a browser-based Sci-Fi RPG with thousands of panoramic-style graphic scenes, a mapped galaxy (not just random “linked” points in space), planets and stations to visit, and (probably best of all) a “story” that is told through the game – not just as a backdrop *for* the game. It’s a heavy blending of MUD-type elements and browser-based play. Unlike Lunatix Online, you’re actually “at” places in StarLock. When you’re at Chuckle’s Pub, you’re there WITH other players. When you buy from a merchant, his/her stock decreases (there is balance in the number of items versus the number of players). You can drop some things for other players to pick up, or share/sell/trade items in manner that I’ve never seen attempted in any other game. You can buy or rent rigs (think of truck drivers), or ride a StarBus. Space travel is in real time, which fits really well with limited-turn play. The faster engine you have, the sooner you’ll arrive. Set a course to a distant point and log off if you want — you keep travelling even if you’re not there to see it. Imagine space as the world map in an RPG – necessary to move you from place to place, where the planets and starbases and other “places” are where the quests, adventures, and combat take place.

We’re aiming for a complex game that’s easy to start. In fact, new players almost have their hands held by NPC’s who teach them the basics. You can learn how to play WHILE you play, and I think that’s something that will be very important in attracting and keeping players. It even prevents you from messing up when you first start. For instance, to learn about the StarBus, you have to go to the ticket booth and purchase tickets. The game won’t allow a new player to DROP the tickets until they’ve completed the task and arrived at their destination.

I’m still wrestling with the idea of having a game with a finite ending still provide replay value. When you’re telling a story, there has to be a beginning and an end. The same is true in StarLock. I don’t intend to write something with the sole purpose of being a time-drain for people who could otherwise play other games and have real lives. The point is to experience the story. I have a few ideas on how to bring the game to a close in a way that doesn’t automatically ruin any further enjoyment for players. I’ve already worked out how to move the story along at different paces for different people — quite a feat for a persistent-universe multiplayer game.

I don’t want to give away much more than that, yet, although I would like to provide an MPOGD “exclusive” to the game when it gets closer to release if you’re interested. I think this game will have something for everybody – graphics, story/text, community, and more. It’s scalable – the more subscribers we get, the easier it will be to fight “lag” by simply opening additional servers. We’re also considering hiring in-game help if it becomes necessary (not just asking for volunteers), and we’ve been thinking about releasing some of the game (music, graphics, etc) on CD to make things faster (a “box set” with maps, starbus schedules, merchant info, planet day-length explanations, a printed manual, and more feelies). That’s just in the “wouldn’t it be nice” phase right now, though.

It’s difficult to guess at when it will be ready for public beta testing, let alone open play. I’ve been working on this game for almost 2 and a half years (started in March of 1999). The engine has been coded from scratch. Even the small bits of code for various tasks I initially “borrowed” from Lunatix Online has evolved. The engine still needs more work; there are features I haven’t even added yet. The biggest roadblock right now is in quest development and the fleshing out of the main story. In a way, it’s like having the skeleton of a game without the exterior. Fortunately, working on those aspects is much more fun. The chief goal I have set is that the game will be launched live (with beta testing done and out of the way) this year. I’d like to start testing this fall, which is just around the corner.

Are either Lunatix Online or StarLock based/inspired on any BBS games?

Only Lunatix. It was inspired by itself, although to be fair, the original Lunatix was inspired by LORD (mentioned earlier). StarLock draws nothing from any previous BBS games, although there are bound to be similarities that I haven’t intended (it’s a space game – there are going to be space-game-type things in it). It’s more inspired by movies; Space Truckers, for instance. Although you haul shipments from place to place, that’s just an initial premise. You *aren’t* a planet-hopping trader, buying and selling goods to make a profit. I almost stayed away from the Space Truckers angle entirely, simply to avoid any mistaken thoughts that it’s like “Trade Wars” or other similar games. Some of the inspiration comes from something I read in a Star Trek novel (I can’t say what, exactly, without giving it away). More inspiration comes from a novel I started writing several years ago (back when I mistakenly thought I could be a novelist) involving one con-man in his attempts to profit from a “Galactic Presidential Election” among a group of 5 eccentric candidates.

What differentiates Lunatix Online or StarLock from any other games currently available online?

Most of my experience comes from browser-based games. I’ve seen, but never played, games like Ultima Online, Everquest, and others. I actually wanted to try Ultima Online (as a big fan of the Ultima series) but was too afraid of becoming addicted and forgetting that I had projects of my own to work on. :) I do know that browser-based games aren’t going to provide the same kind of experience some expect from other kinds of games; they often appeal to different people.

As for comparisons to other browser-based games, that’s a little easier. There are far more strategy games it seems, than RPG games (and even Lunatix has so few “RPG” elements that it’s really an RPG-lite). The biggest “unique” feature of Lunatix Online is that we allow players to create and submit their own add-ons for the game. These are modules that plug right in and become part of Lunatix (a free kit is available), by providing more options (floors to visit) in the elevator (In-Game Modules). This is one of the LORD-inspired features that, to my knowledge, no other browser-based game has yet done. There are a number of other features that seem to be unique in our game, including “color codes” that work from anywhere, player profiles, in-game email (although I’m starting to see some others do this as well), daily news, player marriages, and a pretty unique setting (an insane asylum). Even after almost 3 years, I can still look at Lunatix and feel that as browser games go, it isn’t outdated.

StarLock really has no comparison. There aren’t *any* browser-based games like it – Sci-Fi or otherwise. The closest comparison would be text-based MUD’s, but I think the interface and addition of images (many people like to “see” what’s going on) really gives it an edge. It raises the ceiling on BBG’s, which as a rule don’t even *have* a story, let alone tell one.

What has the response to your efforts been like?

Rather mixed. The people who support us REALLY support us. Charging for Lunatix after 2 weeks, on the other hand, has kept our overall popularity fairly low. For positive comments, it’s much more likely to hear good things early on. When Lunatix Online was new, we heard nothing but praise. “Great game. Great idea. Best on the web.” As time passes, despite the game becoming more solid and more fun, we rarely hear comments at all from new players unless it’s to rake us over the coals for charging a fee.

Public response is fairly minimal. Posts about Lunatix *outside* the site are pretty rare, and are usually comments to/about me as opposed to comments to/about the game. Some of it can be discouraging, but I enjoy game development too much to quit. :)

How many play the Prowler Productions games? How many of these pay to play?

There are around 700 people who play Lunatix Online, PipeLine, and Solitary Confinement combined (the games we wrote). That’s only a fraction of the total site though (which includes games we host but are created, owned, and adminned by others). There are over 700 players signed up for World at War, over a hundred accounts in BlackNova Traders (soon to be “Steller Entrepreneurs” I believe), a mere 63 in Froggy Racing, hundreds in a new one we host call “The Colonies”, and several in a few of the games that don’t display that information. I’m not sure how many people are involved in multiple games. My guess is that the site has around 2,000 unique players.

153 (at present) are paid subscribers in Lunatix (the only game that isn’t “totally” free, at present). The number has been growing these past few months (we had floated around 120 for quite a while) and I’m expecting to reach 200+ paying subscribers by December. It seems small, but when you’re thinking about “paying” for a browser-based game, it blows away what many people expected. More importantly, it pays dedicated hosting for the entire site, for the tools we buy toward new projects, for prizes to those who win the game, for a recent decision to try paid advertising, and keeps us from worrying that our site will struggle from the shrinking “banner ad” market. We’re a site that until recently hadn’t even done ANY organized paid advertising. We relied on word of mouth, game-site listings (mpogd.com has always been great for referrals), and insanely-low CTR’s on “free” banner exchange sites. My gut feeling is that we’re set to grow in the months to come.

Why were Lunatix Online & StarLock created as RPG’s as opposed to say, strategy games?

I get so frustrated with strategy games. :) I like them — I used to really enjoy the BBS game BRE (Barren Realms Elite – created by the same person who did Earth 2025 if I’m not mistaken) — I just hate how things can become so unbalance when Multi’s take over. As a rule, I’ve just never gotten “into” them – plus there are SO many of them out there already. RPG and Adventure games are what I enjoy most. I also think the potential for BB-RPG’s hasn’t yet been fully tapped, whereas strategy games have already been pushing the limits. In a way, it also goes back to my BBS days. This is what I’ve been doing for so long, coming up with a *unique* and worthwhile “strategy” game would be quite a task.

Are there any fan sites for any of the games at Prowler Productions?

A few have come and gone for Lunatix Online. The main one is a hint site: http://www.prowler-pro.com/bluesparks/lunatixhints/igms.html

It’s actually hosted ON our server (originally at bluesparks.com) because the site admin now hosts a couple of his own games at Prowler Productions. Most of the other fan sites are just brief mentions in players’ personal pages. We haven’t had many straight-out “fan” sites that lasted.

As for the other games we host, I’m not too sure. It’s possible.

Why did you focus on browser-based games instead of say, downloadable program games?

These are what I call “client/server” games, even if BBG’s are technically client/browser server/web games. Actually, it’s something I’m considering. I actually have a wonderful idea for such a game – and something I think a small team like mine could do (and do well).

There were several reasons for focusing on BBG’s. One, we wanted to think forward as we brought a new incarnation of Lunatix to life. This kind of game didn’t need to be C/S (downloadable program) because it was the kind of game perfectly suited for browser-based play. Plus, we’re all busy people and BBG’s fill a niche market (that of other busy people who still want to compete in an environement that doesn’t reward 10-hour daily sessions, and those who want to waste away the boring hours at work or even at school). We also wanted to develop it in a way that would yield the fastest results, with the ability to reach the widest group of people (you have to admit, the web is far-reaching). As people who aren’t making a living from online games (and may never), our day jobs and other interests make getting “up to speed” on today’s latest 3D techniques and technology a not-so-enthusiastic task. Two or three people *can* make a cutting-edge BBG in a few months. It’s less likely to compete in the C/S market unless your team is much bigger and more experienced.

We may head there, though (as I mentioned, I have a great idea). StarLock is kind of the do-or-die project for us. If this game – as much effort and time invested – doesn’t boost us to the next level, it says a lot about BBG’s in general. Even in such an event, the Prowler Portal isn’t going anywhere. Our *future* efforts may simply be directed in other ways.

What do you think that the future holds for browser-based games?

I’m still very optimistic. Many of the people who have subscribed to Lunatix Online have indicated that they enjoy this BETTER than games like Everquest or Ultima Online. Go figure. It comes down to *wanting* to play a game, yet not having the time most others can invest in playing. It comes down to enjoying something that’s slower-paced and doesn’t tax your reflexes the way action games will. It comes down to killing time at work, where it would be pretty hard to install a C/S game and get away with it (I have a hard enough time just minimizing Shockwave sites; and they don’t even take up my whole screen).

I have given this some thought – not just in response to your question, but as I have considered the future direction of Prowler Productions. BBG players have been spoiled by years of free play at sites which enjoyed the income brought from “ad” revenue. It’s no secret that times are changing. Many sites made money – more than I have at my site by “charging” players – and it has created a market that is typically very hostile toward pay sites. Now, we see a catch 22. Few people are willing to pay to play BBG’s, yet most people expect the best in quality. The good free sites, from what I’ve seen, become overcrowded which creates that much more of a resource drain for them, and that much more *need* for income. Some are finding that the alternative is to charge, or to ask for donations. Few *popular* free multiplayer BBG’s are going to stay afloat unless somebody pays for it – that’s how I feel.

I don’t think the results are in yet though. Many free sites *will* stay around simply because they don’t have enough players to warrant expensive hosting (the traffic is small). It’s possible that the banner market could rebound, as “targeted” advertising (which is what mpogd.com does) becomes attractive. (Really — how many people who refuse to play “pay” games for fear of using credit cards would actually care much about a Visa or MasterCard offer advertised inside some game they play?) Some sites may shut down (it’s already happening). Some may partner up with sites like mine, who will host games simply because we have the resources (so far) to do so. Some may continue to operate on servers incapable of handling the traffic, encouraging the opinion that BBG’s aren’t “real” games and aren’t taken seriously by most gamers because they’re so slow.

It’s really hard to say what the future holds. I think C/S games are finally filling some of the gaps that text-based games previously did, by providing more in the way of story, gameplay, and realism. As this continues, there may be fewer people even interested in BBG’s – I hope not, but it’s a possibility. At the same time, I think BBG’s might begin to fill some of the gaps that C/S games previously have, primarily in the areas of graphics, sound, and size — provided serious developers are still willing to take the risks to try.

I haven’t seen any indication that BBG players are adapting as quickly as the BBG sites themselves must. Sure, banner ad income is harder to come by and many sites are beginning to see the merit of charging a subscription, but are players accepting this? I don’t think so. Lunatix Online hasn’t been hurt *or* helped by the booming-then-declining ad market. People opposed to paying a year ago are no more eager to shell out $5 now. I believe that many free sites may not be *able* to charge, simply because they haven’t hit on the kind of game that people are willing to pay for. You may get thousands of people to play a free tic-tac-toe game, but few (if any) will pay for that. To succeed, quality and innovation is going to be more important.

I honestly don’t know if BBG fans are going to become more receptive to pay sites. I also don’t know what this will really do to the quality of BBG’s. Will they get better because you have to charge to keep your game up (and you have to have a great game to justify charging)? Will they get worse because the “paying” market is so small and nobody with a “great” game can afford to run it, and because leading developers give up and move on?

As I said, I don’t think the results are in yet.

Yet Another Near Miss

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

Once again,
Earth narrowly avoided getting hit by a large rock from outer space
. In this case, it was one that likely would have burned up in the atmosphere.

However, incidents like these are reminders of the fact that for all of our advanced weaponry, the shortsighted politicians have failed to create any sort of defensive system to protect the planet from cosmic doom. One day, we may all pay the price for that tragic lack of imagination and resolve by the professional politicians.

The Fraud of MoveOn

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

Chris Nolan is a leading Silicon Valley reporter who, unlike most journalists, actually cares about getting the story right. A recent example of this is the 1st part of a 2-part article about the insidious political “organization” MoveOn . If you want a great read, then Nolan’s article is the real deal.

For what its worth, MoveOn has always struck this writer as being the play thing of a millionaire and his wife except that they aren’t on Gilligan’s Island. Instead, they’re messing around with politics in such a way that it might give them lots of fun, but its ultimately destructive to the causes that they purport to be so heavily supportive of.

Virakar

Thursday, December 23rd, 2004

Virakar is one of the most important guilds in Worlds of Warcraft. Unlike most online gaming guilds, Virakar has its own Official History section that starts out with this interesting paragraph:

The core of Virakar started back in 2001 with a small group of friends, three to be exact, came together and decided to start a guild for the then upcoming game Shadowbane. The premise behind doing this was for one simple fact, to have fun with friends. While this is no different from many other guilds out there the founders of Virakar wanted to go for something a little different. We set out to combine Role Playing and Player Killing in such a manner that is seldom seen in the online gaming world, and do it with mature respected gamers.

This guild has held true to its founding ideals and after a stay in Shadowbane long enough to prosper, Virakar came to the conclusion, as had many other guilds, that SB was a dead end game, that there were games out there that were more worthy of their exertions towards dominance & excellance than Shadowbane.

And so it is that Virakar has found its way to Worlds of Warcraft where it is currently jockeying for position with many other guilds.

News Media Hackery

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004

Want some proof that most reporters are just a bunch of hacks? Check out this article on the Space Review website. It involves this uninformed professor who the media always calls on to privide reliably negative quotes about NASA. In fact, Prof. Alex Roland does not have the background necessary to make informed criticisms of the space program, so the media embellishes it for him:

Roland is always cited as a “former NASA historian,” which supposedly lends weight to his comments. However, the reality is that Roland last worked as a NASA historian in 1981. Yes, you can be a “former” something forever, but two decades is starting to stretch things. A review of social science databases does not reveal any scholarly publications by Roland on the subject of human spaceflight in the past decade other than a few book reviews. In fact, it is hard to find any scholarly publications by Roland on the subject of spaceflight at all for the past two decades. And speaking as someone who has lectured at space history symposia and written and edited scholarly space history books and articles, I can also state that Roland does not talk to, or participate in, the space history community. He is not a space historian, he simply has an opinion that he boils down to sound bites.

Sports Talk Radio vs. White Sox

Monday, December 20th, 2004

There’s an incredible amount of ignorance, anti-Reinsdorf hatred and
just plain garbage being said about both the Chicago White Sox and its owner Jerry Reinsdorf on sports talk radio.

First, its been repeatedly demonstrated that if the Sox spend big
and/or win big that folks will NOT flock to the games. Case in point:
2000 when the Sox won 95 games and the AL Central Division while the
Cubs lost 90 games and finished dead last in the NL Central. Guess
what? The Cubs substantially outdrew the White Sox attendance-wise.

Second, 1.9 Mil. in attendance is hardly sufficient to fund the vast
spending programs that so many talk show hosts want. Also, the Sox ticket prices are far less than what several other MLB teams such as the BoSox
charge, yet there is a demand that the Sox reduce
their already reasonable ticket prices and have even more
discounting. In other words, they want higher spending with even lower
revenues.

Third, there is a pre-occupation with the stupid Cubs and their place
in the Chicago baseball world. Specifically, there is
a misbelief that the Cubs are outdrawing the Sox because they are a
better team and will do even better next year. The success of the
Cubs attendance-wise have nothing to do with the quality of the team
as shown by the fact that during the Reinsdorf Era, the Sox have
generally outperformed the Cubs in the W-L column, yet the Cubs
outdraw the Sox. In 2003, the Cubs won only 2 more games than did the
Sox, but the Cubs had substantially greater attendance than the Sox.
There are many reasons for this beginning with the fact that the
Tribune Co. owns the Cubs and has been using its media outlets to
promote the Cubs while dumping on the Sox. The only way that the Sox
could possibly overcome this media bias is for the ownership to buy
its own media properties.

Finally, the last thing that Sox fans really want is for a savvy
businessman such as Donald Trump to come in and buy the Sox because
such an individual would soon realize that the South Side is
insufficient to the cause of adequately supporting the and would find
a way to bust out of the agreements for the Sox to remain at Comiskey
for the next 2 decades or so. That way, the businessman would be able
to move the team to another city such as say New Orleans or
Louisville where there would be sufficient attendance to make owning
a MLB team a worthwhile endeavor.

A “Purging” Blast From the Past

Monday, December 20th, 2004

Back in Ye Olden Days of May, 2003 there was an online multiplayer game called Purge Online that was available both in stores and online. This game had a newsletter that was sent out periodically. One memorable feature in this newsletter was called “The Soapbox” and an especially memorable piece that ran in the Soapbox was by one Hap about the sorry state of game reviewing and game review websites. Before commencing with the piece in question, it should be noted that none of Hap’s criticisms hold true for either OMGN or The Nexus because our reviewers generally write about games that have been around for some time already.

Now for just how things are done at all too many other websites:

[How to run a gaming site] by Hap

Purge has been getting game reviews of varying quality. It is important that people read these reviews with a grain of salt. We’ve been reading reviews that are blatantly wrong. Where the reviewers just didn’t read the manual and doubtfully even played Purge any longer than to take screenshots. I’ve read how a reviewer claimed the Android was too powerful because he could make unlimited Ion Barriers. Simply untrue. The Android can make 4. It is clearly stated in the manual. He also did not know that a Nuke/Angelfire could destroy multiple Ion Barriers/Wards nice and easy. I’ve read all kinds of nonsense in reviews that untrue, like the player runs too slow. They didn’t know Agility could control the run speed. And then I’ve read conflicting reviews where one review would complain since XP is saved, people get too powerful and another review where they wish XP could be saved. These writers didn’t spend the time read the manual where it explain clearly XP saving (called Persistence) is purely server optional. It this kind of half-assed game review and make you wonder what kind of reviewers they are hiring.

Well I have an idea. How? We used to run content websites. We wrote hardware and software reviews and guides. This was back when dot-coms were still hot stuff and web advertising was reasonable. We started during the very peak of the dot-com boom… I think you can figure out the story there. We just came in a little too late.

Fortunes, or lack thereof, aside, what it taught me was how gaming content websites are run. And how you can run your own gaming site too.

During the height of the dot-com, a common phrase heard was “content is king”. The higher quality your writers, the better your articles, the more visitors you got. And the more visitors you got, the more page impressions (known ambiguously as “hits”) you would get. The more impressions you got, the more money you made off ads. Remember the huge Thresh Quake Bible? We were no strangers to good writing either. For example, Adam wrote System Shock 2 guide, which generated a large number of new visitors.

That was the past. When web-advertising prices started falling so did quality. Now many gaming websites have unpaid writers. They take free labour as often and as possible. One Purge review on a “major” website was written by a high-sophomore. That means a 14-15 year old wrote a Purge review and this site just played it off as if a professional writer did it. And how much did he get paid for the writing the review. Zippo. Nothing. I don’t think anyone can make the argument a free article by a 14 year old is going to be a quality.

Another “major” US-based website got free German writer to review Purge. The writer demanded we cater a good game at 3 AM (yes our time) or he would give us a bad review. I told him that he was crazy, and his response “not my problem”.

So this is it pretty much how gaming websites are run now. You’ve probably noticed that websites lack the quality strategy guides that you saw 2-3 years ago. Those that still write strategy typically are unfinished or worse; require you to subscribe to their service. This is because writing guides are expensive for the gaming website. You can’t get free labour for an un-aged kid to churn out guides. They person would actually have to play the game and want to spend days writing 20+ page articles. That means… dun dun dun… full time, paid writers.

It just isn’t profitable when web ad rates are floating around $1-2 CPM (cost per mille or thousand impressions). (Consider when we first started running websites, ad rates were $10-15 CPM with some big sites getting up to $25 CPM.) Now some ads only pay per unique user.

The current content situation is churned out crap as fast as possible. I know all the dirty tricks to do that. I was in the business. Some people don’t even write reviews. They don’t review games. What they do is read the reviews from two other sites and summarize them into their own review. So they don’t ever actually play the game. There are few Purge reviews that the quite suspect of being an amalgam of other reviews. I have an eye for this; I’ve dealt with writers who have been accused of this.

Bottom line, is gaming websites are not run like CNN or Fox News. There is not professional journalism. The number 1 goal is manufacture as much crap as possible as cheaply as possible. Many high profiles, seeming big gaming sites are run with one head guy and bunch of freelance, unpaid writers that submit articles over the Internet. That wouldn’t be a big problem, if maybe the site paid the workers to do it full time. But mostly, you just find anyone who will work for free and “some” command of the English language. No Journalism or Communication college degree needed. All these writers get in return a free copy of some game. (This is easy to get once you have a few PR contacts.)

Now you know how to run a gaming website.
Domain Name: $30. Web hosting: $30. Games: free. Writers: free.

Is Blizzard Playing Games With Gamers? II

Monday, December 20th, 2004

In a previous post, The Nexus noted the following about Blizzard Games:

One company that has lost face with gamers over the years is Blizzard. Once hailed as the creators of the Real Time Strategy (RTS) subgenre complete with ground-breaking games such as Diablo & Starcraft, Blizzard has since lost much of the good vibes that it had with gamers. This is due to a myriad of reasons ranging from poor games (Diablo II) to poor management of the battle.net gaming website.

In an effort to regain its position, Blizzard has launched an ambitious new game called World of Warcraft (WOW) . This is supposed to be a blend of RTS with the Massively Multiplayer Online RPG brand of games that lots of gamers are into.

Thus far, the reviews from players are mixed. On the one hand, many gamers consider it to be on the cutting edge of online gaming. On the other hand, there have been many complaints of massive cheating in the game.

Blizzard is now loudly proclaiming its devotion to ensuring fair gaming for all with the following Press Release:

It has come to our attention that certain individuals are selling Blizzard’s in-game property for cash on auction sites such as eBay and on personal websites. The World of Warcraft Terms of Use clearly state that all of the content in World of Warcraft is the property of Blizzard, and Blizzard does not allow “in game” items to be sold for real money. Accordingly, Blizzard Entertainment will take any and all actions necessary to stop this behavior. Not only do we believe that it is illegal, but it also has the potential to damage the game economy and overall experience for the many thousands of others who play World of Warcraft for fun. In order to promote a fun and fair environment for all our customers, we are actively investigating those individuals who engage in this inappropriate activity and reserve the right to take legal action against these individuals to protect World of Warcraft for all those who “play by the rules.” If you are found to be selling in-game property (such as coins, items, or characters), for real money, you will lose your characters and accounts, and Blizzard Entertainment reserves its right to pursue legal action against you as well.

We also want to remind potential buyers in the game to please refrain from buying in-game property with real money. We understand the temptation to purchase better items, but Blizzard, and not the seller, does own all in-game property. In addition, we feel that characters can find ample equipment and money within the game through their own adventuring and questing. Please understand that if you do purchase in-game property from sellers on eBay and personal sites, we may temporarily suspend your account, and at the very least, delete the offending items.

Thank you for understanding our position. Blizzard Entertainment is committed to maintaining the atmosphere of fair play and fun in World of Warcraft.

At first glance, that sounds just great, right? Only problem is that there is no evidence to back up this bold pronouncement. This problem has been going on with Blizzard’s games for years now. According to gamers of this writer’s acquantance, nothing has ever been done about it. Yes, Blizzard has put out notices like the one above condemning the practice, but folks, including some gamers that this writer knows, just keep right on doing it without any interference whatsoever from Blizzard. This fact has not prevented Blizzard from making grandiose claims periodically about wholesale bannings of folks engaged in this practice. However, as many gamers on Blizzard’s Battle.net will tell you, they have never seen or heard of anyone actually getting banned for this sort of activity.

Question: Is Blizzard really levelling with honest gamers?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Rgh. Drft Movie Review: S.W.A.T. (2003)

Monday, December 20th, 2004

Once upon a time, in the mid-1970’s, there was a lackluster cop show about police S.W.A.T. units called, with typical Hollywood imagination, S.W.A.T. that was distinguished only by a disco-hit theme song. It was cancelled after 2 seasons and was forgotten almost immediately. Then, Hollywood decided that since a lot of other bad TV series had been made into movies, why not S.W.A.T.? The end result, as you might expect, is a mess of clichés and thrill-free action-movie drivel.

Colin Farrell stars as a Mr. Know It All Cop of the type that exist only in Hollywood productions. Michelle Rodriguez is supposed to be a horrible person, then pretty much disappears from the movie without a chance to fully develop her character. The script is laden with cliches and absurdly short lines.

Unlike the original series, S.W.A.T. makes no attempt to emulate real life cops and S.W.A.T. units. Olivier Martinez plays the super wealthy son of a European gangster family who is hunted all over the world. After he is captured, he declares to the cameras that anyone who frees him from the police will be rewarded with $100 Mil. This brings out the local lunatics in the woodwork, armed in true Hollywood fashion with all sorts of weapons that real-life criminals do not have access to. What ensues is something that has already been done to death in countless generic action flicks.

This is a strange movie in that it was made for a teenage audience that has no recollection of ever seeing the original TV show, not even in reruns. One wonders just why the studio did not turn to the countless quality TV shows of yesteryear that have not been made into movies first: Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, Sky King, Ramar of the Jungle, Racket Squad , My Little Margie etc. These shows have not been in the reruns in the past 2 decades or thereabouts, so they would be hardly more recognized by today’s teenagers than than S.W.A.T.. However, any of these shows would be much better source material than S.W.A.T..

Then again, if today’s Hollywood producers got their hands on Mr. & Mrs. North, then Mrs. North likely would be a prostitute while Mr. North would be her pimp.

The Death of Forsaken Union in Retrospect

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

Back during 2002-2003, there was a flourishing gaming group called Forsaken Union (FU) . Eventually, as with the great majority of such groups, the FU shut its doors.

In an email that was received by this writer, FU leader ATmo aka Knightsbridge is quoted as saying, “none of us there have time for games any more. maybe change it to a fan site later but maybe no.” Furthermore, this leader was quoted as saying that 1 of the main reasons for this lack of interest was that he decided to, “terminate the CS server after 12month running, CS is full of hacker and is really out of control. it a waste of money investing a server for “corrupted” player to play.”

In effect, FU decided to shut down operations as a clan due to dissatisfaction with a single game. However, this is a better way to go than the course followed by some other clans that seek to prolong their existence by branching out into new games that they cannot adequately support.

Likewise, it is also a better course than that followed by some clans that gradually transition themselves from being active gaming operations to becoming nothing more than glorified forum clans.

Aditionally, it is also a superior course than that followed by other clans that publically claim to uphold high standards, including zero tolerance against cheaters and cheating, only to drop enforcement of those standards when members who are highly popular with the clan leadership are caught red-handed in wholesale violations of both the rules of the game that they play in and, more importantly, the rules of the clan.

Finally, it is a far superior course of action than taken by the clans who conduct their operations as a combination of the 3 ways mentioned above, for those clans are nothing but sick jokes in the online gaming world.

Good Riddance to Julie Swieca

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

I am not one of the Chicagoland sports fans who bemoan the fact that Julie Swieca is no longer on the air at WSCR AM 670. She was a loser who had no business on the public airwaves in the first place.

For instance, on her radio show, she ranted about football players celebrating in the end zone saying that all fans don’t like it, just as if she spoke for all of us. Well, a caller made the points that he liked seeing players celebrating touchdowns and was tired of folks dumping on black players for celebrating in the end zone, but not doing the same about white guys doing the same. Well, Swieca got angry with him and terminated his call.

Later, I got to thinking about Swieca’s thin-skinnedness with the caller especially in the light of the way that she conducted her show in the past.

For instance, when white pitchers such as Mark Buehrle or Jon Garland or even Danny Wright were pulled out early from a game, Swieca tended to minimize it by saying that well, nobody’s perfect. However, if a hispanic pitcher such as Bartolo Colon or Esteban Loaiza got pulled out, then she really rode on them. This was especially true with Loaiza who she frequently ran down and claimed was overrated and going to become a bust at any time now.

Whenever white players such as Tony Graffanino, J. Crede or Paul Konerko screwed up either in the field or grounded into double plays or by swinging for the bleachers when going for a plain old hit would have been the better option, she either didn’t mention it or just said that they had a bad day, no big deal. However, when a black or hispanic player such as Carlos Lee, Magglio Ordonez or (especially) Frank Thomas messed up, she had no mercy on them.

The same goes for coaches. When Bill Cartwright was still around as coach of the Bulls, she frequently wondered aloud if he wasn’t stupid because, for instance, he didn’t have 2 certain players on the floor at the same time. She just continually ran him down for being a losing coach. However, she has yet to say anything even remotely critical about Scott Skiles even though he has a losing record thus far.

Although its true that she was critical of a few white coaches such as Dick Jauron and John Shoop, that criticism paled in contrast to the abuse that she heaped such black coaches Greg Blache, Dusty Baker and Jerry Manuel.

The same also goes for White Sox GM Kenny Williams (KW) and his Cubs counterpart Jim Hendry. She just gushed all over the white Hendry saying that he was really active and is continually on the cell phone talking to other GM’s. On the other hand, she rode herd on the black KW, claiming that he’s been lazy and doing nothing, making the Sox, “dead in the water.” Actually, KW was continually on the phone talking to, among others, Dodgers GM Dan Evans. Granted, outside of the Juan Uribe trade (that Swieca never, ever acknowledged as actually taking place), KW did not finalize many deals as of yet, however given the way that KW conducted these negotiations, it appears that he has mastered the art of trading.

All of this is interesting since the Cubs have not engaged in many trades themselves, while KW kept plugging away while Swiecka claimed that he was nothing but lazy. Was it really a coincidence that KW is black while Hendry is white and there is a longstanding racist belief that blacks are shiftless and lazy?

In any event, Julie Swieca is gone from the public airwaves, hopefully never to return.

Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

A Canticle for Leibowitz is not a novel. Rather, it is 3 linked novellas concerning the Order of Saint Leibowitz. Each of these novellas have different focuses and at first glance, would seem to have little to do with the other novellas. However, when you get down to thinking about it, they are actually pieces of a united work.

The first novella, Fiat Homo, is squarely about the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz and begins with the discovery of the Sacred Shopping List. It is the story of how the brothers seek to have Leibowitz officially recognized as a saint.

The second novella, Fiat Lux, is an espionage thriller dealing with the diabolical plans of the Emperor of Texarkana for continental domination. The third novella, Fiat Voluntas Tua, deals with the Second Nuclear Age as the nations that arose from the ashes of the First Nuclear Age and the nuclear war that ended that age, grapple with both nuclear weapons and the knowledge that a previous civilization died from those weapons.

As you can see, the 3 novellas deal with diverse subjects, but it is the way that Miller weaves his stories that the 3 become one.

A Canticle For Leibowitz is a most intriguing and well executed book and should be required reading in classrooms today.

Some More Thoughts About The State Of Baseball Blogging

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

All too often baseball blog writers take the dogmatic position that such staples of traditional baseball such as bunting and base stealing are stupid and ruinous to the cause. After all, Bill James says it, so it must be true. Oftentimes, blogs trash managers who employ bunting even it it makes the difference in a team’s winning or losing. This is stupid stuff by blog writers who get their jollies by running down baseball professionals even though they themselves do not understand the game. Bill James has been shown to be wrongheaded on a great many things and many of the blog writers seem to think that because they can look up a players stats on the Internet, that automatically makes themselves wiser and holier than folks who have been intimately involved in the game their entire lives.

Baseball blog writers oftentimes whine and pine about the fact that so many GM’s and Field Managers do not read the blogs and take guidance from them. Taking doctrinaire positions on how to play the game and gratuitously trashing all those who do not agree with those doctrines is not a way to win your intended audience of higher ups.

The State of Baseball Blogging

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

Baseball blogging is now at such a state of development, it is now possible to gauge its problems as a whole blogosphere. These problems include the propensity of all too many bloggers to use vulgarity such as “sucks” and also to immediately assume that if a GM or manager does something that they disagree with, then that person either has Alzheimer’s or is insane. Ditto for those who scream for heads to roll when the team encounters a few rough spots here and there. Even worse, are the folks who leave comments at blogs who serve to reinforce the immaturity of the weblog writers.

In all fairness, even the more immature baseball bloggers are much more mature than the great majority of political webloggers as evidenced by the fact that when it became clear that Kerry-Edwards was the losing ticket, all too often their supporters engaged in ranting about how evil/stupid the folks who voted Bush-Cheney were, making ad hominem statements about the level of civilization/IQ in the “red” areas and engaged in self-pitying statements about how lonely they felt being the decent/intelligent voices of reason in the wilderness. They also prided themselves on their own open-mindedness and tolerance of others while simultaneously labelling all those who electorally disagreed with them as being vile vicious bigots who all lacked any trace of education and who voted the way they did for the most mindless and despicable of reasons.

Baseball is unique in that it has received far more interest both among bloggers and those interested in reading blogs than any other sport. If you were to check out Sportsblogs you would find that the overwhelming majority of the posts there are baseball related. When you consider the popularity of the NFL, its striking just how few football related blogs there are. Ditto for pro basketball and the lockout-afflicted NHL. Likewise, have you ever run across a weblog covering such pro sports as arena football, lacrosse, soccer, softball or women’s pro basketball/football? Ditto for the college/high school/amateur & semi-pro versions of these sports.

Another aspect is the fact that virtually all of the baseball blogging going on is directly related to Major League Baseball. There are zero weblogs covering college baseball including the fast growing summer collegiate league scene. So far as this writer is aware, except for a quickly aborted weblog , there has been exactly 1 weblog in existence that primarily covers the vast world of baseball outside of MLB. When you just get right down to it, the lack of diversity in baseball blogging is downright stunning.

This lack of diversity even includes the world of MLB farm team operations. There are few MLB team-specific blogs that give more than a short shrift when it comes to covering their team’s farm systems. Even rarer are the blogs that focus like a laser beam on the farm teams of a certain MLB club.

Why so few folks blog about the minors? Well, folks who go into baseball blogging want to be read and the prevailing wisdom seems to be that hardly anybody would read a minor league blog. Also, it can be difficult to obtain reliable statistics at the college/high school and amateur/semi-pro levels especially if the person in question is a few years removed from the level in
question.

Another problem is that, thanks to the news media, its difficult to get information about minor league teams outside of the city that they play in unless you’re willing and able to wade through several different websites for the stuff, which is complicated by the fact that the websites in question are not as frequently updated as you’d like. For instance, I live in McHenry County which is only 1 hour drive from Rockford and a bit less than 2 hours drive from Schaumburg. Despite this, none of the newspapers published in this county in addition to the Tribune and Sun-Times covered the fact that Rockford won the 2004 Frontier League championship and that Schaumburg was the runner-up in the 2004 Northern League championship series. Lack of information leads to lack of blogging interest.

Having said that, as with the Internet itself, the baseball blogging universe is still in its infancy and there is still a lot of time for it to evolve & expand into something better than its current incarnation.

Interview With Northwoods League President Dick Radatz, Jr.

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

Dick Radatz Jr., president and co-founder of the Northwoods League , recently did an interview with Independent Thinking about both the NWL and the summer collegiate baseball phenomenon in general.

Independent Thinking: Why did you leave pro baseball despite your success with the Red Sox organization?

Dick Radatz, Jr.: It was a mutual decision. I wasn’t growing in the organization and there were no positions available up the ladder. I had been in Winter Haven for 7 years and wasn’t learning much at that point.

IT: What is summer collegiate baseball, and why is there a market for this?

DR: Summer Collegiate Baseball is baseball that collegiate players participate in during the summer when they are not in school. I think there is a market for most any kind of baseball that is promoted properly. For example, look at the ever increasing popularity of the Little League World Series.

IT: Are the players paid or is this amateur activity? Also, what is the level of competition you would best equate summer collegiate baseball with?

DR: Our players cannot be paid due to amateur status. The level of competition in our League would be somewhere in between Rookie and Short Season A Professional baseball.

IT: What inspired you to co-found the NWL as a collegiate league instead of as a minor pro league?

DR: Purely economics and timing. In other words, our budgets are about 1/4 to 1/3 that of a professional Class A team. And, let’s face it, the reason a number of our markets were open were due to professional budgets outgrowing them. We always thought that the Midwest League should be a 100 game season. The weather is such a factor up here in April and May. The timing of this concept fits the weather pattern in the Upper Midwest.

IT: How popular has summer collegiate baseball been with the fans? Any specific reason?

DR: Very popular. We’ve grown in attendance from a little over 69,000 in 1994 to over 625,000 in 2004. A litany of reasons for this. The evolution of the League and getting better and better venues and the growing expertise of our owners and staffs. Familiarity with the League both regionally and nationally.

IT: Have colleges been cooperative in allowing NWL to recruit their players? Why or why not, any examples?

DR: This area gets better with age. We play more games than any other Summer Collegiate League. So if you are a position player you can get a lot of at bats, with wood. As a pitcher you are positioned in a 5-man rotation as you will be in pro ball. I think our League helps develop players better than any other summer venue in this country.

IT: How would you rate the success of summer collegiate baseball on the business level? On the level of preparing players for the pros?

DR: We are a very successful business. On a scale of 1 to 10 we are a 9.5. We were the first for-profit Summer Collegiate League, so we broke new ground. Since 1994, two other for-profit leagues have been formed in emulation and I think more are coming. We feel our preparation of players for entry into pro ball is superior to any other summer league in the country and have statistical data that back that statement up. In other words, the Northwoods League office undertook a statistical analysis of the last three draft classes, 2001-2003.We used the highly regarded Cape Cod League as a study group, and looked at alumni of both Leagues that had signed pro contracts in those three drafts. We emulate the experience of professional baseball at the lower levels in a manner that gives the amateur player a professional experience before signing that pro contract. Despite having a decided disadvantage in draft status, the Northwoods League alumni taken in the first 21 rounds of the draft had higher batting averages as a group n their first year of pro ball at all entry level classifications, Rookie, Short Season A, Low Class A and High Class A. Further, of the player’s in this group, 2001-2003, the Northwoods League alumni who were pitchers, had higher winning percentages and lower ERA’s at every level.

IT: How successful has the NWL been in getting players up to the MLB level?

DR: We have 19 alums who have played in the Major Leagues and over 200 currently in the minor leagues of Major League organizations.

IT: Do you see summer collegiate baseball as being in direct competition with minor league baseball? Why or why not?

DR: No. The reason being is that we are typically in different markets. If we were in the same markets we would be direct competitors.

IT: Did summer collegiate baseball leagues pre-date the founding of NWL in 1994? How did the NWL change summer collegiate baseball or the concept of summer collegiate baseball?

DR: Some summer collegiate leagues are ancient. The Cape Cod League is over 125 years old. The Central Illinois Collegiate League has been around a long time and so has the Great Lakes, Jayhawk and Alaska. We certainly didn’t invent the concept of summer collegiate baseball, but, we did invent the concept of making it a business. I think this is truly changing the landscape of summer baseball.

IT: How would you explain the success of summer collegiate teams in such cities as Duluth and Madison that previously had been unable to sustain minor league baseball?

DR: Two things. One is the expertise of the ownership and staff in marketing baseball. Two, is that, again, we are playing at the ideal time for weather in the Upper Midwest.

IT: How does summer collegiate baseball compare to the minor leagues in ability to draw fans?

DR: People have only started putting an emphasis on attracting fans since we came along. I can’t speak for the other leagues, but, the Northwoods League draws superior or competive numbers to many low level pro leagues.

IT: If you had a chance to go back to the start, what would you have done differently in developing the NWL?

DR: When we started the League owned all the teams. Since no one had ever tried this we couldn’t convince anyone to buy a franchise. Now we have 12 independent owners with some franchises worth millions. Logistically, it was a nightmare trying to competently promote all the teams as owners. It almost caused our downfall. Luckily, we sold our first franchise in 1995, Waterloo, IA.

IT: How big in total number of teams do you envision the NWL becoming, and how big in terms of exposure?

DR: I didn’t know if we would get to 12, but, here we are. Now with the demand and the way our teams are drawing we are getting inquiries for potential franchises almost daily. I think 16 is very realistic and we’ll evaluate again when we get there. There’s only so many markets in the footprint. As far as exposure, I think we need some cooperation between some other leagues and we could make this nationally exposed in terms of television. We are already national in our own little baseball world.

IT: Do you believe that summer collegiate baseball will one day rival the minor leagues/independent leagues in popularity?

DR: The Northwoods League is doing that now. I don’t see all of Summer Collegiate Baseball doing it, mainly because they have been not for profit for so long. Change comes slow in baseball.

IT: Have there been any problems in recruiting players? Why?

DR: Yes, there is a perception that since we play the number of games that we do, that pitchers get abused. This may be our biggest hurdle. We have expanded our roster from 20 to 22 to 25 and just two weeks ago added another (26) to fight this perception. We rarely get pitchers that pitch more than 75 innings any more, but perception is reality and we are dealing with it.

IT: Why was the Summer Collegiate Baseball Association formed?

DR: If you notice, it is made up of the three for-profit Leagues currently in existence. The only other option was the NACSB and that organization just offered nothing to us. They had no influence with the NCAA, did nothing to add exposure to the member Leagues and were just not progressive. But, let’s face it, not for profits don’t have to be progressive. They had dues of $25 per team per League and many people complained about it. You can’t do much with a $3000 a year budget. In addition, it was created by an old Cape Cod League commissioner and is currently run by the Cape President, Judy Scarafile and everyone dances to her beat. The SCBA was created to give our Leagues more exposure, possible inter-league competion and possibly meld our buying power, as we buy more of most products, balls, bats, etc. than the non-profit Leagues.

IT: Is there any chance for inter-league competition in summer collegiate baseball, or with independent leagues, minor league teams, et. al?

DR: I think there is a chance, but there are a lot of obstacles. The NCAA doesn’t like it and to quote an NCAA liason to Summer Collegiate Baseball, “We don’t want to see Summer Collegiate Baseball get big.”

IT: How would you rate the way the news media has covered the NWL? How SHOULD the media cover the NWL?

DR: I think it has been fine. Some markets are always better than others. Sometimes we have to sit back and say, hey, we’re only 11 years old. It will all get better if we keep doing the fine job we’re doing.

IT: What is your vision of what the baseball landscape will look like a decade from now?

DR: I think what has happened in the last 10 years is amazing. The first pro independent league survived. For profit summer collegiate baseball. Minor League teams in the suburbs of Major League teams…and doing well. I see competition, hot and heavy. Teams and leagues will come and go. What I hope for is progress, and I think it’s coming. A lot of the old boy network is getting out of Major League Baseball and new, innovative, progressive minds replacing them. I would like to see wooden bats in the collegiate ranks, as the reason for the aluminum bat (money) is no more. I would hope, the powers that be, would recognize the developmental tool that Leagues such as the Northwoods have become and perhaps form relationships with them. Logic does not always rule in baseball. I would hope that at the Major League level that money would not be the determining factor in success. I see more independent leagues and teams that don’t have to be, or want to be governed, by Major League baseball arriving, because, as demonstrated, they can be successful.

Thank you to Mr. Radatz for donating his time.

Utah Summer Hockey League

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

The Utah Summer Hockey League is a summer time program in Utah where amateur players from around the world compete in various and sundry arenas in Utah for championships and a chance to impress scouts. This is a worthwhile endeavor that deserves the support of hockey fans the world over.

Land of the Dead Incoming October 2005

Thursday, December 16th, 2004

According to a source, long time horror director George A. Romero is making a new horror flick in Toronto right now with a scheduled release date or October 21, 2005. Romero’s official website does not confirm the release date, but everything else is in order.

Here’s what the official Romero site has to say about this new project:

NOW FILMING: Land of the Dead
George is in Toronto and filming of Land of the Dead has commenced! We know we’ve been absent on this site for a while, but hang in there as we will become your authorized, unofficial Land of the Dead website and bring you up-to-the-minute details about what George doing!

Rubies of Eventide Goes Free

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Rubies of Eventide has just gone to being a completely free 3D Massively Multiplayer Online RPG. That makes it the one and only game of its kind that is free to play for as long as you wish.

RoE started out as a pay to play game that received high marks from players for its friendly, honest staff that went the extra mile to make the game enjoyable for everyone and fix whatever problems that arose. This is in marked contrast to the impersonal, if not actually rude, conduct of so many major game staffs.