Saturday, November 26, 2005

The School Fades Away

Two days ago I was talking to Lottie about the decline of roleplays on the Internet. The discussion was initiated by the decline of the Crow's Nest, in which the regular clientele has finally been boiled down to just the people who started Silver Moon Boarding School: Leon, Lottie, Hershi, Dave, and me. The forum, as you will recall reading in my entry about forum teams, was created in response to the popularity of Silver Moon Boarding School, and as long as the roleplay was still active on PKMN.NET, the notation of our site was assured. However, the roleplay on PKMN.NET declined into frenzied violence and the administration was compelled to prohibit further activity on the subject. From that point, we were on our own, and the forum steadily declined. Today most, if not all, of the lower members of the forum have deserted, and some of the lesser roleplays we hosted fell into decline (we even had to decommission Silverwich Legends, the sequel to Silverwich University).

When I was first indroduced to forums, I saw that several forums were based on roleplaying. Eventually, some would go under and others would take their places. Silver Moon Boarding School was anomalous in that it had passed the life expectancy of most roleplaying sites of its calibre, and it seemed assured that it would go on forever when our registration peak hit. However, the roleplay's counterpart on PKMN.NET being closed and my departure from the site to work for TPL both delivered devastating blows, the latter probably being the fatal one (I was made an administrator in January, the same month of the initiation of TPL's campaign).

The fact that the Crow's Nest isn't the only one in the roleplaying world's cycle is a bit of comfort, but that comfort is obliterated when we find that some sites have turned the subject into an assembly line in Detroit. Three of the most prominent are Neopets, Runescape, and the increasingly popular Gaia Online. (Gaia Online also was listed as the most attended site ever.) I do not blame these sites for the decline of smaller roleplays — I blame the fact that there are too many of them out there now, a result of the popularity of roleplays way back when.

This trend swoop doesn't apply to roleplay venues embedded inside forums, however. There are many new roleplays created each week, although the extent of them tends to stay the same: thirty pages or so. The reason for the shorter life spans of roleplays on the forum are not due to popularity, but because of the length of the forum roster. On PKMN.NET, some teams that remain help compound the pressure on some of the roleplays.

Yet what all of these roleplays have in common is that they are based on forum threads. We have known for a long time that reading plays off book pages is rather unwieldy unless you can get some good actors in your school to take the roles that require their talent. Forum threads are just as unwieldy, since you have only printed word as a reference. What Neopets, Gaia Online, and Runescape have that forum threads don't have, and what they have in common with telecasts, is that you can actually see the character. In these roleplays you don't have to rely and constantly go back to written descriptions or abilities, and you don't have to broadcast updates on a separate post — they occur automatically and everyone that's on the forum can be made aware quickly. In effect, these new roleplays emulate games on your PlayStation, Game Boy, or Xbox (especially the latter and the Xbox 360 due to their online playing capabilities). The catch, however, is that these roleplays can't rely on simple HTML or even JavaScript; they require server interaction, which many people coordinating the roleplays on forums just aren't capable of. It's a case of survival of the fittest if ever I saw one.

I bear no animosity toward these sites, and I certainly don't want Silver Moon Boarding School to go away. I know that it's because there has been so much of this activity that it has inherently become redundant, and there has been need for a change. I completely respect that, and I see it as cause to go off to learn some Java.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Do not read this entry unless you have seen the movie. Just skip over to the next entry.

Today I went to the Tropicana casino to see this movie at their IMAX theatre. I had read the book over a year ago, but I distinctly remembered what was in the book and was ready to look for events in the movie that might correspond with the book. Unfortunately, the movie only barely followed through on the book.

How? Firstly, Barty Crouch junior was never in the Riddle House consorting with Voldemort; just Wormtail was there. Then Harry woke up from the dream in the Burrow, whereas the book says that he woke up at number four, Privet Drive, and immediately set to writing a letter to Sirius about the situation (which he did on the bus instead). The only coverage of the Quidditch World Cup was the introduction of the players (which, I must admit, is wizardry of computer graphics itself), and Crouch sent the Dark Mark in the forest according to the book but the movie put it among the ruin of the tents; also, there was no coverage of the Muggles being tortured. Malfoy was transferred into a ferret in the courtyard instead of the corridor as in the book, and in the book Malfoy was escorted by Moody afterward, but to Snape, and in the movie Harry is led directly to Moody's office and given hints about the first task — which in the book were to come after the dragons, yet the movie showed the dragons after Harry was given the tip! When Harry prepares for the first task, Hermione hugs him in the movie and gets caught by Skeeter — but the book alleges that Colin Creevey told Skeeter about Hermione and Skeeter furnished the rest of the story herself. And Harry was given the gillyweed by Dobby in the book, whereas in the movie Neville offhandedly (yes, it was that daft) gave it to him.

Then we go after the second task. In the book, Rita Skeeter was to write about Hermione 'dumping' Harry in Witch Weekly and Sirius was to speak to our trio afterward — but no sign of it in the movie! And in the movie Harry sees Crouch senior dead, but in the book he never does! And the second time Harry had the dream, it wasn't a repeat of the first one; it was when Wormtail was punished for his blunder. Then in the Pensieve, Harry witnesses three trials: one of Karkaroff, one of Bagman, and one of Crouch junior — but only in the book. In the movie, Karkaroff is hoisted up in a cage and not on a chair, and he gives away Crouch, effectively eliminating Bagman's inquiry and condensing the other two. Then the third task: Harry was supposed to send sparks for Krum after attacking him, not when Fleur was enveloped by the hedges. And even at that, the book said nothing about moving hedges — and the skrewt that blocked the way to the Cup was replaced by a large gust!

And after Voldemort rises again and Harry returns, the interrogation of Barty Crouch junior ends with Barty being sent to Azkaban in the movie — but a dementor sucks away his soul in the book, leaving Harry with no support for his story. And at the end Harry doesn't give any gold to the Weasleys, and they'll need it when they open their shop in book six.

And to top it off, Dobby, Winky, and Ludo Bagman, who have significant roles in the book, appear in the movie zero times apiece.

I'm sorry for ranting, but this was not what I expected of the movie. I realise that the book was 734 pages long and rather unwieldy to make into a movie, but the amount of material that the creators had to shave away is ridiculous. Had they put in at least ten of the discrepancies I've mentioned, the movie would be a lot better.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


This is a rip-off of James' XVIII announcement, but it'll have to do with the magnitude of turning seventeen yesterday. As a seventeen-year-old, I now have access to R- and NC17-rated movies, can get my motor licence (if ever I start practising) and if I'm dismissed from my job as cashier I can apply for most other jobs on the island.

The day passed over outside my world rather quietly; only the Super Cheats populace, a Pokémon Community member, and a few friends at my school recognised the day. Even so, I did get some applause and miffins, but I couldn't eat the real cake owing to stuffing myself at work. But I was still itching to get back on the computer after unwrapping my new hard drive and camera, the latter of which will provide rudimentary pictures until my aunt gets the ones she took developed.

Problem is, though, at seventeen my gift choices are limited. I'm sure some of you remember asking for GI Joes, Transformers, and flamethrowers (if you're Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes comics), but if you've stepped over into puberty you've realised that your choices, due to the fiscal reality of your family kicking in, have diminished greatly. Gone are the GI Joes and the Tonka trucks, and in come the hip clothes, the computer stuff, and some jewellery (or cosmetics in the case of girls). It's amazing how drastically your preferences change as you get older. Me, I'm just embracing the idea because it'll be financial hell on my family all the same, since I want fewer things yet the expenses stay level. Ohohohohoho!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Two Accounts = Trouble

Until two days ago, Dr Advice was a dodgy reference about the goings-on of the Super Cheats staff. And until then Mr King of Games was afresh from his technical victory over The Legend Killer RKO, who was caught faking up 'Mr Kennedy' and Soucercer of Wise (the latter I had banned for a month from the team area). But then some horrible exposé had to come up, and it was left to Dennis to declare that he had found them, on the basis of an IP check, to be the same person!

I have seen people create fake accounts before, but I have never seen it used for a purpose like this. Dr Advice was nothing very special — although Sanzano did toy with him in a session called 'Psycho Surgery' and ended up banning him temporarily for trying to interfere with the moderation process (two moderators at the time, LPD and The Ultimate Cheater, was also banned for this offence, but The Ultimate Cheater was cleared shortly afterward) — and Mr King of Games didn't seem to necessitate an about-face on his record, having initiated a popular character tournament. In contrast, I had always known the creation of a sub-account to get around restrictions on forums; on PKMN.NET I have seen several members try to get around signature restrictions (if the size of all images attached to a profile exceeds 40,960 bytes (40 kilobytes), signature display is suspended until the pictures are changed to fit the quota, but their rule code only states that the signature will be edited directly) by creating an account on which they suppose they can exploit a sig once more — but these are usually found out and either the restrictions are tacked onto that account as well or that account is removed from the database.

Many pre-built member databases — forums and submission and comment systems like the Super Cheats system and blog venues like Blogger and MySpace — try to discourage the creation of multiple accounts, but this is easily defeated by creating a new email account (which, due to the presence of public computers, can't possibly be monitored). The objective isn't to keep people from bypassing restrictions on their formal accounts, but rather to deflect 'phishing' (the use of a mask of a valid email account by a bogus user to trick people) and to thwart the installation of adware and spyware that could pass from the site to the user's computer. Since that measure hasn't worked well, of course, sites have resorted to forcing users to type a security code to log in or register (a bot used to install spyware won't be able to decipher the code, which is embedded in a graphic).

Then, in rare cases, there are people — Video Gamer Network is unfortunately full of them — that create accounts to feign another user. The Legend Killing tournament on Super Cheats, a question-and-answer game much like a cross between Hollywood Showdown and The $100,000 Pyramid, was the venue of the Dr Advice case: Mr King of Games was the emcee and Dr Advice, for reasons then unknown, was doing unusually well in the tournament and was able to beat out 'The Legend Killer RKO' at his own challenge and get him banned. (It was later revealed that The Legend Killer RKO was itself a sub-account to Jcdamasta330.) But after The Legend KillerRKO emailed Dennis for clemency and was turned down, Dennis decided to do a little study on Dr Advice and found him to have IPs identical to those of Mr King of Games himself. Oops.

At any rate, there is no way for this practice to be effectively stopped, but it is not, as you may think, a very common practice on most forums due to the presence of vigilant administrators like Dennis.