Friday, November 27, 2009

How tech is affecting consumer feedback

Well, first off let me direct you to the image above.

Take a moment to let it sink in.

Have you taken a guess of what it is?

A hint: it's not regurgitated material.

It's, simply, a fish bone... a very BIG fish bone... relative to what you would normally find in a cooked meal.

Me and my girlfriend went out tonight for some dinner, since she just arrived back in Lisbon. We went to this little place inside a mall that had "normal", non fast-food meals. I ordered pork chops and she had what we call "bacalhau com natas", literally translated as codfish with cream.

Anyway, as we were eating the meals, she started to notice that there were a lot of fish bones in it. She went as far as to complain that every time she took the fork to her mouth, it was sure to have a fish bone. And the top right portion of the plate above pays testament to that statement.

As she was about two thirds through the dish... she quite literally DUG UP that colossus from the depths of her plate. I did what any man would do: be surprised, laugh, take a picture. Not necessarily in that order, but hey.

And this was the part where the idea struck me: this situation, in my book, is quite unacceptable (not the part of it having fish bones, but the presence of such a huge piece of that poor fish's anatomy). What you normally do in that situation is call the manager and demand the complaint book... but then again, it's an effort to which you don't see any real results. You write your complaint (under the vindictive eyes of everyone around you, mind you... I really don't get it about the Portuguese people. We like to complain so much, yet heaven forbid if you actually pick up a pen to make your complaint official) and... well, nothing. You pray and hope that that particular complain will fall under the faux pax list of the regulative entity... and that's it.

Having this in mind, I quickly looked down at my hand, at the instrument that allowed me to take the picture. And I looked at my girlfriend. Then back at the iPhone and began touching the screen. Scroll to other menu... click on app... upload image... type text... voilá! And I showed her my latest Facebook update: the uploaded picture and a small text saying where it had happened.

Now, this might not seem like much, but think about it for a moment: places like restaurants live off their reputation and how much the clients love it and go back and tell their friends. This power is, effectively, in OUR hands. Then why should we be scared of declaring a negative experience with something, so that other people can be aware of it and decide for themselves if they want to risk it?

Social networking opened up a whole world of possibilities and one of these is to actually extend customer feedback on a quasi real-time fashion to our friends and followers. This, however, can also be abused... and the volatile nature of "online identity" means that some people might use this in derogatory means... but I have no doubts that someone will find a way to hang those people up through the legal system.

Even still... in the internet, public judgment is always present. Even if a company or a person gets legal retribution, the harm is done because you have exposed a person or an entity to the "internet police" (aka vigilantes) that has no fear of downright smiting you with all the power of regurgitated angst and thoughts.

I'm afraid to stop making sense, so I'll try to summarize: using social networking as a way to complaint about goods and services, a good thing or a bad thing? Will it get regulated via slander lawsuits? Will it actually be useful to push for change if you can reach the right people for a specific situation?

I guess only time will tell!

I'll see you around! ;)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A different sort of gold farming

It's time to talk about the wonderful joy that's been hitting Facebook for a while now... FarmVille!!

I admit it, even though I'm not reeeeaaally into it, I do take my time to take care of my farm every now and then.

The reason why I picked up this thing in the first place was because of my girlfriend. Since she's taking her thesis, which involves 2 straight weeks of field work every now and then, it's up to me to make sure that all her plants are in tip-top shape and all the trees are properly hugged.

The weird thing is the way that I actually got into it and how I play it.

One of things that you can do in this game is visit other people's farms and help them with "clean ups" (which usually involve cleaning dead leaves, getting rid of raccoons, etc) and fertilizing their crops so they get more XP when farming. This allowed me to take a glimpse at what other people are doing with their farms and it reminded me a lot of when I played The Sims (the original one): very pretty, very organized farms, representing what I suppose is their idea of how they would want their real farm to be like.

When I started taking care of my girlfriend's farm, one of the first thing that I worked on was a spreadsheet to compare ROI (return of investment) on each of the seeds/trees/animals/etc that you can use. And while the rest of the farm is as she pleases, the actual farmland is a big block of what I calculated to be the best investment.

Then I started using my farm... and, right now, it's a (as I was writing this, I remembered that my 2 hour seeds were planted 5 hours ago... yeah, they had all died by the time I logged in) 14x14 space of farmland where I only plant pumpkins or raspberries (I'm low level, k?). And I have no interest in decorating it with animals or trees... it's just not cost-efficient, as far as I know.

Ok, I admit that this kind of gameplay might come from my tendency to theorycraft in WoW and EVE, but I guess it's as valid of a style as anything else. Sure, I might not get the prettiest farm in town, but at least I'll be rich! *cue evil, maniacal laugh*

Overall, it's a fun game to pass the time with. And it goes to show how these simple mini-games can often take us in much faster than big games.

It's not without it's flaws, though. A few sessions into it and you get a little irritated at the constant attempts on the game creators to make you spend real life money in it to buy in-game cash to get better stuff. Doesn't really work on me, but I guess there are people out there who actually do it. I'm not one to talk though... not while I'm paying 13€/month to play WoW, anyways. :P

Here's to happy farming, loads of gold and a happy girlfriend returning home to her enriched farm! :D

I'll see you around! ;)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vanity gets spotlight attention in WoW

Well, I did it. I actually did it. I bought the in-game vanity pets from the Blizzard store.

(Yeah, and shame on me for direct copy&paste of the Blizzard store pics)

Now, at 10€ per pet, you might be asking if I'm out of my freaking mind. And you are a bit right. And also a bit wrong.

At 50% revenue going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I saw little reason why not purchase the Monk pet. Heck, I even gave it as a gift to my girlfriend. Lil' KT... well, that was more of a spur-of-the-moment deal, felt like trying out the "evil" pet for a change. ;)

Reasons of the purchase aside, I'm writing this because I'm truly intrigued at 2 things: 1) the future of this service and 2) the 50% revenue on the monk deal.

In regards to the 1st point, I do see this thing taking a mind of it's own. Some people just like to collect pets THAT much. To them, everything is a potential Pokemon that needs to be caught, studied and duly cataloged.

In regards to the 2nd... it makes me wonder though. 50% revenue from these things is a lot, to be fair. But that "a lot" could be a whole lot more if they upped the percentage a few points. Especially considering that this deal is only until December 31, I don't understand why Blizzard didn't just make all revenue go to the Foundation.

Ah well... maybe it's just me. I better hit the sack... since the only real reason why I'm still up is that my sinus attack is keeping me awake. It was either this or a nonsensical rant on the PC delay of CoD:MW2... yeah, cause that would really, really sparkle a lengthy rant! :D

I'll see you around! ;)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Minefield Grass

So after a weekend of geekness (and making sure that if by any chance I ever need to reimport my contacts to the iPhone, that it will be swift and easy) and also of putting up with a cold, here I am again with a fresh rant. And credit for this actually goes to my dad, for reminding me of one of the things we both hate.

Thing is, I like walks. I can be a slouch, but in spite of everything, I enjoy walking around. And, mostly, I enjoy having decent conversations with people while doing walks. I like to walk on the beach or in a grassy field, taking in that sweet nature freshness, feeling it fill my lungs.

What I simply hate is when fresh air is replaced by the odor of fresh poop, accompanied by a nice *splat* on my shoe. Oh, that's right... today's rant is about doggy poop. Yummy!

Around my neighborhood, we have a lot of green spaces. It's one of the things that distinguishes it (along with all the buildings looking like bars of soap) and is one of the things I love about where I live. When I'm pissed, I can usually just go for a walk and it helps a lot. The only problem is that it is being constantly filled up with dog crap, to the point where it almost feels like you are walking in a mine field if you are brave enough to walk directly on grass. Hence, the entry title.

Now, my rant is not about the animals. While I've actually come face to face with some animals that are smart to the point they're actually scary, I assume that personal hygiene and social standards are not exactly on top of their priorities. Especially considering we're talking about cross-species social standards.

This said, I consider there are two kinds of dog-owners: The first type is the type that has a certain respect for others. They might not have a designated area where to take the animals, but at least they try to find out-of-the-way areas where a little whiz or the occasional crap won't bother so much (added bonus would be if you actually picked up the crap, but hey, I can live with a dump of poop that I don't have to see or smell every single time I go out on the street).

My rant is about the actual idiots (the second type of dog-owner) who own the dogs and just take them wherever so the animal can satisfy their need... even if it's the frikkin' sidewalk!! It's about the disrespectful SOBs that are happily reading their newspaper while their dog takes a dump in the place where a kid might very well fall down into (nothing like being 2 years old and having your face full of dog crap, huh? Builds character!). I actually found a person taking her dog for a walk in the frikkin' basement and having it pee all over the garage doors. I mean... what the hell??

I mean, I get it. It's nasty to get a plastic bag and picking up dog crap. It's warm, it's gooey... it's unpleasant. And I'm not one to follow all social norms, either. But come on, people... we're talking about basic common sense and respect for one another. Do you let your newborn kids take craps anywhere inside the house? Or would you like people to come to your home with their kids so they can poop wherever they want?

When I went to Finland, they had these little parks where people could take their dogs and clean up after them... which they did. Here in Portugal, we don't have these parks... and people don't clean up after the animals. They just... don't care.

Talking to them doesn't help either... because they either ignore you, they just don't care or, worse still, they reply in a "what are you going to do about it" fashion.

Here's to me resisting the urge to, next time I find someone reading their newspaper while the dog is taking a dump, shove their face in that dog poop.

I'll see you around! ;)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

It finally arrived!


Yesterday, just as I was leaving work, I finally got the call from Vodafone telling me that my iPhone had arrived. After almost 2 months of waiting (the order was made on September, 13), my chance to finally geek out and jump-start a number of ideas has finally arrived! :)

Now I'm in the process of copying contacts and setting up the system just the way I want it. The contacts has been the real pain though... Nokia 6680 to iPhone isn't exactly a walk in the park as I understand it, so I think it might take a bit of creative thinking.

Anyway, I'm quite excited at the possibilities that this little thing holds. I have a few application projects I want to develop and I'm quite interested to see if they come out ok.

Here's to the geek-fest that is sure to unfold in the following weeks!

I'll see you around! ;)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Star Trek Online

Ok, this just goes to show how much out-of-the-scene I've been since I started playing World of Warcraft. Truth is I completely missed any and all information in regards to this upcoming game. I mean, I had heard rumors, but that's just it.

I quickly browsed to one of the teasers on youtube:

Now, for me this is pure eye candy and a gigantic tease. Especially considering that I'm a total space nut and everything that makes me remotely believe for a split second that I'm in space is just... pure gold.

Thing is, quite a few questions started popping up inside my head in regards to gameplay. What exactly are we going to do in this game? And, to be perfectly honest, what I read up on was a total disappointment.

From what I read, you're going to take control of a single ship, of which you are the captain. Period. You don't get to earn it, you don't get to go up on ranks. As soon as you create your character, boom, you're captain. This right here is a major turn-off for me. Why can't we go with the experience of actually graduating from Starfleet (or whatever equivalent non-Federation races have) in a specific field and then having to make the name for yourself, get your own crew (that's another point down the road) and having to work together to get your placement in a ship. Basically, have the ships themselves work as mini-guilds.

The crew element is a joke for me. From what I read, it's all gonna be AI. ALL of it. Why, in a MMORPG, are we totally dependent on NPC characters to generate environment? Of course you NEED NPCs, I'm not saying otherwise. But, for me, a huuuuge component of what makes Star Trek... well, Star Trek, is the inner workings and society aboard a ship, not the actual space around it. That's just background, it's the setting on which you tell your story.

And the space itself is a big issue for me. As I was reading, it felt a lot like EVE currently is. And if I want EVE, I'll stick to my current subscription. To be fair, there isn't a lot of ground on which to work on... most ideas have already been used some time in the past. But that's just another reason why the focus of this game might have been better placed in the inner workings of the ship.

I don't know... maybe (probably) I'm being too ambitious on what I expected such a game to be. But ever since I played Star Trek: Bridge Commander, I've been hungry for an experience that allows me to cut off the AI and replace them with real people.

I'll pay attention to further developments, but so far I've seen little reason to actually try the game. Maybe I'm wrong... but, right now, I doubt it. :P

I'll see you around! ;)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

People, pigs and the flu

Yesterday, as I was arriving home and going up on the elevator coming from the basement, it stopped on the ground floor and this little girl came in with her mother. Even before they came in I could hear some serious coughing and I confirmed that said coughing came from the little girl.

Now, I'm not one to usually panic about these things, but truth is that I found myself thinking of the swine flu and holding my breath until I exited the elevator. And as soon as I realized that, I understood that these whole months of media coverage and fear culture around H1N1 have finally caught up with me.

Later on, I sat down to dinner and... big surprise, the main headline was about H1N1. Over and over and over again.

I have to be honest, at a certain point I stopped caring about news in regards to H1N1. I followed it at the start, when it was still in Mexico and the first people who were diagnosed were dropping like flies. Yes, that scared the living crap out of me. But I also noticed that those people were probably infected a LONG time before they were diagnosed and that the whole reason why they were diagnosed in the first place is because they had gone so far down the road that they had no choice other than go see a doctor. Let's face it, rural areas aren't exactly top notch in regards to medical care.

From what I could research about it, swine flu is actually a common event amongst pigs. And even pig to human infection, albeit uncommon, is not unheard of. What really blows the whistle on this one is 1) the infection rate and 2) the fact that this current strain is made from the re-sequencing of 4 different strains of flu: North-American bird flu, North-American swine flu, normal human flu and a strain of swine flu found in Europe and Asia (thanks Wikipedia!).

Now, what I personally think that went wrong here was that, once it was confirmed that the death ratio wasn't as high as initially predicted, there was no real concern with demystifying the idea that this flu was a replay of the 1918 Spanish Flu or a more contagious version of the more recent Avian Flu. And, naturally, most people absorb what the media tells them without thinking too much about it, so if you only get scary news reports, guess what? You get scared!

This kind of things isn't limited to this event though. How many times have we witnessed the media blowing everything out of proportion, just for the sake of ratings? When was the last time that you actually sat down to eat, turned on the TV and actually saw a decent, informed report about this flu, carefully explaining what it was and how to fight it without making you feel like you will die if you get it?

I would like to end this entry by paraphrasing a comic from People are surprised that about 10% of the world's population is depressed. Considering the state of the world and the status quo, I'm surprised that the remaining 90% aren't depressed!

I'll see you around! ;)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Star Wars: The Old Republic

So yesterday, I finally remembered to sign up for the public testing of this upcoming game. And boy, am I excited at what Bioware has in store for us.

Truth be told, ever since I saw the results for Age of Conan, Warhammer and Lord of the Rings, I've come to realize that my expectations on upcoming MMORPGs are always low. World of Warcraft enjoys a particular success, maybe because it occupied the same kind of "niche" that all these other games aim for, be it the type of game environment, the type of lore or simply the game mechanics.

These MMORPGs also suffered from severe lack of polish, meaning that they were shipped out before they were actually ready. If anything, it came to prove that software houses cannot maintain their nasty habit of releasing unfinished content and patch it later on, a trend that has been going on for several years now and greatly affected some of my single player experiences throughout the years. With MMORPGs, you get ONE chance to get the main content right. Smaller bugs are one thing. Leaving bugged main mechanics is the same as shooting yourself in the nuts and go swimming in lemonade.

In my opinion, these factors (and also other ones) contributed to the premature downfall of what could have been some very decent gaming experiences, particularly for those who had special connections to the lore involved. And now, we have The Old Republic almost knocking on our doors, begging for a chance. And why do I think that this game will succeed?

Mainly, because of Bioware. This company has some pretty heavy history of successful games, namely (from what I've actually played) Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect. Bioware knows how to tell a story. And, furthermore, Bioware knows how the make appealing game mechanics.

Of course, this is all speculation based on past successes... so why don't I ask the million dollar question that seems to spark the debate anytime a new MMORPG comes out: is it a WoW killer?

Simply put: no frikkin' way.

The Old Republic will call out to any Star Wars fan out there, that is pretty much a certain thing (assuming Bioware won't screw up). And I'll also assume that a decent chunk of WoW's playerbase might migrate and never look back (Heck, I might be one of them). But, for most people, it might be something that they will try out, but since people are naturally lazy and like to maintain their status quo, an actual shift will be quite hard.

But that's the beauty of it. Personally, I don't want SW:TOR to be a WoW killer. WoW, right now, is a victim of it's own success: the recent expansion brought in a more "casual-friendly" environment and the game is a watered-down version of what it used to be (less elitistic, which is good, but also waaaay easier, which is bad), probably to accommodate for the "will" of 11 million accounts. I don't want this to happen with Star Wars. I didn't want it to happen with WoW.

So, in conclusion: I believe that Bioware is going to provide us with an extremely decent gaming experience. I also believe (more of hope, actually) that it will not enjoy the degree of success that WoW has, so that it can avoid downgrading gaming experience to ease up on the "kids" that will eventually play it. Hopefully, it will gather a more mature audience and be the best Star Wars experience so far... and we need that, after a whole history of bad games coming out from LucasArts.

I'll see ya around! ;)

OK, here we go!

It has been a long time since I wanted to kick off with my own blog, but since I always wanted to create of domain of my own, I never really invested time into it. Since I'm now looking for a place to place my daily rants other than produce advanced content, this will do for now. ;)

Who am I? I'm a 26 year old, eternal videogame nerd and physics geek. I love technology and I always enjoy healthy debates. I also like to state my opinions, which is why I'm doing this blog in the first place. I work as a Identity Management consultant and I split my free time between my girlfriend, my friends, WoW and EVE... generally in that order. ;)

What to expect from this blog? Anything and everything that pops into my mind... from daily events with which I don't agree (or agree), going by my World of Warcraft or EVE online experiences or even my own physics ideas that pop in, I hope to post a bit of everything.

I hope that it's enjoyable... if not, you have two choices: either post constructive comments or simply don't read it.

You can follow me on twitter if you want to know when I update my webpage:

I'll see you around! ;)