Monthly Archives: July 2016

Red5, Developer of Firefall, Lays off Employees

Today, a large number of former employees at Red5 have reported on social media that they have been laid off, including FadedPez, the(former) community manager of Firefall. The amount of employees laid off has not yet been confirmed, however it seems to be a very significant round of layoffs.

Red5 has struggled for years to make Firefall profitable. In September 2013, they laid off 10% of their workforce. Back in November of 2015, Red5 underwent an even larger round of layoffs, letting a reported 40 employees go, without severance pay. In December of 2015, they failed to meet payroll, and employees were not paid on Christmas day.  There were also rumors of the parent company The9 threatening to sue employees that disclosed not being paid, however these claims have not been confirmed. The employees did end up getting paid in the end, but with a delay of several days.

When developers/publishers of online games struggle financially, it almost always turns into a downwards spiral. Restructuring with a smaller development team means less content updates, which reduces the game’s appeal and sales. In addition, layoffs create the perception that a game is dying, which reduces the appeal to either start playing the game or to spend money on it- players often don’t want to spend money on a game that they might not be able to play in a few months.

Black Desert Publisher Bans Players For Discussing World War 2 In Game

A Reddit user recently revealed that they had received a 48 hour ban for discussing World War 2 within the chat of Black Desert Online. The user included a screenshot of their support ticket detailing their conversation with the GM, and the reasoning for their ban.

At first, I was skeptical of the claim, so I didn’t want to report on it. Many times when users are banned, they will try to claim they were banned for a different reason, in an effort to retaliate against the company that banned them, and stir outrage. However, another user then linked an article from their official Zen Desk page regarding chat/naming policies. Surely enough, “Referencing World War 2” was one of the rule violations listed in the policy, so it’s very unlikely that this is a hoax.

It is quite possible that the user did make hateful statements, though. The GM refused to provide the user’s own chat logs that got them banned, as doing so is apparently a violation of their privacy policy. The GM claims that they “can confirm that [he] was contributing to a hateful discussion”, but it is unclear exactly what he said. Pay attention to the way the GM worded the sentence. He did not confirm that the user made any hateful comments, but rather that he “contributed to a hateful discussion”. If another user made a hateful comment, and he said something to correct that user, then technically he is “contributing to a hateful discussion”, because he is feeding the troll and participating, and therefore keeping the topic going, which means the troll continues and bothers more people.

From the support ticket, we cannot conclude what was said, we can only conclude that he most likely participated in a discussion about WW2, possibly in a hateful way, and was banned as a result.

Regardless of what he actually said, it raises question about the ways they will enforce the “No WW2 discussion” rule. To me, it sounds like they mainly intend to enforce it when trolls make hateful comments to try and stir up drama in channel-wide chat. However, we really have no way if they will actually ban users for respectfully and calmly discussing the war. They worded it in a way that suggests that any discussion of the war is bannable, but they may have done that just so that trolls don’t start arguments about whether or not their comments are hateful(what is considered hateful is often subjective). Until they make an official statement on the issue, I’d avoid discussing World War 2 altogether in game.

It’s also possible that these rules are an attempt to comply with laws in Europe regarding hate speech. Daum is based in Netherlands, and I’m not very familiar with hate speech laws throughout Europe, but I have heard news about laws passing throughout some European countries intended to prevent neo-nazi opinions from being expressed, people denying the holocaust, etc. I’m not sure if Daum is liable for these types of messages being sent on their servers, so it’s possible they could be trying to play it safe to avoid any legal troubles in countries where users play their game.

 

If players want to discuss political events or history with other Black Desert players, it is advised that they do so on a third party application such as Discord, Teamspeak, Skype, Mumble, or pretty much any app outside of the game.

 

The Future of Pokemon Go: Will It Survive Past Winter?

Pokemon Go has been wildly successful in it’s first week. The app is estimated to have generated $1.6 Million in revenue per day, with an estimated 7.5 million downloads, according to the analytics company Sensor Tower. The success of the game even resulted in Nintendo’s stock price increasing by 30% over a 5 day period.

From what we’ve seen in the past, mobile games often become fads, lasting less than a year before people stop talking about them. Pokemon Go is quite different, because it is a social MMO based on geographic location. Social online games rely very heavily on maintaining a large userbase, and for a geolocation based game like Pokemon Go, it becomes even more necessary, as a significant element of the game’s appeal is encountering other players in the real world.

Online games can remain relevant and popular if the developers do an excellent job of adding new content and features, while maintaining the original vision of the game. Games such as Everquest have lasted almost 20 years, so it’s certainly possible. Considering the success of Pokemon Go, it’s very likely that the developers will continue to update the game to keep it exciting and fresh, while addressing common player concerns.

When winter hits, Pokemon Go’s playerbase will most likely see a decline in regions with harsh winters. Not only will below-freezing temperatures reduce the appeal of walking outside for the sake of playing the game, but snow covering much of the ground and sidewalks will also make it more difficult to explore parks and other areas with Pokestops and Gyms. With that said, there will still be some people playing, as we’ve seen plenty of viral videos of people playing the game in storms during the middle of the night. What we don’t know is how many players will continue playing, and how much.

With the active playerbase of Pokemon Go likely to decline during the worst parts of winter, it raises the question of if it’s popularity will surge back in the Spring. Many users are likely to have partially forgotten about the app, and not think to open it up again unless a friend reminds them. With a reduced population, the game could lose some of it’s appeal. One of the coolest elements of Pokemon Go is coming across other trainers in real life. If you’re the only one playing in your town, it isn’t nearly as fun.

The ideal way to make it through winter would be to release a large update in early spring 2017 as the weather begins to improve, and then start a large advertising campaign to showcase many of the new features, in order to get players back into the game. On top of an advertising campaign, it would also help to implement a form of daily rewards event similar to those seen in other online games. Getting players back into the game will be crucial, and temporary events can play a large role in accomplishing this.

Overall, Pokemon Go has enormous potential. It’s managed to become the most popular geolocation-based MMO ever created, creating new friendships, bringing people together, and promoting physical activity. It will be interesting to see if the game fades away over time, or if it will grow on to become even greater.

Google Adds New Options Regarding Data Collection & Privacy For Targeted Ads

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If you have a Google account, you may have received a notification about new features for your Google account. If you click “I AGREE”, Google will turn on all forms of tracking, which includes receiving all sorts of browsing data from websites that Google partners with, your Google search history, as well as other information stored on Google’s servers.

Turning off ad personalization is actually a bit more difficult than is necessary- perhaps on purpose, as Google makes more money by displaying ads that users are more likely to take interest in. Turning off ads requires you to:

  1. click “more options”
  2. select the “No changes- review key privacy settings more fully”, and hit done
  3. select “Start Now”
  4. You’re then presented with a bunch of other unrelated privacy settings, ad personalization is hidden all the way at the bottom
  5. select “MANAGE YOUR ADS SETTINGS”
  6. Click the button to the right of “Ads Personalization” to turn it off.

Overall, the process to disable ads isn’t that difficult, but it’s far more work than is necessary. Ideally, it should just be a “do you agree to let Google use your browsing data to display more relevant ads?”, with a yes or no option. However, Google makes it a long process requiring the user to read through several menus, select the “correct” option, and then advance to the next. This is most likely to weed out most users from casually dismissing targeted ads, while allowing those that truly value their privacy to go out of their way to turn off data collection. There are several options throughout the process that turn on data collection & targeted ads, so if you select the “wrong” option at any time throughout the process, it turns it on.

Alternatively, if you don’t get this notification, you can do this process by clicking on your profile icon at Google.com, clicking “my account”, selecting “Ads settings” under “Personal Info & Privacy”, then selecting “MANAGE ADS SETTINGS” under “Personalize the ads you see.”

Google does not sell your information to third parties such as market research firms, it’s currently used exclusively to display more relevant ads. Google’s partners do not get access to the information that is collected. Another thing to consider is that data collection for ads is a separate program than data collection for government requests. Turning off data collection for personalized ads won’t necessarily protect you from the government providing requests to Google to provide them with information on its users. Google is likely unable to comment on these types of situations.

 

Disclaimer: This site does use Google Adsense to display ads from Google. Other than that, I have no affiliation with Google.