Liberty, Security, Privacy & Politics

I thought I’d cover some points relating to the NSA files scandal. Let’s start at the top:

Submarine Communication Cables, Internet & Telecoms Wiretapping

The Five Eyes security agencies have been monitoring global communications for more than 20 years

Before the rise of underground cable, there was ECHELON. Designed for interception of military/Soviet traffic it’s almost inevitable that it listened to anything the government of the day was interested in. Collectively they covered the world. Before that we listened in on radio and broke radio encryption (ENIGMA). Raw computing power has been used to break and intercept encrypted communication since the beginning.

Obviously once you’ve gained an asset you don’t just drop it once the world moves on. The US at minimum has tapped Soviet communication cables since the 1970s. There’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t continue. After all, the Internet is the growth project of the military and physicists networks.

When it goes on land, you have to switch from secret interception to lawful interception – agencies can’t just break into people’s server rooms after all. Hence Room 641A.

Of course this is all a great argument but for several issues:

1. The Cold War is over
2. Transmitting military communications over a public internet isn’t standard practice
3. Any perceived enemies are no longer states or organisation or necessarily even in communication. They are mostly linked by ideology.
4. Given it’s now a public space there is as much justification as putting listening devices in     public spaces.

PRISM and Lawful Access

I think it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Either you believe Google is so deep under court orders its lawyer must openly lie about knowledge of the program, or PRISM is merely a tool for aggregating, managing and directing lawful access requests.

Lawful access isn’t limited to PRISM. The telecommunications industry hands over data to the police given sufficient information (like a warrant). The security agencies standards are just a lot more lax. There’s an open question here about whether they ought to be. Given you can charge un-named people, is it actually necessary for such lax standards.

The actual problem isn’t the lawful access. It’s the realisation that when you sign up for a service in another country you do so under it’s laws and regulations EVEN if you don’t know which country the service operates from. In the case of Facebook, it might have data centers in a dozen different countries. Are we subject to all of them? Or is it based on where the head office is? Or the sales team?

Fundamentally, this is actually very close to the problems with taxation. The world and it’s citizens don’t know how to deal with multinationals. We left it far too late. The growth of the internet was the growth of the multinational, but the issues existed far before that.

This is compounded by laws which govern citizens of a country as benefiting more and better protection than non-citizens. Most obviously, the rights of the US citizen guaranteed by their Constitution are fairly tough. But none of these exist for customers of the multinational whose data flows into the US’s borders.

Politics and Power

David Davis today says that the laws protecting us are too weak. Well I’m sorry sir, but you voted for them.

Voting Record of David Davis (http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/)

Commons 8 May 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill – Persons entitled to grant authorisations under minority aye Loyal
Commons 8 May 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill – Technical Approval Board minority aye Loyal
Commons 8 May 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill – Offences minority aye Loyal

No abstains, no nay votes. Agreement with all the sections.

Leaks and Morales

I want to only touch briefly on this. It does not appear, that GCHQ has broken the law. Nor might the NSA. However this is not the purpose of leaking this information. If the problem was that they had broken the law, it would be a big deal, but not a huge deal.

The problem, is that it is legal. Through the introduction of bad legislation and the use of surveillance designed to capture enemy troop movements, the politicians that are supposed to serve the people have turned their intelligence agencies on the general population.

We know why they did it. We know they were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, crime. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt their reason and rob them of their common sense. Fear got the best of them, and in your panic their panic they turned to the intelligence agencies. The agencies promised them order, they promised them peace and all they demanded was silent invisible access to everything.

Snowden sought to end that silence. Snowden leaked the information to remind the world of what it has forgotten. More than 50 years ago a great person wished to embed the problem forever in our memory.  His hope was to remind the world that truth, privacy and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the malpractice of our governments are unnoticed to you then I would suggest that you carry on, with idea that people like Snowden are a threat, that the world is safer when we are like an open book .

But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then you should consider carefully who to believe in this struggle.

Conditioning

Part of the problem, is that the ‘War on Terror’ never ends, terrorism is a constant threat and a justification for torture, rendition, surveillance and loss of justice. The great truth is that terrorism is a war we can not and will not win. There is no victory, no battle, no triumph.

National security is another watch-word. Invariably it means the security of the establishment, the protection from embarrasment or legal proceedings. The US government continues to use it as a sledgehammer to prevent the uphelding of it’s highest laws – blocking trials and delaying judgement.

In the UK we’ve started to use another strand. The crime of paedophilia, is being used as weapon to censor content. It is invoked to elicit a fear and a reaction to override logical views and to allow disproportionate responses – including further interception of traffic.

Piracy is the final weapon. Copyright law, civil cases which are the result of media channels inability to realise they are a stone cutter in the age of the printing press, a horse trainer following the introduction of the combustion engine. These dwindling media conglomerates who are able to project their thoughts and desires into the minds of the population have decided their control over content is more important that freedom and liberty of the public. Thwarted by the fact that they can’t just sue whomever they like without evidence or proof of loss, they instead demand legal changes to block access to information and content.

This triple threat is the sustained assault on Western civilisation. It is a corrosive and diverse set of problems that is reconditioning the psyche of the people. We have accepted lack of privacy in exchange for negligible security, we have accepted nanny-state to ‘protect the children’ and we have accepted restrictions to protect the wealthy.

Solomon’s General Store – Jagex and RWT

So, here we are again. I’ve already written about the Squeal of Fortune (SoF), the previous ‘Extra’ tagged on. Now I shall cover Solomon’s General Store (which I’ll abbreviate S’GS to avoid confusion with a game item).

And, actually, the Squeal represents a much more corrosive attack on the game than S’GS right now.

The new store – confusingly similar to the entirely separate and ancient shops seen in game functions much more normally – and comparably to other games – by selling cosmetic items and abilities (that is, stuff which doesn’t affect a players ability to do skills or combat etc) for a entirely new virtual currency – Runecoins.

Quite why this has to be Jagex’s 4th virtual currency is completely beyond me – 3 of them interact with RuneScape. The 4 are WoL Gems, JCoins, Spins and Runecoins for those loosing track. There was a 5th but 8Realms was closed.

Anyway, this is a new micro-transaction based Real World Trading system. Of course it doesn’t affect Jagex’s ability to go after players who try and sell their account details or exchange items for cash because that section of the terms and conditions – namely the rules – apply only to players.

People have speculated whether this will become a replacement to SoF. However I doubt it.

Firstly it makes no business sense to remove work done unless it actually costs you money.

Secondly people may still choose to buy spins. The people who want a game advantage – either from a ‘Lucky’ item, coins or lamps – are not the same as those who wish to obtain cosmetic items.

The only reason to remove SoF is if it is possible to buy the items directly – at which point spinning the wheel looks silly.

Many players consider this outcome an inevitability. It’s also worth saying that promises from Jagex aren’t worth the forum space they are written on (and are not absolutes), given that it is clearly the dominant investors calling the shots. The main investor – Insight Venture Partners – has holdings in Nexon which is full of RWT based mechanics.

Whether RuneScape gets there is unclear – many MMOs limit themselves to cosmetic rewards.

Other J-Mods have gone on record saying they have vetoed such mechanics – Mod Rathe is a notable example.

In a recent interview with NowGamer a certain amount of reading between the lines shows that Mod Mark (Mark Ogilvie) may be apprehensive about the rate of change to RuneScape’s model. It is interesting this occurs just before the questions directly on monetization – which he opts to discuss the safe topic of a time limit for F2P (which is a dead model across the industry do this isn’t a shocking insight really):

MO: Find your niche and own it. Don’t be afraid to innovate to stay competitive, but not at the expense of your core community or gameplay.

I really hope that the investors stop before ruining the gameplay itself myself. I would simply say that the line is thin and the end result is irreversible. RuneScape is profitable. Not all their investments are (e.g. Twitter).

One moe insidious problem is that these come unannounced. They aren’t seen as a game updates, merely marketing, simply coming attached to the content updates produced.

This is another sign that it’s like two teams fighting for control. On one side you have the content which I continue to enjoy. Whether or not I like every single bit overall the trend is really cool – better graphics, new and amusing quests, great interaction and changes by the Evolution of Combat team. It’s just fighting my knowledge that along with this comes an endless stream of promotions, discounts, new RWT stores and tacky sales figures to which some poor Content dev has had to think how to attach some lore for the main page post.

On a final note, I would like to say that it is still worth them crushing bots and gold farmers – companies which can’t simply give players gold and must farm it cause more damage than Jagex would (but both remove the ‘game’ aspect)

Combat Beta Review – Part 15: Technical Notes

Using The Client

Most people are playing with the browser. It’s possible to play with the client by modifying the config files to use the new worlds and client rather than the old ones. This is shown below. However, the browser functions okay in my experience. Note that it’s worth making a copy of the prm file as a backup. Thanks to 03data and Omustardo (Castle Wars) who made a video of this.

  1. Download the client if you haven’t yet(check the downloads section of the rs main page)
  2. Open the runescape.prm file using a plain text editor like Notepad.
  3. Change the line that says:

    -Dcom.jagex.config=http://www.runescape.com/k=3/l=$(Language:0)/jav_config.ws

    to

    -Dcom.jagex.config=http://world200.runescape.com/k=3/jav_config.ws?userFlow=5294­635548658754020

  4. Reload the client and it will load the beta.
  5. If you ever want to change it back, just go to runescape.prm and change back the line of text.

If you want to make 2 separate clients follow these steps:

  1. Duplicate a shortcut for your runescape launcher(the default one for rs, and one for the beta)
  2. Right click the new shortcut and go to properties.The regular one should should say:
    jagexcache\jagexlauncher\bin\JagexLauncher.exe runescape

    and change the beta one to say:

    jagexcache\jagexlauncher\bin\JagexLauncher.exe rsbeta
  3. In the jagexlauncher folder, copy the runescape folder and name it “rsbeta”
  4. In the rsbeta folder, rename the runescape.prm file to rsbeta.prm
  5. Change the line of text in the rsbeta.prm file to-Dcom.jagex.config=http://world200.runescape.com/k=3/jav_config.ws?userFlow=529­4635548658754020as per the previous steps.
  6. Load the new shortcut you made and it should load the beta.

Note the URL that is changed to will not reflect the language choice made – you will need to alter it accordingly.

Omustardo has also made an icon for the beta – available here http://puu.sh/E4wH

Latency

In addition, a lot of early players noticed high latency for an extended period (4+ hours). This has now subsided. This was for 3 reasons:

  • Large Numbers of Players

With only 9 worlds and a considerable number of players attempting to access them, it was inevitable that the servers were highly loaded. This is not a new phenomenon (Diablo 3 was a recent ‘victim’), but fortunately, Jagex soon deployed more servers to combat this.

  • Lots of New Content

Typically on release of new quests and areas, or even skills, most people don’t encounter new content (and hence need to download new areas) and have it cached.. However, with the interface changes and new animations, everyone needed to download content. This meant the servers, already under high load from large numbers of players, needed to serve lots of content to people. This can be seen in videos such as those by Castle Wars where, even many hours later, the cache is still partially incomplete.

  • Bugs

With new content comes new bugs. This compound the download problem because people refresh the client (breaking and making a connection server side) and may even delete their cache (which is yet more content to be downloaded).

Combat Beta Review – Part 14: Graphics

Animations

The largest graphical changes and additions are animations for the 50 animations and new weapons that have been added as part of the update. In addition poses such as the stances of characters when in combat, the sheathing of weapons and the spell-casting change (which now sees spells being projected from the end of staffs) are all updated.
Broadly speaking the animations are excellent, with few errors. Occasionally, when in unrealistic but common situations, such as ranging from next to an opponent (quite common) the stances are less realistic. In addition, the way characters hold ranged shields is a little strange – the tiny shield itself is quite incongruous.

Items

Along with the new items reviewed earlier, a small number of items have also been graphically reworked.

Tok-Haar-Kal

The Tok-Haar-Kal, more broadly known as the Kiln cape, has been reworked to great effect. It now features lava on the back, rather than simply being a carapace of black segments.

Completionist Cape 

The completionist cape has also seen some changes which, although they seem fairly minor to me, seem to have irritated some owners…

Combat Beta Review – Part 13: Gameplay

Now we come to the actual gameplay itself..

Multi-Combat

I feel Jagex did badly here. Suddenly making the entire game (including all the Wilderness) multi-combat, with no warning or announcement except 20 seconds in RuneCast was a big annoyance.
It’s going to problematic in PvP in which it means large clans will roam the Wilderness In PvM it is also not great, due to kill stealing and spawn hogging.

Auto-Attack Combat

Essentially AFK combat is almost impossible. Not only will it consume more food, it is just not possible due to the strength of many monsters. The Tz-Kih is level 122 and can’t be one hit (formerly a pathetic level 22 bird). Many monsters are tougher and more resilient – which is only not an issue if the abilities are used correctly to kill and regain health.

Critical Hits

I’m not sure whether this is just maximum hits from before or whether it’s new. Either way it’s barely been explained, the numbers are huge, amorphous and hard to read.

Combat Beta Review – Part 12: Magic Abilities

Finally we come to the Magic abilities. With no previous Magic Special Attacks these are completely new. Accessible like the others from the spellbook, they can be viewed in the combined list with the spells or separately by clicking on the ability icon in the horizontal list that expands when hovering over the triangle with the blue background (shown to the left).

Name Asphyxiate
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Torture
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Omnipower
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Dragon Breath
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Impact
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Combust
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Surge
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Detonate
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Chain
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Wild Magic
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Metamorphosis
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Tsunami
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments

..

Combat Beta Review – Part 11: Ranged Abilities

Ranged of course recieves the standard 12 abilities. Like Melee it has both dual-wielding and 2-handed abilities. It also features obvious imports from the Special Attack system like “Snap Shot” and “Snipe”.

Name Piercing Shot
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Snap-shot
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Deadshot
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Snipe
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Binding Shot
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Fragmentation Shot
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Escape
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Rapid-fire
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Ricochet
Type Basic Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Bombardment
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Incendiary Shot
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments
Name Unload
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements
Info
Comments

..

Combat Beta Review – Part 10: Constitution Abilities

Constitution recieves only two abilities. Whether this will be expanded in the future to the 12 given to other skills is hard to tell. Of course with the new formula (debated more in the Gameplay section), Constitution doesn’t contribute to combat level of players. Therefore giving strong powerful Constitution abilities would probably be unfair. Note that Prayer and Summoning have no abilities at all.

The two abilities provide lifepoint recovery and the first every “aggression-management” and are both out-of-combat basic abilities.

Name Regenerate
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 10 Constitution
Info Heals wounds at cost of remaining adrenaline over 6 seconds
Out-of-Combat Only
Comments Highly useful to use up remaining adrenaline and heal. Good anti-PJ and PvM training tool.
Name Incite
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 24 Constitution
Info Dramatically increases likelyhood that your attacks will cause the target to attack you instead of allies. No effect in PvP
Comments  Good for boss fighting to manage aggro.

Combat Beta Review – Part 9: Defence Abilities

The third set of abilities is focussed around the Defence skill. Coupled with the armour improvements, it is this that will determine whether pures are able to compete in the new system.

Name Anticipation
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 3 Defence
Info
Comments
Name Bash
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 8 Defence
Shield
Info
Comments
Name Revenge
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements 14 Defence
Shield
Info
Comments
Name Provoke
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 24 Defence
Info
Comments
Name Immortality
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements 29 Defence
Info
Comments
Name Freedom
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 34 Defence
Info
Comments
Name Reflect
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements 37 Defence
Shield
Info
Comments
Name Resonance
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 48 Defence
Shield
Info
Comments
Name Rejuvinate
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements 52 Defence
Info
Comments
Name Debilitate
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements 55 Defence
Info
Comments
Name Preparation
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 67 Defence
Shield
Info
Comments
Name Barricade
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements 81 Defence
Shield
Info
Comments

Combat Beta Review – Part 8: Strength Abilities

If there is imbalance it is that Melee has many more abilities to use than Range or Mage. This second set is based around and unlocked by the Strength skill. It primarily focuses on DPS, with abilities able to  deliver killing blows. It contains both Area of Effect and Damage over Time attacks.

 

Name Kick
Type  Basic Ability
Requirements Level 3 Strength
Info Stun for 3 seconds or 300% Weapon Damage if Immune
15 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Punish
Type Basic Ability
Requirements Level 8 Strength
Info 125% Weapon Damage or 175% if Stunned
5 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Dismember
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 14 Strength
Info 200% Weapon Damage over 6 Seconds
30 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Fury
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 24 Strength
Info 150% of 6 seconds of normal (auto-attack) damage instantly
20 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Destroy
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements 37 Strength
Dual Wield Melee Weapons
Info 300% Weapon Damage & Stun over 6 Seconds
20 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Quake
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements 37 Strength
Two Handed Weapon
Info 150% Weapon Damage to All Adjacent Targets
20 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Beserk
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements 42 Strength
Info Increase All Damage Given And Recieved by 100% for 10 Seconds
60 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Cleave
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 48 Strength
Two-Handed Melee Weapon
Info 75% Weapon Damage to All Targets in a frontal cone
Comments
Name Assault
Type Threshold Ability
Requirements 55 Strength
Info Damage Equal to 6 Seconds of 250% of Auto-Attack Damage
30 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Smite
Type Basic Ability
Requirements 67 Strength
Dual Wielded Melee Weapons
Info 75% of Both Weapons or 150% if they aren’t using a shield
10 Second Cooldown
Comments
Name Pulverise
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements 81 Strength
Two Handed Melee Weapon
60 Second Cooldown
Info 300% Weapon Damage
Reduce Damage by 25% for 10 Seconds
Comments
Name Frenzy
Type Ultimate Ability
Requirements 86 Strength
Dual Wielded Melee Weapons
Info 20% of Max Lifepoints Damage Every 2 Seconds for 10 Seconds to Targets Infront
60 Second Cooldown
Comments Overpowered. 20% every 2 seconds = 100% damage in 10 seconds.