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  • Xbox 360 ISO in the wild

    Posted on December 27th, 2005 Finster No comments

    After an all-too-brief Christmas holiday, I’m back at work, back to the grind. And I’m sure that all of you are probably still in the workless void, but some of us are back at it, now. In my nigh impossible quest to catch up on any news while I was “away”, I noticed that an intrepid team of Xbox 360 hackers have distributed the Xbox 360 Kiosk Demo as an ISO image. Apparently, if you burn this to a DVD-R, it will run on any Xbox 360.

    That’s right. It has no media protection of ANY kind.

    What is most remarkable about this is the obvious implication for Xbox 360 game piracy. Will any burned executable run on an Xbox 360? Does this preclude the need for any kind of “modchip”?


    Naturally, I would assume that normal Xbox 360 games must have SOME sort of copy protection… right? Then again, I would’ve assume demo discs to be protected as well. For instance, a burned copy of an old Xbox demo disc will not run on a vanilla (non-modded) Xbox.

    I guess this will teach me to make assumptions about next-gen copy protection.

  • Virtual Economics in Azeroth

    Posted on December 20th, 2005 Finster No comments

    It seems there is more and more information about economics in MMORPG’s as they become more and more popular. WOW Insider had an interesting musing about the backwards economies prevalent on many World of Warcraft servers.

    Let Mike explain what we mean by backwards:

    After playing on a number of different servers of varying types, it’s becoming clear to me that, just as there are two very different factions in WoW, there are also two vastly different economies at work, as well: the Horde economy & the Alliance economy. Any Horde player who has decided to roll an Alliance alt immidiately notices one thing upon his first trip to the auction house: things are far more expensive on the Alliance side.

    There is no question that there are typically many more Alliance players than horde players. Hence, there is a bigger virtual marketplace. With a bigger marketplace, one would think there would be more competition, and therefore prices should be LOWER on the Alliance side.

    The question is: why the big price hikes? Theoretically, since the Alliance population outnumbers the Horde on basically every server, and, therefore, there are more people buying & selling goods on the Alliance side, prices should actually be cheaper in Ironforge than in Orgrimmar. I mean, think about it: if more people are in need of Oily Blackmouth, then more people are going to be fishing for it, more stacks should show up at the auction house, and the competition should drive prices down. Yet, on most servers, at least, the opposite seems to hold true; so much to the point that it’s become the norm. And now, with the growing abundance of eBayed-gold purched with real-world dollars, the issue will likely only get worse, as a player with 1000 gold purchased online probably won’t think twice about spending a gold or two on a single bolt of woolen cloth that he needs to complete a recipe, whereas a newbie player might have to scrounge & save to buy what should be a cheap, commonplace item.

    I think Mike hit on the root cause right there. Unfortunately, there are no numbers to support MY conjecture that more Alliance players buy farmed gold than Horde players. This causes inflation, and inherently devalues the currency. Since WoW gold in circulation is not controlled by a Federal Reserve system, a theoretically limitless influx of gold is possible, because gold is spontaneously generated by killing bad guys, or selling looted items to NPC vendors who also have a never-ending supply of spontaneously generating gold. So, rapid infaltion ensues. Again, I have no numbers to verify that more players buy Alliance gold than Horde gold, but the fact that inflation is a much bigger problem on the Alliance side, despite greater competition, would seem to support that hypothesis.

    The solution? I don’t know that there is one.

    Theoretically, inflation could become so bad, that the exchange rate of US Dollars to WoW Gold would get so bad, it would no longer be profitable to farm. I imagine the game would stop being fun LONG before that happened. I would think that if Blizzard started tracking the players that had the most amount of gold transferred in a given period, that would go a long way towards stemming the inflationary effect of gold farming. This would likely cause some kind of elaborate gold laundering schemes… but such schemes would require more WoW player accounts, which would increase the cost of gold farming. Hence, gold farming could be made to be unprofitable WITHOUT resorting to drastic measures of any kind.

    I dunno… I could just play as Horde.

  • Star Wars: Galaxies Hate Mail

    Posted on December 19th, 2005 Finster No comments’s GameCore column posted a Mailbag entry all about the NGE update on SWG.

    Hilarity ensues.

  • Oy vey…

    Posted on December 15th, 2005 Finster 1 comment

    So, tonight is my wife’s company’s christmas party. Tomorrow night is MY company’s christmas party. The night after that is the U2 concert.

    Can you say, “sick of large crowds of people”?

    You know how on livejournal, people have those little things at the beginning of their post that says, “Mood: angst-ridden” or “This Jack’s total lack of excitement”?

    Mood: Pre-exhausted.

    Pre-exhaustion is when you realize just how much CRAP is going to be occurring in the next three days, and you instantly become tired and stressed out.

    Another reason why I could really stand to do without the non-religious aspects of the Christmas season. Except for pie. Although, I eat pie religiously, so I guess it doesn’t count.

  • The Warcraft Webosphere

    Posted on December 14th, 2005 Finster 1 comment

    I’m a relative newcomer to World of Warcraft, but I’ve already dug my arms in up to the elbows in the gritty MMO web community.

    When it comes to raw WoW item/quest/NPC info, I go no further than tried and true There is even a cool plugin you can install to add Thottbot as a search engine on Firefox’s search bar.

    Another great repository of World of Warcraft knowledge is the WoW Wiki. Not a hardcore WoW database, as much a brain dump of WoW lore. It is a wiki, so the searching and interface is somewhat ponderous compared to Thottbot’s search engine-like simplicity. If you’re looking for the spawn location of those 10 rat ears you need to collect, WoW WIki is not for you. However, if you were wondering what class would be best for healing and dps, then WoW Wiki has tons of information. Think of Thottbot as raw data. Think of WoW WIki as a collaborative attempt to correlate and digest that data. As a WoW n00b, I’ve been referring to WoW Wiki quite often, as the information is much more in depth than Blizzard’s dumbed down Newbie Guide.

    There are a handful of other WoW info sites, such as (which has some GREAT WoW backstory writeups),, and of course (but then, who wants to bother typing that crap into their address bar.)

    I’ve also been delving into the message boards. I’ve dabbled in the Official Blizzard WoW Forums, but I always coe out of there feeling dumber. Although, there is no substitute for the Weekly Warcraft Update from the devs. The best online community for World of Warcraft that I’ve run into so far, is the World of Warcraft section of the Penny Arcade forums.

    As far as ye olde blogosphere goes, I’ve been adding MMO blogs to my Bloglines subscriptions left and right. I’ve been a LONG time reader of Gamer, and Foton (the master of Gamer) is one of the main reasons I gave WoW a try.

    So, there’s a lot of useful information and commentary out there for the WoW aficianado (i.e. not me). I’m sure others could provide even more information, as I know I’ve only scratch the surface.

  • Star Wars: Galaxies goes down the crapper

    Posted on December 13th, 2005 Finster 1 comment

    Star Wars: Galaxies was one of those games where hype overextended reality…

    Wired News brings us evidence that people are leaving the game in droves due to a massive sweeping update to gameplay. Not the least of which was moving from a sort of freeform advancement system where you could choose from 30 different professions, to a more class-based system… one of the classes being Jedi. That’s right, where the game used to require months of intense gameplay, not showering, and ignoring your family to play as a jedi, now all you have to do is create a new character.

    Brings back memories for me. See, I was involved in the beta for SWG. And after it was released, I even bothered to stay around for a few months. I had a profound experience that caused me to leave SWG and never look back.

    When I was beta-testing SWG, and during the release, I was living alone. I didn’t really spend time doing much else other than work, eat, and sleep. For leisure, I read books, and played Star Wars: Galaxies. At some point I decided it would be a good idea to move into an apartment with roommates.

    One of my new roomies was an 18-year-old college freshman from California, that somehow managed to sign up for all of the “online” classes, and thereby had lots of spare time to play Everquest. LOTS of sparetime. I knew this because our apartment was arranged in such a way that 3 of the 4 of us set up our computers in the living room, since this was closest to our cable internet connection, and for a bunch of college students, who wants to spend money on wireless. Please.

    Anyway, computers in the living room. Add a 4th computer that acted as a cheap OpenBSD router, and the power bills were… shall we say… extravagant.

    But I digress.

    I was playing SWG one day, and part of my goal of becoming a great Bounty Hunter was gathering “Scout Experience”. There were various ways of gaining Scout XP, but one of the easiest was to build camps, and then you would gain XP based on if that camp was used by anyone. So, I was somewhere in the middle of the Tatooine desert and decided I would set up a camp and pick up some XP. I built my camp, and then sat my character down on the little seat that appears when you build a campsite. Now, I needed to make sure that I sat there for a specific amount of time, so that I could garner the highest amount of possible Scout XP.

    I picked up a book and started reading (a habit I picked up from watching the EQ player constantly reading books as he waited for Raids to start, mobs to respawn, etc. etc.). My EQ playing roommate asked what my in-game persona was currently doing. I explained the camp and its purpose.

    He snickered a bit and then replied, “Wait, you’re basically sitting around doing nothing, so that you can gain XP?” He then chuckled a little bit. I felt a little defensive.

    I answered, “So what? I see your character sitting around doing nothing all the time.”

    “Yeah, but that’s because I’m waiting for something else to happen. You’re sitting… just to sit.” He then resumed his laughter.

    I looked at him, and then back at the screen. A miniature womprat hopped by and let out a squeak. That’s when I had the epiphany.

    This game was only “fun” to me because I wanted so bad for it to be fun.

    It’s Star Wars Flippin’ Galaxies! It must be fun! It has to be! It’s a massive online RPG in the Star Wars Universe. No greater video game concept could ever be conceived!

    Ah, but careful, that is the sickly sweet voice of Sony Online Entertainment trying to seduce you into giving them your time and money.

    After I realized this, I logged off, and never played that character again. Or any other SWG character for that matter.

    Honestly, I will say that the new changes piqued my interest. Even casual-MMO players like me could now play as a jedi! I toyed with downloading and giving the 10-day trial a spin…

    Until I gave the World of Warcraft trial a spin, leading to a $23 purchase at Fry’s Electronics Black Friday sale.

    Phew, that was a close one!

  • A Revolution In Fact

    Posted on December 7th, 2005 Finster 1 comment

    More information was outed concerning the Revolutions specs. I know, I know. IGN. I don’t trust them, either, but it does make for interesting discussion.

    If what IGN is saying is true, then the Revolution will truly be revolutionary, as it will eschew all conventional wisdom we have about the video game market. By creating a console that will debut at $149 (or even the insane price of $99), Nintendo has tossed aside the belief that the next-gen must be bigger, louder, and in High Def. It’s hard to say which strategy will win out, but one has to wonder which console parents will want to get.

    I have to wonder if it will be split down economic lines, with rich kids buying Xbox 360’s and PS3’s, and poor kids buying Nintendo. Can Nintendo really make the Revolution viable with such a strategy? Of course, this type of discussion ignores the quality of games that will be released on each console. But I gotta say… there isn’t much on the Xbox 360 that appeals to me, right now. There’s lots of promise for the future, but when I look at the options, I can choose a $400 console with good games and HD (which I do not currently have, anyway), or I can choose a $99-$149 console with good games and no HD.

    My inner geek loves what the Xbox 360 and PS3 are. Video gaming supercomputers from the future! But the Nintendo appeals to my raw consumerism. Best bang for my buck!

    Who knows, maybe when the Xbox3 and PS4 come out, I’ll have a big HDTV, and I’ll actually care. Then again, maybe I won’t have a TV at all…